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Archive for September, 2011

Report of gun at Acalanes HS unfounded

In response to rumors Tuesday that a student brought an unloaded gun to Acalanes High in Lafayette, police and school administrators conducted a search of the campus, Principal Aida Glimme said, in a Wednesday message to the community.

“Yesterday, Tuesday 9/27, Acalanes administration received a report of a possible weapon on campus,” Glimmer wrote. “In partnership with the Lafayette Police Department, a thorough search and investigation were conducted. A weapon was not found on campus.

The school’s safety procedures were followed and students were secure and safe on campus. We appreciate the partnership and aid of the Lafayette PD. We continue to encourage our students to keep the Acalanes staff informed of any safety risks to our students.”

Based on the school’s reported suspensions and expulsions for 2010-11, weapons were not an issue on campus last year:

However, the school logged 67 suspensions, including 44 related to violence or drugs. This far exceeded the number of suspensions on all other district campuses. However, Las Lomas High was the only district school to expel a student last year (for sale of controlled substances, alcohol, or intoxicants).

Are you satisfied with the school’s policies and procedures related to student safety?

Posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
Under: Acalanes school district, Education, Lafayette | No Comments »

MDUSD textbook/workbook snafu frustrates some parents and teachers

I’ve received several phone calls and e-mails from teachers and parents who are frustrated by a mix-up in book orders for schools.

Here’s the latest one, from Sequoia Elementary parent Stacey Roth, which I received less than an hour ago:

“I thought I’d let you know about the snafu with MDUSD elementary schools math books.

Classrooms in grades 1,3,4 and 5 still do not have math books. Teachers and administrative staff are not getting a straight answer from the district. Some of the excuses from them: the truck broke down, they were shipped to the wrong address. Simply, it seems they just weren’t ordered.

It’s nearly October and the math books are nowhere to be found. Not sure how teachers can teach without books. My kids are at Sequoia Elementary, but it appears to be district-wide.

Thanks for the consideration.
~ Stacey (Roth)”

I got a similar email Sunday from Sequoia Elementary teacher Elaine Murphy, who wrote:

“As a teacher for the past 23 years in MDUSD, I am frustrated that we are now 4 weeks into the school year and my students do not have the adopted materials for Math and Social Studies. At my site, Sequoia Elementary, the students at grades 1, 3, 4, and 5 do not have the workbooks for these 2 subject areas. This represents a new low for MDUSD. At the very least, we teachers have always had the textbooks available for our students in previous years!

We have been told many stories about why this problem exists. (My favorite is ‘The delivery truck broke down.’) But why do our colleagues at other sites have the workbooks? It appears that books were distributed to the lowest performing schools first. Yet the Williams settlement, which we must post every year in our classrooms, states that the district is legally mandated to provide textbooks to every student. We are now out of compliance again!

I am aware that our district has many major problems at this point in time. Yet the district is required by law to provide the textbooks for its students. The current Math adoption presents 28 chapters at Grade 4. We must cover one chapter per week, and even at that pace, we will have to double up on Math chapters in the spring in order to be ready for the STAR Test. We are scrambling to cover the lack of workbooks by making copies of Math worksheets to provide the practice our students need. This is a huge waste of time and resources!

Someone dropped the ball at Dent Center. As teachers, we depend on the support staff at Dent Center to do their job so we can do ours!

The responsibility for the ordering of textbooks is out of our hands. Yet now we are struggling to provide improvised instructional materials for our students.

When will the workbooks arrive? Parents and students alike are asking me that question every day. Please investigate this situation!

Elaine Murphy
Sequoia Elementary School”

Last night, Trustee Lynne Dennler told me the district had initially given workbooks to the “Williams” schools. These are low-income schools monitored by the County Office of Education.

“I understand they’re now in,” Dennler said. “I said, ‘I’ll help drive them around.'”

But, the district said she didn’t need to do that, Dennler said.

A few minutes ago, I spoke to Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support.

“We did have some mixup,” she said. “We lost our textbook coordinator through budget cuts two years ago. This past year, we had to take care of it through three departments. We kind of had to piece it together.”

Since the school year was cut short for district office clerical employees and school secretaries, the district didn’t know about the ordering mixup over the summer, Lock said.

“But we do have them on order,” she said. “Some of our schools have not gotten the workbooks, but principals have been making arrangements to have them copied, so we are providing those.”

She said some schools were given priority for the workbooks because of the Williams lawsuit.

