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MDUSD textbook/workbook snafu frustrates some parents and teachers

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, September 27th, 2011 at 6:14 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

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!

Sincerely,
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?

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  • Doctor J

    @LL,I hope the intellegent board members bring their copies of the strategic plan to each meeting and ask questions directly from there. It will be such a contrast between intellegent and arrogant.

  • Flippin’ Tired

    Theresa @39, agenda items must be presented and put on the agenda about 11 days before the meeting. For example, for an item to be on the 10/11 (a Tuesday) agenda, it would have had to be presented to Dr. Lawrence’s office by 9/30 (a Friday). Call his secretary and she can give you a copy of the deadlines. Mayor Shuey can grumble and gripe all he wants, but he doesn’t get to jump onto the agenda because he wants to. Rules apply to everyone – isn’t that one of the core values we’re trying to teach our children?

  • Theresa Harrington

    It is surprising that no one from the district appears to have communicated this to Mayor Shuey.

  • Just J

    So here it is:
    Any member of the public or any Board member may request that a matter within the jurisdiction of the Board be placed on the agenda of a regular meeting. The request must be in writing and be submitted to the Superintendent or designee with supporting documents and information, if any, at least two weeks before the scheduled meeting date. Items submitted less than two weeks before the scheduled meeting date (may be postponed to a later meeting in order to allow sufficient time for consideration and research of the issue.) Notice the key word MAY not will be. It was at Stevos discrection. I guess he needed more time to come up with another plan to shoot down the Charter. You loose!

    The Board president and Superintendent shall decide whether a request is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Board. Items not within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Board may not be placed on the agenda. In addition, the Board president and Superintendent shall determine if the item is merely a request for information or whether the issue is covered by an existing policy or administrative regulation before placing the item on the agenda.

    The Board president and Superintendent shall decide whether an agenda item is appropriate for discussion in open or closed session, and whether the item should be an action item subject to Board vote, an information item that does not require immediate action, or a consent item that is routine in nature and for which no discussion is anticipated.

    When an item properly posted for a regular meeting is continued to a subsequent meeting, it may not be on the agenda of the subsequent meeting if the subsequent meeting occurs within five days. The Board shall publicly identify the item before discussing it. (Government Code 54954.2)

    The way I read this Steve Lawrence and Gary could have allowed this on the agenda or at the very least postponed it to Oct. 11 and given that response in writing. I may be wrong after all I am just a MDUSD graduate with no law degree…..but it still seems that common courtesy could have been extended (that is what I teach my kids)
    Paul or Flippen whatever you are you are just like the rest. Oh I got that info out of the by-laws for MDUSD.

  • g

    Theresa, it really isn’t so surprising. You may usually get response to your inquiries, but I suspect many others don’t.

    I would say I write a fairly decent letter, and while I don’t write often, I do write to the individual Board Members and Dr. Lawrence. I write to County and State officials on rare but compelling issues.

    On school issues, Ms Hansen and Dr Lawrence always give a prompt, though generally neutral reply. I also have always gotten at least an acknowledgement of receipt from Gov Brown’s, Mr Torlakson’s and Dr Jovick’s offices.

    Apparently however, Eberhart, Whitmarsh, Mayo and Dennler simply cannot be bothered with the common folks concerns unless a donation plate is being passed or a camera is running somewhere.

    So, please people, if they haven’t been living by it already, do not suggest that anyone should be sweetly beguiled by “We’ve-seen-the-error-of-our-way-and-we’re-going-out-and-do-the-right-thing-starting-right-now-can-I-hear-an-Amen-for-the…drum roll… Strategic Plan”

  • Doctor J

    Wow maybe some member of the public will request that this item from the Sept 2010 Board adopted Goals and Objectives be placed on the agenda: “Schools will report progress on the following targets that will provide a big picture view of school performance to monitor system effectiveness.”

