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Archive for March, 2011

A closer look at Mt. Diablo district budget cuts

The Mt. Diablo school board will look at budget-cutting options Tuesday to try to close projected deficits and plan for the possibility that Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax extensions won’t make it onto the June ballot or will fail.

The County Office of Education has asked districts to cut $350 per student and set aside another $300 per student in case the state reduces school funding further to balance its budget.

By 2012-13, the Mt. Diablo district would be $27 million in the red, based on the $350 per student scenario, according to Superintendent Steven Lawrence. However, he isn’t proposing cuts nearly that deep.

Instead, he’s asking the board to assume that the district will achieve more than $6.8 million from three furlough days and reduced benefits contributions, which still need to be negotiated. In addition, Lawrence wants trustees to approve a three-year budget that assumes seven furlough days in 2011-12 and 2012-13, which also need to be negotiated.

Previously, CFO Bryan Richards has said he was unwilling to include these items in the district’s budget, since they weren’t assured.

Here are the cuts from Lawrence’s list that he recommends trustees approve and assume in the district’s three-year budget:

NEGOTIATED ITEMS (WHICH HAVEN’T BEEN VOTED ON BY UNIONS):

10-N4: Limit non-MDEA health care costs to current level: $2.5 million ongoing

10-N6: Reduce teacher calendar by 3 days in 2010-11 and by seven days in 2011-12 and 12-13 (three teaching days in 2010-11; five teaching days and two staff development days in 2011-12 and 12-13): $2.6 million in 2010-122; $6 million ongoing after that

10-N15: Prorate benefits for part-time employees: $1.6 million ongoing

NON-NEGOTIATED ITEMS:

4: Transfer one-time CA High School Exit Exam intervention funds to general fund: $235,000 one-time

5: Transfer funding from Gifted and Talented (GATE) program to general fund (would eliminate GATE funding): $221,272 ongoing

6: Transfer one-time instructional materials funding to general fund: $480,438 one-time

7: Transfer specialized secondary program funding (would eliminate MDHS Arts and Humanities Academy, AHA): $29,610 one-time

8: Transfer one-time teacher professional development funds to general fund: $435,160 one-time

9: Transfer one-time Targeted Instructional Improvement Block Grant funds to general fund: $800,000 one-time

11: Sweep one-time Adult Education funds (would necessitate a dramatic fee increase for all Lifelong Education classes effective July 1 and likely result in significant reduction in classes as student support and interest decreases): $500,000

12: Freeze carryover funds from old state programs that have been eliminated (schools have received the money for the past two years): $930,000 one-time

16: Reduce speech contract funding (reduced need due to staff hires): $600,000 ongoing

17: Reduce Occupational Therapy contracts (fewer students need services): $52,560 ongoing

TOTAL NON-NEGOTIATED CUTS: $4,284,040 ($3.38 million one-time and $903,442 ongoing)

NEGOTIATED CUTS: It’s unclear exactly how much money the district is estimating toward the benefits caps this year. It is estimating nearly $2.6 million for the furlough days this year, then nearly $10.3 million a year ongoing starting in 2011-12 for seven furloughs, plus the benefits cap and proration.

The Mt. Diablo Education Association (MDEA) teachers’ union has reached a tentative agreement for the three furlough days this year, but would need to negotiate future furlough days. Union members and the board haven’t yet approved the tentative agreement.

The district’s other three unions (Local 1 CST, M&O and CSEA) are at impasse. The board expects to approve a $40,000 contract with School Services of California to prepare “fact-finding” information to be presented to mediators appointed by the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB).

Maintenance and Operations rep Dawn Winder told me last Friday that her unit was notified March 4 that the state required fact-finding take place within a 10 work day period. The fact finder, she said, told union members he was willing to extend the time, if both parties agreed.

“Of course, we were in agreement because we just now were receiving the budget, today (March 11, when it was posted with the March 15 agenda),” she said. “The district is unagreeable to extend that timeline, so we’re going Tuesday during the day into fact-finding without all the facts.”

The fact-finding session will take place Tuesday morning, before the board votes on the budget Tuesday night.

“Then, the fact-finder has 30 days to report back and then the district can impose (it’s last, best and final offer),” she said. “And if they do, we can only be imposed upon until June 30. Why didn’t they accept the concessions we wanted to make a year ago?”

I asked Lawrence in an e-mail why the district would want to impose concessions, when it would have to turn around and start negotiating again so soon. Here’s his response:

“If the District imposes its last, best and final offer it becomes the new status quo for fiscal articles such as furlough days, the benefit cap, and proration. While it is true that we must then continue to bargain to reach a negotiated agreement with the unions, the starting point for any new agreement would be the capped and prorated levels previously imposed.”

Winder said union members were willing to pay more toward their health coverage and to take furlough days, but district negotiators wanted more.

“They wanted that proration,” she said. ”The proration is a big thing for us.”

Lawrence pointed out in his staff report that the board will have to identify new cuts in its 2013-14 budget, even if the negotiated items are implemented. Yet, he doesn’t expect trustees to go through the cut list item by item on Tuesday, he said.

“I have spoken to the County Office of Ed.,” he said in a voicemail message. “At the second interim, they do not need the specificity in a cut. What they just need to know is that you’ve identified or over-identified enough cuts to make your budget balanced out. For us currently, it would be balanced out through the 12-13 school year. And so based on the number of cuts that are on that list, we would more than meet that obligation and so they are fine with that. So, we don’t have to go in and specifically say, ‘This position would be laid-off.’”

But Winder said she thinks trustees should go through the list item by item and come to a consensus about which cuts they would be willing to make.

“I think that it’s an awful lot of pain to just sweep under the carpet all at once,” she said. “I think that each item should be closely looked at. I didn’t notice any administrator positions on that list.”

On March 8, Board President Gary Eberhart asked Lawrence to bring back an analysis of cuts to the Student Acheivement and School Support (SASS) department, a freeze on overnight out-of-town travel and off-site principal meetings during the day. Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh suggested that more school closures should be added to the list and Trustee Cheryl Hansen asked that the possible sale of Willow Creek Center be added. She has also repeatedly asked that a list of district staff working on post-retirement contracts be made public, based on some people’s assertions that the district is spending too much money on employees who are “double-dipping.”

The school closures and Willow Creek Center sale appear on the new list. The post-retirement contract list and Eberhart’s suggestions are missing.

Instead of reducing SASS, the district is recommending hiring another administrator in the department.

Winder said the extra work her union members have been doing, combined with stalled negotiations, is taking a toll.

