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Proposed Clayton Valley High charter brings hope, questions

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, May 20th, 2011 at 7:47 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

The effort by some Clayton Valley High School teachers to convert the public school into a charter is entering unchartered territory in the Mt. Diablo district. It is the only school in the district to consider such a move, although organizers say it could prompt others to follow if it is successful.

Unlike many charter conversions throughout the state, organizers are giving themselves a year to plan – expecting a vote of teachers by June 6 to open in fall 2012.

The charter would continue to operate as a public school, but would be recognized as an independent educational agency that would receive funding directly from the state. Run by a board of directors, it would develop its own budget, hire teachers and decide whether or not to contract out for services such as custodians.

At a Monday teachers’ meeting about the charter, organizers said they expected the current staff could remain at the school. They also said clerical staff would likely be able to work full-time, since the school would take on administrative duties that are now handled at the district office.

The clerical staff at the school is excited by the conversion idea, office secretary Renee Steen and attendance secretary Dina Jacobsen told me on Tuesday.

Due to state budget cuts, the school board cut one hour a day and two weeks from their work schedules. This equals about 30 days cut from their paychecks over the year, Steen said.

On top of that, they are taking three furlough days this month, along with most district staff.

”We feel so devalued,” Steen said. “We’re feeling pretty downtrodden these days.”

But the charter effort is energizing staff, as they look forward to working together as a team to improve the campus, the pair said.

Statewide, only about 10 percent of charter schools are conversions, consultants said. The rest are new start-up schools.

They speculated that this is because a conversion requires 50 percent of teachers plus one to vote for the change. Although a community petition isn’t required, Clayton Mayor David Shuey told the City Council on Tuesday that about 500 community members have signed petitions in support of the conversion.

This prompted Councilwoman Julie Pierce to ask why those people hadn’t been tapped for money to help fund legal costs for drafting the petition. If each person donated $20, organizers would have the $10,000 they needed, she said.

Instead, organizers have raised about $1,500 and were scrambling to come up with about $8,500 more. Although Shuey asked the council to give the group up to $8,500, Pierce and Councilman Howard Geller were uncomfortable with this idea.

The council voted 4-1 to approve an unsecured loan of up to $8,500, with the hope that the city will get its money back if the charter moves forward. Consultants said organizers could likely receive a line of credit, as well as a start-up grant.

If the charter vote fails, however, the city is unlikely to recover its money. Pierce said she personally supported the charter and would be willing to donate $40 herself. Geller added that he would put up $100.

Pierce suggested that organizers should also ask the Concord City Council for funds, but Shuey said that may be problematic, since Concord students feed into the district’s five other high schools, as well as Clayton Valley.

Clayton students, on the other hand, all attend Clayton Valley High School, unless they attend private schools, Shuey said. He insisted a charter would attract more residents, businesses and increase property values, but Pierce was more skeptical.

She said several residents had asked her not to spend city funds on the charter, while Shuey said several residents had told him they supported the use of city funds for that purpose.

Pierce said the city should consider how the district would interpret the city’s support of a charter, since the city negotiates with the district on other matters, such as joint use of a gym.

“I’m not ready to slap them in the face this way and I think that’s the way they’ll take it,” she said. “I think our negotiations with the school district will get decidedly muddy if we go forward with this. I think this discredits our relations with the school board if we go forward.”

Shuey argued that helping to fund the conversion would show “bold leadership.”

“To take the myopic view that we are not responsible for the school is just flat out wrong,” he said. “It is short-sighted. It is conservative.”

Shuey and Geller said they hoped the Clayton Business and Community Association would also consider contributing money to the start-up costs.

Do you support the charter conversion?

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  • Doctor J

    Billy Bob you are brillant.

  • Charter new course

    We like to think we’re color blind. We teach our students about cultural diversity and tolerance. We watch them perform together in sports, music, etc without racism. Then it’s a shock to see the Board President using the words “institutional racism” – meaning the Dent Center. Also overheard the CVHS charter referred to as “veiled racism” – meaning the teachers since it’s the teachers charter. This is getting ugly. MDUSD racism should be covered in the Superintendent’s evaluation tonight.