“We need to make sure they have all their instructional materials and that the facilities are acceptable,” she said. “The county monitors that every year at the beginning of the year, so we did make sure the schools had their books. But for the rest of the schools, we had an alternative — to make copies.”

Lock said workbooks are for first- and second-grades and are “consumable,” where students tear off the sheets of paper.

“Some of them are coming in and the publisher said we should have them by the end of this week,” she said.

But, the district is also short warehouse staff, she said.

“We’re waiting for the warehouse,” she said.

When I mentioned Dennler’s offer to drive the workbooks to sites herself, Lock said: “At this point, we have people who are working at the warehouse who are working on it. I thought it was a great offer and we’ll let her know.”

I also spoke to Peggy Marshburn, spokeswoman for the County Office of Education. She confirmed that the county visits specific sites to check Williams Act compliance, but said that all schools are required to have adequate instructional materials and that any school in the state can make a complaint.

“So anyone who is concerned about anything that’s related to Williams can make a complaint about it,” she said. “Schools send a quarterly report about any complaint and the resolution of those complaints.”

However, she said consumable workbooks would not be covered by the act.

“The materials are core material and textbooks,” she said. “Consumable workbooks and supplementary materials are not part of what we are looking at.”

Based on the emails and phone calls I’ve received, I’m still a little unclear on whether the materials that haven’t been received are covered under the Williams Act.

Are you satisfied with the district’s solution to the workbook/textbook shortage?

Posted on Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 99 Comments »

Entertaining and enlightening tobacco education

The Mt. Diablo school district invites parents to a free presentation called “Addiction and the Teenage Brain,” from 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Willow Creek Center, 1036 Mohr Lane in Concord.

I got a sneak preview this morning at Sequoia Middle School in Pleasant Hill, where students were blown away by Victor DeNoble’s lively presentation, which included straight talk about drugs and the gleeful unveiling of two brains: one from a monkey and one from a man. Both were damaged by nicotine.

Students were spellbound. They squealed. They laughed. They “oohed.” And they “aaahed.”

DeNoble is a first-rate story-teller, who shows that scientific research is important in shaping public health policies. This was no boring lecture.

This was an energetic man on a mission, whose eyes lit up as he described the research he did on rats, monkeys and finally — a human brain.

He was animated and blunt, keeping students hanging on his every word.

DeNoble said he met a 61-year-old man who was dying from cancer in a hospital after having smoked cigarettes for years.

He said to the man: “After you’re dead, can I have your brain?”

Even though the man had quit smoking two years earlier, he told DeNoble he still woke up every morning craving a cigarette. DeNoble said it can take five to 10 years after a person quits before their brain stops the craving.

Here’s more information about his presentation in a story that will appear in tomorrow’s Contra Costa Times:

The presentation is funded through a Tobacco Use Prevention Education (TUPE) grant.

DeNoble is visiting several district schools this week, speaking to seventh-graders, ninth-graders and alternative high school students.

Do you think programs like this are beneficial?

Posted on Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 1 Comment »

Clayton Valley charter supporters ask to be placed on Tuesday MDUSD board agenda

After meeting with Deb Cooksey, Rose Lock and Julie Braun-Martin last Wednesday, the Clayton Valley High School Charter Committee hoped their proposal to accelerate the approval process for the charter petition would be placed on the Sept. 27 district board meeting agenda.

Here is a copy of an e-mail sent by Clayton Mayor David Shuey to the board today, expressing his disappointment in the district’s failure to address this request on tomorrow night’s agenda:

“Subject: September 27 meeting on Clayton Valley High School Charter Petition

Dear Gary, Sherry, Lynne, Linda, Cheryl,

As you know, on Friday, September 23 in the early morning I sent a request to all of you and Superintendent Lawrence requesting that the charter petition be added to the agenda for September 27, 2011 for a: ‘brief discussion and hopeful confirmation of a joint good faith timeline for approval or denial of the petition at your October 25, 2011 meeting. We would also like to, again briefly, ask the Board take up boardmember Hansen’s request that a study session or subcommittee of the Board be allowed to meet with the charter group in the interim before the October 25 meeting to further narrow down and hopefully reach tentative agreement on the issues. I make this request as quickly as was possible following our meeting two days ago with staff and our subsequent charter Executive Board/steering committee meeting. As there should be little or no need for an extensive staff report on this, I foresee no reason this cannot be added to the agenda this morning to allow inclusion in staff’s agenda package that will come out this evening.’

