Part of the Bay Area News Group

Mt. Diablo district to begin solar projects in June

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, March 18th, 2011 at 6:55 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Ensuring that the public will embrace the Mt. Diablo school district’s 51-site solar project after construction begins could be a daunting task.

And Pete Pedersen, who is managing the project, admitted to the Measure C Bond Oversight Committee on Thursday that he loses sleep thinking about it.

“At 3 in the morning, I’m trying to create a vision about: ‘How bad can this be?’” he said. “What things do I need to be thinking about now that are going to be happening next March? If there needs to be a 500-pound gorilla who says, ‘no,’ it’s got to be me right now. Out of all the projects that we’ve ever worked on, this — PR-wise — is just challenging. There are a million different ways it can go bad.”

Here’s the list of 17 sites in Bay Point and Concord that will receive solar panels over the summer, during the first phase of construction:

District maintenance and operations yard: $807,701
Dent Center: $2 million
Bel Air Elementary: $898,014
Cambridge Elementary: $1.1 million
Concord HS: $2.9 million
Delta View Elem: $1.3 million
El Dorado MS: $1.4 million
El Monte Elem: $826,321
Monte Gardens Elem: $1 million
Mt. Diablo HS: $3.7 million
Olympic HS: $847,046
Rio Vista Elem: $737,937
Riverview MS: $2.3 million
Shore Acres Elem: $35,540
Sun Terrace Elem: $1.1 million
Westwood Elem: $653,518
Wren Avenue Elem: $706,449

Site plans showing the location of solar panels on each campus are at http://169.199.90.240/MDUSDFacilities/pages/sites.html. This is a new website the district has launched to answer the public’s questions about how it is spending its $348 million 2010 Measure C bond money.

On Tuesday, the Mt. Diablo school board boosted its payment for solar panels to SunPower Corporation by $1.8 million, bringing the total cost of its project to about $67.4 million.

Trustees also added $55,000 to their engineering costs, for a total of $88,600.

The district expects to save more than $3 million a year in electricity costs after the project is completed in April, 2012. District officials are also excited about reducing their carbon footprint and using the solar project to teach students about resource conservation.

But it’s the short-term shock that the solar structures could cause that is worrying Pedersen. He’s been making the rounds at schools, drawing up plans in an attempt to put the panels in places that would be least obtrusive.

At some elementary schools, however, this is proving difficult. At Monte Gardens Elementary, some people suggested putting the panels over the lawn, he said.

“Then, a year later, the grass may not get any sun. It’s dead,” he said. “And you’ve got a mud pit.”

To prevent this from happening, Pedersen said he worked with the principal to fit the panels — which sit atop carports or shade structures — between asphalt and grass on the campus.

Cambridge Elementary’s space is so small that the district may have to put solar panels on district land that is jointly shared with the city in an adjacent park, Pedersen said. This may also be the case for Meadow Homes Elementary, which isn’t in the first phase.

He said Mt. Diablo HS was also problematic because of shade that would be cast onto the panels. So, they will be spread throughout the campus.

At El Dorado MS, the district plans to “tuck” the panels around the blacktop, he said.

Other schools in future phases that are problematic are Mt. Diablo Elementary in Clayton and Valle Verde and Walnut Acres in Walnut Creek, he said.

“At Mt. Diablo Elementary there’s very little room,” he said. “If we’re going to make our production numbers to offset cost, we’re having a real problem.”

Valle Verde and Walnut Acres have active parent groups that are concerned about safety around the “big poles” holding up the structures, he said.

“You’re trying to preserve the turf,” he said. “You don’t want to displace the Little League or the Soccer League. And you think you’ve made everybody happy… until we put these things in, and all the people you thought were happy are unhappy. So, we’re a little anxious. So, we’re trying to think: ‘What can we do to reach out to the community?’”

First, he’s meeting with the administrators. But some members of the committee said he also needs to meet with parents and to ensure that the administrators know about the website and make their communities aware of it.

Pedersen and his staff said they’re willing to make presentations at schools and have already done that at some sites. The team has also created brochures to be passed out to the phase 1 schools, outlining the project.

