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Mt. Diablo district seeks ideas for raising money, cutting costs

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 at 1:05 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

The Mt. Diablo school district is holding several “districtwide budget meetings” looking for new ways to generate revenues or make cuts.

Unlike the strategic planning meetings, which are intended to be attended only once by different groups, the budget meetings build progressively on each other. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until I attended the third meeting on Monday and found out that I had missed a PowerPoint presentation that Superintendent Steven Lawrence gave during the first week of meetings April 18 and 20.

Lawrence promised to post the PowerPoint online, along with a list of Questions and Answers from the previous two meetings. Since the Q&A list hasn’t been posted yet, I’m posting it below:

“1. Do all schools in the district share unrestricted funds equally per student?

If we broke down each site’s funding by its enrollment/ADA, we would find that they are not equal. We do provide the same level of personnel support (teachers, office support, administrators, etc.) at each site depending upon the grade level and size. However, the budgeted dollar amount will vary because the experience level of the personnel will determine the level of expenditures. For example, if you had two elementary schools at 500 students, they both have the identical number of personnel serving on the site, but one site may receive more funding because its teachers have an average experience level of 10 years while the other school’s teachers have an experience level of eight years. The budget for the site with the average experience of 10 years would be higher than the other site. However, because of retirements or teachers leaving the district, these averages could easily flip in the next five years. Sites also receive site funds from the district that are determined on a per-pupil basis based on grade level of the school (K-5, 6-8, 9-12).

2. Can Title 1 money offset money from unrestricted funds?

Because of federal rules restricting supplanting as was discussed in the presentation, Title 1 funds need to allow a site to go beyond what the district provides as a baseline for all schools. Therefore, it cannot offset personnel costs that all schools receive. For example, we cannot pay for all or a portion of the principal position in a Title 1 school because all of our schools have principals. However, at a Title 1 school, we could add an intervention specialist, or a reading or math coach.

3. Why are Title 1 funds only disbursed to school (sic) that have more than 65 percent of their students on Free and Reduced Lunch when legally you can provide funds to schools that have 40 percent or more students on Free and Reduced Lunch?

Title 1 funds come to a district in one lump sum. Districts then have to decide whether to do individual, targeted assistance for students, or to create a school-wide program. Years ago, the district decided to distribute funds for school-wide assistance and established a level of funding for those schools with the highest portion of students on free and reduced lunch. In recent years, as our distribution of students with free and reduced lunch has changed, it became evident that we needed to redistribute Title 1 funding to include more schools. Last year, we added two more schools to the Title 1 funding and have plans to continue adding more schools. This is a slow process, as funding at schools already receiving Title 1 funds cannot be decreased by more than 10 percent a year. With this in mind, it will take several years to fully redistribute Title 1 funds to additional schools. Additionally, this redistribution will be especially challenging in the upcoming year, as the federal budget calls for a 10 percent reduction of Title 1 funds.

4. If we are not receiving 40 percent of our special education funding from the federal government under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) why can’t we sue them?

Districts have tried to sue and failed because the 40 percent was a goal and not a prerequisite for IDEA to be implemented. The most we have ever received from the Federal Government toward our special education costs is approximately 18 percent.

5. Why is our adult education budget so large?

Historically, the district has served 20,000 adult students as well as high school seniors deficient on credits. Adult education state revenue is used for providing the following educational programs:
– Credit recovery for concurrent high school students, during the school year and summer program (no fees);
– High school diploma/GED classes for adults (no fees);
– English as a Second Language classes for adults (no fees);
– Adult Basic Education for adults functioning at less than 8th grade level (no fees);
– Career Technical Education classes for adults, to prepare them for employment in the local labor market: surgical technician, medical assistant, certified nurse assistant, CPR, EMT, dental assistant, sterile processor, administrative office assistant, accounting) (supplemented by student fees);
– Parent education classes (including some in Spanish) specifically for parents of MDUSD students including: (no fees) drug and alcohol, anger management, parenting classes for parents of difficult students;
– Family literacy and preschool classes at Title 1 schools (no fees);
– Programs for adults with types of disabilities: traumatic brain injury, developmental disabilities, autism/Asperger’s (supplemented by student fees);
– CPR classes for MDUSD employees (no fees).

Lifelong education classes include a variety of classes of interest to community members, including art classes, exercise classes, cooking classes, woodworking classes, financial planning, etc. These classes are primarily supported by student fees and by fall 2012 all of them will be fee-based.