“My coworkers are stressed, strained,” she said. “Certainly overworked and underpaid and in a very negative environment. And we have found that our sick time has significantly increased. That’s what happens when your people get really stressed.”

One good thing to come out of the bargaining logjam has been a more unified outlook among the four unions, she said.

“For the first time in 30 years, in Mt. Diablo’s history, all of the organized labor units — MDEA, CST, CSEA and M&O — are meeting on a monthly basis and working together. We’ve been doing this for the past five months. I think it has helped to bring us all closer together. So, it’s no longer the teachers versus the classified. We’re all in the same boat without the paddle.”

Although Lawrence recommends the board approve a “positive” budget, General Counsel Greg Rolen states in item 14.7 that “the district filed its 2010-11 Second Interim Report with a qualified certification.”

He recommends the board ask the county to sell Measure C bonds on its behalf because: “The Education Code requires that school districts with a qualified certification issue bonds through the county.”

Do you support Lawrence’s recommendation to assume the negotiated cuts in the district’s three-year budget? Do you think trustees should discuss each item instead of approving the entire list as a back-up plan? Do you think Eberhart’s ideas should be added to the list?

Posted on Monday, March 14th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 20 Comments »

Mt. Diablo teachers’ union reaches tentative agreement

If Mt. Diablo district teachers approve a tentative agreement hammered out Friday, students will lose three days of classes by the end of this school year.

That’s because the Mt. Diablo Education Association has struck a deal with the district to accept three furlough days, while maintaining elementary library, vocal music and PE prep periods the district wanted to eliminate.

“We have a one-year contract from last July to the end of June, because we’re still without a contract this year,” union president Mike Langley told me today.

Teachers and the district still need to decide which days to take, but the pay cuts will be deducted one day a month in April, May and June, Langley said.

Besides the furlough days, the proposed contract also includes several smaller items:

- A new form will be developed to ensure that class sizes that are too large at the beginning of the semester will be addressed by the district, instead of the school, after 19 student days;

- Minor language changes related to job-sharing, to be more aligned with Education Code;

- A new peer review system that would require some teachers on special assignment, such as math and literacy coaches, to go through the same panel that Peer Assistance Review coaches go through to be placed in a “pool” that principals can select from. The panel includes four administrators and four union members.

“They can now make sure that well-qualified and appropriate people are placed in this pool for our teachers on special assignment,” Langley said.

- Fifth-grade teachers who opt not to accompany their classes to Outdoor Education camp would substitute in appropriate classes at their own schools.

- Three “discretionary” days off could be used for personal leave, with no explanation necessary.

- Summer school teachers would be laid-off according to seniority and credential if they are not needed.

The union plans to hold meetings to inform members about the deal and answer questions. The meetings will be held Wednesday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 22, Langley said.

In 2011-12, the agreement would also delay until later in the year two of teachers’ three “staff days,” which normally provide professional development in August. This would provide flexibility for up to seven future furlough days, Langley said (five school days and two “staff days”).

“Every other thing is status quo,” Langley said, “which means it continues on next year.”

Although Julie Braun-Martin said in an e-mail that the district would send out eight pink slips to librarians, Langley said the number was seven. He also said five music teachers would receive pink slips, including one instrumental music teacher and four vocal music teachers.

In all, 82 teachers and credentialed staff covered by the union will get preliminary lay-off notices, Langley said. Administrators and some adult education teachers are not members of the union.

“We were very concerned about some of the things we were going to leave as status quo, but we felt there were such differences that negotiations were going to drag on and our ability to contribute to helping the district’s fiscal situation lessened each week that negotiations were stalled,” he said. “So, we chose to accept status quo for this contract so we could give up three pay cut days and allow the district to move forward on their search for fiscal stability.”

The main “status quo” item the union objects to is meeting time after school, he said. The union wants to cap the amount of time teachers can be required to attend such meetings and specify a definite “end of the work day” time, beyond which teachers would get extra pay.

“We know that their books have a structural deficit as well as the threat of more cuts from the state,” Langley said. “So, rather than lose the opportunity, our members are willing to make the sacrifice and start getting back to some real negotiations in September.”

The district’s willingness to give up the elementary prep periods will mean it will have to remove those items from its budget cut list, if the union and board approve the contract. These changes haven’t been made for Tuesday’s meeting.

In addition, some new ideas suggested by trustees don’t appear on the revised cut list.

“Gary (Eberhart) talked about maybe looking at areas like testing,” Langley said. “I think he was delineating: ‘Is that something we really need or that we want?’ Because when you’re talking about giving up days — time of instruction for kids — everything that they’re keeping and paying for should be measured against that standard: ‘Is this more important than a day of instruction?’ I think Mr. Eberhart was wondering if unmandated testing was more important than a day of instruction.”

Langley said campus safety is another important concern, when making budget-cutting decisions.

“Sometimes the district administration and the school board don’t fully understand the impact of some of the things they’re asking for,” he said. “And we will try to continue to communicate that to them as they continue to communicate to us their wants and needs.”

Do you support the proposed contract?

Posted on Friday, March 11th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 67 Comments »

State education leader warns tax extension failure could have dire consequences

As time is running out to get Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax extensions on a June ballot, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is trying to make the public aware of the dire situations that could face schools if the taxes fail.

“Californians cherish their schools,” Torlakson said in a news release Friday. “Before we miss the chance to help our state’s 6.2 million schoolchildren weather this financial emergency, people have a right to know the consequences.”

He sent a letter to county school superintendents warning that without an extension, the state could be forced to cut school spending by up to $4.5 billion or 10 percent of the K-12 budget. He asked education leaders to figure out what that would mean to their schools.

Two months ago, Torlakson declared a state of financial emergency in California’s schools, saying they had suffered $18 billion in cuts over the past three years, equal to about one-third of the state’s K-12 spending annually.

Here’s the letter he sent to county superintendents:

“FISCAL EMERGENCY INFORMATION REQUEST:

I am writing today to ask for your help with compiling information about the number of pink slips and layoff notices being issued, and the program cuts being proposed, by the Local Education Agencies in your jurisdiction.

As you know, should the state budget resolution require an all-cuts solution, our schools could face an additional $4.5 billion in cuts — a dire situation for our schools already facing a state of fiscal emergency. Are most of your districts producing layoff and program reduction plans based on the ‘all-cuts’ budget assumption? I think it is vital for the public to know the full impacts of the worst-case budget scenario.

Given the urgency we face, I ask you to share the pink slip, layoff notice, and program cut information with me as soon as it becomes available to you. I am interested in learning specific information about the pinks slips issued to certificated staff and layoff notices given to non-certificated staff. The program and funding details of the cuts being proposed will be more difficult to share, but I would appreciate any level of detail you may be able to provide …

In addition, I am interested in learning more about how the school districts in your jurisdiction are responding to the funding deferrals that have already occurred, and what the potential impact may be from those included in the budget package proposal.