Committee members said the information should also be distributed with parent newsletters and at school open houses.

“We just need to keep our eye on the prize,” Pedersen said. “Every dollar we save with this goes to the kids. To me, environmentally, it’s great. But if I can free up $3 million a year, as a principal, I could tolerate a little eyesore.”

Pedersen said the first phase would be easiest, since school won’t be in session.

“The construction of phases two and three, when school is in session,” he said, “that is a little more difficult.”

Is your school community happy with the district’s solar plan for your site?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • Holbrook Dad

    Theresa- Is there somewhere I could find a breakdown of each phase in the construction for each school site? With the costs associated for each phase?

    I know it’s a little late in the game but it seems like the MDUSD is getting fleeced. I know the schools are much larger than my modest family home, but I could get solar installed for around $14,000. They could put solar on all 60 houses on my street for the same price it is costing to install it at Bel Air. I’m sure there is more work involved in a school installation but it seems like the district got premium pricing.

    Also- How do they plan to insure the panels are safe from thieves? Because I will bet you if they are not well protected it won’t be long until you are writing a story about how much money the district is going to have to spend on repair and replacement of damaged or stolen panels.

  • Susan

    School closures!
    Furlough days (loss of 3 school days of instruction this school year and devastating salary cut to teachers!
    District currently at impasse with most bargaining units.
    Solar project????
    What is wrong with this picture?

  • mdusd mom

    Susan,

    You do know that the solar is funded by the Bond Measure we passed? These funds can NOT be used for anything but facilities. It would be great if they could be used to help retain quality teachers. The MDUSD is not making this up either. Sadly many districts have already taken furlough days and all the administration in the MDUSD took furlough days last school year as well as capped their medical. I just read that 10% of California ‘s school districts are in financial trouble, this will only get worse if the tax extension does not make the ballot and then not passed by the voters.

  • Poseidon

    Susan,

    Mdusd Mom is correct. Bond money can’t be used for salaries, plus the savings in PG&E costs amounts to almost a couple hundred million dollars. Without the solar system the district would have to make more cuts. I’m sure that it sounds counter-intuitive at first blush, but anyone that is willing to scratch beneath the surface quickly realizes that the solar projects are one of the moves that this board did make that is good for children.

  • Doctor J

    Poseidon, you don’t speak the truth — Bond money IS being used to pay salaries — who is paying Pete Pedersen and his whole administrative staff ? Its BOND money. Never mind that the Bond specifically said that no “administration costs” would be paid from the bond. Not one dollar of savings has YET to appear in the budget. Yes, I understand the concept that $100 of Bond Money will be spent to save $1 of electricity because the electricity payment comes from the General Fund. I don’t like the math, I don’t like the shell game, and I don’t like the mistrust that is created. The school administrators and parents are already rebelling when they see the monster solar panels that are destroying the children’s playgrounds and playfields. Not a well thought out plan — as usual.

  • mdusd mom

    Doctor J, I am happy with what the solar will look like at our school site, so you are not speaking for me, a parent in this district. I am not alone, our PTSA liked the plans we saw and appreciate our site administrators asking our opinion. I continually read in our paper of another school district going solar in California, DVC did years ago. Poseidon is correct that this will provide money for the General Fund which then can be used in the classroom once the solar is up and running. Until then of course we have not seen any money savings from the Bond money.

    Who are Pete Pederson’s whole administrative staff? Are you part of the Measure C oversight committee? Pete Pedersen has an outstanding track record and did a great job with our last Bond Measure. Every dealing I have ever had with him has been positive. Have you spoken to him directly?

    I challenge you Doctor J to changing your thinking. Write positive things that are happening in our schools and with our students. What saddens me the most is that you are a MDUSD employee, and I heard a Principal at a middle school.