  • ANON1

    Interesting sidelight to the board meeting tonight. Lawrence is going to recommend two principals, one for CP and one for CV. Given the charter school uprising at CV it should be enlightening to see who Lawrence wants to place there.
    His style also would not make it surprising to see at least one of his appointees be a crony of his. A superintendent bringing in someone he/she is comfortable working with is not a bad thing necessarily if you have a superintendent who has a vision, competency, and leadership to bring in outstanding people. Unfortunately, Lawrence doesn’t have any of those qualities so you get mediocrity.

    Anyone out there hear anything about who he’s bringing in?

    What’s your opinion, Dr.J?

  • Doctor J

    @Anon1, there is tremendous pressure on King Lawrence by Gary to put a halt, at whatever cost, to the mutiny on the Bounty. That is why Gary began blogging again and King Lawrence put out his propagana, almost at the same time. The rest of the Board remains silent. Whether or not a new principal can block the charter movement will be an interesting question. Paranoia is reigning supreme at the Dent Center. And we are still waiting for Dr. Browne to produce her expense receipts and expense reimbursement from the State of California. I am betting against it.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Charter New Course: How is the charter effort by teachers considered to be racist? The school would still be required to accept all students in its attendance area, since it would continue to be public.
    Anon1: According to the agenda report, several committee interviews were held for the principal positions. I asked Board President Gary Eberhart and Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh about this and they both said the new principal should be someone who can be an “instructional leader,” according to the goals established by SASS.
    Eberhart was adamant that the new principals should not be administrators who sit at their desks all day. He said he wants leaders who are in classrooms observing and mentoring teachers and who are out on campus, interracting with students and staff.
    He also said he expects there to be many new principal assignments this year, continuing the effort to realign staff that began last year, when SASS was established.
    Dr. J: To clarify, Eberhart also said he has long been concerned about the length of time it takes to redesignate English language learners as English proficient. He said this is something he has been complaining about for years and that he also discussed it with former Superintendent Gary McHenry.
    I don’t believe a new principal could block the charter, since teachers plan to vote by June 6, when Principal Gary Swanson is still in charge. However, Eberhart said he expects the new principals to go to the campuses before school ends and to hold “meet and greets” with the staff and parents.

  • Doctor J

    @Theresa #55. If Gary was so concerned about it, why didn’t he take any action ? Why did it take two years of getting dinged by the state before they hired a “consultant” to identify the problems. Isn’t that why we a Supt and Asst Supts to identify these kind of problems and fix them ? The report so easily identifies that many of the problems are so blatant and show no continuity at the district level for change, implimentation or improvement. Does the Board really want to hire a new Director for EL plus 7 new administrators ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Dr. J: Of course I can’t speak for Gary Eberhart, but my impression was that he felt he was doing something by complaining about the situation to previous superintendents. I don’t believe he has a background in curriculum and instruction, so it appears that he was expecting staff to come up with solutions.
    As you may recall, Trustees Cheryl Hansen Lynne Dennler questioned the cost of this consultant’s report when the board approved it. They asked why staff couldn’t just do its own audit and look at what other districts were doing to come up with recommendations for improvement.
    Dennler told me before she was elected that she knew the district’s system was flawed because it didn’t devote enough time to English language learners, yet it took time away from other children when teachers devoted time to the English learners.
    It will be interesting to hear what Hansen and Dennler think of the report.

  • Charter new course

    Theresa,
    It seems the district uses the word “racism” strategically, and probably without basis. Best guess is the speaker believes the CVHS attendance area is more white than the rest of the district, or that the charter will take away resources from EL learning at other schools. But CDE Accountability Progress Reporting shows that CVHS has about 20% Hispanic (less than about 35% in entire district) and has EL students. Is that racism? What is racism? It’s alarming this word is circulating, as you quoted Gary in your article, because it is inflammatory.