I am also deeply concerned about how the pattern of deferrals has, in effect, led to our schools being used as a bank to cover the state’s ongoing fiscal problems.

I will be developing an estimate of the total cost of this borrowing to our school districts across the state. I want to share this information with the Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly, the President pro Tempore of the Senate, and the general public.

Please ask the districts in your county to provide the latest information they can about how they are handling this situation — including interest costs, lost interest from use of reserve funds, time, cash-flow management, programs, etc. …

Thank you in advance for your help in compiling this information.”

Would you support the tax extensions?

Posted on Friday, March 11th, 2011
Under: Education | 1 Comment »

Mt. Diablo district school closure plans revealed

At Tuesday’s Mt. Diablo school board meeting, Trustee Cheryl Hansen proposed that the district develop a short-term plan for closing Holbrook Elementary and Glenbrook Middle School in Concord, as well as a long-term plan for school closures.

She expressed frustration that the proposal she submitted to Superintendent Steven Lawrence was not the same as item 7.4 on the agenda. The long-term plan outlined in agenda item 7.5, however, was her exact submission.

Here’s what she sent to Lawrence:

“March 1, 2011

Action Item for March 8, 2011 Board Meeting

Submitted by Cheryl Hansen

SCHOOL CLOSURE PLANS

We need to develop two school closure plans, one to address the immediate needs of the two schools slated for closure and one long-term plan to address the enrollment trends:

PLAN #1 – Glenbrook and Holbrook School Closure Plan

• Develop an immediate plan to address the closure issues around the closing of Glenbrook and Holbrook. There is an urgent need to identify the new schools of attendance for these students, which would include a redrawing of attendance boundaries, among other issues (see list below).

PLAN #2 – Development of a Long-Term Plan for School Closure

• Establish a new School Closure Committee to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of MDUSD schools and facilities to develop a long-term (3-year minimum), comprehensive plan to identify and address potential school/facilities closures and openings.

• Here are just some of the key components to be researched, evaluated, and addressed in the plan:

1. An analysis of continuing growth and/or declining enrollment trends

• The School Closure Committee’s report still needs in-depth analysis and reflection.

2. Redrawing attendance boundaries to establish balanced feeder patterns

3. Transportation issues (e.g., availability)

4. Traffic and safety issues

5. Relocation or redistribution of special education/after school/support programs at schools to be closed

6. Transition and support plan for students at schools to be closed

7. Staffing impact and needs

8. Redistribution of revenue/funding sources at the closing schools

9. Use of Measure C facilities monies

10. Maintenance and security of closed facilities and/or possible use of closed facilities

11. Explicit accounting of actual money saved from school closures, not just a best guess.

In addition, use the CDE’s ‘Closing a School Best Practices Guide’ as a resource.”

[END PROPOSAL]

Instead, a more narrowly-focused item appeared on the agenda, focused on redrawing boundaries for Glenbook and Holbrook.

 Here’s what it said:

“Attached is a Power Point with attendance boundary changes that were shared at the January 25th Board meeting. The Board will establish the new attendance boundaries for students currently at Holbrook and Glenbrook.

If the Board adopts the attached boundaries students currently in the Glenbrook attendance areas 2 and 3 would attend El Dorado, and areas 1 and 4 would attend Valley View. Neither El Dorado or Valley View is in Program Improvement; therefore, students could not request a transfer under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This includes students living in the Glenbrook attendance areas that are currently on NCLB school of choice transfers. It is recommended that we allow these students to remain at their current middle schools; however, the District will no longer provide transportation. Currently, we provide three buses: one goes to Pleasant Hill, one goes to Pine Hollow and Diablo View, and one goes to Valley View and Sequoia. The students in the new El Dorado and Valley View attendance areas would be provided a 30 day window to submit a new Intradistrict Transfer Application (attached) to attend another middle school. Again, students currently on school of choice would not need to reapply. Students in attendance area 5 who will attend Oak Grove can apply for a transfer under the No Child Left Behind school of choice process and we would provide transportation through Title I funds.

Holbrook students currently living in areas 1 and 4 would attend Sun Terrace and students living in areas 2 and 3 would attend Wren. If students wish to attend a different elementary school families will be provided the same 30 day Intradistrict Transfer Application window as mentioned above. Transition meetings with Holbrook and Glenbrook families and representatives from their newly assigned schools will be scheduled once the Board approves new boundaries. When the 30 day transfer window closes and we assign students to schools, we will have the data necessary to determine the following:

1. Reallocation of staffing.

2. Reallocation of Title I – III and EIA/LEP funds.

3. Reallocation of resources such as instructional materials, library materials, furniture, technology equipment, etc.

4. We will continue to work with Concord City personnel and Police personnel to work on traffic and safety issues.

5. Transportation — At the February 22 Board meeting, information was shared that it would cost $21,500 to create a bus run from Glenbrook to either El Dorado or Valley View. The regional transportation staff is analyzing new bus routes based on the attached boundaries being adopted. Currently, there is no funding to start new bus routes; however, we will continue to work with them to analyze transportation needs throughout the district.

6. At the February 22 Board meeting it was indicated that School Improvement Grant funds would be lost for Glenbrook. We are still waiting for the California Department of Education to provide directions around transferring the after school program funding.

We are currently analyzing the best uses for the Glenbrook and Holbrook facilities. At this time, we do not recommend forming a 7-11 committee to consider selling either property.”

[END AGENDA ITEM]

Hansen said she was not asking for attendance boundaries.

“I think it’s larger than that,” she said. “I think a lot of these issues (in her proposal) go along with it. One of the elements I would want is the inclusion of community and school staff. I cannot believe the number of amazingly good questions and suggestions I’ve received from parents and staff that are creative and insightful. I would hope we would have the courtesy and respect to meet with them in their neighborhoods. That was what item 7.4 was supposed to be. We have to have enough respect and care that we can list those, talk about the people responsible, and show some accountability around that.”

Glenbrook office manager Berta Shatswell said delays in making decisions have been detrimental to the students and staff. After the board voted Feb. 8 to close the school, Board President Gary Eberhart suggested another idea to try to save the School Improvement Grant, she said.

Eberhart suggested closing Westwood Elementary and making it a sixth-grade only campus with students from Glenbrook and El Dorado Middle School and calling it “Glenbrook Middle School.” Glenbrook’s seventh- and eighth-graders would attend El Dorado Middle School, under the proposal. The improvement grant would have served students at the “relocated” Glenbrook site. The state Department of Education rejected this proposal, after first indicating that it might be possible.

