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MDUSD board to discuss Clayton Valley HS charter petition Tuesday

By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, October 8th, 2011 at 7:08 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

At Mt. Diablo district Trustee Cheryl Hansen’s request, the school board expects to discuss the Clayton Valley High charter petition Tuesday.

Hansen made the request Sept. 27, after the board heard public comments from the following charter supporters: Clayton Mayor David Shuey, Clayton Councilman Joe Medrano, CVHS teacher Neil McChesney, and CVHS students Sara Kommer and Clayton Martin.

Below are links to videotaped portions of some of the comments. Unfortunately, I was only able to record a couple segments of Shuey’s comments and I missed McChesney’s.

Here’s part 1 of Shuey’s comments:
Here’s part 2:

Here are Medrano’s comments:

Although some in the community have said the charter petition isn’t innovative enough, Kommer showed her ability to “think out of the box” with this creative appeal to trustees:

Martin’s approach, on the other hand, was more traditional:

Trustee Cheryl Hansen announced that she wanted to place the Clayton Valley HS charter petition on the Oct. 11 agenda:

Here is what appears on the Tuesday agenda:

Item 13.2:
Subject: 13.2 Review of and update on the Clayton Valley Charter High School organizer’s efforts to meet the requirements for approval indicated in the Board’s September 13, 2011 Resolution approving, with conditions, the establishment of the Clayton Valley Charter High School

Summary: Review of the status of conditions required of the charter school petitioners. Staff will report on the meetings that have been held between September 13 – October 11, among the Board, district representatives and the charter school.”

This is an information item only, not slated for a vote.

Item 13.3
Subject: 13.3 Motion to rescind the Board’s action of September 13, 2011 entitled, ‘Resolution of the Governing Board of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Granting, With Conditions, the Charter for the Establishment of the Clayton Valley Charter High School’

Summary: Vote to rescind the Board’s action on the charter school approval, with conditions, which occurred on September 13, 2011.

Recommendation: Staff recommends not rescinding the Board action of September 13, 2011 that approved the establishment of the Clayton Valley Charter High School with conditions.”

There are no additional reports or documents outlining progress on the conditions or the reasons for staff’s recommendations. It’s unclear whether any PowerPoint presentations will be added later.

Here is a link to the Sept. 13 resolution approved by the board:

Shortly after this agenda was posted, Superintendent Steven Lawrence sent out the following message to the community (which is not yet posted on the district’s website):

“Mt. Diablo USD News Update
Where Kids Come First
October 7, 2011



Under State law, the Board cannot consider the financial impact of a charter on the District when considering whether to approve or deny a charter school. Now that the charter has been conditionally approved, the District must determine the impending on-going financial impact. The information below was not part of the Board deliberation on the charter petition, but it now must be considered as part of the Board’s fiduciary responsibility to maintain fiscal solvency and educational programs for all District students. The fiscal impact must be included in the 2011-12 First Interim financial report in December.

Per Student Funding

1. Not all school districts are funded at the same rate. Unified school districts receive less funding per pupil than high school districts under California’s funding formula. Educational programs generally become more costly as students’ progress through the grades. (As explained below, however, our district is atypical regarding the cost to run an average elementary versus middle/high school).

2. Our district receives the unified school district per pupil funding amount of $5,207 per student. By contrast, a conversion charter high school would receive the average amount for high school districts which is $6,148.

3. Our district, not the state, will be responsible for paying the conversion charter the $941[1] per student difference between the unified rate and the high school rate. Payment will come from the funds generated by all other students in our district.

4. Under AB 114, which was part of the 2011-12 budget adopted by the state in July, 2011, districts must transfer additional funds to new charters at the rate of $127 per student out of their state categorical funds. Our district is using most of these funds to balance our budget including keeping people employed and maintaining programs.

5. Consequently, one component of the charter’s cost to our District is:

$1.8 million[2] or $55 per pupil district-wide.[3]

Additional Expenses

6. Currently, the average district teacher expense including salary, statutory benefits, and health/dental benefits is:

· Elementary: $78,748

· Middle School: $71,285

· High School: $69,261

Note that our elementary teachers have more years of experience than our secondary teachers. Therefore, the district’s average elementary school teacher expense is 13.7 percent more than a high school teacher.

7. Given the variance in teacher costs, plus the impact of the State budget cuts, and the overall cost of programs, we use revenue generated from each high school to support all programs and teachers district-wide. We estimate that due to the charter conversion, our district will have to cut an additional $598,002 to offset CVHS’ contribution to the General Fund.