Therefore, you can imagine my disappointment when the agenda was finally posted (not sure when it was actually posted but it was not done until at least late afternoon or evening on Friday) to see we were not posted on the agenda. As a result, I and several others will be coming to your meeting to make some public comments on this tomorrow. We contemplated getting another large group of students, parents and community to come out like in the public meetings, but ultimately decided that just a few of us will come to voice our displeasure and to request further action and confirmation of the process going forward on this matter.

As I noted in my prior email, we were ‘disappointed in the Board’s de-facto denial of our petition, but were encouraged by the public and private comments of the Board and staff that there is a desire to make this work as a collaborative effort between the district and the charter. I would also like to thank Deb, Rose and Julie for meeting with us on Wednesday to go over our concerns and seek a mutually agreeable good faith resolution. I think some good progress was made in both sides understanding the concerns and positions better and laying the groundwork for a potentially mutually agreeable set of conditions that will allow charter approval for opening in 2012-2013. I will point out again that while the charter group feels many of the requested conditions are contrary to the law and requirements for charter approval, we are moving forward in good faith [without waiving our objections of course 🙂 – sorry that is the lawyer in me] to try and resolve our issues so that the district can be the approving body and we can benefit each other going forward. We also believe that some of the requested further information may be impossible to achieve to the degree desired of staff, but we will endeavor to provide as much information as possible and hope that you and staff will see the sufficiency of what is provided. An illustration of this, which may help in your understanding of some of our dilemmas, and which was discussed extensively with staff, is the condition that we provide you with a list and credentials for the teachers who will be hired by the charter. Given the fact that under the Board’s decision, there is no charter approved as the Board could vote in February to deny the petition, we cannot go out and become an official organization with the State to allow us to obtain our loans and lines of credit to begin operations. As such, we cannot hire our CEO/Principal and/or any staff. Thus, we also cannot be expected to be able to provide you with a list of teachers. Given the Board’s position on leave of absences, no teacher would or could be expected to make a decision when there is the potential there will be no charter approved. This is similar for any outside teachers who would be hired. Ms. Cooksey indicated she would be checking on this issue and get back to us on a potential resolution of the conundrum, but we will endeavor to provide as much information as to those teachers and credentials who we believe will be hired and the process and qualifications we will adhere to and require in hiring. Let me also point out that much of the requested specificity requested in the conditions may have similar constraints as without our CEO/Principal, staff and further committee due diligence on planning we find it difficult to provide all specific means by which we intend to meet our goals. This is why the petition has always had an opening of 2012-2013 so that we can due our proper due diligence in planning. Nevertheless, we will endeavor to provide as much specificity as possible regarding the means and processes by which we will achieve our goals.

Because of the tremendous amount of burden, time, energy and effort that will be required to provide further requested information to the district by October 12, 2011 (which we have committed to as part of our obligation under the accelerated timeline), we need the Board’s action confirming the timeline so that we do not expend this energy in vain. We believe that staff understood and agreed in principle to this accelerated timeline in our meeting on Wednesday, we know that ultimately the Board must also approve. This is why we must have this item on the agenda for September 27, 2011 so that we can move forward as proposed.

Finally, I want to again applaud Deb, Rose and Julie for their good faith efforts in meeting and discussing these issues with us on Wednesday and their agreement to continue to work with us going forward. I would also like to thank Mr. Eberhart for his attendance at our public rally/information on Wednesday night. I have received numerous feedback from citizens who were happy to see his interest in obtaining more information and apparent willingness to work with us to achieve a mutually agreeable resolution. I hope we can continue this as part of a study session/board subcommittee as we are requesting for Tuesday.’

What is necessary for two sides to work together in good faith is both actions and words, and what we have from your side is words that, unfortunately, don’t come with guarantees of good faith. Alas, it seems like we are continually forced to meet and decide how to respond to actions on your part that appear geared not toward a mutual resolution, but a continued delaying tactic. While this may not be true, and you may not see it this way, if you put yourself in our shoes you can see how it would appear given the history.

Nevertheless, despite our fears regarding the district’s motives, we are moving forward with the timeline of providing the district with our responses to your conditions on October 12, 2011. This will allow staff and the board to review them in time to make a final and definitive decision to unequivocally approve or deny the petition at your October 25, 2011 meeting. Proof of your good faith will be evident or not at that meeting. Certainly, your opportunity to take action on a study session or to select a subcommittee to meet with us to help define, narrow and resolve outstanding issues has been compromised but I will obviously leave that to you going forward. Perhaps there is still time tomorrow to appoint a subcommittee to continue the meet and confer efforts we have commenced with staff.