  • Anon

    Really Flippin? I wonder if these strict deadlines apply to everyone or if they have become strictly enforced recently. This rigid enforcement seems to be another way to control dissent from other Board members and the community at large. I seem to remember much more flexibility with the agenda when Paul and Gary had the remainder of the Board firmly under control.
    This kind of tactic is not lost on the public and simply create a greater lack of trust and confidence.

  • 4Students

    Change the district motto: “Where two-week deadlines come first”

  • The Observer

    If you check the board policies and rules governing meetings you will find that the rules dealing with putting agendas together, timelines, responsibilities, etc. were adopted in 2009 when – voila – the Strange, Eberhart, Whitmarsh Axis was in full flower. In reality, the rules are set up to hamper information, discussion,or public input. Roberts Rules be damned, Eberhart is going to do it his way.

    Think about this – to be compliant with board rules about setting the agenda one would have to submit the agenda request, in writing, at the board meeting held two weeks prior to the next board meeting.And, then, the superintendent and president would determine whether or not it gets on the agenda and no one knows that until the Friday before the Tuesday board meeting.

    At least Eberhart and Whitmarsh are leaving the board in 2012 and we will elect people with some sense.

  • Doctor J

    Reviewing just the last agenda — where Mayor Shoe was sleighted — it appears that almost everyone of those agenda items had not been submitted two weeks prior, but probably within one week or less. Clearly a double standard. I agree with Observer that the two week rule is unreasonable and were set up to provide a chilling effect on the public’s right to seek redress. The Board in consideration of any item always has the right to continue a matter to the next meeting to gather new information.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Often, district staff is working up to the time of the meeting preparing Powerpoint presentations, which are not posted until the day after the meeting.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I was just visiting YVHS. Principal Bill Morones told me that school had its Williams visit last week and they have had no problems with textbooks.
    He also told me that as of Monday, only one student hadn’t submitted proof of the whooping cough immunization.

  • Doctor J

    Maybe some “member of the public” should ask for an agenda item to reduce the time period, require staff to abide by the same time periods, and have ALL powerpoint and/or documentary presentations attached to the agenda. No more last minute stuff by staff. I am in favor of posting all items on the agenda if submitted 3 days prior to the agenda being posted — the Board as a whole can then decide if they need more information and continue the issue to the following meeting for submission of addional support or opposition, but staff must live by this rule too.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Such changes could be included in strategic planning. Under “Supportive Family and Community Involvement,” the draft plan states: “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.”
    One way to engage the community would be to provide comprehensive agenda staff reports and Powerpoints at the time agendas are posted. This would give the public time to study the materials before the meeting, so community members could provide thoughtful input.

  • Flippin’ Tired

    Anon @57,

    In my job with the district, I have had to complete paperwork to have a job filled, when there is an outside agency making the payment for the position. Because I did not meet the deadline, the vote to approve that position was delayed by two weeks. So, you see, it happens even to us district employees. That’s how I found out there’s a list of deadline dates; now I have that list posted over my desk so I never make that mistake again.

    Everyone follows the rules. The deadlines are enforced unless there’s an emergency situation. A childish small-potatoes politician does not decide what is urgent and what is not.

    The charter was approved with conditions. Meet the damn conditions and you’ll win full approval. Continue to whine about the rules and you’ll lose support.

  • Anon

    Flippin,
    Everyone does not follow the rules.
    This is not about the charter it is about the public’s perception of this Board and their constant “accurate” but not honest release of information and their manipulation of rules when it favors them.
    This agenda timing issue is just one more example.

  • John Q

    This exemplifies what is wrong with MDUSD and why parents want out. Flippin’ Tired is a district employee who calls the Mayor a “childish small-potatoes politician.” The Mayor who is backed by overwhelming city support, a City Council resolution, another Mayor, and a long-term U.S. Congressman famous for championing public education. If my children showed such disrespect there would be a long-term time-out. Time for Flippin’ Tired to resign and go home.