Total Fiscal Impact

8. Therefore, the board must plan to cut the General Fund by $2.4 million[4] or approximately $74 per pupil, beginning in 2012-13 school year when CVCHS opens. This will need to be an on-going, not one time, reduction.

9. School Services of California (a leading school finance authority) analyzed and verified the calculations above. Our District finance team is willing to partner with the charter organizers to bring in the Contra Costa County Office of Education or Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), both unbiased outside organizations respected for their financial analysis ability, to conduct another review of the above calculations.


1. When CVHS converts to a charter school, any CVHS teacher or classified support staff member who wants to remain a District employee has the right to do so. The state’s contractual ‘bumping’ process will displace more junior teachers and support staff members district-wide to ensure the district absorbs the more senior staff members from CVHS who intend to remain employed by the district. A teacher’s ‘bumping rights’ will be determined by his/her years of experience and credentials. A classified support staff member’s “bumping rights” are determined by job classification and hours of service. This ‘bumping’ will impact a majority of our schools.

2. Before March 15, 2012, we will create ‘bumping’ lists and issue layoff notices to the least senior teachers throughout the District. We will need to go through the same process for classified support staff members by April 30, 2012.

3. Teachers and support staff members at CVHS need not notify us until June 30, 2012, whether they will remain with the District. The timing will make it difficult to retain teachers who receive a layoff notice and are uncertain about their District employment. We continue to ask the charter organizers and our CVHS faculty and staff members to provide the District with as much notice as possible. Early notification will allow our district and CVCHS to adequately staff and plan for the students. We ask for professional courtesy and integrity in this matter.


1. Our district must redraw the high school attendance boundaries to create a home school for students who currently attend CVHS and wish to attend a district high school.

2. Based on space availability, students who are removed from or leave CVCHS will have the right to attend the high school in their attendance boundary.


[1] $6,148 – $5,207 = $941

[2] $1,792,960 is the total amount lost because of the $941 difference and the $127 per student loss in revenue.

[3] In a May 2011, News Update, we explained the above facts, but did not know about the additional reduction of $127 from districts’ categorical funding to new charter schools.

[4]$1,792,960 + $598,002 = $2,390,962″

Here is a response from the charter steering committee, which I received today:

“Oct. 8, 2011
Response from Steering Committee:

The Clayton Valley Charter High School Steering Committee is shocked and disappointed at the latest action of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District superintendent. This clearly undermines the previous public statements of both the district staff and board that they wish to work in a collegial manner with the charter steering committee. Both the timing of the superintendent’s ‘News Update’ and the content make it clear that the superintendent has no interest in working with the charter.

Following the Board’s de-facto denial of the charter petition under the guise of an ‘approval with conditions,’ the charter group moved forward in good faith efforts to meet and confer with district staff to respond to and reach agreement on the 56 conditions. There have been two meetings with staff and a multitude of emails back and forth between both parties. In fact, the charter has been appreciative of the efforts of staff, particularly Deb Cooksey, Rose Locke, Julie Braun-Martin, and Felicia StuckeySmith, and felt that both sides were working in good faith toward a mutually agreeable resolution of the conditions. Our last meeting was on Thursday, October 8, 2011, one day before the superintendent’s update was sent out to all parents in the district. At no point during our meeting with staff or at any other time were we informed the district, or at least the superintendent, was working on a separate track aimed at publicly undermining the good faith meet and confer process going on with staff. However, the superintendent did choose to meet with district principals during the week to share this information. In point of fact, the superintendent has never been involved in direct communication with the charter steering committee since the petition was submitted.

Following the release of an earlier and very similar ‘update‘ from the superintendent on August 26th, informal discussions were initiated between the charter steering committee and the board after the issue went viral in the media. It was our informal understanding that an effort would be made on both sides to work more closely together so as not to engage in one-sided, potentially misleading information being disseminated. Clearly, this is not the case for the district and so the charter steering committee is once again forced to respond to propaganda when we would rather concentrate on continued progress toward resolution.

As the ‘update’ was provided to everyone, including the charter, after 6 p.m. on Friday night, we are working to review and respond to the claimed facts and impact.

We hope to have a comprehensive response by the board meeting on Oct. 11, 2011. However, in the interim, we have the following thoughts and comments:

1. What is the purpose of this public ‘update’ if the board cannot consider this in its denial or approval of the petition?

2. Where in the update is there listed any data or foundation for the savings the district will incur as a result of not having to pay for the expenditures of running Clayton Valley? Remember, the district’s own staff report previously estimated the district would save approximately $1.7 million from closing CV. What is the actual per ADA cost of operating the school and and why won’t the district disclose this figure?

