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Archive for June, 2011

MDUSD internal administrative transfers revealed

Since no announcement was made at Tuesday’s board meeting regarding internal administrative transfers, I contacted Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent of personnel services, to find out what assignments have been made so far.

Here’s what she told me in an e-mail:

Terry McCormick (former Oak Grove MS principal) is assigned to Pleasant Hill Middle School.

Cindy Matteoni (former principal of Sequoia Elementary in Pleasant Hill) is scheduled to be at Mountain View Elementary in Concord.

April Bush (former Glenbrook MS principal) is assigned to Foothill MS in Walnut Creek.

Toby Montez (former Meadow Homes Elementary principal) will supervise El Monte Elementary in Concord while Principal Christina Boman is out on a leave.

I also asked her to specify where the vice principals appointed June 14 will be working.

“Assignments can still be adjusted over the summer,” she wrote.

Tentative assignments are:

Jose Espinosa: vice principal at Clayton Valley HS in Concord

Aline Lee: vice principal at College Park HS in Pleasant Hill

Julene Robert: vice principal at Concord HS

Julie Park: vice principal at Mt. Diablo HS in Concord

Lawrence intends to fill the following positions over the summer:

One more high school vice principal

Principal of Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill

Principal of Sequoia Elementary in Pleasant Hill

Four high school student services coordinators (to replace those who were promoted to vice principals)

Two Necessary Small School administrator positions — at the Gateway School and Nueva Vista/TLC/Summit

Assistant Director of Categoricals and School Support in the SASS Dept.

Director English Learner Services

Do you think district officials should announce internal administrative appointments at board meetings?

Posted on Thursday, June 30th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 27 Comments »

Mt. Diablo school board welcomes new administrators

To help the public get to know the new administrators appointed by the Mt. Diablo school board on Tuesday, I videotaped their introductions and comments to the board.

Vittoria Abbate-Maghsoudi was appointed as Assistant Director of Adult, Continuing and Career Education. She replaces Susan Passeggi, who was appointed as assistant principal of adult and career education in the Castro Valley school district June 9. Abbate-Maghsoudi was promoted from her position as vice principal of adult education in the Mt. Diablo district:

Lisa Oates was appointed Principal of Oak Grove Middle School in Concord, replacing Terry McCormick, who was transferred to Principal of Pleasant Hill MS. McCormick told me she volunteered to leave her leadership post at Oak Grove so the school could apply for a $4.5 million School Improvement Grant.

According to a May 29, 2003 LA Times article, Oates was ousted from her position as assistant principal of Antelope Valley HS in 2003, when a state audit found the school’s leadership was unable to improve students’ academic performance for two years. Oak Grove Middle School has been named by the CDE as a “persistently lowest-achieving school,” determined to be in the lowest 5 percent of campuses in federal Program Improvement based on its average three-year proficiency rate for English-language arts and math over a three-year period.

Mary-Louise Newling was appointed Principal of Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord, replacing Toby Montez. The staff report states that the incumbent (Montez) is retiring. However, Montez told me that he expected to be assigned another position in the district, after officials asked him to leave his post so Meadow Homes could apply for a $5.1 million federal School Improvement Grant. Newling was previously a curriculum specialist for Alameda County’s multilingual/multicultural children’s literature center.

Stephen Brady was appointed vice principal of Ygnacio Valley High. Although the staff report states that the incumbent is retiring at the end of the year, former vice principal Joseph Alvarez actually resigned.

Doing a basic google search, I found a declaration by Brady as part of the Williams v. state of California lawsuit nicknamed “Decent Schools for California.” In it, he complained about the lack of textbooks and substandard facilities at Balboa HS in San Francisco, along with detrimental staff turnover.

Finally, the board appointed Gary Peterson as vice principal of Mt. Diablo High School in Concord. The staff report states that the incumbent has been transferred to another position in the district. According to the school’s website, one vice principal position is vacant. Vice principal Abyslom Sims has resigned.