6. What is the ‘check’ amount that SunPower will write if performance guarantee is not met?

We have a guarantee that for 20 years the solar system will produce 95 percent of the initial amount that the system is build to produce. If the production falls below the 95 percent rate, SunPower will write us a check based on whatever the current cost of electricity and the amount that the system did not produce below the 95 percent threshold.

7. What have cities done to support schools during the state budget crisis?

We have good partnerships with our cities. They provide Resource Officers and crossing guards for our schools. We are looking at the possibility of partnering with all of our cities on initiatives similar to the one that Santa Monica used in November 2010 and Richmond is using this June. In essence, there are two ballot initiatives. One would determine if there was support for a sales tax increase, and the second would be an advisory vote whether or not the city should share the revenues generated by the sales tax increase with the school district.

8. Are retirement costs part of the salary and benefits costs that make up the 84.5 percent of the unrestricted funds that go toward salary and benefits?


9. Do we have more administrators in our district compared to other districts?

No. Annually, school districts complete a Form R-2 that compares the number of administrators in the district to the number of teachers and submits them to the County Office of Education. According to Education Code 41400-41407 the R-2 ratio should not exceed eight. In other words, a district should not have more than eight administrators per 100 teachers. The ratio does allow districts to remove from the ratio administrators funded out of federal and state categorical programs. Like all positions in the district, administrative positions have been significantly reduced since the 2007-08 school year. The following is the Mt. Diablo ratios for the past four years:
2007-08: 5.39
2008-09: 4.87
2009-10: 4.58
2010-11: 4.50

To provide context for these numbers, the 2010-11 R-2 ratios for other unified districts in Contra Costa County are as follows:
Antioch: 5.39
Martinez: 6.54
Pittsburg: 5.14
San Ramon: 5.32
West Contra Costa: 6.19

Given that we have 1,732.53 teachers, if we had the same ratio of Pittsburg USD, which is the next lowest district in the county, we would have an additional 11.13 administrators in the district. So, the answer is no, MDUSD does not have more administrators compared to other districts.

10. How do we fund the Curriculum and Associates assessments and data days?

Currently, we fund the assessments out of Title 1 and Economic Impact Aide (EIA) for the sites with these funding sources and site funds such as School and Library Improvement Block Grant (SLIBG) for the rest of the schools. The data training days are funded out of Title II funds for all sites. Because we utilize the Curriculum Associates assessments for professional dialogues and growth, we are looking at funding all of the assessments and training out of Title II funds next year. Therefore, there won’t be any expense to the sites.

11. If our ADA increases over time, how many years would we need to increase before the state raised our revenue?

The district is funded on the higher of current or prior year ADA each year. However, the P-2 (due in April) certification of current year ADA does not happen until the end of June. Therefore, if we have an increase in P-2 ADA that will generate additional funding, we will accrue the revenue this year, but not see the cash until next fiscal year. Additionally, the new higher number would become the baseline for calculating the following year. For example, if we had an increase in ADA this year we would be able to include the revenue in next year’s 2011-12 budget. However, our P-2 ADA in 2010-11 is down from 2009-10 by 123.90 ADA. So, we continue to be funded in the declining enrollment formula.

12. How is the revenue limit set, and because we are below the state revenue limit average by $40 when, if ever, will we be brought up to the average?

The revenue limit was established back in 1971 based on the Serrano vs. Priest case. When the revenue limit was set, MDUSD was set below the state average. Every once in a while when the state has been flush with money they have attempted to put a little money toward equalizing districts that are below the average. However, remember we can never reach the average because as they give lower wealth districts more funding the average would move up. In other words, if they gave all districts below the revenue limit average and (sic) extra $40 per ADA it would drive the revenue limit average up and we would still be below it. Basically, the state would have to set a single revenue limit and bring all distrits up to that amount to make us on a par with all the other non-‘Basic-Aid’ districts. Local legislators have attempted to pass equalization legislation, but the legislation has failed each time.

13. Can we cluster students with similar needs and pool resources? For example, could we cluster EL students or students with significant specialized needs?

We do already attempt to cluster certain special education programs with unique needs in the district while still meeting IDEA laws around least restrictive environment. For, (sic) example we have a single deaf and hard of hearing program at Westwood ES, El Dorado MS and Concord HS. We have identified K-5 programs for students on the autism spectrum at certain elementary schools. However, we could not have just one school in the district that attempted to meet all the needs of all our children on the autism spectrum because that would not meet the definition of least restrictive environment. We also could not force all of our EL students to go to selective campuses throughout our district.

