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CVHS charter conversion could be close to approval

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, October 14th, 2011 at 6:59 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Despite frustrations expressed during the past month by those who are pushing to convert Clayton Valley High School to a charter, a new sense of optimism is beginning to emerge.

Clayton Mayor David Shuey told me he sent an e-mail to Mt. Diablo school board President Gary Eberhart and Superintendent Steven Lawrence today, saying he was encouraged by the overall tenor and outcome of Tuesday’s board meeting.

“It was nice to actually hear some real discussion from the board on the issue,” he wrote. “As you know, we have submitted all of our responses to the conditions to staff on Wednesday and I believe we have a meeting with staff on Tuesday to go over any further concerns. While damage has been done to the relationship between Clayton and the district, if on October 25 this issue can be resolved one way or the other without further delay, I am hopeful that we can rebuild that relationship and move forward in a collaborative and mutually beneficial way.”

I also spoke to Trustees Linda Mayo and Cheryl Hansen today about the status of the petition and conditions of approval.

Mayo said she has based her previous votes on staff reports, not the possible financial impacts of the charter conversion on the district.

She clarified this in the following email:

“Since I did not have any advance information on the financial impact to the district and because I know that the fiscal impact cannot be used to deny the charter, therefore on September 13 I made my decision based on staff’s written and oral evaluation of the submitted application.

On October 11, I made my decision to sustain the action taken on September 13, because I believe there are still items that can be clarified and are important to Clayton Valley students and MDUSD students alike. One example is this: the application indicates the lottery priority for students: 1) current students and siblings, 2) students residing in the CVHS attendance area, 3) students from any other area. This has now been clarified to include #3) MDUSD students.

It’s my understanding that the applicants have submitted many documents after business hours on Thursday, October 13. I have stated previously and again on October 11, that I would consider the approval of the charter prior to February pending the evaluation and recommendation by staff.

My comments (on Oct. 11) in regard to the fiscal impact of the charter were to advise those present and the community that it is practice in MDUSD, when a board approved item affects the budget, the revenue/expense is included in the budget documents as soon as possible. For an amount this large, and knowing that there are only seven meetings remaining until March 15, MDUSD must begin to inform the community of the budget reduction potential, commence dialogue and determine where reductions can be implemented.”

Mayo said that her understanding is that the lottery now has a four-tier priority system, with MDUSD students getting preference over those outside the district.

“Since the voters and taxpayers in the MDUSD have funded that facility, I think that district students should have a higher priority,” she said. “It’s my understanding an MOU has been signed. That’s an example of an important elment that I think is worth sustaining the effort to go through the process.”

Hansen said she hopes to vote to give final approval to the charter Oct. 25, either by agreeing the petitioners have met the conditions or by eliminating some conditions that may not be possible to meet entirely this early in the planning stage.

“My goal is not to wait until February,” she said, “because dragging this out is not doing anybody any good at all.”

Neil McChesney, one of the teachers leading the effort, said the steering committee hopes to answer staff’s questions during their meeting Tuesday, to clear the way for an Oct. 25 approval.

“The end result is we want a positive staff recommendation that we’ve met all the conditions,” he said. “So far, we’ve made progress and I’m going to cross my fingers.”

Do you think both parties are moving forward in a collaborative and mutually beneficial way?

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106 Responses to “CVHS charter conversion could be close to approval”

  1. Wendy Lack Says:

    It certainly appears the charter process can be quite complicated and requires some modicum of faith in the charter proponents’ intentions and commitment (indeed, we all know that not everything can be reduced to legal language on a piece of paper — real life isn’t like that).

    There is evidence that the path to charter schools is not smooth, easy or without controversy. Take, for example, this story about different perspectives on the admission of students from “founding families” — what is considered to be only right and proper to one person can be viewed as bribery and favoritism to another:

    Godspeed to CVHS charter proponents. The effort will be worth it — pursuing innovation, change and building great things is never easy. You just happened to be on the “bleeding edge” in this District . . . forging the way for others to follow.

  2. g Says:

    It sounds like the committee is making progress. I do wish Ms Mayo would step out of the box though and do some reading and thinking and decision making for herself.

    They pay staff a lot for their opinion, but there is always the fear that Lawrence will do just as he did with the school closure committee and study, and ignore some very important parts of it, and push them to “do it his way”.

    She says financing is not considered, but then says she must consider it looking forward…? I’m very disappointed in her right now.

    It would have been nice to be able to read that actual staff reports that she used to make her decision on 10/11.

    Theresa, will you be at the staff meeting Tuesday?

  3. Wait a Minute Says:

    If this is true then that would be a good thing.

    The problem is that Stevie Lawrence is infamous for dishonesty and bullying of staff to support his decisions.

    Whatever financial numbers that he gives will reflect this.

    In any case, it is ILLEGAL for the BOE to even consider fiscal impact.