  • David “Shoe” Shuey Mayor of Clayton

    Flippin Tired: Thanks. You made my day. Nothing like a reality check to keep me humble. :)

    Curious, where is “emergency” defined such that the rules would not apply? Who gets to decide what is an emergency? What if it is not an emergency but is just urgent? I don’t know, but it seems to me making a decision one way or the other that can impact over 1900 kids education in 2012-13 versus delaying it for another year would be an urgent or even emergent situation. Of course, if you don’t want something to happen in 2012-13 or ever for the matter then it is good to be the king who decides it is not and emergency.

    I think what your posts and the District’s actions and rules point out is a big difference between small potatoes Clayton and the District in terms of responsiveness, openness, flexibility and the understanding of who we work for. In small potato-ville we do the right thing and work with our constituents to make sure they are heard and issues decided on substance not arbitrary procedure.

    Thanks for keeping me humble Flippin, but the community of Clayton, the parents, students, teachers,staff, and this small potatoes Mayor are not going away. :)

  • Doctor J

    @Flippin Tired Paul, your irresitable proclivity to insult, now including the Honorable Mayor of Clayton, the entire community, parents, students, teachers, and staff has reached a new low. It might be compared with the awakening of America by the attack on Pearl Harbor. If I were you, I would avoid driving the streets of Clayton, and certainly keep your BA below .01. As as for your trusted sidekick, he better start shopping at the Concord Safeway.

  • g

    Flippin, you have me confused. How can you say you would welcome a State take over, and then show such disdain for the Charter conversion and those who support it? It’s obvious in so many of your statements that you see the breakdown of the system and the failure of the district to support all of the children equally, as well as The Gary Team’s complacency.

    In the case of this thread, Lock says something like “we’re taking care of it”, and Dennler just assumes that means Dent is doing the job—sad that she didn’t ask “how are you taking care of it”. Just one simple question.

    And then Lock implies that “consumable” books aren’t really as important because, after all, they are just for first and second graders and if Williams doesn’t track those, it isn’t a big deal.

  • Wait a minute

    One thing that Paul Strange and Greg Rolen need to realize is that Shoe is not only a far more competent and ethical lawyer then they will ever be, he is also light years ahead of them as a public servant.

    Once again Shoe, this all the more reason to start playing offense against these clowns.

    All it is going to take is one good Federal, State, or County investigation of the myriad scandals of the MDUSD’s “leaders” and they will be so busy throwing each other under the bus to save themselves that they will no longer obstruct the will of the people.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I heard from Sequoia MS parent Stacey Roth yesterday that the school still hasn’t received its math or social science workbooks.
    I mentioned this to Rose Lock last night after the Parent Advisory Council meeting. She said that Sequoia has all of its mandated textbooks. The workbooks, she said, include sheets of paper that can be torn out. Therefore, it makes no difference to students if they are using a workbook or a copy, she said.
    She also noted that many teachers don’t even use workbooks.

  • Doctor J

    Whoa Nellie, I thought Trustee Lynne Dennler said they were being delivered over a week ago and she offered to deliver them. Was that just a lie ? The district is spending $175,000 for these workbooks so its no small expense, due to their mistake in ordering the textbooks from the wrong supplier. Your quote of Rose Lock said the workbooks should have been received last week and they still aren’t received ? Sounds like “textbook gate” to me. Lots of excuses and no definitive answers.

  • g

    “…it makes no difference to students if they are using a workbook or a copy, (Lock) said”

    How about the paper/copying bottom dollar line and value of non-teaching time used to make photocopies? Does it make a difference there?

    If it costs less for paper, machine, staff time, then let’s buy just one book per grade level from now on. Voila! Problem solved. And, less wasted money on the teachers who “don’t even use workbooks,” equals more money for the Executive luncheons. Apparently, no one at Dent EVER forgets to place an order to the caterer!

  • @Interested Observer Says

    Rose Locke, tell the Sequoia elementary teachers it makes no difference. What another pathethic excuse from the district–the fact is many schools still do not have the “workbooks”. Does it really matter if they are the tear-out-sheets kind of books or the textbooks. The fact is the district failed to order the correct books and is making each school suffer the consequences of having to get the appropriate copies made for each and every workbook page. When a teacher complained, she was “talked to” about taking her concerns publicly Seriously.