  • Doctor J

    @Theresa #57 If my memory serves me, I recall hearing that last summer Rose Lock took her SASS entourage to a Stanford sponsored English Learner Institue for a few days on the penninsula, all expenses paid. I think it was this one. http://ellib.stanford.edu/?q=ELL-institute-school-leaders-dev I don’t recall Norm Gold’s report noting any changes in the MDUSD EL program following that conference. Perhaps Cheryl Hansen and Lynne Dennler were correct that SASS already had the tools to do their own evaluation and plan. Perhaps Rose Lock will comment tonight on whether there are any differences in the Stanford appoach versus the Gold approach. I can give credit to Gary for seeing and raising the issue of English learners but no credit for not following through to make sure there was the proper evaluations and changes. Yes, I know Gary had some serious working issues with Gary McHenry. So why do we send these entourages to conferences if nothing changes ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Dr. J: The SASS Dept. did draft an English language learner “corrective action plan,” which I don’t believe has been shared publicly at a board meeting.
    The state has set the goal that by Sept. 2012, 20.1 percent of English learners with four or less years in a US school will meet their English proficiency growth target.
    The district’s SMART goal: “By Sept. 2012, the percentage of English learners in language instruction educational programs fewer than five years attaining English language proficiency will increase from 17.1 percent to 20.1 percent.”
    It’s strategy: “Implement and monitor consistent ELD instruction and monitor the placement of students across the district.”
    I wonder if this plan will be shared with the board tonight.

  • Billy Bob

    Dr. J.,

    Entourages get to go on junkets, even leaving on a Sunday for a Monday/Tuesday conference a commutable distance away, so that administrators can see themselves as big important people who stay at the fanciest hotels and eat at the fanciest restuarants. ALL ON THE TAXPAYER DIME.

    (Gary plese read that as: I don’t care if its “categorical” money, there is not some magical field of jelly beans that grows “categorical” money, it ALL COMES FROM THE TAXPAYERS)

    The money then gets shuffled down to cronies of those in power (ie. Gang of Five rasies). In some cases raises are not appropriate so the money is shuffled down on expense paid mini vacations i.e. conferences.

    It has nothing to do with learning anything or improving education for our children. It’s about doling out some favors to your cronies.

    Look at which feeder pattern gets to go on the all expenses paid junket to Oregon for something that takes place in Santa Clara. Any tie in to a board member?

  • Doctor J

    So SASS spends nearly $20,000 for a week long EL conference in July, drafts a plan, doesn’t share it with the Board, hires Norm Gold for $92,000 on December 14 because Rose Lock said the District has discussed “best practices” but not implemented them with fidelity, and Norm Gold concludes the district hasn’t implemented “best practices” consistently — gee whiz, same thing Rose Lock said. So we just spent $112,000 and still no concrete plan. And the district goal takes one year more than the state standard. Am I understanding this correctly ? Do you think the voters really believe education needs more tax money ?

  • Doctor J

    @BillyBob, I wonder if the Board was told at the Dec 14 meeting when they approved the $92,000 Norm Gold Contract that SASS had attended the weeklong conference put on by Stanford that was result in the following outcomes “By the end of the institute, participants will:
    •Identify areas in need of improvement within the school or district’s EL program;
    •Identify ways in which the school or district can better connect to EL students’ families;
    •Develop a framework for observing and providing feedback to ELD and content area teachers;
    •Identify priority areas for professional development and create a plan for carrying out the necessary training.
    •Use student performance data to identify ways in which the school or district can better align curriculum and assessment;”
    So why did SASS need Norm Gold to tell them the same thing at nearly $2,000 a page for what Cheryl Hansen calls “boilerplate language” ?
    And to add insult to injury, SASS wants a RFP to modify “the district’s English Learner Master Plan”. Isn’t that one of the outcomes from the July conference ? What will be the final price tag ? Again, why do we send entourages to conferneces if they don’t learn anything ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    It’s also unknown whether the district is on schedule in terms of following its English learner plan.
    For example, the first “task” (which costs $3,000) is to “identify and communicate districtwide criteria that will be used for placement of students in ELD classes.”
    SASS was supposed to present these criteria to administration by March 30 and to “ensure appropriate allocation of resources” by April.
    Does anyone know if this has been done? Considering that the district still isn’t sure where all the students from Glenbrook MS and Holbrook Elem. are going next year, this seems like an ambitious timeline.