  • Doctor J

    MdusdMom, which school is that ? Pete told Theresa that there are big issues at Monte Gardens, Cambridge, Mt. Diablo HS, El Dorado MS, Mt. Diablo Elem, Valle Verde, and Walnut Acres. Pete is a great guy and has done a great job in the district, and I have high respect for him — but he is now “double dipping” with his retirement and new salary with MDUSD on Measure C. He has a staff — call Linda Carter x 3770 the Measure C secretary. Pete will hire others to monitor the projects. It all violates the “no administrative costs” section of Measure C — wait until the Grand Jury is done investigating that — wait until the public interest law firm sues MDUSD. Who is going to pay all the individual lawyers for all of the Board members and Measure C committee members ? Have the subpoenas been delivered yet ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Dr. J, I would like to clarify that Pete Pedersen wasn’t speaking to me personally about the plans, he was speaking to the committee. He said the district was able to address the issues at Monte Gardens, Mt. Diablo HS, and El Dorado MS.
    Some committee members, however, expressed concerns about the plan to place solar panels on park space adjacent to Cambridge and Meadow Homes elementary schools, fearing vandalism. Pedersen did say that space was especially tight at Mt. Diablo Elementary.
    Regarding Valle Verde and Walnut Acres, he cited safety concerns of parents. A Walnut Acres rep on the committee, however, said that her school is comparing solar panels to bike helmets. “When bike helmets were first required, everybody thought ‘eww,’” she said. “But, now it’s okay.”
    Pedersen stressed the importance of getting out the message that “it’s the right thing to do” environmentally.
    “Ninety-nine percent of the people we’re dealing with — the administrators — are supportive,” he said. “They’re saying, ‘I prefer not to have it, but I’ll stand behind you.’ If they’re not playing ball with us right now, then it’s going to be pretty difficult when we get there (to construction).”

  • Theresa Harrington

    Holbrook Dad: Here is the link to the schedule, but it doesn’t include costs: http://169.199.90.240/MDUSDFacilities/files/FULLPROGSCH.pdf. As you can see, Holbrook and Glenbrook were originally supposed to get solar in the first phase of 19 sites, but that list has been reduced to 17, according to Pete Pedersen.
    He said he wants feedback from people about what else they would like to see on the website. The site invites comments at: Comments? mdusdplanroom@gmail.com.
    He said the cost is high because SunPower has solar arrays that are more efficient, but also more expensive. Also, the change order was due to the board’s direction to try to accommodate the district’s entire energy bill — including air conditioning that hasn’t yet been installed. In addition, some changes were necessary to accommodate easements and emergency vehicle access, he said.
    I also assume you’re talking about roof-mounted solar panels, which would likely be cheaper because they would not require structures to be built to support them.
    Vandalism is a concern, however. Pedersen said SunPower will guarantee its output and will maintain the panels, but does not insure against vandalism. That’s the district’s job.

  • anonamom

    What sounds “counter-intuitive” to me is 40 year financing on equipment with a 30 year live span. Or, contracting for a very expensive maintenance contract for only the first 20 years on equipment with a 30 year life span. None of that adds up.

    Also, does anyone know what it cost us to send Gary and others to that sticky-finger cotton candy conference last week? It sounds like he’s already trying to hypnotize us into buying I-pads.

  • Theresa Harrington

    One parent in the audience was also surprised the district plans to use its CSI “rebates” to pay general fund costs, since rebates are typically used to offset the costs of products.
    She also questioned the plan to use 40-year bonds to pay off short-term COPS debt.

  • Doctor J

    The district cannot possibly prevent vandalism of the solar arrays with its understaffed security that doesn’t even work 12 months a year ! Yes, Anonamom, there is no rational explanation of the solar financing, except for the warped belief that you can waste thousands of taxpayer dollars that are “bond” [Measure C] in order to save $1 of “general fund” [electricity] taxpayer dollars. Rumor has it that there are now Grand Jury inquiries — Gary apparantly took down all of the 2010 comments on solar off his website. I wonder if his Oliver North shredder is working overtime.

  • Doctor J

    @TH #11 — I also do not understand how you can spend Measure C money for a product, and get a rebate and then not apply it to Measure C, but to the General Fund. My CPA friends say that violates Generally Accepted Accounting Principles which would not pass the mandatory annual audit. It may not also pass the Grand Jury scruitiny either. Then what ?