14. Does the 2009-10 increase in the special education budget include the county mental health positions?

No. AB3632 was not blue-lined from the budget until October 2010. Therefore, county mental health still paid their portion of the mental health costs related to AB3632 through the 2009-10 school year and the first part of the current year.

15. What is the mandatory length of the school year and how do furlough days work?

Included with the flexibility around categorical funds the state also allowed schools to reduce the school year from 180 days to 175 days without being penalized. Historically, teachers have a 183-day work year. They work 180 days with students, have two professional growth days, and have one day before the school year begins to prep and get ready for the arrival of students.

Furlough days are days that are negotiated with the various associations that reduce the number of days that at (sic) person works along with a reduction in salary. The reduction in salary is equal to the employee’s daily salary times the number of furlough days. Under the current level of state flexibility the maximum number of furlough days that teachers could take next year would be seven. The number of furlough days teachers take is then used to determine the number of furlough days other employee groups will take.

16. What is the difference between General Obligation bonds, parcel tax, Mello Roos, and sales tax?

General obligation bonds are used for facility improvement projects and we need 55 percent of the voters to approve a GO bond. In the first PowerPoint we discussed how we have legally used the recently passed Measure C GO bond funding to save unrestricted general funds.

Parcel tax needs a 66.67 percent voter approval to pass and can be used for any designated purpose. Historically, communities have passed parcel taxes to add programs such as art and music, or reduce class size. Currently, districts are going out for parcel taxes to help keep more basic programs that may have to be reduced because of the state budget crisis. The length of the parcel tax is set by the local school board and is part of the ballot language. A parcel tax can be set as a fixed per parcel amount or can be a square foot amount, it can also have a cap that a parcel would not have to pay more than. Also, senior citizens can file and exemption and not have to pay the parcel tax. The more explicit the parcel tax language is the easier it is to pass; however, districts that had historical parcel taxes were not able to shift that money over to the general fund to help with the state budget crisis. The parcel tax funding had to continue to go towards the programs that were identified in the ballot language. Lastly, you do not get to start collecting on a parcel tax until the first day of July after the election.

Mello Roos — In 1989, MDUSD established a Community Facilities District (CFD) (a.k.a. a Mello Roos district). Measure A established a CFD that assesses a special tax to fund the payments of bonds for capital improvements. The district’s CFD assessment also allows for purchase of school furnishings and equipment. The major construction projects paid by the bonds were completed in the 1990’s. Annually, $800,000 is divided on a per-pupil basis and distributed to sites. Sites use these funds to purchase new equipment and replace old or broken furniture.

Sales tax increases cannot be levied by a school district. Sales tax increases can be levied by a city, county or state government and need a 50 percent plus one vote to pass. This past November, the city of Santa Monica had two ballot initiatives for the voters to consider. The first one was a half-cent sales tax. The second one was an advisory vote that said the city would split the revenue generated from the sales tax with the school district. It is critical that the second vote be an advisory vote so that it does not change the threshold to pass to 66.67 percent. The voters approved both initiatives. The city of Richmond has put similar ballot initiatives on the June ballot. Ballot language could be written so that an increase in the local sales tax would only occur if the state failed to continue their one cent sales tax.

17. What are other districts doing?

Other districts are doing very similar reductions. They have increased class size, reduced optional bussing, reduced support staff, reduced administrators, etc.”

[End of Q&A]

During the discussion, Lawrence clarified that the Curriculum Associates costs did not include bubbling in answers for primary grades, which he said had been worked out at most sites.

He also distributed a handout from EdSource titled: “California’s Fiscal Crisis: What does it mean for Schools?,” an updated cut list that shows the district will save $510,537 by closing Holbrook Elementary and $741,396 by closing Glenbrook Middle School, a “School District Budgeting 101” sheet of paper asking for revenue reduction and revenue enhancement ideas, and a list of Tier III budgets.

Those at the meeting broke into small groups and discussed their ideas, then wrote them down on the “Budgeting 101” papers and turned them into Lawrence. He didn’t share the ideas with the group. Instead, he said he and his staff would evaluate the costs or savings associated with the ideas and report back at the next meeting.

During a special education Community Advisory Committee meeting I attended Monday night, one parent who attended the budget meeting said she was disappointed that more parents were not involved in the discussions. She urged more parents to attend, saying that administrators may have different ideas for cutting costs than parents.