  • Wait aMinute

    Dr J.

    All this goes back to my original (#1) comment on this thread.

    You have demonstrably incompetent administrators making six figure incomes who suck up even more money going to expensive junkets (with NO RESULTS TO SHOW FOR IT) and then they have expensive consultants come in and do their jobs for them!

    Couple this with the fact that in a district with already far to much fat at the top, coming at the expense of the kids and the schools where the focus should be I might add.
    You then have these consultants tell the district admins how their problems are large and growing so that these same admins run around and come up with the solution that they need to hire MORE administrators to tackle the problems since they are obviously incapable of dealing with it themselves!

    In fact that the incompetency at the top is the real problem and their throwing good money (they can’t afford) after bad and the entire problem of a institutionally incapable and crisis driven “leadership” team just gets worse.

    This district could be a case study in self-fulfilling bureaucracy gone amok.

    As far as Gary goes, he talks a great deal but hasn’t delivered anything other then more unfulfilled rhetoric. His proposed ban on travel is the perfect example.

    Schools becoming independent charters can take all this now-squandered money and actually use it to resolve the problems far more effectively and efficiently then the layers of self-serving bureaucracy led by narcissists like gary and stevie.

  • Theresa Harrington

    At the Dec. 14 board meeting where trustees approved Gold’s contract, both Hansen and Dennler said they wanted an action plan, not just an audit.
    Superintendent Steven Lawrence promised that Rose Lock and her staff would develop the plan, based on the report generated by Gold.
    “We will make sure with Ms. Lock’s team that we have a plan,” Lawrence said.
    Lock stated that Gold would provide 30 copies of his report. Hansen commented: “He better. Expensive paper.”
    Lawrence again reiterated that district staff would use Gold’s report to develop a plan.
    “Ms. Lock and her team clearly hear this,” Lawrence said. “Obviously, we’re going to get a lot of information from him….We do need to bring in teachers and our parents and we will create a thorough process where at the end of this, we will have a strategic plan.”

  • Doctor J

    Gold’s findings should be an embarassment to the District Administration from top to bottom. He stated:
    “With few exceptions, the district’s EL programs are not well understood. Staff throughout the
    district and in the various schools interpret requirements and research-supported best practices in
    ways that vary substantially. There are no commonly understood program designs or standards
    for Structured English Immersion, English Language Mainstream Programs, or Alternative
    Bilingual Programs. Programs vary widely in their implementation.
    We found that the essential components of high quality EL programs4 are not in place or
    consistently implemented. And the district does not currently have an optimal alignment of
    resources (staff, guidance documents, instructional materials, etc.) for the most effective
    implementation of EL programs.”
    This translates to a lack of organization, a lack of leadership, and a lack of accountablility. The last master plan for EL was 7 years ago in 2004.

  • Theresa Harrington

    For the most part, the English learner corrective action plan says SASS is accountable, with much of the burden falling on Carmen Garces, who is responsible for English learners and student support.
    The plan says that Lock and Garces will complete a “Master Plan for English Learners” by February, 2012.

  • Wait a Minute

    Feb 2012?
    So it will be 8 years with no plan !
    The voters have already figured out their not getting their money’s worth here and now more lame excuses, delays and money squandered.

    What a joke!

  • Theresa Harrington

    The “Instructional Services” section of the Master Plan is supposed to be completed by August 2011.

  • Doctor J

    @WaitAMinute, actually there has been a plan in place since 2004 but as the “audit” says, it was not being followed, not the “best practices” and never updated. An example of the Board not understanding its role in setting policy and holding the administration accountable. Ten months ago, Rose Lock and the SASS entourage attended the five day Stanford conference on evaluating and developing a plan. Instead in December they paid $92,000 for a consultant. Now, even though they have a draft plan, they want to hire another consultant to write the plan. Round and round we go; where we will stop, no body knows.