“Now, there is yet another idea of how to reconfigure Glenbrook,” she said. ”How will our students get to school? Transportation and safety is still the main concern because there is not geographic equity. Most of our students cannot afford public transportion.”

She also worried about the loss of counseling services for 160 Glenbrook students that is now being funded with the grant.  

“How much money is actually being saved and why are the neediest being hurt?,” she said. ”The board and superintendent should protect the neediest students and communities.”

In 18 years working at Glenbrook, she said she had never seen Eberhart visit the campus (except for the board meeting regarding school closure).  

Willie Mims, a NAACP representative from Pittsburg, said the board should look at all options before settling on one plan.

“One of the things that concerned me is that there was no funding for busing of the students that you’re planning to move from one campus to another,” he said. ”It’s an issue of environmental justice. If these communities are students that are minority and low-ioncome and they are suffering the greatest impact, then you are dealing with some serious issues of environmental justice.”

Earlier in the meeting, about 30 parents, students, teachers and community members asked the board to reconsider its decision to close Holbrook Elementary. Many of them also said this decision lacked districtwide equity, since the two schools are in the same neighborhood, about 1 mile apart.

“Next year, it will be hard for my mom to get me to another school,” said Ricardo Cuellar. “Please don’t close Holbrook. If you close it, I will be sad.”

No trustee suggested rescinding their decision.

Trustee Lynne Dennler, however, suggested an idea that would allow the district to pay for busing all Glenbrook students to their new schools: assign them all to Oak Grove Middle School, which is one of the state’s “persistently lowest-achieving schools.”  Because of this, students could request transfers under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the district would be legally obligated to bus them.

Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh said she would be concerned about assigning more students to Oak Grove than the campus could accommodate (in case they didn’t all opt to transfer to other sites).

Hansen complained that the maps Lawrence provided didn’t include street names, making it difficult for parents to figure out where their children were supposed to go.

Lawrence said the students in Area 1 on the map would be assigned to Oak Grove and could request NCLB transfers. Since Oak Grove is working to get off the NCLB list, the district might not fund busing in the future, he said.

Lawrence said it might be challenging to have community meetings before March 15, but said it might be possible by March 29.

“Part of this to me is to relieve the stress,” Hansen said. “I think parents need more specificity around the rationale.”

Eberhart opposed Hansen’s plan, in part because she didn’t consult district staff about it.

“I agree that we definitely need a plan, but my concern is that this plan has been put together in a vaccuum that doesn’t include staff at all,” he said. “My concern is that this now lays out a plan for the Board of Education that determines” ‘What are our critical path items?’ I think developing a plan without staff input at this point is haphazardous and is going to create a situation where things are going to get missed and timelines are going to get blown.”

Lawrence said Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support, had drafted a plan “ensuring that we do create a timeline.”

“I think some of the issues that Ms. Hansen has brought up have been addressed in here,” he said.

He then distributed Lock’s draft plan (which was not included in the agenda packet).

Here is Lock’s plan:
 

SCHOOL CLOSURE TRANSITION PLAN – DISTRICT

Date/s Activity Person Responsible
ASAP Letter to MDEA members Julie Braun Martin
3/11 Meet with Union Presidents Julie Braun Martin
3/11 Schedule weekly meetings with principals involved Rose Lock
Julie Braun Martin
3/14 Letter to families on school assignment & transfer info Rose Lock / TIS
3/14 Student rosters to receiving & closing schools TIS
3/16 – 4/15 Transfer window Felicia Stuckey-Smith
3/17 Letter to families already on transfer status Felicia Stuckey-Smith
3/17 – 4/30
3/17 – 4/30
3/17 – 4/30
Classified transfer process (confer with Union Presidents first)

  • Food Service
  • Custodial
  • CST
  • CSEA
Julie Braun Martin
Week of 3/21 Meet with Glenbrook, Holbrook & Meadow Homes communities (include info in letter) Council
4/16 – 4/30 Process transfer requests
Keep track as they come in
Identify available spaces at receiving schools
Felicia Stuckey-Smith
May Provide schools format/forms for inventory

  • Who will do it?
  • When?

Work with sites to distribute inventory

Jen Sachs
Joe Estrada
Jeff McDaniel
5/1 – 5/15 Develop moving plan (2 days for teachers) Jeff McDaniel
5/2 – 5/6 Certificated Involuntary Transfer process for school closure Julie Braun Martin
5/20 Determine additional administrative support Council
6/30 Identify location of spec ed programs

  • Holbrook (SDC)
  • Glenbrook (SDC)

Re-assign RS

Mildred Browne
  Transfer process for Classified & Certificated Julie Braun Martin
  After School Programs? Stephanie Roberts
  Distribution of cums (Fred involved) Mildred Browne

SCHOOL CLOSURE TRANSITION PLAN – SITE

Date/s Activity Person Responsible
  Transition meetings Between principals
Between parent clubs
  Transition activities for students & families  
  Inventory materials, textbooks, library materials, equipment, instruments, furniture, etc.  
  Impact on master schedules  
  Develop housing plan
Review & adjust tentative assignments
Receiving schools
  Training new staff  
  Closing activities Closing schools
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

“The plan the superintendent just passed out seems to be pretty inclusive,” Eberhart said. “It includes the tasks, who will be responsible, as well as a pretty explicit timeline. To send them in a different direction doesn’t make a ton of sense.”

Hansen said she had never seen Lock’s plan. Eberhart stressed the need to work with staff.

“I’m not prepared to support this this evening,” he said. “I think the staff is well on their way to bring a plan forward. I still would request that staff continue to move forward with their plan, because I think they’re in a position to understand the critical needs at those sites to make things happen there for our services.”

Whitmarsh agreed.

“I’m thinking this is moot,” she said, “because staff’s already doing it.”

Lawrence then reversed his earlier comment and said staff would meet Monday, March 14 with parents at Glenbrook, Holbrook and Meadow Homes Elementary schools.

“We’ll blow up the map and we’ll have streets on there with the current recommendations so we can share their responses with the board on Tuesday (March 15),” he said. “And the board can consider adopting boundaries for those sites Tuesday.”

Hansen was pleased with the pushed-up timeline.

“And that’s how fast the movement can occur toward accomplishing this,” she said.

The board then voted down her proposed plan 1-3-1: Hansen was the lone vote in favor; Mayo abstained because she was participating via phone and didn’t have Lock’s plan.