Here is the schedule of upcoming budget meetings, which all take place in the Loma Vista Adult Center multi-use room at 1235 San Carlos Avenue in Concord:

6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 4 (tonight)
4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday, May 9
6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 11
4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday, May 16
6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 18

Ideas to be presented to the board Tuesday, May 24.

What ideas do you have for reducing costs or generating revenues?

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54 Responses to “Mt. Diablo district seeks ideas for raising money, cutting costs”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    I have proposed this list before first on March 1:
    1. Eliminate all medical benefits for board members.
    2. Reduce the Supt and all Asst Supt’s salaries by 20%.
    3. Reduce all directors salaries by 15%. Its outrageous that more than 200 MDUSD employees are compensation more than $100,000.
    4. Double up small elementary schools to share one principal.
    5. Eliminate Vice-principals at Middle Schools. It worked in Elementary schools.
    6. Cut by 50% vice-principals at high schools.
    7. Rescind the Gang of Five raises.
    8. Hire another in house lawyer for the legal department and reduce outside lawyers to $100,000 from $600,000. Require ALL inside lawyers, including Rolen, to have 2000 “billable” hours per year. Redistribute Rolen’s administrative responsibilities to Lawrence.
    9. Immediately freeze all longevity salary increases of administrators.
    10. Immediately stop ALL overnight travel, seminars, conferences, unless approved by the board.
    11. Stop watering the lawns, reduce mowing to once a month, and stop weeding.
    12. Cancel all cell phone subsidies.
    13. Consolidate an additional 4 – 6 schools.

  2. Poseidon Says:

    At 33,000 students that list (if it could be implemented) is going to result in less than $200 per student in reductions per year. From what I am reading schools districts are going to have to budget for a reduction of between $350 and $700 per student per year. Where do you propose to get the additional $150 to $500 per student in reductions?

  3. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, tonight’s Parent Advisory Council meeting is canceled due to the budget meeting from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Loma Vista Adult Center. It will not be rescheduled this month.

  4. Doctor J Says:

    @Poseidon, I am sorry, but I think it will provide much more than that — there are over 200 MDUSD administrators making over $100,000. In addition closing an additional 4 to six schools will result in between 6 and 8 million in savings. Plus there are some revenue enhancements — there are still two persistently underpeforming schools that could apply for SIG grants — but it will require axing the principals and other turnaround measures.

  5. g Says:

    I would recommend that before MDUSD comes to the City of Concord for funds or any assistance at all, they watch the video of last Tuesdays City Council meeting. In other words, stop treating our City officials as if they were just pesky gnats. They too are Elected Officials! Gary–are you listening?

  6. Poseidon Says:

    @Dr. J. Be honest. How does it help the discussion to misquote facts? closing four schools saves $8 million per year? The last round of school closures stated that closing 3 schools saves $1.5 million. How do you make a jump to $8 million for 4 schools. In number 3 above you say to reduce directors positions by 15%. According to the times most directors earn a salary of about $120 k per year and there are maybe 10 directors. There are a number of district employees that earn more that $100 k per year, but all are not managers. Many are teachers and psychologists and behavior specialists and special ed positions.

    You just love throwing mud at the wall to see what will stick and you know most people are fed up with government and love to hear other people rant, but won’t actually check any of the accusations for accuracy. Most of what you say is full of accusations that can’t be backed up by fact. You are not helping the students or the district one bit, but you don;t really want to help, do you?

  7. Doctor J Says:

    @Poseidon, Sorry, but perhaps it is you misquoting. With 200 people earning over $100,000 [$100k to 300k], all you have to do is instead of layoffs, temporarily reduce the average salary by 20% and you save $4,000,000 a year. Closing two schools was to save $1.5 million. Closing more schools would save more on economies of scale. you just saw how little confidence the voters have in school administration. The Supt has not take decisive action to instill confidence in the voters that everything is being done to trim the fat. Dr. Browne can’t take four people to a boondogle to Sacramento [that should be a commute]. So what is your plan to cut spending ?

  8. Poseidon Says:

    @Dr. J, So you are telling me that the district can unilaterally cut the salaries of teachers and other employees who are covered under existing collective bargaining agreements? You may want to read up on collective bargaining laws. Do you think that a principal who earns about $100 k per year is going to remain a principal if their salary is reduced to $80 k per years, well below the salary of a teacher in the district?