  • Billy Bob

    I would like to see nothing better than the disinfecting sunlight of a Grand Jury inquiry into the whole Chevrongate Measure C shenanigans.

    That is hilarious that Gary is now removing posts.

  • anonamom

    Gary is the man who thought he could smuggle the Glenbrook Sig money over to other schools, so don’t be surprised that he’ll try to wrangle rebate funds to make it “appear” that solar is actually paying us–instead of costing us well into our grandchildren’s future!

    Gary’s 2010 archive appears to be intact to me. Maybe he strained out some of the heavy pieces? I couldn’t tell.

  • concerned parent

    There is a BIG problem with solar at MDE. They want to put one of the largest units right in the middle of the track and another one on the playground blacktop. There will be poles that students will have to constantly be dodging. In my opinion, it is a huge safety issue. Lawsuits here we come. There are 900 students at this school and we cannot give up anymore room. We’ve been told it doesn’t matter what we think, it has to go where they want it to. So now students will have to huddle up to play at recess. Rediculous!!

  • Follow The Money

    Measure C spreadsheet:
    MDUSD Program Staff: $11,902,790
    Solar program: $88,390,930
    It adds up fast!

    Top of the list for HVAC is Loma Vista, why?

  • Linda

    Anonamom,
    Where are you seeing the 2010 comments on the MDUSD blog?

  • Doctor J

    @anonamom What I can see is a mere pittance of what used to be there. I think Gary is pulling an Oliver North.

  • anonamom

    Seems there are even less comments there today! Linda, bottom right: Archives–but you won’t find many comments left to read.

    Solar is in-the-bag, so now it appears he may be thinking of talking us into some iPad deal? Let’s see—30,000 iPads—how many schools would that cost?

  • Theresa Harrington

    The testing that Eberhart refers to in his blog at http://mdusd.blogspot.com/2011/03/testing-whats-it-doing-to-our-kids.html is supported by the unanimous board-approved district goals, which include “performance targets” as measured by testing in specific areas: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=3070&mtgId=274&mtgType=No.
    Perhaps the board will consider modifying these performance targets as part of its strategic planning.

  • anonamom

    I remember thinking then that a month into a school year might be a bit late to plan what you are going to do that year. But, better late than never?

    His attempt at misdirection our attention today is, 1) Kids don’t like to be tested–whine. Did they ever?

    2) Testing is a tool for the politicians. Of course it is, Gary. Just like empty campaign rhetoric–you know all about that don’t you? 2008–”Every dollar we spend must be scrutinized to ensure that the money that we are spending is being spent in the classroom.” Or how about, “Our students can no longer afford for our district to only be reactionary. We must have a vision and a plan…”

  • Doctor J

    Gary, what happened to Strategic Planning that YOU promised THREE years ago ?

  • Billy Bob

    Isn’t there some website or something where you can pull up the cache of old version of a wesite? I know there is I’m just not sure how to do it. Might be interesting to make sure any evidence is preserved for the Grand Jury.

  • Poseidon

    I truly do not understand the few people in this community who continually beat the same drum over and over again without helping to develop any strategy to come up with solutions. How many of you anonymous quarterbacks work with the board to affect change and improvement? How many of you attend board meetings regularly? How many of you sit down with board members and try to help come up with solutions. Do you email them all? Do you call them and discuss options with them? And what’s with singling out one member of the board as if he was the dictator of the district. One board member only has one vote. Do you talk to Gary? Do you really think that he spends his time on the times’ web site? I certainly hope he doesn’t. And then there are these new baseless accusations that he is removing blog posts from his blog. Remember its his blog, a site that he does not have to maintain, but he does. I don’t see any gaps in stories for 2010. And if he does decide to delete posts or remove the blog altogether, that is his business. If I were him, I’d shut the blog site off, shut off the meeting cameras and let you anonymous quarterbacks rot. What’s the point in what you are doing? Do you want to chase this one board member off? Hasn’t he already said a number of times that he is not going to run again? You people really take things too far and Theresa, your actions and the things you write encourages the vitriol. You must feel that you are justified in some way. I just don’t see it and fail to understand your motives. This is not journalism nor is it a service to the community. Its really poorly played.