  • Wait a minute

    Just another example of a senion MDUSD administrator trying to downplay another one of their serious failures.

    This is a constant M.O. within the ranks of these so-called “leaders”.

    Again, in the real world, Rose Lock would be fired for incompetency.

  • Doctor J

    This is a perfect example of lack of organizational leadership: a position eliminated, and then despite division of responsibilities, no supervision on implementation of the new responsibilities. What would happen at Chevron if you made a $175,000 mistake ? Ask Sherry.

  • Dan

    It is time someone was fired for this. Given Rose Lock’s willingness to lie to perpetuate the cover-up, my vote is that she gets fired immediately.

  • Doctor J

    The buzz around the district this morning is many elementary schools are still missing math textbooks — not just workbooks — some schools as many as over 100 texts, mostly in 1st and 2nd grades. I think the workbook fiasco described above appears just to be the tip of the iceberg. August 30 to Oct 7 and still a huge amount of textbooks not provided ? Which clown is running this circus ?

  • Anon

    Uh oh!!! How will Rose Lock lie to cover up for Lawrence this time?

  • Theresa Harrington

    If a teacher files a Williams Act complaint, the district cannot ignore it.

  • Doctor J

    And Lawrence is bragging that he has an extra $7.5 million that had not been anticipated: What a hypocrite — he is overcrowding the buses at the safety expense of children and not buying them the textbooks. Penny wise and pound foolish.

  • Theresa Harrington

    The spike in funding did not go unnoticed by MDEA President Mike Langley, who mentioned it to me during Bryan Richards’ budget presentation to the board.
    Still, the district is pushing for the seven furlough days, which are already built into the budget.
    Here’s how the furloughs were calculated, according to an Aug. 23 email from Bryan Richards:
    “Projected savings from seven teacher furlough days, and a corresponding number of days based on work year of other bargaining units is $6,055,570 across all funds and resources of the District.
    With regard to the unrestricted general fund and programs receiving contributions from the unrestricted general fund the amount is $5,189,742.
    Just looking at MDEA alone, the amount across all funding sources is $4,593,167 and $4,155,838 for the unrestricted general fund and programs receiving contributions therefrom.
    Please note these are projections based on information available during budget development, the actual numbers will vary.”
    So, it looks like the unexpected $7.6 million could more than completely cover the cost of the furlough days.
    Richards told the board the $7.6 million was due to one-time special disability adjustments, mandated cost reimbursements, state fiscal stabilization funds used for salaries, and cost-savings efforts: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=4487&mtgId=308.
    In June, the board voted to reduce special education assistants, even though the superintendent and Lawrence told trustees they had already made enough cuts to certify a “positive” budget.

  • GO CHARTER!

    Then why in the hell did we just get this BS piece from Lawrence saying they’ll have to cut 600k per year when the charter opens? 7 million?? GIVE ME A BREAK! what is wrong with this guy. We never heard from him, and when we do it’s all BS , spin and retaliation.

  • Non CV Parent & Charter Supporter

    Lawrence’s letter tonight is a scare tactic specifically designed to pit parents against parents and teachers against teachers…. shame on him!

    Why are they so afraid to tell us the specific costs associated with running CV? Instead they provide district-wide averages.

    We know the loss of revenue… what is the actual savings to MDUSD by not having the CV expenses? Wouldn’t that be the other half of the equation in any financial analysis?

  • Frustrated

    No workbooks at MDE yet either. Haven’t seen a single photocopy either. We were told the district was going to have them copied for us and then changed their minds. Also heard the district wanted to charge the schools for the copy costs. So sad.

    And yes, the workbooks are used. They are more valuable than the textbook in many grades. That’s just a lame excuse as to why it’s ok to not have the books six weeks into the school year. But it’s simply NOT ok.

    Someone should have to take responsibility for this. And we are told each week that the books will be here by the end of the week. Stall tactics!