Trustees then voted 4-1 to table Lawrence’s boundary recommendation until Tuesday. Mayo voted against this, saying she believed it was restrictive.

Discussion regarding the long-term plan was much shorter.

Hansen moved to adopt it and no one seconded the motion.

Shatswell has informed me that Glenbrook’s school closure plan meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Monday in the school’s multiuse room.

Are you satisfied with the district’s plan?

Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 3 Comments »

Holbrook parents and teachers rally to rescind school closure decision

Several Holbrook Elementary teachers and parents have contacted me to voice their dismay over the Mt. Diablo school board’s decision to close their school, which they believe was made hastily, without adequate feedback from the affected community.

Bolstered by Trustee Cheryl Hansen’s vote against the closure and Trustee Linda Mayo’s subsequent statement that she regretted making the school closure motion, Holbrook supporters are rallying outside the district office before tonight’s board meeting.

They plan to address the board, with the following “talking points:”

“Our desire is that the School Board would reverse its decision and permit Holbrook to stay open.

At the beginning of this process we trusted the school board to make the right decision that would benefit our community and students. They have let us down by making the decision to close Holbrook Elementary, a thriving and exemplary school in our district, with apparent disregard to the information gathered by the school closure committee. Many of the concepts shared on the CDE website for School Closure Best Practices were also ignored. The suggestions of Arne Duncan, Federal Department of Education head were not considered. Now is the vital time for us to make our voices heard loud and clear! Rescind your decision about Holbrook!

Talking point #1:
- The closure of two schools in one feeder pattern does not demonstrate ‘geographic equity’ to the North Concord community.
- Transportation problems and expenses for the entire neighborhood.
- Neighborhood businesses will be adversely impacted

Talking point #2
- Measure C and Measure A Funds
- Taxpayers and voters approved Measure C believing they were voting to improve their local schools, which are now closing.
- Measure A funds have already been spent at Holbrook with no future benefit to the community.

Talking point #3
- Now, much of the community is within walking distance of Holbrook. In the future, students will be forced to attend a different school creating a transportation burden that is both financial and emotional.
- This will have a negative financial impact on the district because of more absences and tardies.

Talking point #4
- The need to close schools was to bring $1.5 million dollars back to the school district.
- According to the newest data, the closing of schools, including Holbrook, could bring at most $700,000 back, but quite likely, there will be NO financial gain at all.

Talking point #5:
- At the February 15th School Board meeting, the decision to close Holbrook was based primarily on the idea that dispersing students to only two schools had the least negative impact on them.
- We believe the reasons for NOT closing Holbrook, primarily our high academic performance, cohesive staff, top-quality After School Program (ASP), are far more crucial in considering what will garner student success.
- Clearly, if you truly cared about negative impact on our students, you would realize all research shows high academic performance should be the driving priority of elementary education.

Talking point #6:
- We are disappointed to learn that the school board and administration had no strategic plan as to what to do with students, faculty, or the Holbrook site prior to this hasty decision.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated: ‘Put students first: “… evaluate all policies and practices against the ultimate bottom line: is this policy or practice improving student outcomes?” We believe that closing a successful elementary school like Holbrook will not improve student outcomes.

He also states that it is imperative to ‘protect the neediest children and communities: Where funding reductions must be made, governors and other policymakers can take steps to ensure that the neediest communities and children are not the hardest hit …’ Closing a school in a feeder pattern where we have 64% free and reduced lunch does not ensure that the neediest children are protected.

Duncan further states, ‘Families, teachers, and the community should be included in the decision and that schools that are considered for closing are persistently low-performing.’ Families, teachers and the community members were not included in this decision, nor is Holbrook a consistently low performing school!”

Do you think the school board should rescind its decision to close Holbrook Elementary in Concord?

Posted on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 5 Comments »

MDUSD Superintendent and Assistant Supt. answer budget questions

The Mt. Diablo school board will look at some budget cuts and layoffs Tuesday that have raised questions in the community.

Here are a few questions I e-mailed to Superintendent Steven Lawrence and Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent for personel services, to get a better idea of what the board will be looking at:

SUPERINTENDENT STEVEN LAWRENCE

Q: Why are 33.55 music teachers proposed to be laid-off? I only see 14 music teachers listed in proposed cuts. How many music teachers are there in the district?

A: This is the proposed negotiated reduction in 1st-5th prep time. Currently, we offer 1st-5th teacher prep time by utilizing PE teachers, music teachers and librarians. If the Board approves this reduction we must notice teachers by March 15, 201

Q: Are you recommending any of the non-negotiated cuts?

A: Since last year we have recommended a cap on benefits, proration of benefits based on working seven hours a day, and furlough days.

Q: If the taxes make it onto the ballot and pass, how much would you have to cut? Would you be able to rescind all cuts?

A: If the Governor’s proposed tax extensions pass we must still budget a reduction of $18.38 per ADA as well as class size reduction. This would be a reduction of approximately $2 million and would allow us to rescind the majority of the cuts and layoff notices. Layoff notices based on enrollment reductions and teachers not returning from leaves of absence would not be rescinded.

Q: How are the union negotiations coming along?

A: We have reached a principal difference of opinion with our classified associations and will be proceeding to fact-finding. We are continuing to work diligently with our teacher’s union and are optimistic we can reach a mutually beneficial resolution.

Q: According to the budget, it looks like you really only need to cut $8.8 million from the 2011-12 budget to achieve the $350 per student loss. Are you going to shoot for that as a minimum?

A: In order to certify positive we must have a balanced budget through the 2012-13 school year not just the 2011-12. The goal of the 2nd Interim is to certify positive.

[END LAWRENCE Q & A]

JULIE BRAUN-MARTIN:

Q: Why are 33.55 music teachers proposed to be laid-off? I only see 14 music teachers listed in proposed cuts. How many music teachers are there in the district?

Q: How are the union negotiations coming along?

ANSWERS:

“Dear Ms. Harrington:

There will continue to be district support for the secondary instrumental and vocal music programs. However, there will be some music positions eliminated or reduced in scope due to declining student enrollment or the fact that the school purchased additional music teacher time out of categorical funds and those funds will not be available next year. We also have music teachers who were laid off in our district last year that have the right to return to a position in 2011-2012.

Finally, there will also be a review at the next board meeting of the possibility of eliminating the preparation teachers (music, library or PE) at the elementary level. For all these reasons it was necessary to list that music teachers may receive a March 15th notice.

If the Board determines that it does not wish to eliminate the elementary preparation program, then the personnel office will either reduce the numbers of letters which need to be sent out on March 15th or it will rescind notices by early April.