    There is now so much evidence of fiscal impact being the main criteria for denial that any legal action against the district would be a slam-dunk, albeit at a cost in time and money.

  4. Doctor J Says:

    @G#2 I am not aware of any staff reports for the Oct 11 meeting — which was surprising since apparently there were a lot a joint charter/district meetings where clarifications and understandings were reach. So how could the board evaluate each of the 56 conditions without an updated report ? Besides, I have never seen Linda question a staff report — she accepts them without critical thinking. I do believe that the Supt always put HIS SPIN on them. As for the finances, the ONLY finance numbers that are critical to the future district operations are the ACTUAL not estimated averages of the the operation of CVHS. Lawrence continues now for six months to hide the ball on these numbers and the Board is not demanding the TRUTH of the actual costs. Tell us the TRUTH ! Lawrence you took the Rotary oath to obey the Rotary Four Way Test. The truth please.

  5. Wendy Lack Says:

    Is Tuesday’s meeting between District officials and Charter Petitioners open to the public and, if so, what is its time and location?

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It’s from 4-6 p.m., but I don’t believe it’s open to the public. However, I’ll ask.

  7. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I was also surprised there was no written staff report or Powerpoint. There was no written basis for the recommendation not to rescind the previous motion.
    In most public agencies, a staff recommendation is accompanied by some sort of written staff report with findings that support the recommendation.

  8. Doctor J Says:

    @TH, but then staff would have to report in writing there has been “progress”, “clarification of conditions” and agreements to modify. It would give more momentum to the charter supporters. It won’t surprise me that Gary attempts to limit discussion next meeting, and won’t vote individually on each of the 56 conditions. He’s been in 17 years and he is no surprise to the CCC Board of Education. They won’t be happy in having to review 56 conditions, many of which they know MDUSD can’t even meet as to its own schools.

  9. g Says:

    So, just as she said; Linda Mayo’s reason for voting “NO” was based on a one liner — “Staff recommends not rescinding…” Very poor representation by an elected official.

  10. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe Mayo was also basing her vote on whatever oral report was made.
    I’m not sure how she found out about the change in the lottery. Was that part of the oral report? If not, she may be getting information from staff outside of the board meetings.
    The problem with this is that information that is not disclosed during board meetings is not available to the public and may not even be made available to all trustees. That is why written reports are important — so everyone has the same information.
    McChesney said staff has agreed to amend some of the conditions. But, he said the board must ultimately decide to do that, so he’s hoping the changes that have already been agreed to during the private meetings will be recommended to the board for approval.

  11. g Says:

    In discussing her vote in Sept., Mayo also said in your report, “Since I did not have any advance information on the financial impact to the district…”. Well, gee whiz, didn’t she bother to read the Supt’s first Charter Message on 5/26? How about Gary on the Blogs doing a woe-is-me about having to take money from all the other poor little kids in the District to make up for what CV will cost?

    Sorry Board folks, it’s hard to un-spill that milk!

  12. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have heard that Mayo doesn’t read blogs.
    However, the superintendent did release three news updates regarding the charter’s financial impact on the district before the Sept. 13 meeting:
    May 20:
    May 26:
    and Aug. 26:

  13. g Says:

    Yes, he’s certainly made it clear money was his top concern from day one. I wish I had saved a copy of Gary’s rant about having to take the money from CVHS’s “feeder pattern” on his Blog, but at least a lot of us remember it.

  14. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Eberhart told me the idea of possibly taking money away from schools in the CVHS feeder pattern was suggested to him by a parent in the district. He said he was not personally suggesting it, he was just posting it for discussion on his blog.

  15. WHOA! Says:

    I just think they’ve clearly run themselves into a corner. Mayo is talking out of both sides or her mouth, and it is clear the financial impact has been, will be and always was a consideration. 3 news releases, I remember them all. Gary’s rant and the subsequent discussions. Someone saved that, or it will be available on subpoena. There is no way they can deny this charter and not get into hot water. They’ve broken the laws at every corner on this one.

  16. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In looking back at comments on my past blogs, I found this from Linda on May 21:

    Linda Says:
    May 21st, 2011 at 1:40 pm e
    From Gary Eberhart this morning on the MDUSD Blog”
    “For instance, should we spread the loss of $1.651 million district wide or since it’s the CVHS feeder pattern that seems to be interested in a charter, should we limit the reductions to only the CVHS feeder pattern? I’m sure that schools in Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek don’t feel that they should lose positions in their schools so that CVHS can have a charter school.”