  • Wait a Minute

    Theresa is doing her job as a good investigative journalist.
    I can’t speak for the others but I comment here because the MDUSD is/was literally being run into the ground by the horrible and reactive decision making of Gary and Sherry and…Paul Strange. These are the people that hired another like-minded bad leader like Steven Lawrence. These are the people that gave the “Gang of Five” and Lawrence unwarrented and unafordable raises at the same time they asked others to sacrifice.
    All these things not to mention the many ethical lapses by some of these unfit leaders that deserve to be independantly investigated by a Grand Jury or other other agencies.
    It is not until some more quality board members of Cheryl Hansen’s caliber are elected that this district can clean house and start earning back the trust and respect that the community deserve.

  • anonamom

    I hate to use such a sad cliche, but Gary is not “one vote”—he is two. Deny it and then prove it. On any idea proffered for vote, given one other weak link, and he (the team of two) becomes exactly what he ran against in 2008.

  • mdusd mom

    Amen Poseidon!

  • Billy Bob

    Poseidon Paul,

    You my friend were part of the problem. Thankfully you decided not to run again. It is now time to make sure the Gary and Sherry follow your footsteps out the door.

  • anonamom

    Feb. 4, 2008– Paul Strange: “For me, maybe the main issue is that the district has no strategic planning – no strategic plan.”

    and–“Ms. Treece said: ‘I want people to know that we are not status quo because we are in the pre-planning stages for strategic planning.’ ”

    Both men (Strange and Eberhart) said they were surprised and perplexed by the statement, having pushed for strategic planning at multiple board meetings.

    ”February 15, 2008–Conversation with Gary Eberhart and Paul Strange: “As a $300 million per year operation with 4000 employees, Mt. Diablo cannot succeed without strategic planning, something that has been sorely lacking for many years.”

    And suddenly, Gary got Sherry, Paul stays in the wings coaching, Mayo apparently says “OK, I disagree with you, but I’ll play nice for you just like I did for McHenry”, and all of the talk of the “strategic planning” falls to the wayside in favor of $$$ for solar which became Gary team’s be-all end-all.

    Oh, and we’ll just close a few old schools, “or something”…

  • Poseidon

    No one bothered to address the main point that I made. Are any of you anon-quarterbacks attempting to work with the board or are you only capable of standing on the shoulder and yelling at the cars as they drive by? Are you going to address the point that I made? Do you believe that you are helping the students? Answer the questions.

    I will say it once again. I am not Paul.

  • Anonacommunitymom

    Isn’t there a scheduled meeting on April 26th to begin the Strategic Planning Process? I understand they will need community input and help, am I correct? Can I assume Doctor J and Anonamom will volunteer for this? You both seem to have a lot of knowledge.

  • Anonacommunitymom

    Oh Doctor J and anonamom, Measure C oversight committee also has an opening, thought you would be interested since you have all the information.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Actually, I believe the board plans to begin discussions about strategic planning at 6 p.m. Tuesday, before the regular board meeting begins. However, it has set aside more time April 26, when it will hold another study session.

    Here’s what retreat facilitator Kirk Berger told the board: “Strategic planning is an evolving science. I think you need to agree on what the term means to you. What is the scope and how do you want it to evolve? I would assume you want a shorter term. It’s about the visioning and establishing priorities. You cannot have 15 goals. When you have 15 goals, you have no goals. You establish goals for supt, principals, teachers, etc, and they’re aligned and you’re driving in one fast line. It’s not uncommon to find disconnects. That’s what new planning is all about. It’s not all about 10-volume plans.”

    And yes, the district is seeking a new member for the Measure C Bond Oversight Committee: http://www.mdusd.org/NewsRoom/Pages/2010MeasureCCitizensBondOversightCommitteeOpening.aspx.
    Application deadline is April 29.