- Julie Braun Martin, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Services”

—————————————————————-

I also asked two union reps how negotiations were coming along. Here’s what they said in voicemail messages this afternoon:

MIKE LANGLEY, MDEA TEACHERS’ UNION:

“I think that if the state, if they pass the June election, that many of these draconian problems will not have to be instituted. It’s a shame that we have to fire people before we end up rehiring them.

As far as negotiations, I am guardedly optimisitc that our last offer — which is going to be briefed to the board I believe on Tuesday — may be able to help both sides come to a good conclusion. But I won’t know that ’til I get the board’s reaction. And of course I won’t get the board’s reaction ‘tll they get that in closed session.”

JUDY ARMSTRONG, LOCAL 1: PRESIDENT, CLASSIFIED, SECRETARIAL, TECHNICAL (CST)

Regarding proposed reductions to secretarial staff:

“I have over 54 people that it’s going to affect and it is really upsetting. I would really like to know how this district thinks they’re going to run when they cut, because there’s no way they’ll be able to run this district.

And it seems funny how they always cut classified, but they still gave those raises (to five employees) and they still have retirees on contract. So, they find money when they want it.”

[END JUDY ARMSTRONG COMMENTS]

Although Trustee Cheryl Hansen asked Braun-Martin for a list of retirees working in the district, it doesn’t appear in the agenda packet.

I have also heard from Holbrook Elementary teachers and parents who say they plan to ask the board to rescind its decision to close their school.

The complete list of potential cuts is at http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=3722&mtgId=325.

Do you agree with Lawrence’s goal to certify “positive,” by making deep cuts through 2013?

Posted on Monday, March 7th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 30 Comments »

Mt. Diablo Trustee Cheryl Hansen jumpstarts school closure transition plans

On Friday morning, I received an e-mail from Mt. Diablo Trustee Cheryl Hansen telling me that she had submitted a proposal to the district regarding school closures for discussion by the board on March 8.

Here is her proposal:

“March 1, 2011

Action Item for March 8, 2011 Board Meeting

Submitted by Cheryl Hansen

SCHOOL CLOSURE PLANS

We need to develop two school closure plans, one to address the immediate needs of the two schools slated for closure and one long-term plan to address the enrollment trends:

PLAN #1 – Glenbrook and Holbrook School Closure Plan

• Develop an immediate plan to address the closure issues around the closing of Glenbrook and Holbrook. There is an urgent need to identify the new schools of attendance for these students, which would include a redrawing of attendance boundaries, among other issues (see list below).

PLAN #2 – Development of a Long-Term Plan for School Closure

• Establish a new School Closure Committee to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of MDUSD schools and facilities to develop a long-term (3-year minimum), comprehensive plan to identify and address potential school/facilities closures and openings.

• Here are just some of the key components to be researched, evaluated, and addressed in the plan:

1. An analysis of continuing growth and/or declining enrollment trends

• The School Closure Committee’s report still needs in-depth analysis and reflection.

2. Redrawing attendance boundaries to establish balanced feeder patterns

3. Transportation issues (e.g., availability)

4. Traffic and safety issues

5. Relocation or redistribution of special education/after school/support programs at schools to be closed

6. Transition and support plan for students at schools to be closed

7. Staffing impact and needs

8. Redistribution of revenue/funding sources at the closing schools

9. Use of Measure C facilities monies

10. Maintenance and security of closed facilities and/or possible use of closed facilities

11. Explicit accounting of actual money saved from school closures, not just a best guess.

In addition, use the CDE’s ‘Closing a School Best Practices Guide’ as a resource.”

[END PROPOSAL]

I tried calling Superintendent Steven Lawrence to discuss Hansen’s proposal, but didn’t hear back from him. I also left a message with Rose Lock, Assistant Superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support, asking about the status of school closure plans. I did not get a response.

The principals of the two schools said they had been told by the district that students would find out where they were being assigned next year by March 15. Based on this information, I wrote a story about Hansen’s proposals.

When the agenda for the March 8 meeting was posted, it didn’t mention Hansen’s proposals. Instead, it included item 7.4 “Boundary Options for Holbrook Elementary School and Glenbrook Middle School” and item 7.5  ”Development of a Long Term Plan for School Closure.”

The boundary plans state that Glenbrook students who are currently on No Child Left Behind transfers to other schools (such as Sequoia Middle School) would no longer be able to continue to receive those transfers if they are assigned to El Dorado or Valley View Middle Schools. Berta Shatswell, office manager at Glenbrook, told me she believed the transfers were supposed to be good for three years, however.

The staff report states that students who are currently on No Child Left Behind transfers could remain at their current schools, but would no longer receive district busing. This could come as a surprise to those families and may place a financial hardship on them, since they will be required to transport their children to faraway schools.

Glenbrook students assigned to Oak Grove Middle School would be able to receive No Child Left Behind transfers with busing, since that school is one of the lowest-performing in the state.

The 30-day window for applying to transfer to other schools for both Holbrook and Glenbrook students would begin March 8, if the board approves the boundaries, according to Lawrence’s staff report.

In addition, the district would hold meetings at the schools to inform families about the transition.

Lawrence states that the district would be able to provide the following information after the 30-transfer period:

“1. Reallocation of staffing.
2. Reallocation of Title I – III and EIA/LEP funds.
3. Reallocation of resources such as instructional materials, library materials, furniture, technology equipment, etc.
4. We will continue to work with Concord City personnel and Police personnel to work on traffic and safety issues.
5. Transportation — At the February 22 Board meeting, information was shared that it would cost $21,500 to create a bus run from Glenbrook to either El Dorado or Valley View. The regional transportation staff is analyzing new bus routes based on the attached boundaries being adopted. Currently, there is no funding to start new bus routes; however, we will continue to work with them to analyze transportation needs throughout the district.
6. At the February 22 Board meeting it was indicated that School Improvement Grant funds would be lost for Glenbrook. We are still waiting for the California Department of Education to provide directions around transferring the after school program funding.

We are currently analyzing the best uses for the Glenbrook and Holbrook facilities. At this time, we do not recommend forming a 7-11 committee to consider selling either property.”