  17. Doctor J Says:

    Gary may have taken his blog down in response to the Grand Jury investigation, but there are many instances of quotes from it still available like Theresa quoted from Linda. The fact is that the Board did such a horrible job with the school closure fiasco because they did not start a year earlier+, shooting from the hip like drunken cowboys, that they realize they now need to go back, take a look at all feeder patterns, and take a look at all school closure options once again because they did not do the hard work before. Instead, they have just wasted six months imposing 56 unreasonable conditions on the charter that many of their own schools do not and cannot meet. If they had spent the last six months in cooperative dialog with the charter, and beginning to plan for realignment and possible new school closures, that would have been in the best interests of the children. Instead, they let their egos interfere with their best judgment, and now the district is once again behind the 8 ball and as John Wayne said: Daylight is burning.

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    So far, the board has only agreed to study the Bay Point school feeder pattern.
    Trustee Cheryl Hansen said she would like to study all feeder patterns in the district to come up with a cohesive districtwide plan.

  19. g Says:

    Dr. J.: Do you think he took the Blog down because of the GJ inquiry? I’m thinking it was when he realized his error in foolishly writing to complain about the CCTimes report, and about how “the District” had been looking into solar for about 5 years, and in the Spring of 2009 had put out an RFQ, and how all the Buttercupgate stuff was really all “open meetings” and on and on about Chevron advising them on getting Federal funds? That one I DID keep in case someone wants to open an inquiry about that mysterious RFQ that’s nowhere to be found, and Chevron’s signature on those Federal Applications.

  20. Dan Says:

    I guess Gary isn’t smart enough to know that his comments have been collected and saved by many people in many venues.

  21. Number Eight Says:

    Kudos Oakland School District board, expressing second-thoughts about their process for school closures

  22. Doctor J Says:

    @g #19. Yes. Remember his famous Sunday comment to Lynne Dennler when she suggested keeping track of communications — no you don’t want to do that, they can subpoena them.

  23. Doctor J Says:

    @TH #18 Just studying the Bay Point feeder plan without studying all the feeder plans is another example of not having a true “Strategic Plan” — Cheryl is correct that there needs to be a comprehensive study and plan. Otherwise, the Board is continually reacting to each crisis without an overall plan that would forecast many of the issues that happen and cause crisises because there is no compass to follow. I believe Gary feels that a comprehensive plan would take away his power to manage each crisis as it occurs. He thrives on crisis. Crisis hurts the students and teachers and district organization. We need stability.

  24. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Number 8: I received a press release from a group called “Stop the Injunctions Coalition,” regarding a Public Safety Summit held with the Oakland Mayor yesterday (Saturday). It says that truancy, absenteeism and school closures were also discussed:

    ” With at least five local schools including Santa Fe elementary school in North Oakland at risk of closure, the city offered no plans to make getting to school an achievable reality for youth when local schools close and simply getting to school becomes more of a challenge,” it said.

    In contrast, MDUSD did collaborate with the city and local transportation agencies to provide transportation for former Glenbrook students. However, I haven’t heard about any resolution to the “three students per seat” issue that one parent has brought up.

  25. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Doctor J #23:
    At the risk of stating the obvious, deficient planning and its concomitant reactive management style are signs of a leadership vacuum.

    Constant crisis creates chaos . . . and hopefully voters will remember that chaos is a sign of a leadership deficit, come election time.

    From reading this blog, I get the feeling that some MDUSD Board members graduated from the Thelma and Louise school of [self-destructive] management. Trouble is, they’re taking the whole District over the cliff with ’em.

  26. g Says:

    SCHOOL CLOSURES. Elementary schools are the fundamental anchors of a neighborhood. Neighborhood schools should be thought of as the base for “green” living–keeping people out of cars.

    Why is it that we allow our school system to be so omnipitant while knowing that they are both allowing and in many ways causing our inner city decay? Why don’t our City, County and every “go green” orginazation around get involved when Districts start chanting “we have to close schools” and look at neighborhood elementary schools as nothing more than money pits?

    Everyone BUT the school district knows that good neighborhood schools sell houses, and increase tax revenue.

    Too many elementary schools were built too close to each other in one Central area, but that doesn’t mean we have too many schools.

    We have too much money going to Administer the schools. Not too many people, not too many teachers, but too many people at Dent making way too much money for poor planning and poor management.

  27. Number Eight Says:

    Wendy Lack,
    You’re echoing the 2009 Grand Jury report conclusion: “The administrative and financial functions of the Mount Diablo School District have been in chaos.”

  28. Number Eight Says:

    SCHOOL CLOSURES: The Oakland article was about closing elementary schools, or exploring other alternatives such as combining middle and high schools. The latter seems to be a better policy. And follow CDE best practices by consulting cities, traffic patterns and busing requirements BEFORE you make the closure list. It’s what we call planning…

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I’ve thrown out a few other education stories for discussion in a separate post — the Oakland school closures, Antioch school arsons and Catholic college opposition to new federal law requiring distribution of contraceptives:

  30. Concerned Parent Says:


    If the District denies the CVCHS charter, but the County approves it, who is responsible for rescuing the school should it fall into finacial trouble? Would it be the District or the County? I understand that technically no other entity is responsible for its debts. But realistically 1900 students are involved and somebody will have to protect them. So if it becomes insolvent mid-year, who will step in? Would the county BOE give it money? Would MDUSD be required to step in? Would they close the school? If so what happens to the students?