I once again implore each of you to understand that this charter is almost unanimously desired by the community, that the charter petition is solid and based on tried, tested and true successful charters in the state, and that we desire to work with you as the approving agency to help each other reach greater academic heights. With little or no public opposition against this charter, we should be working together to make it the best charter available and not working against each other. I only hope that in the end you prove your words with your actions.

I also once again renew my offer to discuss and/or meet with any of you individually to go over this matter and see if a mutual resolution can be achieved.

Thank you for your time and attention to this issue.

David “Shoe” Shuey
City of Clayton”

NOTE: The board is also meeting at 7 p.m. tonight to discuss strategic planning. Public comment will be allowed at the beginning of this meeting.

Two of five areas of focus in the draft strategic plan are “Supportive Family and Community Involvement” and “Respectful, Responsive Service and Communication.”

Here’s what the draft says regarding these:

“Supportive Family and Community Involvement:

MDUSD will actively build strong relationships with students, families, and
the community to increase trust, shared responsibility, and a positive perception of our district.

MDUSD will use multiple methods of communication and engagement to reach all stakeholders and increase opportunities for meaningful community input and participation to advance student achievement and learning in all subject areas.

Goals / Specific Results

2.1 Use multiple, regular methods of communication and engagement to reach all

2.2 Ensure that our communications are honest, accurate, thorough, and accessible to the public.

2.3 Increase opportunities for meaningful community input and participation.

2.4 Cultivate community, business, and higher education partnerships that advance student achievement in all subject areas.

2.5 Increase collaboration with cities, businesses, and the community to build a
community that supports and values education.

2.6 Achieve a positive perception of MDUSD among parents and community members and ensure that parents consider MDUSD a ‘preferred place’ to meet their educational needs.

2.7 Engage and involve parents in their children’s education to create shared
responsibilities for student success…”

“Respectful, Responsive Service and Communication:

MDUSD district and site staff will be responsive and respectful while providing outstanding service to co-workers, students, parents, and community members.

District and site staff will proactively seek opportunities to improve communication and customer service. Every person who interacts with MDUSD should be treated with dignity, respect, and courtesy.

Goals / Specific Results

4.1 Assess, adopt, and improve practices that encourage respectful, responsive
customer service.

4.2 Improve communication, both internally and externally, ensuring that community members, parents, students, and employees receive information, responses to inquiries, and services in a timely, efficient manner.

4.3 Improve employee morale by strengthening internal communications.

4.4 Ensure that employees consider MDUSD a ‘preferred place’ (culture and climate) to work.

4.5 Ensure that parents consider MDUS a ‘preferred place’ to meet their educational needs.

4.6 Diligently monitor and report progress on strategic plan initiatives to gain trust,
promote dialogue, and determine success.

4.7 Increase the use of technology to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of
communication throughout the organization.”

Do you think the board should address the Clayton Valley High School Charter Committee’s request as an emergency item tomorrow (which could be posted 24 hours in advance)?

Posted on Monday, September 26th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 55 Comments »

MDUSD board strategic planning meeting tonight

The Mt. Diablo school board will hold a special meeting tonight to discuss districtwide strategic planning.

Last spring and summer, trustees Sherry Whitmarsh and Cheryl Hansen conducted 15 meetings with various school and district groups to get feedback on a draft strategic plan focused on academics; family support and community involvement; staff; service and communication; and operations and infrastructure.

Trustees expect to review the community feedback and discuss their top five priorities in each category.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at the district office, 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord.

More information is available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 4000 or by visiting

What are your top priorities?

Posted on Monday, September 26th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 47 Comments »

Clayton Valley charter supporters want to speed up final approval process

At a rally this evening at Clayton Valley High School, charter supporters said they want the Mt. Diablo school district to make a final decision about their conversion petition next month, instead of in February.

I videotaped portions of the meeting, before using up all my storage space.

The meeting started with a video of Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, expressing concerns that the school board may seek to derail the charter effort:

Then, attorney Paul Minney outlined concerns the committee has with the petition and teachers Neil McChesney and Pat Middendorf answered questions:

McChensey said he wants the board to make a final decision by Oct. 25. Middendorf said the committee wants to submit all its paperwork to the district by Oct. 12, so she encouraged community members to volunteer to join committees to complete as much work as possible toward meeting the district’s conditions of approval.