    Follow the money: You can see an overview of the Measure C budget on pages 13-14 of this 2010 Measure C Facility Improvement Program History: http://169.199.90.240/MDUSDFacilities/files/2010FacilitiesMaster.pdf

  • anonamom

    Poseidon: On using the blogs as a valid communication tool:

    Eberhart-2/4/08: Using the chat forum and the high number of blog visitors, Eberhart and Strange hope to initiate action from parents and community members alike.

    “Paul and I are continuing to develop items that can be posted so that we can disseminate all the information that we have in terms of changes that we see need to be made,” Eberhart wrote.

    (I agree forums are an excellent tool for making a point, and as far as “sitting in”; when you are just a citizen, the only difference between being ignored and/or berated by blog or email and getting it face-to-face in public is the weather outside!

    Anonacommunitymom: Strategic planning will begin three years after it was promised, and three months after a knee-jerk decision to close schools.

    As for Measure C; They left one phrase off of the invitation: “Please come join our impotent committee so we can pretend you are important right up to the point where we ignore your input and do whatever we want to anyway”!

    (sorry—been there-done that!)

  • Another MDUSD Mom

    Anonamom,

    I don’t know who you are but I like you.

    I sat on a District Committee where we should have asked better questions and demanded better answers. But looking back would anything have changed and could we have made a difference. No. The district did what they wanted without all the information needed to make a good decision (and certainly without a plan) and we will have to live with it for the next 40 years!

    If I apllied to be on the Measure C Oversight Committee would I even be considered, I don’t think so. I will attend the meetings however.

    Poseidon – the answer to your last questions are yes and yes.

  • Follow The Money

    To Those who call us “anon-quarterback” and tell us to volunteer:
    The answer is yes, we volunteer and we communicate with board members. We campaigned for Measure D parcel tax and we saw which staff and board members did NOT.
    And what do we get for it? NO strategic plan, NO parcel tax, a bond measure for solar with 20 years of maintenance that we’ll pay for 40 years, 6 low-performing schools, loss of $1.2 million SIG funds, inadequate communication, and board president surprises: closing Westwood, or in the middle of school closure discussion deciding to use bond money to build a NEW school!!! Parents, children and community members who attended the meetings did not feel validated.
    I attend a few meetings but not all of them. Frankly I’m needed at home to tutor my children for all the topics that their teachers skipped which are too many. MDUSD is too big, has too many meetings, and it’s wasting our time!
    MDUSD needs to figure out how to get 30,000 families involved instead of just a few. And how to get the entire community to support education financially. Improving K-12 classroom education would be a great start and that’s why I blog hoping someone might listen to the chorus here. So I’ll politely decline your invitation to a guilt trip.

  • Another MDUSD Mom

    Poseidon,
    Perhaps your attitude is exactly what limits this district from moving forward. Whether it is April Treece who always touted our distinguished schools, or Sherry Whitmarsh who believes OGM and YV are great schools, or you who believe that anyone who dares to speak out and ask for better must lack the knowledge or the initiative to make a difference, you are all missing the big picture. This community is NOT happy with the quality of education being provided.

    It appears to me that the bloggers are becoming better informed about issues. It appears that many of us are aligned in our thoughts about what is wrong and what needs to be changed. Our ultimate goal is to improve the quality of education for our children and provide them an environment condusive to learning. It only becomes about the people in MDUSD leadership roles when they persisently ignore the voices in their community and the needs of the student by making bad decisions because they have wasted too much time without a vision or a plan.

    We question them when they oust one Superintendent for not having a strategic plan and then hire another who does not even believe in strategic planning. We question them when they say they desire to hire a Superintendent who is a good communicator and then hire someone who is either not willing or not able to communicate. We question them when they give raises to administrators but fire teachers. We question them when they create a plan to improve a failing school and receive $1.2mil to do so and then close that school and have to return the money. We question them when they have us work for 10 months planning for a parcel tax only to swoop in and say we are going to pursue a fiscally irresponsible bond and solar project. We question them when we ask for a financial analysis of the solar project and 12 months later we still don’t have it… too late now. We question them when we use our personal family time phone banking for Measure D while Board Members and District Administrators are no where to be seen because they are across town working on a “back-up” plan – great for volunteer morale.