    The $1.5 million dollar amount was if they close 3 schools, but they closed 2 and the only way they got to $1.5 million was to make a bunch of additional changes. Did you not read the materials that the school closure board looked at? There are not 4 – 6 schools anywhere in the district that can be closed that will generate a $8 million savings. You are not being honest with the facts.

  9. Anon Says:

    Because the school closure committee was directed to make their recommendations based on NOT adjusting site boundary lines the entire process was a waste of time. This idea that it would cost $3mil for the construction of new classrooms if you closed Sequoia was ridiculous. I did not think Sequoia should be closed but that was because families need opportunities for school choice not because it would cost $3mil.

    Readjust the site boundaries, something that is long overdue and requires political courage, and then tell us you don’t need to close additional schools.

    I just don’t get the thought process. School boundaries should be realigned based on capacity (there are computer models designed to do this for school districts) and then assign schools. Do it all at once and do it for the entire District.

    And Poseidon enlighten us… where’s the money? What 1.5 mil in savings? You say “the only way they got to $1.5 million was to make a bunch of additional changes.” Hmmmm please elaborate – the rest of us have not yet seen that accounting.

  10. Doctor J Says:

    @Poseidon, almost all of the 200 employees over $100,000 to $300,000 earners are administrators. And I said an “average salary” — for those over $200,000 it will be more. For those between $150,000 and $200,000 it would be a little less, etc. Most all of those people are NOT covered under collective bargaining. And will some employees choose to find other employment — most likely. Maybe the high earners needs some incentives to retire. Show us the accounting Poseidon — it has not been shared with the public.

  11. Poseidon Says:

    @Dr. J, You didn’t address the issue. Do you think paying principals $20k less than teachers will work?

    Many of the employees that earn more than $100k are not managers.

    You know that though, but continue to mislead people because you know they will not check.

  12. Doctor J Says:

    @Poseidon Paul, I never suggested your twisted words. Maybe the pay disparity between principals and teachers is too great ? Maybe its too little ? Why are non-managers paid more than $100k ? I guess one could really get down to brass tacks and ask the big question: why should teachers and principals be paid differently ? Is either of their functions more important than the other ? Do either of them generate any more income for the district than the other ? Is the responsibility of the classroom teacher any less than the responsibility of the administrative principal ?

  13. Poseidon Says:

    You see folks, Dr. J can’t respond to a direct question with a direct answer because the answer doesn’t support his wild accusations and misleading statements. He knows that the vast majority of people accept his statements and because many people are fed up with how “government” runs, that they will lump MDUSD in with all government and just assume that he is accurate. Dr. J is not accurate and his continued drum beating is not helping students in the district. If anyone spends the time actually looking into how the district is operated they would see that there are great things happening as well as things that need improvement. If you listen to Dr. J you’d believe that there is constant mismanagement and that MDUSD is the worst district in the nation. Dr. J is not being honest and he/she knows that. If anyone really wants to understand how the district is operating, there are answers if they are willing to spend a little time and ask. Dr. J, I am not Paul, that’s just another one of your ridiculous lies.

  14. Doctor J Says:

    @Poseidon, not a single fact in your post, just polemics and name calling, apparently your Standard Operating Procedure, one remarkably similar to Paul. Agent Aaron Hotchner has your profile.

  15. Long-time Board Watcher Says:

    Does the “updated cut list that shows the district will save $510,537 by closing Holbrook Elementary and $741,396 by closing Glenbrook Middle School” include details about how those savings are achieved? The typical savings from school closures are in salaries for a principal, vice principal (at the middle school), office staff, and custodian(s) and in costs for utilities. But I heard both Glenbrook and Holbrook will remain open for other programs and that El Dorado will need a couple more administrators to handle the increased student population. So, what is included in the $510,537 and $741,396 amounts?

  16. Doctor J Says:

    @Long-Time BW: Nice analysis. Way to uncover the continued shell game. When you add the alleged “savings” and then subtract the increased expenses, its hardly much of a savings. At least not as “advertised”. so what else is new.

  17. CW Says:

    I think the district should try something big. My vote would be to offer an accelerated/compacted curriculum to the top 1/4 to 1/3 of students such that they get through the K-8 curriculum in 7 years rather than 9. There’s so much repetition built in from year-to-year and it just bores the h*** out of the smart kids.

    Offering a compacted curriculum would be a win-win solution because it would save the district money while actually improving the educational experience of bright students.

  18. Doctor J Says:

    With the majority of recent parcel tax measures failing, its clear the voters lack TRUST in the wise use of tax dollars by school districts. I also think the public is appalled by the excessive salaries of district administrators.