  31. Theresa Harrington Says:

    My understanding is that neither the district nor the county would approve the charter in the first place if they didn’t think it would be solvent. This is part of the reason the district has placed conditions on the approval — it wants to be sure the budget is sound.
    If the charter ends up appealing to the county, the county would also want to be sure the fiscal plan is sound.
    Charter supporters say that no conversion charter has ever failed. They tout the experience of ExEd, which is projecting their finances.
    However, if the school did fail, I believe it would revert to the district. I’m not sure who would be responsible for any unpaid debt.
    I’ll try to find that out.

  32. Concerned Parent Says:

    I’m asking because all charters, including conversion charters, are facing the same financial pressures as school districts. They’re being given less money from the state and their payments are delayed. Some are projecting deficits, have employees taking furlough days, and are cutting staff and programs. Look at the converson charters in SoCal and you’ll find that they are suffering financially, too, from the state budget crisis. Some of them are teetering on the brink, just as many districts are. Yes, the teachers are correct in stating that a conversion charter hasn’t failed yet. But these are new and difficult times for all schools.

    ExEd may be handling the back office functions for CVCHS, essentially acting as their accountants, but it will be the responsability of the CVCHS governing board to make good financial decisions. ExEd will not be making the financial decisions for them. The financial plan that ExEd put together for CVCHS is only as good as the info the CV teachers gave them. As far as I can tell, they haven’t put together a detailed plan for the school, either educational or operationally. If they did, it certainly wasn’t reflected in the charter documents they posted on their website. What classes will be offered, how many teachers, what benefit plans will they use, how many campus supervisors and aides will they need, who will be doing maintence and janitorial and campus security and at what cost, athletics, additional pay for teachers for reworking curriculum or devloping summer programs, IT support, what software will replace HomeLink, attendance systems, student record systems,the cafeteria, legal costs, recruiting costs, employee training, purchasing, how many new administrative hires, copy machine costs, etc., etc., etc.

    Were the teachers able to define for ExEd how they intended to handle these matters? Without those details, how could ExEd put together a financial plan that actualy meant anything? Or did ExEd give them a generic plan instead of working with them to develop a detailed plan for CVCHS based on the concrete plans of the CV petitioners?

    My understanding of the situation from what Mayor Shuey posted on another blog is that ExEd provided this financial plan for free with the understanding that CVCHS would hire them for the first year of operation. If that is the case, they may not have been willing to devote much of their time to a “freebie”. Didn’t they state that they used average charter teachers salaries instead of using actual CVHS teacher salaries? Why? 80% of the teachers signed the petition. They should have had a good idea of what the actual CVCHS teacher salary expense would be.

    I guess I’m worried by the CV petitioners assertion that they don’t have to provide any details and the District is going beyond the law by asking for them. Mayor Shuey even held up the County’s five conditions for the Flex Academy as an example of what the District ought to be doing instead of pressing for more details. In my mind, the stakes are so much higher for CVCHS that the District would be remiss in their duties if they didn’t demand details. If the Flex Academy fails, it’s no big deal. The couple hundred students would go back to their home schooling or private schools or neighborhood schools to continue their educations, and there would be very little effect on MDUSD. But if CVCHS fails, it will imperil the education of amost 1900 students. There’s no place else for them to go. It will be a disaster for them as well as MDUSD and/or the County. Someone would have to step in and operate the school. Yet the charter petitioners don’t seem to see it that way.

    So yes, I’m worried. I’m wondering if the risk for MDUSD would be lessened if they denied the charter and let the County be the authorizing body. What happens if the charter can’t meet payroll? Would the District be forced to step in and take over the school if it fails, no matter who the authorizing body is or would the County do it? Imagine the financial chaos for whichever entity steps in.

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, the charter committee is asking families with students in grades 8-11 who are interested in attending the charter in the fall to submit an “intent to enroll” form by Oct. 28:

  34. Jim Says:

    @Concerned Parent: Those are all valid points of concern, but let’s remember that the financial condition of MDUSD is anything but assured. In fact, it is quite perilous. If the district continues down its current path, it could be taken over by the state. Then the CVCHS charter would actually be in a better position, because it would be insulated, in many respects, from the district’s financial distress. So these things cut both ways. Speaking as a parent, I would rather cast my financial lot with a community controlled school, over this particular district.

    Regarding the other conditions, the point that came across loud and clear at last Tuesday’s meeting was that many of the “conditions” being imposed on the charter could not be satisfied by a number of MDUSD schools. For example, the detailed schedules and teacher assingments that CVCHS is supposed to have ready by February for the 2012-13 year do not yet exist for the 2011-12 school year at a number of MDUSD schools — even though the school year has already started. Board member Hansen pointed this out, but others from the district readily admitted this at the meeting.