Agenda item 7.5, which calls for a “long-term school closure plan,” doesn’t mention Hansen. Yet, it appears to be Hansen’s proposal:

“• Establish a new School Closure Committee to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of MDUSD schools and facilities to develop a long-term (3-year minimum), comprehensive plan to identify and address potential school/facilities closures and openings.
• Here are just some of the key components to be researched, evaluated, and addressed in the plan:

1. An analysis of continuing growth and/or declining enrollment trends
• The School Closure Committee’s report still needs in-depth analysis and reflection.
2. Redrawing attendance boundaries to establish balanced feeder patterns
3. Transportation issues (e.g., availability)
4. Traffic and safety issues
5. Relocation or redistribution of special education/after school/support programs at schools to be closed
6. Transition and support plan for students at schools to be closed
7. Staffing impact and needs
8. Redistribution of revenue/funding sources at the closing schools
9. Use of Measure C facilities monies
10. Maintenance and security of closed facilities and/or possible use of closed facilities
11. Explicit accounting of actual money saved from school closures, not just a best guess.

In addition, use the CDE’s ‘Closing a School Best Practices Guide’ as a resource.
Funding.”

Lawrence doesn’t include the “explicit accounting of actual money saved” in his school boundary staff report. Yet, Hansen told me she wants to know exactly how much is being saved from closing Glenbrook and Holbrook and wants to know whether the district will achieve its goal of $1.5 million in savings with the other cost-cutting measures recommended by Lawrence Feb. 22.

When Trustee Gary Eberhart proposed an idea related to school closures in February, he did not provide any written report to the district or to the public. Hansen said she wanted to let the district and the public know what she was thinking ahead of time, so they would not be surprised on Tuesday.

Are you satisfied with Lawrence’s short-term recommendations related to school closure? Do you agree with Hansen’s recommendation for a long-term plan?

Posted on Sunday, March 6th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 23 Comments »

California High beats Northgate in Mock Trial finals

California High School’s Mock Trial team from San Ramon beat out a dozen other high schools to be named as the Contra Costa County champion for 2011.

The California team edged out the Northgate High team from Walnut Creek on Tuesday during the final round. Miramonte High School’s team from Orinda topped Alhambra High’s team from Martinez in the consolation round. Miramonte won the competition last year.

The winning teams, as well as several individual student winners, were announced Thursday during an awards ceremony at the Contra Costa County Office of Education.

More than 150 students from the following high schools played a variety of courtroom roles in the 30th annual competition: Acalanes (Lafayette), Alhambra (Martinez), Antioch (Antioch), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Clayton Valley(Concord), Deer Valley Law Academy (Antioch), Dougherty Valley (San Ramon), Hercules Middle/High (Hercules), Heritage (Brentwood), Las Lomas (Walnut Creek), Miramonte (Orinda), and Northgate (Walnut Creek).

The Contra Costa County Office of Education coordinated the event, which was sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation.

Students were coached by teachers and volunteer attorneys and judges, before arguing their cases before a judge. Students played all the other roles, including attorneys and witnesses.

Several students won individual awards for their efforts.

They were:

JOURNALIST: Bailey White, Alhambra HS

ARTIST: Emily Neilson, Northgate HS

CLERK: Nick Gardner, California HS

BAILIFF:
Will Carson, California HS
Evan Lutz,Clayton Valley HS

PROSECUTION WITNESS ANGEL STERLING:
Danielle Jacobson, Las Lomas HS
Anna Drobny, Miramonte HS
Connor Francis, Alhambra HS
Nora Mohamed, Campolindo HS
Angelica Patricio, Hercules HS
Francesca Blake, Northgate HS

DETECTIVE FRANKIE COOPER: Eric Stein, California HS

DR. SAM HOLLOWAY: Josh Moss, Northgate HS

CHRIS DRAPER: Vikas Agartha, Acalanes HS

DEFENSE WITNESSES:

JESSE WOODSON:
Lauren Nelson, Antioch HS
Alex Dooley, Alhambra HS
Srivaths Kalyan, Dougherty Valley HS
Shalini Majumdar, Miramonte HS
Nick Tram, Heritage HS

MADISON JACKSON:
Vincent Belus, Heritage HS
Emily Davis, Miramonte HS
Claire Svedberg, Campolindo HS
James Virant, Dougherty Valley HS
Rachel Ball-Jomes, Las Lomas HS

DR. BROOKE CRANE:
Cynthia Meng, Campolindo HS
Robbie Flugge, Miramonte HS
Erica Tsai, California HS
Terilyn Chen, Hercules HS
Nick Dyess, Northgate HS

SYDNEY CAMPBELL:
Kirkland Whitney, Antioch HS
Lisa Huang, California HS
Jayne Skinner, Campolindo HS
Jenny Sul, Hercules HS
Nathaly Borges, Deer Valley HS

OUTSTANDING PRE-TRIAL ATTORNEY, PROSECUTION:
Zaineb Taymouree, Heritage HS
David Tse, Miramonte HS
Gunjan Baid, California HS

OUTSTANDING PRE-TRIAL ATTORNEY, DEFENSE:
Matthew Strauss, Heritage HS
Kirsten Merritt, Alhambra HS
Samantha Sahi, Northgate HS

OUTSTANDING OPENING STATEMENT, PROSECUTION:
Linden Bengtson, Northgate HS

OUTSTANDING OPENING STATEMENT, DEFENSE:
Jula Du, California HS

OUTSTANDING DIRECT EXAMINATION ATTORNEY, DEFENSE:
Steven Lau, California HS
Alyssa Sheets, Miramonte HS
Megan Allison, Northgate HS

OUTSTANDING CROSS EXAMINATION ATTORNEY, PROSECUTION:
Maithill Jalihal, California HS
Alec Bahramipour, Miramonte HS
Linden Bengtson, Northgate HS

OUTSTANDING CROSS EXAMINATION ATTORNEY, DEFENSE:
Kayla Davidge, Miramonte HS
Will Howard, Campolindo HS
Arnie Hermes, Northgate HS

OUTSTANDING CLOSING ARGUMENT, PROSECUTION:
Anastasia Kaiser, Miramonte HS
Shezaf Reif, California HS
Brian Lott, Alhambra HS

OUTSTANDING CLOSING ARGUMENT, DEFENSE:
Steven Lau, California HS
Rachel Hallett, Miramonte HS
Megan Allison, Northgate HS
Kati Bernasek, Acalanes HS

The California High team will represent Contra Costa County at the California Mock Trial State Finals March 25-27 in Riverside. State winners will compete in the National Mock Trial Competition in May.

More information is at http://www.cccoe.k12.ca.us/#mar03.

Congratulations to all the winners!

How do you think this competition benefits students?

Posted on Friday, March 4th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa County, Education | No Comments »

U.S. Education Secretary’s guide to budget cuts

California isn’t the only state looking at deep education funding cuts.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Thursday that governors from across the nation have sought his advice, as they try to make difficult funding reductions in schools.

To help out what he called “one of the largest new crops of incoming governors,” Duncan sent a letter and two documents to states, outlining flexible spending options and “Smart Ideas to Increase Educational Productivity and Student Achievement.”