  19. Hell freezing over Says:

    Poseidon – you’ve posted 5 times on this thread – the question asked for comments is “what ideas do you have for reducing costs or generating revenues?” – none of your 5 posts has offered suggestions – only attacks on another poster.

    Can you post at least one suggestion on reducing costs or generating revenue for the district instead of attacking another poster you disagree with? Tell us all YOUR ideas for generating revenue and / or reducing costs.

    I’ll offer up some ideas …
    1. Rent out the sports fields and school theaters/multi-purpose rooms ( revenue)
    2. Allow sponsors to advertise on the sports fields – limit the min / max sizes of sponsor signage for a more uniform look (revenue)
    3. Sell “advertising space” on school websites to businesses (revenue)
    4. Hold graduation ceremonies on school sites instead of other venues (reduction)
    5. Eliminate or greatly reduce yearly student paper registration forms – parents can register online (reduction)
    6. Parents student registration fees online (reduction)
    7. Switch all district buildings / sites to VoIP – eliminate all land lines (reduction)
    8. Turn off and unplug all non-essential electrical in every room each night and weekends / holidays when not being used ( computers, lights, projectors, lamps, printers, TVs, etc.) (reduction)
    9. All teachers use free websites / blogs as an alternative to communicate parent and student info, assignments – don’t send home reams of paper with students unless the parent requests it (reduction)
    10. Implement / set up wireless on all district sites – become a laptop environment and eliminate computers in classrooms / libraries / labs (reduction)

    Your turn Poseidon.

  20. Doctor J Says:

    Item 16.5 on the Board Agenda — seeking approval to spend $9714 to send six principals to a conference in Oregon. This is at the same time that King Lawrence is holding meetings to ask the public for ideas on how to cut spending and increase revenue. Should be an interesting discussion.

  21. Parent Says:

    @Hell Freezing Over
    1) MDUSD already does this. They are limited by the Civic Center Act based upon what they can charge to non-profit groups. Most rentals are less than $500 per season to non-profit groups.
    2) MDUSD already has a policy that allows advertisers on sports fields and gyms. It is up to the individual school organizations to sell the banners.
    3) Might be possible but would have to be regulated to what they could sell. Personally I hate seeing ads on websites.
    4) MDUSD does not pay for the Pavillion. It was part of the agreement when it was built.
    5) Already done at some schools – couldn’t happen at all schools because of the lack of computer access in some communities
    6) Several of the high schools already have a webstore where this is done.
    7) Might work
    8) How much do you think this would save us?
    9) Many do already have website – same concern with access as #5.
    10) Laptop at schools tend to walk away much faster than tower computers. This is especially true when robberies occur.

  22. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The district has canceled the budget meetings this week, while Superintendent Steven Lawrence researches the ideas generated last week:

    Budget meetings are expected to resume Monday, May 16.

  23. g Says:

    Parent: It is good to question. It is better to help by making suggestions, even if they turn out to be not doable. You ask on #8 how much money would this save. The answer is…a lot. But if the answer were (only) ten cents—well, that would buy a pencil and paper. We must save everywhere, save every dime.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    I find it highly ironic and hypocritical that King Lawrence cancels the “saving money” budget meeting the day before he recommends to the Board they spend $9,714 to send six principals to Oregeon on a conference junket. Even if the conference was a highly important conference, why not send one and have her/him come back and teach the others ?

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Attendance student records assistant (and Local 1 CST rep) Judy Armstrong plans to retire Aug. 1:
    Her position is number 21 on the district’s proposed cut list. The description says the duties would be shifted to the “Student Records Coordinator.” That person, Carol Zwergel, is retiring June 30.

  26. Theresa Harrington Says:

    According to Agenda item 9.8, a 10-month school secretary makes more than $50,000 and a 10-month office manager makes $52,619:

  27. Doctor J Says:

    I wish I was a fly on the wall for the District lawyer Greg Rolen’s evaluation after the Grand Jury slammed his administrative skills and raise. He makes more than the newly appointed federal judge. And there are still busing problems in the district in the last month of school for which he is responsible — why can’t he fix it ? He just wants to cover it up. Typical lawyer.

  28. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The district is seeking a short-term TRAN loan of up to $40 million to cover its expected budget shortfall in June due to state funding deferrals:

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In addition, Pete Pedersen plans a “solar update” presentation. However, there is no staff report:

  30. Theresa Harrington Says:

    And the psychologists’ union has agreed to three furough days this month:
    It was the last union to reach an agreement regarding furlough days with the district.