    What we have to keep in mind is that CVCHS is not being approved in a vacuum, or in some ideal world where all of the traditional schools are already terrific. On the contrary, the status quo in this district is abysmal, after years of deterioration. That is the comparison we have to keep in mind. Indeed, that is why MDUSD finds itself facing this charter conversion in the first place.

  35. Doctor J Says:

    The District administration is looking for a scapegoat to blame the financial crisis in MDUSD. The Charter is just a convenient target — but its impact will not be negative. Instead the district ought to direct its efforts to fix the SIG Cohort 1 grants, year 2, that remain in limbo because MDUSD did not keep its promises on the grant and the Corrective Action Plans still don’t meet the requirements. Now the Cohort 2 SIG applications for Meadow Homes Elementary and Oak Grove Middle are due in just four weeks. Rumors are rampant just 7 weeks into the new year that the new principals are dissatisfied with their faculties, and the faculties are dissatisfied with their new principals. Even worse is that the new principals feel they were sold a bill of goods about the support they would receive from the district administration. Hardly a mutually supportive working relationship. Heretofore, all SIG applications have been for “transformation model” but new rumors are circulating that these new principals are now supposedly plotting to do a “turnaround” model where 50% plus of the faculty is replaced. Will the principals get the support they were promised from the district ? Instead the district is trying to blame the charter for having 10% of its teachers have bumping rights — that hardly compares to two whole schools having over 50% of its teachers having bumping rights. These two new principals are going to stand up and tell the truth — they will not allow lies to be told.

  36. Anon Says:

    The district is falling to pieces right before our eyes. This would be hilarious except for all the children who are impacted.

    Lets see two longest serving board members: Eberhart and Mayo. They both need to step down and allow the other three to do what is right for our district.

  37. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon #36 — It was actually refreshing to watch Sherry at the last Board meeting when Gary was absent and not able to be the puppeteer. One thing about Linda Mayo, she has blind faith in the biased staff reports — she has never questioned one in her life. After 15 years, you would have thought she would have learned that the Board is supposed to be independent of the staff. For example, as the Grand Jury pointed out a few years ago, the General Counsel is the lawyer for the Board — instead, the Board ignores that under a ruse to give him a special raise, makes him a staff member by supervising M&O and Transportation. How can he give a legal opinion to the Board against his own poor performance ? My lawyer friends say that is a conflict of interest to the public.

  38. Wait a minute Says:

    Conflicts of interest for attorneys are grounds for a serious complaint to the State Bar on the attorney who is “compromised”.

  39. Anon Says:

    Wait a Minute #38,

    Are you saying that I can make a complaint to the State Bar against Greg Rolen?

    If that is true I am all over it.

  40. Theresa Harrington Says:

    There is some good news in the district.
    Here’s a story I wrote about an innovative “GreenBizz” program at Mt. Diablo HS that teaches students to think like Silicon Valley entrepreneurs:

  41. John Q Says:

    Anon 39,
    The State Bar wants to hear when a lawyer doesn’t inform his client. Look at MDUSD’s 2011 Grand Jury report and Greg Rolen’s response.

  42. Sue Berg Says:

    Anon, 36: I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Linda Mayo is the most conscientious, detail-oriented, responsible Board member I’ve worked with–directly over 16 years (1993-2009) in two large Bay Area school districts (Hayward and MDUSD) and, in an earlier life, as a Board member myself, and indirectly as a news reporter/editor in California and Maine.

    The primary responsibility of any Board member is to oversee a district’s financial health. Every decision, from hiring a Superintendent to assessing programs and staffing, has to be made with the district’s budget in mind. And, by law, that budget must be balanced.

    Some on this blog have criticized Linda for daring to say that she needs to see the resulting financial impact on the whole MDUSD if and when CVHS becomes independent. Yes, she cannot base her decision regarding the charter on finances, but she certainly needs to ask how the district will meet its financial obligations to all the other schools and programs without the revenue (and expenses) related to CVHS. No responsible Board member can make a decision about a single school in a vacuum. It would not be “right for the district,” which serves students and families of varying needs and demands throughout Contra Costa County.

    Linda Mayo has always represented MDUSD as a whole. She visits schools regularly, serves on several committees and attends others, talks to staff, and asks a myriad of questions. She’s also been actively involved in the state PTA for about 20 years and regularly attends workshops on the state budget and assorted education issues. The MDUSD community has been fortunate to have a Board member as dedicated and knowledgeable as Linda Mayo responding to its financial and educational needs.