    So Poseidon, I can only speak for myself but I am tired of doing it your way.

    Maybe you need to ask parents about the things that are going wrong in the classroom. We are required to get our children to school everyday, make sure they are respectful, make sure they get their homework completed, and you want us to volunteer to make our schools and the district better.
    There are many great teachers but…
    There are teachers who have been absent from class more than 45 days in one year (not a long-term illness – just a day here and there), there are teachers who do not grade papers for months, there are teachers who lose assignments on a regular basis, and most people I know are working with tutors for their children in one or more classes. The tutor working with my child is completely booked and has hired a second tutor to pick-up families on the waiting list. Some thing is wrong. If my student was absent that many days, did not turn in work on time, and lost assignments he would get an F.

    When are we going to start talking about improving the quality of education, improving customer service, and improving the culture in this district that is divisive, reactionary, and relies on acting as the victim of the State.

    Show me the willingness to change and then you can ask me to stop complaining. A comprehensive Strategic Plan that is embraced and implemented would be a good start.

  • anonamom

    Another MDUSD Mom,

    Thanks for the vote of confidence. I too spent many years being where I needed to be. Now, feeling that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword I try to fight the good fights more often from behind the scenes.

    This City, and ALL of its citizens are more important than the maniacal egos of a few school board members.

    Even accounting for teachers and grounds crews, maintenance crews, etc., I see no excuse whatsoever for the District to employ one person for every 8.4 students in the district, in addition to the millions spent on Contracted labor. The district payroll is outlandish. For every form of “cut” they have done at the school level, they need to cut double from the District staff level. The same goes for the County Schools administration staff.

    “Student” is the first word they invoke, and the last that they defend.

  • Doctor J

    The district refuses to tell us how many people they are flying down to the LAX SIG conference. Why ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Another MDUSD Mom: During the Oct. 5 strategic planning study session, Eberhart said the district should survey the community about its perceptions of local schools before beginning strategic planning. Here’s an excerpt of my blog post about the meeting:

    “Eberhart: (Referred to a teachers’ union survey). It focused on teachers providing some assessment of how things are going at the site. I’d like to see a survey like that expanded. It had great questions that talked about, from an administrative perspective, how successful is the administration? I would like to see that expanded to the parents: ‘What do you think of the site, the teaching, food service, cleanliness?’ Real questions that allow people to provide input so we can see from the parents and the clients we serve how we are doing as a school district.

    Whitmarsh: Should survey five years out.

    Eberhart: It helps me to see what does our community think of (the job we’re doing).

    Whitmarsh: Would like annual feedback from students and community members: ‘What’s your perception of the school that’s in your backyard?’

    Eberhart: I woul like to see it prior to putting a strategic plan in, as a benchmark.

    Strange: If you spend a money to build a poll you don’t ever change it.

    Whitmarsh: (Said it might be necessary to change certain questions to reflect changes in district.)

    (Dick) Allen: I think we really need to look at our communications plan. To keep the whole community informed, I think we need to make a stronger effort.”

    The entire blog post is at http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2010/10/10/mt-diablo-school-district-paves-way-for-strategic-planning/.

    Also, regarding Measure C, the public was told the district had many leaky roofs that needed to be fixed. Does anyone know of any roofs that are leaking in all this rain?

  • Poseidon

    Another MDUSD Mom,

    I am not asking anyone to stop complaining. I am saying that the only way that things will change is if we work with the board and the district to bring about change. All that I am saying is that unless we sit down with the board and the district and make our concerns their concerns, they are not going to address them in a timely manner. I guess we can wait until 2012 to elect 2 new board members, but I have kids in school now. I don’t think waiting is doing all I can for my kids. Simply sitting on your computer and commiserating with a bunch of other people who are doing the same things does nothing to advance parent concerns. I have been attending board meetings for a while now and I haven’t seen many people step up the podium to discuss changes that need to be made. I’d also say that over 90% of the time the board votes are unanimous, so I don’t know how you can blame all of the districts problems on one board member.