  • Theresa Harrington

    Do you have all your textbooks at MDE? If you have no copies, what are students using to do their work?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Pat Middendorf said the district has been slow to provide charter supporters with financial information. As you point out, the district has also failed to provide the public with its actual costs for running CVHS. Hopefully, it will provide the charter organizers and the public — as well as any outside agency such as the Contra Costa County Office of Education — its full cost information.

  • g

    Theresa, any word out in the open about special emergency staff meetings to decry CHCHS???

    I lifted from comments on Claycord:

    “Tired Teacher October 8, 2011 at 8:58 am
    The teachers at my site had to listen to a propaganda screed by our principal last week after he attended an “emergency” district meeting regarding the financial impact of CVCHS. He told us that the charter school would receive $1,000 per day per student and that would result in an annual $3.5M loss to the district. “Schools will be closed, schools could be moved to other sites, teachers will be bumped, employees will be laid off, we won’t be able to achieve equity for our students (he went on about this for some length, suggesting that the charter school would further discriminate against Latino students). When teachers challenged the math and explained that there were some legitimate reasons for area parents to support a charter school, the principal either angrily replied or ignored the comments. I almost felt sorry for the guy, forced to repeat what the district directed him to say. I say almost because he was so defensive and rather clueless about responding to points raised.”

    Others must be talking too.

  • Theresa Harrington

    No, I had not heard about this. However, I do know there was an elementary principal meeting Thursday morning.
    I asked Ygnacio Valley HS Principal Bill Morones about the charter and he said he did not want to comment. However, he did say that Sue Brothers is a very good principal.

  • g

    I would not consider too highly the opinion of anyone who has in any manner promised to faithfully honor and work for 5 districts in under two years…sorry!

  • Frustrated

    We do have textbooks at MDE, but no Math, Science, or Soc Studies workbooks. The teachers are doing a lot of scrambling to find ways to teach without the support materials (especially in Math). Ad a lot of our own copying from resource books that we have personally purchased.

    I just really dislike the lack of honesty from the district regarding these workbooks. We’ve heard every excuse about where they are. It’s shameful!

  • g

    Frustrated: One of the mumbo-jumbo excuses Lock made up off the top of her head was that they “are waiting for the warehouse” because they are “short warehouse staff”. Of course that wasn’t really true, but if it were true, it would just show what a shame it was that they didn’t see that coming before they let Pedersen take a dozen or so people from M&O to work for him.

  • Frustrated

    Another bad excuse from Rose Lock….the truck broke down. We heard this 6 weeks ago.

  • Doctor J

    @Frustrated, I think they laid off the truck parts order person. :-)

  • Just J

    The really sad but true part is the thinking of the District timeline. The calendar runs like this….It is the middle of October so the Holidays are here and we can’t do anything till January. In January it is we just got back from the Holiday breaks so February is the month for action. February comes around and the school year is over. Nothing gets done.

  • Doctor J

    Extra, Extra Read all about it. Original SIG Grant applications for 10/11 — here is what was supposed to happen last year — judge for yourself. http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/sw/t1/sigreg09result.asp

    CDE required “Corrective Action Plans” before it will consider year 2. Those haven’t been released to the public yet.

  • E.Murphy

    We are reaching the end of week 7 and grades 3,4, & 5 still have not received the Math and Social Studies workbooks. First grade teachers received most of their workbooks last Thursday. We hear repeatedly that the books are coming! Given the district plans for furlough days, these 7 weeks represent 20% of the instructional year.

  • Math Materials arrive 10/20!!

    Sequoia Elementary received math books today. The ‘book order coordinator’ may be gone, but that does not mean that books are NOT ordered and delivered on time. WHO is responsible and WHY had there not been official communication from the District regarding this situation? Math books were delivered on OCTOBER 20! That is not acceptable and I would like to see some consequences for those responsible. these materials are not needed give the funds to the teachers directly and they might find materials that are 1.cheaper, 2. more interesting and 3.delivered on time!