Peterson received mixed reviews from students at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, where he taught prior to teaching at Riverview MS in Bay Point.

Are you happy with the above appointments and are you comfortable with the board’s decision to allow Superintendent Steven Lawrence to appoint eight more administrators over the summer without its approval?

Posted on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 6 Comments »

Are guidance counselors important?

Clayton Valley HS grad Nick Milano and Northgate HS grad Bryant Perry said they didn't get much guidance from school administrators to develop four-year academic plans for high school and college.

Clayton Valley HS grad Nick Milano and Northgate HS grad Bryant Perry said they didn't get much guidance from school administrators to develop four-year academic plans for high school and college.

I’m working on a story with Oakland Tribune reporter Katy Murphy about the elimination or reduction of guidance counselor positions statewide due to budget cuts.

The Mt. Diablo school district eliminated guidance counselors many years ago, due to Proposition 13, according to Jonathan Roselin, the district’s recently-appointed assistant director of student services. Instead, principals, vice principals, student services coordinators and college and career advisors have taken on responsibility for helping students figure out their class schedules and plan for college.

In the past few years, some vice principal positions have also been cut and the hours of college and career advisors were reduced. Student Services Coordinators were on a potential cut list for 2011-12, but have so far been spared.

I interviewed Northgate graduate Bryant Perry and Clayton Valley HS graduate Nicholas Milano about this system. As you can hear in this interview, they found they were largely on their own. Help was available to those who sought it out, they said, but their schools didn’t seem to have a systematic, one-on-one approach to guiding students:

Northgate posts an 84-page course planning guide on its website and offers large assembly-type meetings for students and parents. Those with scheduling issues can follow-up with administrators.

A WASC student survey shows that 54 percent of Northgate students developed a four-year plan for high school, compared to 37 percent who didn’t. But less than half of students said the school helped them develop their four-year plan, with 43 percent saying Northgate assisted them, compared to 48 percent who said it didn’t.

Clayton Valley also has class scheduling information on its website at A majority of teachers at the school have signed a petition to convert the campus to a charter. One of their goals is to create a four-week orientation program for incoming freshmen, to help them understand the importance of developing a four-year plan.

Both Bryant and Nicholas told me that high school students commonly believe that Freshman year doesn’t “count.” About a quarter of the district’s freshmen fall behind in credits, according to district data.

The school board is trying to come up with a districtwide strategic plan that would address this problem and guide future budget-cutting decisions.

Do you think the Mt. Diablo school board’s decision to replace guidance counselors with other school administrators is working well?

JULY 16 UPDATE: Due to limited space, the story about counselors that appears in today’s Contra Costa Times does not include some additional information that I gathered about the Mt. Diablo school district (including a portion based on Mike Langley’s comment below).

Here is the Mt. Diablo information in its entirety:

Mt. Diablo Unified eliminated its guidance counselors 20 years ago due to budget cuts, shifting scheduling responsibilities to assistant principals and newly created school services coordinators, who also work with struggling students. But two years ago, the district eliminated three high school vice principals, putting a greater workload on the remaining administrators. This spring, the board issued pink slips to five high school student services coordinators, but ended up saving their positions by making cuts elsewhere.

Some question whether Mt. Diablo’s scaled-back system is effectively meeting students’ needs. Teachers’ union President Mike Langley said it has pushed counseling duties onto others.

“Like every other adjustment to budget cuts, students are expected to make do,” Langley said. “The elimination of a service by the board does not remove the need for that service. It shifts the responsibility elsewhere. In this case, it was shifted to teachers, parents, outside agencies and even to the people needing the service: the students. Counseling became less efficient if it existed at all.”

A recent student survey at Northgate High in Walnut Creek — the district’s top-performing high school — showed less than half of students received help from campus administrators to develop four-year plans. Two friends who graduated in June from district high schools said they felt like they were largely on their own, as they tried to figure out what they needed to do to graduate and go to college.