  43. Sue Berg Says:

    Dr J, 37: Your statement about Linda Mayo’s never questioning a staff report is so untrue, it’s downright laughable. You may disagree with the conclusions she reaches or some of the votes she makes, but I (and lots of others, including the two superintendents–McHenry and Nicoll–I worked for) can attest to receiving frequent phone calls and e-mails from her with questions on all manner of subjects, both in response to concerns she receives from constituents and based on her own research of the issues. Linda Mayo is not and has never been the rubber stamp you imply her to be.

  44. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As I recall, Mayo voted against lowering the graduation requirements (recommended by Lawrence).
    I believe she also voted against raises for five administrators, as well as against extending the contracts of top administrators right before Lawrence came on board (these were recommended by former interim Superintendent Dick Nicoll.)

  45. Doctor J Says:

    @Sue #43 — She never publicly questions the staff report.
    @Sue #42 — Lets get real; for 15 years she “needs” an Ass’t Supt to walk her through the schools ? Maybe the first year, but after that she is perfectly capable of doing it.

    The fact is that her policies for the last 15 years have led to SIX of the worst performing schools in the State of California, which compromise ONE-THIRD of the worst performing schools identified in Alameda and CC County — worse than any other school district. Isn’t she responsible for those educational policies that let that happen ? Worse than Oakland — Worse than any other district in the East Bay. So she has been active in the local and state PTA’s — that didn’t prevent SIX of our schools and NOW our District from being named as a Program Improvement District. Or prevent MDUSD from being cited as being disproportionate and inequitable in its delivery of educational services to the children. SHE hired each of these Superintendents for the last 15 years.
    She blindly supported Measure C in 2010 — without a care about the financial impact on the taxpayers. Who does she represent as a Trustee ? SHE has allowed the fiscal balance between secondary and elementary to get out of balance so that the district has to rob Peter [the high schools] to pay Paul [the elementary schools]. I have never accused her of dishonesty — just naivity. Just take a look at the 15 year track record of MDUSD that corresponds with Linda Mayo’s tenure on the Board — and then ask yourself, are we better off than we were 15 years ago ? How under her leadership did we end up with SIX of the worst schools in the State, and TEN schools plus the District on Program Improvement ? She voted with the majority 99% of the time.

  46. Number Eight Says:

    Sounds like Linda Mayo has all this wonderful PTA knowledge that she’s not sharing here in MDUSD…

    It could actually have helped our MDUSD children if Linda Mayo had in all these years organized the district PTA’s as Las Trampas Council has done. Instead, last I knew the district PTA’s are not organized, and no one even has contact information for all of them. That list of PTA contacts should be front and center on the district web site. No wonder MDUSD can’t pass a parcel tax!

    THAT would’ve actually helped our children…

  47. Wait a Minute Says:

    While I would never question Linda’s good intentions, I think its accurate to say that her 15 yr record here doesn’t match her rhetoric or her good intentions.

  48. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Number 8: Pete Pedersen told the Bond Oversight Committee that he would love to have a list of district PTA contacts that he could disseminate solar project information to. Yet, even he didn’t seem to be able to get hold of such a list.
    The board occasionally receives reports from Mona Ricard, who is the PTA rep for the district. She lets trustees know about PTA activities such as a recent art contest. I’m not sure if she has a list of every school PTA or PFC contact in the district.
    Also, the Parent Advisory Council appears to include many involved parents.

  49. Wendy Lack Says:

    At tonight’s Pleasant Hill Education Commission, Supt. Steven Lawrence stated that, pursuant to state charter school laws, the CVHS charter school will receive more general fund dollars per pupil than the District receives for its other high schools. This provides an opportunity for parents and teachers from the other District high schools to listen and learn from the CVHS charter process, given that the funding disparity incentivizes other schools’ pursuit of the charter option (in addition to other charter benefits that allow for more streamlined operations and local control, etc. — basically all of the things that District’s schools are clamoring for).

    Lawrence also clarified that the primary reason that charter schools fail financially is due to miscalculation of enrollment, as has happened with some start-up new charter schools in CA that overestimated enrollment projections.

    The CVHS charter has little realistic chance of financial failure (short of some inconceivably monumental screw up!) because realistic ADA figures can be projected since it’s an existing school. Thus Lawrence estimated the odds of the CVHS charter school’s financial failure as infinitesimal.

  50. Wendy Lack Says:

    @Post #27 by Number Eight:

    Were the Grand Jury’s recommendations implemented regarding competitively bidding some administrative services (e.g., payroll) in order to reduce overhead costs)? It appears not . . . ?

    And what about the District’s labor agreements (which have all expired, it appears)? What, if any, efforts is the District making to streamline the labor contracts to eliminate red tape that is preventing schools from responding to the unique needs at each school site?

    The District may choose to fight the CVHS charter petition and play the part of Chicken Little spreading fear among District parents about the charter’s alleged financial impact on the overall District budget (which only amounts to ~1% of the total budget, if you believe the District’s own numbers). But such a fight is kind of like a Chinese finger trap . . . the harder the District fights, the more stuck they become in the problem of their own making.