  31. Doctor J Says:

    @#28 Theresa, how much will the TRAN loan cost the district ? Don’t they already have all of the SIG grant money that should have carried them over ?

  32. Doctor J Says:

    @#29 Of course not, solar is in trouble too. But the most curious of all the agenda items is the Oregon trip seeking approval of the Board — there is no official policy requiring it. Pres. Gary must finally be realizing how he has been buffaloed by the District Administrators.

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    @Longtime board watcher: the cut list distributed at the budget meetings didn’t include that detail. However, the revised list on tomorrow’s agenda shows savings related to staff and utilities. It doesn’t include costs for additional administrators at schools students will move to:

  34. g Says:

    Fire one principal, hire an Admin and Sass for the two receiving schools. Fire one custodian earning straight pay and then pay the “receiving” two custodians time and a half for the overtime it will take for the extra rooms and kids they have to clean up after. Turn off the utilities in 8 rooms and turn on utilities at 8 receiving rooms. Increase class sizes and hire an extra TA.

    We haven’t even discussed the cost of or any possible savings from “combining small schools” and required bus transportation, utility, custodial, and all the “what ifs” expenses of doing that. What will those closed facilities be used for then?

    They cannot show a true figure for savings or, more likely, additional costs because they cannot yet justify this no-plan plan.

  35. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    @21 Parent. Thanks for taking the time to read thru my suggestions.

    Maybe some of those you state are already being done can be revisited to see if any tweaks can help make them more profitable or help with cost reduction.

    The other suggestions you state can’t be done because of lack of computer access or already done at ‘some schools’ can still be done at other schools and as an ‘opt in” for a parent/family as a cost reduction.

    I’m thinking the question Theresa asked at the end of her post was for brainstorming – getting us all to think of ways to help reduce cost, generate more funds and also to find ways to be more efficient with the current funds.

    What ideas do you have for reducing costs or generating revenues?

  36. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Doctor J, in Post #24 you state: “$9,714 to send six principals to Oregeon on a conference junket.”

    The names of the principals, the date(s) of the trip, the town they’ll be staying in and the name of the hotel, please.

  37. g Says:

    Flippin’ Please stop just flippin Dr. J off and__just read the Board Agenda. They do not specify details!

    Every once in a while–not often–you say something worth reading. Like on the other thread, where you suggest how important music is. I can agree with you there, but would stipulate that reading comprehension must come first.

  38. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Doctor J makes statements that he/she either needs to back up with the facts, or needs to be silent about. He/she purports to “know” so much – how about he/she provide the details instead of tap dancing? With so much venom spewed about wasted time and money, how about Doctor J come across with the details and stop wasting time and bandwidth?

  39. Billy Bob Says:

    Flippin’ Tired,

    Which Board member past or present are you?

    I suspect you are the second nom de plume (on this chat board) for a certain incompetent former board member.

  40. Doctor J Says:

    @Flippin As I stated in post #20, the FACTS are in agenda item 16.5. You and your alter ego Poseidon should please read before you post.

  41. Wait a Minute Says:

    Flippin and Poseiden are obviously more then just busy apologists for the many scandals besieging the MDUSD district level leadership.
    They are almost certainly directly connected to a board member or perhaps lawrence as they are desperatly trying to protect them here from the many serious charges being raised.

    A day late and a dollar short for them in any case!

  42. Flippin' Tired Says:

    I’m just a parent who is tired of the district office wasting money, and whiners on these blogs who offer half the information and do nothing but complain.

    Doctor J, I actually have a pretty good idea who you are. It will be lots of fun when your real name comes to light.

  43. g Says:

    I have an idea on how to save about $9,000.00. Tell the 6 principals of the 6 failing schools that they canNOT go to Oregon for a paid junket! Make them wait till the exact same conference comes to Santa Clara in Sept. They say these principals “asked” to go. What’s up with that? As unimproved Title 1 schools, some of these principals should be getting the ax, not a trip.

  44. Parent Says:

    The trip was approved by the school site council -composed of staff and parents. One of the reasons they are going during non school time is that they go come back and work on plans for the next school year.

    School site council get to determine how the schools spends the money they receive. It is called accountability at the lowest level.

  45. g Says:

    Parent: Unfortunately it isn’t “a” trip, where one person can come back and share the gained knowledge.

    Perhaps what you mean is that the six school site councils all agreed to ask the board to approve expenditures for the “six” principals to all take trips?