Northgate graduate Bryant Perry and Clayton Valley High graduate Nicholas Milano said help was available to those who sought it, but their schools didn’t seem to have a systematic, one-on-one approach to guiding students. Both said high school students commonly believe that freshman year doesn’t “count,” so some don’t take school seriously until they’re sophomores.

Milano said he lost out on college financial aid and nearly didn’t graduate from high school because administrators didn’t tell him sooner about requirements. Perry said Northgate’s college and career advisor helped him understand Cal State University requirements, after he happened to stop by her office in the last semester of his senior year.

Research shows that contact with a caring adult greatly improves a high school student’s likelihood to graduate.

For Perry and Milano, the adults on campus who stood out in their minds as having supported and encouraged them the most were their athletic coaches. Milano said a military recruiter also took an interest in him and seemed more willing to spend time talking to him than most school administrators.

Jonathan Roselin, the district’s newly appointed assistant director of student services, said he plans to work with campus administrators to “create a culture of kindness at every school,” which would help students feel they are part of a caring community. Already, he said, most district schools have established “coordinated care teams” of administrators and psychologists or interns who work with troubled or struggling students.

Posted on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 5 Comments »

Mt. Diablo board appoints administrators, agrees to allow superintendent to appoint more

At Tuesday’s Mt. Diablo school board meeting, trustees made the following administrative appointments:

Assistant director of adult education: Vittoria Abbate-Maghsoudi

Principal, Oak Grove MS: Lisa Oates

Principal, Meadow Homes Elementary: Mary-Louise Newling

Vice Principal, Ygnacio Valley HS: Stephen Brady

Vice Principal, Mt. Diablo HS: Gary Peterson

The board also renewed a post-retirement contract for Measure C manager Pete Pedersen and agreed to a post-retirement contract with Mary Scott for adult education.

Trustees also agreed to allow Superintendent Steven Lawrence to hire additional administrators over the summer, including another high school vice principal and a middle school principal, to replace the Valley View Middle School principal, who is taking a job elsewhere.

Trustee Linda Mayo thanked Jennifer Sachs, a SASS administrator, for her years of service. Sachs has accepted a position in Pittsburg.

In addition, the board adopted its 2011-12 budget of about $270 million.

In a split vote, the board also agreed to spend more than $112,000 on a contract with Norm Gold for a Master Plan for English language learner services. Trustee Cheryl Hansen voted against it, saying she thought a plan could be drafted by staff using Gold’s findings from his $92,000 audit.

Hansen reminded the board that Superintendent Steven Lawrence said in December that the Student Achievement and School Support staff would draft the master plan, based on the audit. Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh said she didn’t remember Lawrence saying that.

The minutes from the Dec. 14 meeting say:

“…Superintendent Lawrence also stated that with the work of Ms. Lock’s team, there will be a strategic plan developed and finalized with Dr. Gold’s input.”

Unfortunately, the MDUSD Blog has been shut down, so it is impossible to review the videotape of that meeting.

According to my notes from December, Hansen and Trustee Lynne Dennler expressed concerns about the lack of a plan at the end of the audit.

Rose Lock, assistant director for school support and student services, said Gold would do a number of site visits and make recommendations.

“Obviously, we have to follow through on those recommendations,” Lock said. “The hope is that we are going to get enough information to guide us in the next 10 years. This is an area we have struggled in as a district as long as I can remember.”

After Dennler asked about the creation of a plan, Lawrence responded: “We will make sure with Ms. Lock’s team that we have a plan.”

He mentioned a plan Gold had developed in Hayward.

“There is a cost,” Lawrence said.

Hansen said that Gold works with boiler plate templates.

“So,” Hansen said, “you can do it yourself.”

Lock said Gold would deliver a report at the end of the audit and provide the district with 30 copies.

“He better,” Hansen said. “Expensive paper.”