    The widespread dissatisfaction with the District’s performance is what is driving interest in charter schools — and nothing else. Surely the charter proponents wouldn’t be going through all of this effort if they were perfectly satisfied with the status quo.

    How refreshing it would be for the District to look in the mirror and take control over its business practices (e.g. work rules that are impeding performance and management rights that the District shouldn’t have bargained away), in order to address the root causes that are yielding suboptimal results.

    Blaming charter proponents isn’t an effective or responsive response to the charter movement . . . improving the District’s results is.

    The more I learn about this District, the more sympathetic I am to parents and teachers that are trapped in it. What a mess.

  51. David "Shoe" Shuey Mayor of Clayton Says:

    @Wendy Lack,

    I was unable to attend the meeting last night as we had city council but would like to talk with you about it if you are able. My email is


  52. Doctor J Says:

    @Wendy #49 — If Lawrence feels the charter essentially has a great chance of success and little chance for failure, did he say or imply why the district is fighting it with such vigor ?

  53. Doctor J Says:

    @Wendy #50 — As usual, the District replied to the Grand Jury and filed it away. As for the union agreements, it appears that the Eberhart/Lawrence strategy was not to negotiate with the unions on multi-year deals and now the district is caught in its own bear trap. So will it knaw off its foot in order to save its life, or will it just continue to be stubborn and die ? For example, when the Feds and State audited the four SIG schools from Cohort 1 and found they were in non-compliance with the districts promises of what they would do for the SIG money, MDUSD was cut off from year 2 of the SIG money unless they submitted a Corrective Action Plan [CAP] — which still has not been approved by the Feds or State. The State Board of Education demanded “evidence” be submitted with the CAP, and clearly the “undisclosed” MDUSD CAP is light on evidence — only a MOU with MDEA that has NOT been approved by the Board, and neither has the CAP been approved by the Board. The keystone piece was a MOU with MDEA about daily “Increased Learning Time” and MDUSD had to pay the teachers an extra hour per day starting on the first day of school. However, the district failed to negotiate a waiver for the three remaining SIG schools [remember the Board closed one and lost a ton of SIG money doing it] for the 5 school furlough days that are in the approved budget, which will essentially destroy the increased learning time. Then there are a few other essentials that the district did not provide for in the CAP such as collaberation between teachers — that costs money too, and a few others. All of these things will kill the Year two of Cohort 1 [$10 plus million loss of revenue], and these same things will spill over into Cohort 2 for Meadow Homes and Oak Grove and they will have no chance of approval. Now the rumors are the two new principals who were appointed, the Board and district leadership thinking the schools would choose the “transformational” model, are unhappy with their faculties, and want the “turnaround” SIG model which requires 50% or more of the faculty replaced. With no agreement with MDEA and two schools having half or more of their teachers transfer out with bumping rights, you can see that the musical chairs for teachers throughout the district will be chaotic to say the least. So its not the charter that is causing the constipation at Dent, its the insatiable hunger for money. Last year, the district was able to keep the wolves away because for cash flow it was able to borrow from the Measure C funds, but this year they are being spent at rapid rates. So to save some cash flow now, Eberhart/Lawrence have invented a hold on some schools to redesign for rooftops — its sole purpose is to save cashflow which can be borrowed from Measure C funds.
    The money shell game MDUSD has been playing, and continues to play as evidenced by their disengenous response to Theresa will in the next couple of months eat them up.

  54. Anon Says:

    Anywhere people get desperate they open themselves to skirting the law.

    Are we going to see these individuals led away in handcuffs soon?

  55. g Says:

    The District is concerned about making up a relatively small amount of lost funds from a Charter?

    They really need to look inward!

    In addition to lies on the SIG applications that are going to cost far more than they will admit to, some other things really should be called up for close scrutiny.

    Number one on that list would be Federal Solar CREB Applications and subsequent spending of those funds based on falsely stating Chevron as the chosen supplier/construction co, with NO contract, and as far as we know, NO bid process. These CREBs were used to sway the public’s vote.

    Number two would be swaying the public vote for 2010 Measure C by telling the public how wonderfully the 2002 Measure C had completed SO MANY projects, when in fact only the first phase of the Master Plan was completed and a great deal of the funds used to only complete that first phase that Measure C got credit for was supplied from other Bond sources. This doesn’t even account for many million$ of “wasted” funds to replace redundant buildings.

    Even with all that, in-house construction management failed to obtain clearance and certification on many projects, which ended up costing 2010 Measure C “clean-up” monies.

    Now, what is it going to cost to go back and clean up the Districts failure to properly oversee and audit 2002s unaccounted/missing funds?

  56. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It looks like some Walnut Creek City Council members may be getting behind the idea of consolidating all schools in the city into the Walnut Creek and Acalanes school districts (by leaving MDUSD):
    Perhaps the Clayton City Council’s decision to get involved in local school issues is spreading to other cities.