Here’s a rundown of some of his ideas, which he discussed during a Thursday news conference:

— Put students first: “ … evaluate all policies and practices against the ultimate bottom line: is this policy or practice improving student outcomes?”

— Invest in what works: “ … over time, many states and districts have invested resources in effective educational programs and practices or in programs and practices without enough evidence of effectiveness.”

— “Share ideas and learn from success.”

— Work with stakeholders: “Engaging in honest, productive conversations with stakeholders can lead to real savings and improved results for students, while not working together can result in acrimony and little else …”

— “Avoid shortsighted cost-cutting … Shortsighted cuts include: reducing the number of days in the school year, decreasing the amount of instructional time, eliminating instruction in the arts and foreign languages, eliminating high-quality early learning programs, abandoning promising reforms, and indiscriminately laying off talented teachers be they new, mid-career, or veteran …”

— “Protect the neediest children and communities: Where funding reductions must be made, governors and other policymakers can take steps to ensure that the neediest communities and children are not the hardest hit …”

— “Support early college high schools and dual enrollment opportunities: Enabling students to replace some of their high school courses with more rigorous college-level courses saves time and money for the student, the high school, and the college — while also increasing student achievement and access to accelerated course work …”

“Ease or eliminate ‘seat-time’ requirements in order to allow students to progress to new courses or content as soon as they demonstrate mastery of academic content, rather than when sufficient time passes …”

— Leverage alternative funding sources, local partnerships and resources

— Close persistently low-performing and under-enrolled schools, and enroll students in higher-quality campuses: “In each case, it is important to consider the broader impact of such closures on students and make these decisions in an equitable manner across the state or district. Families, teachers, and the community should be included in the decision, and districts should provide information about high-quality options and transition and support services for affected students.”

Duncan also advised districts to use technology wisely and suggested that teachers and principals should be compensated based on excellence, with higher pay for those who work in “high-need schools, subjects or specialties.” He said small class sizes should be weighed against the need for excellent teachers.

“I’m a parent of two young children,” he said. “If I was given the choice between an extraordinary teacher with 28 students or a mediocre teacher with 23 students, I would choose the larger class size. Not all parents would make that choice. But that’s a conversation we should have.”

In addition, Duncan said educational programs should be funded based on success to create incentives for improvement and that schools should consolidate or share services with other agencies, including local governments. Incentives could also be created to reduce costs for transportation and other services, he added.

Duncan also called for the elimination of “unnecessary or unproductive mandates” and encouraged flexible funding. Finally, he encouraged “high-quality teacher and principal evaluation systems,” investment in “meaningful” data systems and “positive behavioral interventions and supports.”

During the question and answer period with the press, Duncan said educational agencies should focus on what they’re getting in return for the money they’re spending.

“We have to make sure that every single scarce dollar we spend is doing the maximum amount to get students educated,” he said. “We have to be smart, we have to be strategic.”

I asked Duncan about the importance of strategic planning and told him the district I cover (Mt. Diablo) has no strategic plan and recently decided to close a school for which it had received a $1.7 million, three-year “transformation” School Improvement Grant.

“Strategic plannng is extraordinarily important,” he said. “There are a number of ways to transform a school.”

He said the federal government is leaving these decisions up to local officials, but stressed that he and others at the U.S. Department of Education are visiting schools to see what is being done with the money.

“Those grants are funding that came through the state,” he said, “and we’re going to be looking very closely at how districts are using those scarce resources to dramatically improve education.”

You can see the complete list of ideas, along with Duncan’s letter and flexibility options, at http://www.ed.gov/blog/2011/03/helping-states-address-budget-pressures/.”

Do you think California school districts should follow Duncan’s advice?

Posted on Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 16 Comments »

Contra Costa mock trial finals are tonight!

The final four Contra Costa County Mock Trial high school teams will face off tonight in a championship and consolation round that will end up determining the winners of this year’s hotly contested competition.

You can watch the action from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse at 725 Court Street in Martinez. Please be aware, however, that space is limited.

Teams from Northgate High School in Walnut Creek and California High School from San Ramon are vying for the championship, while students from Alhambra High School in Martinez and Miramonte High in Orinda will face off in the consolation round. Last year, Miramonte took the championship.

The Northgate team is coached by District Attorney Mark Peterson, said Jonathan Lance, communications specialist for the County Office of Education. Peterson has told me his daughter attends Northgate High School.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday in the County Office of Education’b board room at 77 Santa Barbara Road in Pleasant Hill.

Here are some more details about the competition from a County Office of Education news release:

“For (what will be) the past seven straight Tuesday and Thursday evenings, the Northgate High and California High Mock Trial teams will have battled it out with 11 other school teams inside the superior courthouses in Martinez, in the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s 30th Annual High School Mock Trial Competition.

This Thursday night (tonight), one of these two teams will be awarded the county’s Mock Trial Championship Team Trophy. The championship team will represent Contra Costa County at the California Mock Trial State Finals, to be held in Riverside, Calif., March 25-27.  (This year, the National Mock Trial Competition will take place in Phoenix, Ariz., May 5-7.)

The final-two matches, Northgate High vs. California High (Championship Round) and Alhambra High vs. Miramonte High (Consolation Round), will be held tonight. 

ACTION:
More than 150 Mock Trial students, along with their coaches and parents, will be on hand to receive individual and team awards — concluding with the naming of this year’s Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial Championship Team (on Thursday). Contra Costa County Presiding Judge Diana Becton will be presenting the awards to the students.

WHO
Mock Trial is an academic event for high school students coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education, and sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation. The purpose of this program is to teach students about the law and the workings of the legal system. 

To prepare, the students conducted legal research and received guidance on courtroom procedures from their school teachers and volunteer attorneys and judges, to acquire a working knowledge of the judicial system. This year, 100 Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys, senior law students, and sworn judges volunteered their time to serve as Mock Trial Attorney Scorers and Judges.

Teams from the following 13 high schools competed in this year’s program:
Acalanes (Lafayette), Alhambra (Martinez), Antioch (Antioch), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Clayton Valley(Concord), Deer Valley Law Academy (Antioch), Dougherty Valley (San Ramon), Hercules Middle/High (Hercules), Heritage (Brentwood), Las Lomas (Walnut Creek), Miramonte (Orinda), and Northgate (Walnut Creek).”

[END PRESS RELEASE] 

More information about the competition is available by calling Karen Rice, event manager, at 925-942-3400, or visiting http://bit.ly/eYl9Mg.

Who are you rooting for?

Posted on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
Under: Education | No Comments »