After the rally, McChesney told me that he and other supporters met with Deb Cooksey, Rose Lock and Julie Braun-Martin today and “some progress was made.”

Board President Gary Eberhart, who attended the rally and information meeting at Clayton Valley High, said afterward that he couldn’t comment on the idea of modifying the conditions. He also said he couldn’t comment on the idea of accelerating the approval process.

However, he said he was impressed by the energy level of the crowd.

Do you think the board should agree to make a final decision on the charter next month instead of in February?

Posted on Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 28 Comments »

Draft minutes from June Measure C Bond Oversight committee meeting

Since the draft minutes from the 2010 Measure C Bond Oversight Committee meeting haven’t been posted on the district’s website, I’m posting them below. The committee expects to approve the minutes at its meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the district office.

Minutes from the August special bond committee meeting do not appear on the agenda.

“2010 Measure C Oversight Committee
Meeting Minutes

Members Present: Jay Bedecarre, John Ferrante, Faye Mettler, Jenny Reik, Bonnie McDonald, Susan Noack, Marc Willis, Larry Wirick, John Parker, Tina Seagrove, Connie Schulte, Alicia Minyen, John Burke

Members Absent: Mark Weinmann(excused), Rick Callaway (unexcused)

Board Representative: Cheryl Hansen

Staff: Pete Pedersen, Tim Cody, Mitchell Stark, Linda Carter, Richard Jackson, Marc Fabie, Brad Hunter

John Ferrante called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM

There was no public comment.

Copies of the March 17, 2011 meeting minutes were distributed. Susan Noack made a motion to approve the minutes and Faye Mettler seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

Susan Noack made a request that the draft of the minutes be sent out to all committee members within a few days after the meeting and then again right before the next meeting. It was agreed that that would be the process.

Pete told the committee that two people have applied to be on the Oversight Committee. The Committee currently has the number of people from the required community groups per Prop. 39 verbiage. Susan Noack said she supported adding members due to the fact that we often have committee members absent. The rest of the committee agreed. Pete will forward the applications to John Ferrante.

Pete introduced the two new members of the Measure C staff: Richard Jackson, Construction Manager II, and Marc Fabie, Logistics/Project Coordinator.

John Parker asked how much staff Measure C currently has. Pete said that he would like to address that later in the meeting and John agreed.

Measure C Team Headquarters relocation: Tim Cody showed a map of Holbrook Elementary which will serve as a base/headquarters for the the Measure C staff, along with the MDUSD SunPower project team and various consutants, architects, etc. He showed the
committee the rooms that would used. Tim emphasized that Measure C has attempted to be sensitive to the staff at Holbrook as they pack and move. Pete reiterated that the Measure C team has not been at the site discussing or encouraging the move with the staff. The team hopes to be able to move before the end of June. John Parker wanted to know what was going to be stored in the MU room. Pete stated that at this time there was only lighting slated to be stored in the
MU and that there would be no machinery or any big trucks making deliveries that would impactthe neighborhood. Cheryl Hansen asked how the school was informed that Measure C would be moving to Holbrook; that they didn’t seem to know. Pete replied that he believed that the school closure committee, M & O or warehouse was responsible for communicating with the Holbrook Administration and staff. John Parker asked if Holbrook was more desirable than Glenbrook. Pete stated that there are other possible plans for Glenbrook.

Annual Performance Audit: Bryan Richards, MDUSD CFO, suggested we hire Christy White as our auditor. Pete provided the committee with a copy of the potential agreement with Christy White. John Parker and Jenny Reik questioned why we would go all the way to San Diego for an auditor and Marc Willis wondered what experience she had; should we do an RFP instead? Alicia Minyen was concerned that if the scope of the audit changed how would that impact the cost over the three year period of the contract. And who determines the scope? Pete said the scope was determined by recommendation from the CFO. Susan Noack “googled” and discovered that Christy White is the auditor for the Contra Costa County Office of Education. After further discussion it was decided that Pete would ask Bryan for more information about Christy White and that Cheryl Hansen would inquire from her fiscal department at the CCCOE what their experience had been with her firm and the responses will be forwarded to the committee members. A motion was made by Jay Bedecarre to approve the Christy White contract pending possible negative information. Larry Wirick seconded the motion. The motion
passed with one nay vote. (Alicia Minyen).