  • Doctor J

    Theresa #66 Rose Lock seemed to backpeddle quite quickly about the Gold report being anything more than an audit. Cheryl tried to politely press it, but to no avail. $112,000 on Gold and the Stanford conference and no action plan. How much more will an action plan cost ?

  • Wait a Minute

    Dr J, any news on who they hired as Principals for CV and CP?

  • Doctor J

    Sue Brothers at Clayton Valley . . . .I didn’t catch the name for CP as I got a phone call. As for Sue Brothers, it was only a matter of time for King Lawrence’s “hitman” Lt. to come to the district. Who better to quash the mutiny on the Bounty ? I predict that she will be there just one year and oust Rose Lock, which will be bad news for Denise and Susan.

  • Theresa Harrington

    The College Park Principal is Paul Gengler. The board approved him unanimously. Brothers were appointed on a 4-1 vote, with Trustee Cheryl Hansen voting against the appointment.

  • Wait a Minute

    Dr J,
    How can I contact you?

  • Doctor J

    @WaitAMinute, if you will email Theresa, I will authorize her to give you my email address.

  • http://www.k12reboot.com Jim

    I’m afraid that I haven’t paid much attention to the process around hiring the two new principals. WAS there a process, for that matter? It seemed to happen so fast. Did the parents and faculty at the two schools have any input as far as the types of leadership attributes and skills that they wanted? I know that MDUSD often treats school communities as undifferentiated, but individual schools often have very different needs, and those needs are often most apparent to the people who work at the site or send their children there to learn. Was there any community involvement in setting out the needs, before the search commenced? To me, seeking this type of input should be a major “guidepost” in any strategy for improving student learning.

  • Doctor J

    Lets not forget the Norm Gold presentation last night. I have never seen someone slice and dice like he did with a smile on his face, and the administration not realize they had just been eviscerated. Lets also not forget he identified $4.5 million in “carryovers” the district has been keeping in reserve that he said could be spent on EL students. Lets also not forget that his report is directly contrary to King Lawrences “English only” announcement from a year ago — that is the contradictory message he was referring to. This report came out a month late to save Toby.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Jim, here is the process, as outlined in the agenda staff report:

    “Interviews have been conducted and a candidate has been selected to fill the position of Principal, High School.

    The incumbent in this position will be retiring at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

    There were 37 applicants for Clayton Valley High School and 39 applicants for College Park High School. There was a paper screening of the submitted applications. Candidates not holding the proper credentials and/or experience necessary for a high school principal position were screened out.

    Input sessions were conducted at the high school sites with staff and community members to obtain a description of the attributes and skills that the community was seeking. Questions for the candidates in first round interviews were selected that would address the input obtained from each school site.

    The first round interview included representatives of all the employee groups and the parent leadership organizations of both high schools. There was a College Park team and a Clayton Valley team. Each candidate submitted a writing sample based on a scenario presented to them 30 minutes before their scheduled interview time. Fourteen candidates were interviewed by both panels. Both panels identified the same four top candidates as their choice to go forward for further consideration.

    A second interview was conducted by the Superintendent’s Council of those candidates forwarded from the first round. Extensive reference and background checks were conducted on all candidates prior to final selections being made.”

    Dr. J: Gold also specifically said that EL students should receive instruction in science and social studies in their native language. This is in direct contradiction to the board-approved restructuring plan at Meadow Homes Elementary, which some parents questioned at the time it was adopted. At that time, Lawrence defended the elimination of those curriculum areas for EL students, saying they wouldn’t be able to learn science and social studies if they couldn’t read the textbooks. He didn’t address problems they might encounter when they lacked the knowledge of their peers as they moved to higher grade levels.

  • 4Students

    Linda Hutcherson has been promoted from Foothill principal to SASS administrator

  • Doctor J

    @4Students Funny how they mentioned how many candidates they had for principals, but never mentioned how many candidates they had for SASS. Not many I guess.

  • Doctor J

    What is the MDUSD policy on intimate affairs between administrators ? http://www.contracostatimes.com/education/ci_18183766