Lawrence said: “Ms. Lock and her team have clearly heard this.”

He said that Gold would speak with stakeholders in the district and provide a lot of information.

“We do need to bring in teachers and our parents and we will create a thorough process, where at the end of this, we willl have a strategic plan.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board agreed to create a new Director of English learner services. Hansen said it would make sense for this person to create the master plan.

Lock said no one currently on staff was available to draft the plan. But she acknowledged that the district already has an English learner corrective action plan that it intends to implement, while the Master Plan is being drafted.

Last year, Lawrence announced internal transfers he had made to the board. On Tuesday, Lawrence did not announce any transfers he has made.

However, I have confirmed that former Oak Grove Principal Terry McCormick is the new principal of Pleasant Hill Middle School.

Do you think Lawrence should have announced transfers he has already made to the board and public on Tuesday?

Posted on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 5 Comments »

Governor’s budget proposal puts schools on financial life support, state schools chief says

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson issued the following statement today regarding Governor Jerry Brown’s 2011-12 state budget proposal:         

“The financial emergency facing California’s schools began long before the debate over this year’s budget.

“While I strongly supported the governor’s proposal to extend the temporary revenues, I accept his judgment that no bipartisan agreement could be reached.

“I am grateful that the governor and the Democratic leadership have crafted a budget that — for the time being — avoids a new round of deep cuts to education.

“This budget means another year with California’s schools on financial life support. The risk of $1.75 billion in mid-year reductions, as well as $2.1 billion in added deferrals, will force some districts to make cuts that will harm our students and their schools.

“I welcome the Governor’s call for an initiative to help put our state’s finances back on solid ground. We must seize the opportunity to bring Californians together around a shared vision and a common goal of making our schools great again.”

Do you think mid-year cuts will be necessary?

Posted on Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
Under: Education, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

Free whooping cough immunizations

School districts throughout Contra Costa County must comply with a new state law that prohibits them from accepting 7th through 12th grade students in the fall, unless they have proof of whooping cough immunization.

To help students meet this requirement, Contra Costa County’s health department is offering free immunization clinics during the summer.

Here’s their news release about the immunizations:

“Contra Costa to Offer Free Tdap Vaccine to help Students meet New School Requirement

Contra Costa Health Services will offer free Tdap (whooping cough booster) vaccine throughout Contra Costa to help teens and preteens meet a new school immunization requirement.

A new California law requires all students in private and public schools entering seventh through 12th grade show proof they’ve received a Tdap vaccine before beginning classes. Free meningococcal and seasonal flu vaccines will also be available for teens and preteens.

The clinics are open to students ages 10 through 18 years old on a first-come, first-served basis.

Students with health coverage are encouraged to go to their regular health care provider.

When & Where:
Somersville Towne Center, Antioch
2556 Somersville Road
Inside, adjacent to Center Court II
Thursdays – 3 to 7 p.m.
May through August

Todos Santos Plaza, Concord
Willow Pass Road & Grant St.
Booth at the Farmers’ Market
Thursdays – 4 to 8 p.m.
May through August

St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Oakley
971 O’Hara Ave.
Mondays – July 18; Aug. 1, 15 & 29
3:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Liberty Adult Education Center, Brentwood
929 2nd St.
Mondays – July 11 & 25, Aug. 8 & 22
3:30 to 6:30 p.m.

A West County location will be announced online at

Whooping cough is a serious respiratory disease that can cause death among infants. To date there have been 81 reported cases in Contra Costa and 1,102 in California as of May 16.

For more information about whooping cough in Contra Costa, visit or call Contra Costa Health Services at 925-313-6767.”

Do you think your school district is doing enough to inform students and parents about this requirement?

Posted on Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa County, Education, Theresa Harrington | 4 Comments »

Remembering Robert Shearer

A memorial service will be held Thursday to celebrate the life of Robert “Bob” Shearer, who founded the Robert Shearer Preschool for deaf and hard-of-hearing children on the Gregory Gardens Elementary campus in Pleasant Hill.