Solar Project-status report: Mitchell Stark stated that there are currently 16 sites that were approved by DSA and are under construction. Many of the Increment 2 sites have been approved and the rest are due to go to DSA soon. The architects have not experienced any problems or concerns from DSA during the approval process. Designs and schematics for Increment 3 are being completed. Pete advised that the solar project school sites were grouped in geographical areas to increase efficiency; however some Inc. 2 sites have been accelerated in order to mitigate impact on school and neighborhoods. Glenbrook and Holbrook are being held out awaiting direction from the School Board. Contingency letters have been sent out to schools in case construction is ongoing at the beginning of the school year and the team tried to address all possible contingencies. The information is to be distributed by the sites as they deem most efficient. Susan Noack stated that her school (Strandwood) website cannot link to the Measure C website. Pete will investigate and see if this can be resolved. The Measure C team will do whatever it can to enhance outreach.

Faye Mettler wondered who was responsible for getting information to the school and community. Pete emphasized that the Measure C team has been to all the schools and spoken to Administration, staff and other school community members; created a website, met with all City managers and Federal Glover and that we have sent out brochures, but it was assumed that the individual schools will get the information to the school community.

Jon Parker asked if the Measure C staff would be speaking with the new principals. Marc Fabie said yes and that the team has asked to be on the agenda at the meetings.

Faye suggested signs and Cheryl agreed. It was also suggested that the District encourage the sites to communicate with their local community. Pete related that the signs were already in progress.

Connie Schulte wondered how we kept the arrays from being vandalized. Pete said that we really have no way of doing that but that he has not heard of any real problems. John Ferrante added that Pittsburg Unified put up solar arrays and have not experienced any vandalism.

HVAC Project-status report: Tim Cody reported that all information is online and that the schematics are finished and they are on to the design phase, then to DSA. They are right on schedule. Cheryl Hansen asked if they are controlled at the site or at the M &O office? Tim said that they have individual thermostats but we do have the capability of controlling globally. He also stated that the new units can feed up to 6 classrooms.

Technology Infrastructure-status report: Tim Cody stated that Optiman will soon be all over the district. We will also be issuing a RFP for security.

High School Projects: Pete advised that each high school has been allotted 1.5 million dollars and was asked for a “wish-list” to be submitted to the Measure C team. The team will put together rough costs and get back to the sites. At the June 28, 2011 Board meeting the team will submit a list of projects. The monies for these projects will come from Prop 55, 2002 Measure C, 2010 Measure C and Developer Fees.

DSA Certification Projects: Three projects have been closed, we are working on two more and there are 13 projects that we are still gathering data on.

Financials: Mitchell Stark reported that the District had another Bond sale for 1.5 million. $175, 000 was moved to Measure C, mostly for legal fees.

Alicia Minyen asked who or what determines a Bond sale? Pete stated that the cash flow requirements associated with the projects: solar, HVAC, determine the timing of a Bond sale. There are time limits on Bond expenditures and there will be multiple Bond sales driven by the needs and timelines and management issues of the projects.

John Parker wondered what the purview of the Oversight Committee is with regard to Bond sales. Pete related that he didn’t believe it was in the Committee’s purview to make decisions related to the sale of the bonds. Pete said that, if the Committee requests, he would schedule Bryan Richards at a later meeting to explain Bonds. Pete also stated that they would look at using the same format as the previous Measure C quarterly report to indicate the cash flow of the
Bond money.

Mitchell showed with a power point demonstrations how the money has been spent thus far.

John Ferrante asked why the irrigation project was put on hold. Pete reported that he and the team were not comfortable with the lack of hard info and data that is available and were waiting for better technology.

Pete, using current and past data, shared with the committee, a comparison of actual staffing/management costs when Vanir provided Construction Management service for the 2002 Measure C program and positions and approximate costs to date with the present “in” house residential staffing mode.

John Parker asked what the anticipated cost is for next year. Pete stated that the total for the entire seven years should be about 8.1 million.

Marc Willis asked, again, about the possibility of going on a field trip to SunPower. Pete will look into it.

John Ferrante mentioned that if a member’s one or two year term was up, they had a choice to leave or to sign up for another term. The limit is two terms-either two year terms or one year or a combination. If a member does leave it is asked they try to find their own replacement.

Linda will email the people whose terms are ending.

It was suggested that we move the Public Comment section of the agenda to a different spot.

Pete shared the question posed by Alicia Minyen at the last meeting regarding COPS and the response from Meredith Johnson, Bond Counsel. Alicia says that she will look into it further.