3. What data was given to School Services for their review? Did they get information or were they asked to verify the cost savings? Why did the district choose not to share the fact that they were hiring an outside source to review the charter financials at any time before the staff recommendation?

4. Why did the district not partner with the Charter to ensure that this was a ‘fair’ assessment that included cost savings before making it public? Why does the district continually and deliberately refuse to work with the charter steering committee? It is extremely difficult to interpret these consistent tactics as anything but underhanded and nefarious.

5. Why, despite repeated requests by the charter for financial information dating back to April of this year, including the costs to run CV (and therefore the potential savings to the district should it not be responsible for those costs), has the district not provided that information even today?

6. Why, if ‘Educational programs generally become more costly as students’ progress through the grades’ has the district apparently continually underfunded ALL high schools from the average daily attendance rate the state indicates should be given for students in high school? Doesn’t this point to historical and continued fiscal mismanagement and misappropriation by the district?

7. If the district and state recognize the district is underfunding ALL high schools in the district, why do not other high schools in the district demand proper funding or request their own charter?

8. Why would the country and the state have written charter legislation and encouraged charter schools if doing so would devastate existing districts? Similarly, why have so many conversion charters throughout the state been approved and successfully operated, collaborated with and positively impacted their districts? Is MDUSD doing something different such that it would be the only district to suffer from a charter and, if so, isn’t that more a condemnation of the district’s management?

9. Why has Superintendent Lawrence never met or communicated with the charter since the petition?

10. Why does MDUSD use an archaic account code structure that is out of compliance with the rest of the state of California? Is it so it can massage the numbers to suit its purpose? The district’s own financial records are constantly in question and fiscal solvency seems to be teetering on the brink; perhaps the public deserves a closer look at MDUSD’s books.

We will be making a formal request that the superintendent share any information that we provide regarding the district claims to every MDUSD family, just as the current ‘update’ was disseminated. In the interest of unprejudiced truth, this seems a fair proposition. We urge anyone interested to come to the Board meeting on October 11, 2011 and ask the board to answer these and other questions. Please pass this information on to those who want to hear from both sides of this issue and please see our Facebook page or website ( for further information.

Clayton Valley Charter High School Steering Committee”

I spoke to Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh on Friday about the Tuesday agenda items. Here’s what she said:

“My position is the board voted 5-0 to continue a certain path,” she said. “That’s the way the board felt at the time and if Ms. Hansen has changed her mind, she’s free to make the motion and the rest of the board will decide if they want to agree with her or agree with staff’s recommendation. My understanding is it’s only a motion to rescind. There is no other motion that can be made.”

However, Whitmarsh said Hansen could continue to place the charter on future agendas, if she desires.

“She could be putting it on an agenda every week, if she chose,” Whitmarsh said. “It’s her prerogative.”

Whitmarsh, who hadn’t yet seen the agenda, said she would wait to see what the staff report said about progress made before deciding how to proceed.

“There has been nothing so far that would change my mind,” she said. “The board voted 5-0. In my opinion, the board has never gone back to rescind something that the board all supported as a 5-0 vote. It’s interesting that here’s a board member who voted with the entire board and now wants to rescind the motion.”

Trustee Cheryl Hansen left me the following voice mail message today about her expectations for Tuesday:

“I think it’s time that we do the right thing with the charter school petitioners. I think they’ve acted in good faith with very serious intention and commitment and my goal is to kind of correct what I see as a vote that was not a good way to go.

My view of this whole thing is that we need to respect them enough to give them an up or down vote — meaning an approve or deny vote — and the only way to get to that and make it right again is to actually rescind the original vote.

So that is why I had mentioned at the last board meeting that my intention on Tuesday is to get an update on what’s been going on with these meetings, which I had no real knowledge of — and that’s part of what I’ll bring up Tuesday night — what in the world’s been going on behind the scenes with these meetings with the charter school?

I think things need to happen out in the open, which is why I had suggested a couple of times that we have a board charter school study session, because I think things are much more trustworthy when they happen out in the open with the public’s opportunity to participate and listen.

So, my goal is to try to rescind the vote and then hopefully move onto an up or down approve or deny vote. And my vote would, of course, be to approve without conditions.”

Bryan Richards, the district’s chief financial officer, reported at the last board meeting that the district had an unrestricted “undesignated fund balance” of $30.8 million, which was $7.6 million more than anticipated.

Do you think the board should rescind its original vote?

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