Shearer and the school he founded were unique — attracting speech therapists from around the country who wanted to work with him and his innovative programs, said his wife and a longtime coworker.

Dena Zachariah, whom Shearer recruited as a speech therapist in 1970, sent the following (excerpted) e-mail to the Times regarding her mentor and friend:

“This man was instrumental in not only finding funding for and creating a state-of-the art preschool for deaf and hard-of-hearing children — complete with an audiologist booth and soundproof rooms — but also building one of the finest school-based special education programs in the nation.

I came from Washington Univ. in St. Louis, Mo. with my masters in hand to work in Mt. Diablo, based on its reputation, in 1970.

In his later years, Bob had a stroke which left him with severe communication restrictions. Despite his stroke and severe disability, he rode BART to Hayward State (CSU) for many years to let the graduate student speech pathologists practice their skills on him. He recruited speech therapists from that program to come work in Mt. Diablo Unified…He was a remarkable man who built a remarkable program.”

When I spoke to Zachariah last week, she told me that Shearer was in charge of interpreters for the deaf, speech and language resource specialists and the deaf education interpreters.

The program started in the 1950s, but the preschool opened in the 1960s, she said. Shearer hired many women, who were proud to be known as “Bob’s girls” at the district office, she said.

The school, renamed for him in 2009, now serves a variety of special needs children with various disabilities, she said. Shearer also established the district’s adaptive PE program for special needs children, she added.

“That program started originally in a trailer in the 1960s and then it was spread throughout the school district,” she said. “All campuses who qualified would get adaptive PE so the children could benefit.”

She also greatly admired his willingness to “let himself be used as a guinea pig by the students who were learning to become speech therapists” at Cal State Hayward. While there, he would ask young speech therapists to contact the Mt. Diablo district regarding job openings, she said.

“So, we recruited through Bob despite his severe speech and communication problem,” she said.

In addition, he would travel to conferences with district administrator Berry Murray to recruit speech therapists, she said.

“Berry actually started hiring people based on who he would bring to her,” said Zachariah, who retired five years ago.

Shearer’s wife, Mary, spoke lovingly to me about her husband, with whom she shared 59 years of marriage.

“Our anniversary was June 14,” she said. “He passed on the 18th.”

Like Zachariah, Mary said her husband built a strong professional reputation for his program.

“He recruited the cream of the crop in the whole USA,” she said. “Some couldn’t believe the school was being built, because it was unique. Families were calling to find out if he had any services for deaf children. There weren’t any others around that did preschool. He was like 30 years ahead of his time.”

Even Children’s Hospital in Oakland sends children to the school, she said, proudly.

“His teachers just loved him,” Mary said. “And the families. He had a great parent club. One family moved here from New York so their daughter could go to the school.”

After children left the preschool, they attended Westwood Elementary, El Dorado Middle School and Concord High School, Mary said.

“One of the girls was the first deaf cheerleader at Concord High School, then got a masters degree and was employed at Concord High — Susan Vaccaro,” Mary said. “She was the pride and joy there — kind of the start of what others could do too.”

Those he hired were very talented and dedicated, she added.

“They were so beautiful, inside and out,” Mary said. “These people stayed on like 30 years. Some of them are still there.”

Zachariah and some of her coworkers spearheaded the movement to rename the school for Shearer in 2009, Mary said.

“She got in touch with some of the other therapists and petitioned the school board to do this,” Mary said. “So, I took Bob and told him they were going to honor Dena.”

Instead, Shearer and his wife heard the petition, supported by speech therapists who told trustees how the district’s programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing children evolved.

“They school board had no idea how this all came about,” Mary said. “The school board unanimously approved it — which was such an honor — to do this before he passed.”

After devoting his career to helping those with speech and hearing difficulties, Shearer suffered a stroke in 2000, which severely impacted his own ability to communicate.