The scheduled meetings for year are:
September 15, 2011(next meeting)
December 15, 2011
March 15, 2012
June 21, 2012
The meeting was adjourned at 9:25PM”

As you can see, the committee never discussed the fact that there would be no July organizational meeting, as required by its bylaws.

Do you think the district should post the draft minutes online before the meeting?

Posted on Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 67 Comments »

Bus driver speaks out about special ed transportation problems

Becky Wright, who has driven buses in the Mt. Diablo school district for more than 20 years, called me today to discuss special education transportation problems.

“Somebody has to say it,” she said. “We definitely have a problem in our department. The problem is big. It’s not just a few. It’s a lot.”

Wright said the problems have a domino effect.

“It affects everybody — the parents, the kids, the drivers and the teachers,” she said.

Wright said bus drivers strive to provide excellent service to students, but they are unable to do this when they are given incorrect information.

“That is what we are all about — providing the services,” she said. “And without the right information, we cannot do it. I have been very proud to be a school bus driver associated with Mt. Diablo. We had an excellent reputation until the last two years. Now, I find myself embarrassed to say that I am a school bus driver.”

Sometimes, she said, parents take out their frustrations on drivers.

“It’s hard enough on a family to have special needs,” she said, “let alone when the services you are expecting don’t come through.”

A year ago, Wright said the district blamed the problems on a new computer system. This year, Wright said the district appears to want to sweep the problems under the rug.

“It is totally wrong that they are not addressing the problem,” she said. “You’re running into schools late because of the mistakes that have been made prior and it’s just a bad setup.”

Drivers are also late sometimes because they are expected to pick up too many children in a given time period, Wright said.

“With improper information,” she said, “you’re driving around trying to find kids. It’s very probable that you’re running into your schools late.”

Wright said the service that is delivered reflects ultimately on district leadership.

“If they don’t want to address it, then they need to let us know that inferior employees and work is OK,” she said. “If they don’t feel that we deserve the best and that the children deserve the best, then that says it all. We are not important. Bottom line, we are the ones that get these kids to and from school and we need to be able to be safe in doing it and not be all stressed out about all the other garbage.”

Wright said other bus drivers share her opinions.

“There’s a lot of people that feel the same way I do,” she said. “But they would never put their name to this. I personally think we deserve better.”

Wright is most concerned, she said, about the children she is trying to serve.

“Unless we get things under control, somebody’s going to make a mistake that we’re not going to be able to undo or fix,” she said. “it will just keep coming up over and over again.”

General Counsel Greg Rolen, who oversees the transportation department, said he is gathering information about the issues to present to the school board.

“The problems are manifold,” he said. “There isn’t one problem. There’s a number of different issues that are going on.”

He said he was unsure of the number of complaints the district had received.

“We don’t really know how many complaints there were and each complaint is individual,” he said. “Some are very valid and some are not the least bit valid.”

Rolen said the district is transporting more students this year than it has in the past. There are 123 more students with IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) along with 108 more enrolled in county programs, he said.

The district also transports students who are overflowed because of overcrowding and those who choose to go to higher-performing schools, under No Child Left Behind. In all, the district transports 2,200 students a day, he said.

Last year, Rolen said, the district transported about 250 fewer special education students.

The board agreed to take on this additional busing to try to save money, according to plans developed by Pete Pedersen, the retired assistant superintendent of administrative services. Rolen said the district isn’t sure yet whether it will achieve those savings, but he thinks it will.

This is because Durham Transportation, which previously transported students through a contract with the County Office of Education, frequently bused only one student in a vehicle with an assistant, he said.

“We think we’re going to meet the savings that Pete predicted,” Rolen said.

The district is also in the process of hiring assistants to ride on buses, he said. In the past, Durham didn’t tell the district ahead of time which buses would have assistants, he added.

“We are checking every IEP to see if transportation assistance is required,” he said.

The district hired Pawar drivers to alleviate immediate problems, he said.

Although parent Wendy Citron said she wanted to receive written notification from the district about her child’s transportation plan, Rolen said he wasn’t sure whether parents would receive such information in writing.

“Wendy Citron’s issues have been resolved,” Rolen said. “To my knowledge it’s not been responded to in writing, but it’s not to say that it won’t be.”

Rolen said the district’s transportation department received no complaints today and that the special education department received two. But Wright disputed that.

“There was a busload of kids that were left,” she said. “They called our dispatcher.”

Here is a link to a letter regarding the problems from Mildred Browne, director of special education, to the Community Advisory Committee Chairwoman:

Are you satisfied with the district’s response to parent complaints about special education transportation?