    In addition to being an extravagance in the face of layoffs etc, one might be led to believe there is some favoritism at play in funding this junket for one particular feeder pattern, while another feeder pattern was recently disemboweled due to shortage of funds…

  46. Parent Says:


    Did you listen to Dr. Lawrence during the board meeting? He said that this was brought to the board to get board direction on travel. For Santa Clara the only expense that would not be paid would be the air flight. However, since it would during school, substitute principals would be paid instead at every school. Hence the trip to Oregon or Santa Clara is close to cost neutral.

    It is obvious that you are bitter that schools in your feeder pattern were closed and now you want all schools to be punished.

  47. Poseidon Says:

    Do any of those who are complaining about the professional development trip actually listen to the board meeting or read the agenda? The funds that are being used MUST be used for professional development. The schools that are involved are MANDATED to have their administrators log staff development hours. The same people that are complaining that the principals should have gone to the training in September also complain when principals are off site for meetings during school time. I think its ridiculous that the mandates exist. I think the money would be better spent directly in the classroom, but that would not meet the mandates. The board should spend time complaining about these dumb mandates to our members of congress and the state legislature.

  48. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Newly released 2010 census data that shows fewer households with children (with Clayton at the bottom), and an increasing population of English language learners, will likely mean more fiscal challenges for the board in the future:

  49. mdusdmomx4 Says:

    Than you Poseidon, there always seems to be missing key information when people complain. I agree that the Principals should attend during non school hours. Because all schools have had administration cuts, we need who is left on campus for the students.

    Now why can’t the one in Santa Clara be before school begins? That is the question to ask!

  50. Theresa Harrington Says:

    A couple of years ago, the district presented professional development workshops on “Response to Intervention” at Concord HS to dozens of administrators during a “Leadership Conference” that was held before school began. The district paid to bring in a consultant to give the presentation (but saved money by not sending administrators out of town to other conferences).
    When SASS was formed, the district said those administrators would “coach” principals in strategies such as RtI.
    Since no SASS administrators are attending the Oregon conference, perhaps the six administrators who are going could share what they’ve learned with SASS and principals from schools who didn’t get to attend, when they get back.
    Schools in the Mt. Diablo HS feeder pattern are lower-performing than many in the Ygnacio Valley feeder pattern and would likely benefit from such information-sharing.

  51. g Says:

    Do you suppose Gary, Sherry and Mayo even remember that they just paid for this very same Pyramid RtI training a couple of years ago? Did any of the planned/promised cross training ever come out of that paid seminar? No? Why not? Is it mandated that admins take advanced courses but not mandated that they incorporate the program or that some results be shown?

    Since these six will no doubt come home all full of concept and eager to share everything they’ve learned, can we assume that the District has already scheduled the “cross training” classes so this concept and knowledge can be shared with principals/admins District-wide before school starts?

    Like most seminar companies, this one is a book selling machine. Do you think the Board has any real idea what RtI is? Do you think they already bought books when this company came around a couple of years ago-(maybe that’s what’s in some of those boxes)-or will the District need to buy a couple thousand copies this year?

    It would be a real shame to spend so much money (again) on just a few hours of training to benefit so few(again).

  52. Theresa Harrington Says:

    This is a concept that is very well-known in the education community, so I’m sure the six administrators are already familiar with it.
    The idea is to catch kids while they’re failing and intervene, instead of waiting til the end of the school year, when it’s too late. This is part of the SASS strategy that stresses teaching things well the first time, instead of having to reteach stuff kids didn’t understand — or worse — let them slip through the cracks without learning it at all.

  53. g Says:

    Do it right the first time—wow, a very novel concept! We should pay $1500 bucks each to teach that idea to every employee—and then repeat the training as often as possible—because we didn’t do it right the first time-or the next-or the next!

  54. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, it correlates to a relatively new emphasis on student learning as opposed to teaching.
    In the past, many teachers have believed that if they taught something once, students should understand it.
    Now, education reformers are telling teachers they need to assess students throughout the year and reteach concepts that students didn’t learn, even if it means they won’t be able to keep up with their “pacing” guides.
    SASS is encouraging schools to break up kids in different classes by grade level according to how well they’re doing on the Curriculum Associates tests. This allows concepts to be retaught to those who aren’t understanding them, while faster-moving students can continue on more quickly.
    Furlough days shortening the school year, combined with this emphasis on re-teaching, may make it tougher for teachers to get through all their lessons by the end of the year.

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