    I’m not saying don’t complain. In fact, just the opposite. I’m saying sit down with the board as a whole or each of the individual board members and have an honest discussion about your concerns. If we do that, things might get done. Coming on to blog sites that the board probably doesn’t even read is about as effective as going to a different school districts board meeting to complain about our board. It makes no sense.

  • Theresa Harrington

    It’s true that relatively few people take the time to speak publicly to the board to voice concerns. A notable exception is Willie Mims, who has repeatedly requested that the board make a complete copy of the agenda packet available to the public at board meetings. Yet, even this seemingly simple request has not been addressed by the district. Mims has aired his frustration over the fact that the board doesn’t ask staff to respond to questions raised by the public, as many other elected officials, such as City Council members, do.

    Pete Pedersen, however, is an exception. He answered Mims’ question about the Measure C change order on March 15, without being directed to do so by the board. If more staff members and trustees would respond to questions after the public comment period is over, perhaps more members of the community would take the time to address the board.

  • Doctor J

    Poseidon Paul, The Board promised THREE years ago to have a Strategic Plan and has not followed through. The arrogance of Board members in ignoring the public is damnable. Eberhart asks for a freeze on overnight travel and he is ignored. Eberhart asks for site administrator meetings to be during non classroom hours and he is ignored. Either it is a ruse or the tail is wagging the dog.

  • Theresa Harrington

    In fact, Eberhart praised staff several times during the March 15 meeting. After adopting the second interim budget report, he said: “I’d just like to commend staff.”
    He said “indicators in terms of whether they’re spending the public’s money well indicated that the district is doing well,” citing the district’s bond rating, assessment of an independent auditor and the positive certification on the second interim budget report.
    “So, I commend staff,” he repeated.

  • anonamom

    Poseidon: You repeat, “All that I am saying is that unless we sit down with the board and the district and make our concerns their concerns, they are not going to address them in a timely manner.”

    A) As Teresa says above, they ignore public speakers, and always have!

    B) Read the Brown Act. All discussions as you suggest MUST be done in PUBLIC forum. Have you had any success in getting them to sit down with you?

    C) They read the blogs!!! They’ve just quit participating–even on their own blogs!

  • Theresa Harrington

    Hansen’s request for a list of employees working on post-retirement contracts also has not been addressed so far. She first asked for this March 1.

  • Wait a Minute

    What Paul Strange and Ebermarsh and the other all-talk, no-action (or even worse, bad-actions) havn’t figured out yet is that the peasants are rising and they can’t handle that.
    Yes, people can address the board (for like 2 minutes) but as Theresa points out even those concerns are ignored or not followed through on.
    My friends in the MDUSD all tell me that when they sit on commitees or raise concerns in meetings they are treated the same way as the public when they address the board–basically IGNORED!
    This leads me to the conclusion that if you are not hiring a board member or buying the superintendent free drinks or golf while you discuss a no-bid contract then you are going to be ignored.
    Under these circumstances the only way to save the MDUSD is to get outside agencies to investigate the corruption and to support untainted outsider professionals like Cheryl Hansen for the next board election.

  • Theresa Harrington

    One exception was the MDHS student request that the district buy “fair trade” chocolate. This was handled very expediently.
    The students also asked the board to declare a districtwide “Human Rights Day.” They are drafting a resolution for the board to consider.
    The students told me they felt empowered when they realized they could make a difference by speaking up and advocating for a cause they believed in. In their case, the board — and district staff — listened and responded quickly.

  • Theresa Harrington

    According to Pete Pedersen, “leaks/overflowing drains/gutters have been called in by multiple sites: Diablo View, Highlands, Glenbrook, Seq. El, Mt. Diablo El., Oak Grove, Woodside, Concord High, Valley View and Northgate High. We have been and are presently dispatching crews in order they are phoned in to us depending on severity and impact to program and property.”