SEPT. 21 UPDATE: After receiving a note expressing privacy concerns regarding comments related to minor children enrolled in special education, I have edited or deleted some of the comments below. It is our policy not to name special education students without parental consent. However, the name that was previously referenced was included in a Mt. Diablo school board agenda report.

SEPT. 22 UPDATE: Due to continued privacy concerns, I have deleted or edited additional comments, which referenced the parent of a special education student. We will continue to edit or delete comments that name parents of special education students without their consent.

Posted on Monday, September 19th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 58 Comments »

MDUSD Bond Oversight Committee to meet Thursday

Here is the agenda for the next 2010 Measure C Bond Oversight Committee meeting to be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the district office. Since it hasn’t yet been posted in the district’s website, I’m posting it below.

“Mt. Diablo Unified School District
2010 Measure C
Citizen’s Oversight Committee Meeting
Thursday, September 22, 2011
1936 Carlotta Drive
Board Room, Dent Center
7:00 p.m.

• Call to order

• Review/approval of minutes of June 16, 2011 meeting

• Introduction of new 2010 CBOC members

• Conflict of Interest Statements for CBOC members

• Annual report to the Board of Education

• Solar Project: status report

• Mechanical (HVAC) status report

• Technology Infrastructure: status report

• High School Projects

• DSA Certification Project

• Quarterly Report

• Staffing –discussion/action

• Other Committee concerns/topics

• Public Comment”

I didn’t receive any attachments with this agenda. Pete Pedersen told me in an e-mail that the Annual Report will be uploaded to an FTP site for the committee to access. He will also try to make it available for public access, he said.

Do you think reports to be presented to the committee should be made available to the public before the meeting begins?

Posted on Monday, September 19th, 2011
Under: Mt. Diablo school district | 28 Comments »

Clayton mayor expresses disappointment in MDUSD board charter decision

Charter Rally Flyer

I received a copy of this letter to the editor from Clayton Mayor David Shuey regarding the Mt. Diablo school board’s recent decision to approve the Clayton Valley High School charter petition, as long as organizers satisfy numerous conditions by Feb. 1.

Although it is likely this letter will appear in the Contra Costa Times sometime in the future, I am posting it below, in case blog readers want to weigh in:

“Dear Editor:

The city of Clayton and the charter steering committee were deeply disappointed in the MDUSD school board’s de-facto denial of our petition to convert CVHS to a charter school. There is overwhelming community support, little external opposition and it would appear the only opposition is within the district itself. What is clear is denying this petition, with conditions that cannot be met and are illegal, is in direct conflict with the stated vision statement of the district to: support each other in achieving meaningful outcomes to enable individuals to experience success; use technology to access, manage and communicate information; and collaborate to achieve mutual goals.

We have already taken steps to re-approach both district staff and the board in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable set of conditions, which can be agreed upon and allow the charter to open in 2012-13. As both staff and the board have publicly indicated they wish the charter to succeed but they needed more information and specifics, we are hopeful that we can work in good-faith to achieve the resolution.

If you feel that the committee and board should work together to ensure a true approval, please email me at

David ‘Shoe’ Shuey
City of Clayton”

In his e-mail to me, Shuey added that the committee plans to hold a rally and information meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Clayton Valley High multi-use room.

In addition, Clayton Valley High Principal Sue Brothers told me that the school’s new advisory committee will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday to discuss planned improvements this year, including a strategy for increasing student achievement in math.

Teacher Pat Middendorf told me that committee members plan to meet Wednesday with Deb Cooksey, the attorney for the district who presented the staff report to the board. The committee hopes to inform the public about the outcome of that meeting Wednesday night.

County Superintendent Joe Ovick told me that he doesn’t believe the charter organizers can appeal the petition to the county Board of Education unless the district denies it outright. He did not agree with charter organizers that the conditions represented a “de-facto denial.”

Here is a link to information presented to the board Tuesday, including the resolution approving the charter with conditions, which trustees adopted:

Trustee Cheryl Hansen told me she has asked Superintendent Steven Lawrence and Board President Gary Eberhart to schedule a board study session aimed at reducing the number of conditions. Trustee Linda Mayo said she couldn’t comment on whether she would be willing to reconsider the conditions until she saw a written proposal from the charter committee.

Do you think the board should consider reducing the number of conditions it is requiring to approve the charter?

Posted on Sunday, September 18th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 61 Comments »