“He had aphasia — a language disorder — which was crazy,” Mary said, “because that was his profession.”

But his disability didn’t prevent him from enjoying his retirement passion: golf.

“He couldn’t read,” Mary said. “He could write, but he couldn’t make sentences. Imagine how frustrating that was. But he could sure play golf.”

The public is invited to a celebration of Shearer’s life at 1 p.m. Thursday at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, 1600 Rossmoor Parkway in Walnut Creek. A reception will follow.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Robert Shearer Pre-School, 1 Corritone Court, Pleasant Hill, CA(94523), designated “in memory of Bob Shearer.”

Do you have memories of Robert Shearer or his programs that you would like to share?

Posted on Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

Mt. Diablo special ed assistants speak out

Now that Mt. Diablo school board President Gary Eberhart is no longer webcasting meetings, I may start trying to videotape excerpts to post in my blog.

On June 14, I videotaped those who spoke about the special education assistant cuts. Unfortunately, due to where I was sitting, you can only see the backs of the people speaking.

Before the board took up the item as part of budget cuts, CSEA rep Annie Nolen addressed the board. She gave me a copy of her comments, which I’ve excerpted below:

ANNIE NOLEN: Said the union didn’t find out until June 7 that between 62 and 67 assistants would be affected by the reduced hours, since 41 positions had originally been listed in the possible budget cut list.

She objected to the agenda item calling Special Education Assistants “Resource Assistants,” saying no such designation exists. Nolen pointed out that assistants already had their hours reduced from six hours to five hours last year and many went through the “bumping” process.

Nolen asked the board to take two weeks to examine the proposed cuts to determine whether they were really needed.

“In our unit, working with school children is a very hands-on job,” Nolen said. “We probably have the most contact with students than any other job in the district because we work directly with them in a classroom setting on a daily basis. With some of our special needs children and at-risk children, these members are sometimes like a family member to them.”

She said the loss of benefits would be devastating to members, many of whom provide benefits for out-of-work spouses or are the sole providers for their children.

“I think that the special needs of the children of MDUSD will suffer greatly with these extreme cuts and reductions,” she added.

When the board discussed budget cuts, nine people spoke against the cuts.

A special education mother says if it weren’t for special education assistants, her daughter wouldn’t have graduated from high school. She worries some students may drop out if the cuts are made:

Special education assistant Kim Montano said the district would be hurting those it is supposed to be helping by making the cuts. “Right now,” she said, “the very ones who need it the most are the ones you’re stabbing in the back.”

College Park HS special education assistant Denise Ingham reads a letter from Olympic HS special education assistant Jackie Griffith, which predicts many students may not graduate if the assistants are cut. “We love our students,” Ingham reads. “We love our jobs. Please honor our hard work.”

Mari Nist, a special education assistant at Pine Hollow Middle School, said her campus was out of compliance last year, when some eighth-grade students went without any coverage in their history classes. She predicted future lawsuits could nullify the savings the district may get from the special education assistant cuts:

Mike Langley, president of the Mt. Diablo Education Association teachers’ union, says teachers have expressed concerns about the cuts that were made last year. He also worries that high-quality assistants may leave because they won’t be able to afford to only work three hours a day with no benefits. He asks the board to look elsewhere instead of making cuts in the classroom:

Woodside Elementary resource specialist teacher Joan Martin says special education assistants are essential members of the education team. She asks how the district will keep qualified assistants, if it reduces hours and eliminates benefits.

Ellie McQuade, a special education teacher at Highlands Elementary, says cuts made last year have already made it more difficult for her to provide a high-quality education to her students. If hours are cut to three, she asks: “How am I going to provide the education that these kids need?”

A special education mom asks that special education assistants and nurses not be retained exclusively based on seniority, since experience with individual students requires consistency — especially for medically fragile children:

Oak Grove MS secretary Deb Heinzmann asks the board if it would be “less cruel” to cut whole positions, so that those special education assistants remaining after layoffs could work longer hours and retain their benefits:

Pittsburg resident Willie Mims asks the board to spare the jobs of special education assistants, imploring them to consider the humanity of their decision:

In this clip, Superintendent Steven Lawrence and CFO Bryan Richards explain to the board that it could achieve a “positive” certification on its budget without cutting the special education assistants, as long as employees agree to seven furlough days in the next two years:

Do you think the board should have waited two weeks — until June 28 — as suggested by Nolen, to consider other options?

Posted on Sunday, June 26th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 6 Comments »

MDUSD Superintendent seeks to hire administrators without board approval

Last last year, Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence asked the board to grant him permission to appoint administrators over the summer, while trustees took their traditional July hiatus.

But trustees denied Lawrence’s request, saying they did not want to relinquish responsibility for hiring district leaders. Instead, they chose to hold special meetings to appoint administrators.

On Tuesday, Lawrence will again ask for permission to enter into contracts with district administrators without board approval.

Here’s his request (from Tuesday’s agenda):

“Currently, we have one elementary school principal position, four Student Services Coordinators, two Necessary Small School administrator positions, Assistant Director of Categoricals and School Support, and Director English Learner Services open.

We will follow our current protocol to fill these positions which includes vetting of applicants’ paper work, interviews, reference checking, and background screening. So, that candidates can be selected and under contract prior to August 1, for the above stated positions, it is requested that the Board authorize the Superintendent to enter into contracts with selected candidates.

Any contract offered will follow Board Policy 4351. All candidates will be brought to the August 9th Board meeting to be introduced to the Board.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board expects to appoint an assistant director of adult education, a middle school principal, an elementary school principal and three high school vice principals.

Do you think the board should give Lawrence the permission he seeks?

Posted on Saturday, June 25th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 28 Comments »

Retired MDUSD special ed assistant decries recent budget cuts

This guest commentary appears in today’s Contra Costa Times. I am posting it here to give blog readers a chance to respond to the concerns raised by Carol Heath, a retired Mt. Diablo school district special education assistant.

“By Carol Heath: Guest Commentary

AS A recently retired special ed assistant with Mt. Diablo Unified School District, I enjoyed my 22 years of working with special needs kids.

Some days were fun, some frustrating, some sad, always interesting, but each day was full of challenges my co-workers and I faced getting every student to reach their full potential.

I was disheartened to learn of the cuts in hours and benefits of about 65 special ed assistants.

Most of these people had just had their hours cut last summer from six hours to five hours a day, but still retained most of their benefits.

Cutting them to three hours a day is just wrong.

Already these employees were making less than $25,000 per year. A lot were only able to stay in the job because of the benefits and a love for the students.

Many, as I did, had part-time jobs on weekends and evenings.

Imagine my anger to learn that MDUSD has just hired a new “assistant construction manager” costing nearly $83,000 per year to act as a liaison between workers and the construction manager of the new solar projects.

Apparently this person will help the workers not hold the plans upside down and backward and cut down the wrong trees.

While I really appreciate trees and hope no more are cut down accidentally, about four or five special ed assistants’ hours and benefits could be saved by having whoever is in charge of this solar project do his or her job instead of creating yet another managerial position.

Surely the people who work directly with students should be given more respect than this.”

Carol Heath is a resident of Pleasant Hill. In her commentary, she refers to six trees that were mistakenly cut down in front of Delta View Elementary in Pittsburg by district maintenance and operations workers, who thought they were supposed to be removed for the Measure C solar project.

At the meeting where board members agreed to cut special education assistants, Superintendent Steven Lawrence and CFO Bryan Richards said the district would be able to maintain a “positive” budget certification without reducing the hours of special education assistants.

Do you agree with the board’s decision to cut special education assistants?

Posted on Saturday, June 25th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 8 Comments »