  57. David "Shoe" Shuey Mayor of Clayton Says:

    @Sue Berg #42, #43

    First, let me say it is refreshing to see someone else step up and put their name out there on this blog.

    Second, I would like to talk with you also about the charter petition so if you are willing please email me at



  58. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Doctor J:

    Wow, I’m not bilingual in public-school-speak. The jargon is all Greek to me, so you lost me with some of your comments. Perhaps there needs to be a class called “CA Public School Bureaucratese 101 for Parents and Taxpayers.”

    One question I have is this:
    At the September 22, 2011 Measure C/2010 citizens’ bond oversight committee meeting, discussion took place regarding Holbrook school which the District recently closed. The discussion involved the installation of solar panels at this school, which some objected to because it seemed like wasted money to install panels on a school facility that has been closed for an indefinite period of time, isn’t leased, etc.

    I came away from that meeting with an understanding that the question re solar installation at the Holbrook school site would be submitted to the Board for reconsideration. There was concern expressed by staff about the potential complications involved with modifying the scope of the project, vis a vis bond financing complexities that I couldn’t explain if my life depended on it.

    So . . . my question is, does anyone know whether the question of solar installation at Holbrook school come before the Board yet, for its reconsideration?

    It would be interesting to see what the cost savings would be to eliminate solar at Holbrook, as compared with the District’s estimate of general fund impacts associated with the CVHS charter petition. Of course bond monies are completely different from the general fund/operations budget, but it would be interesting to make the comparison all the same.

  59. Anon Says:


    More schools trying to break free from Gary’s empire? That is not going to please him.

  60. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Dr J #52:

    Lawrence said the District isn’t “fighting the charter petition” (with or without vigor).

    So who are you going to believe? The District or your old lyin’ eyes?

  61. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Per Pete Pedersen, the district received the following in CREBs for Holbrook and Glenbrook:

    Glenbrook Middle: $1,545,600
    Holbrook: $952,000
    TOTAL: nearly $2.5 million

    I believe the district would have to return this money if it doesn’t install the solar on the closed schools.

    Pedersen told me he intended to seek direction from the superintendent/board after he finished analyzing the projected cost savings. So far, it has not come to the board and I don’t know if he’s received direction from the superintendent.

    According to the Quarterly Report, Holbrook is in the third phase of installation, scheduled to receive rooftop installation (this is to avoid putting shade structures over play areas). Construction is slated to begin Dec. 13.

  62. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I heard from our Oakland reporter that some high schools in that district are now thinking of converting.

  63. g Says:

    Wendy, whether to add solar or not at Holbrook should depend on electricity use. I notice that the electricity bill from August (Measure C staff use only) ranged $200 to $400 higher than the bills from May, June, July (full population use). So, if that is going to be the case for the next 5-7 years, the obvious answer would be yes, add solar now if there is any hope of reopening the school someday, and getting the full 20-30 years of savings from it.

    Interesting that the Pedersen’s group apparently uses more electricity for a staff of 15-20 utilizing just 4-5 rooms than the whole school did when it was open.

  64. Doctor J Says:

    @Wendy, here is a pretty good primer on the SIG Grants.

    For last school year [2010/2011 Called Cohort 1] four of the six schools eligible in MDUSD — applied because they had principals that had changed within a year. They all applied on the “transformation” model which did not affect the faculty. As you know one of those schools was voted to be closed last February.

    Last Spring, the Supt relieved the principals of the other two schools, Meadow Homes and Oak Grove, which then allowed them to apply for SIG grants for the school year 2011/2012 [Cohort 2], and those applications were done in the early summer before the new principals were hired, again under the transformation model. To everyone’s surprise, the Fed’s audited three districts under their SIG grants and the Calif Dept of Ed was very embarassed as was the State School Board. The Feds then made the state audit all 81 of the school districts that got SIG grants and only three passed. MDUSD failed miserably. So the state sent back all of the Cohort 2 application which are now due Nov 14. As for the Cohort 1, year 2 funding, it was all put on hold for 78 of 81 districts who had to submit “Corrective Action Plans” [CAPS]. They were to be ruled upon by Sept 23 but the Feds have held it up. Here is a letter from the CDE that explained the requirements of “Increased Learning Time” which MDUSD made no effort to comply with last year, and when you read the MOU with MDEA you will see that it still doesn’t comply.

    Also remember that MDUSD is supposed to be sending CDE quarterly spending reports on the SIG grants to show the money has been spent on SIG programs stuff — well the Feds are withholding the fourth payment pending the Cumulative Spending Report. Again, MDUSD is [insert your favorite vencular for heart arythmia]. Someone in the government is actually watching them now.

    Right now MDUSD is sweating financial bullets over cash flow because last year after the bond funding they were able to “borrow” from the bond funds to pay expenses, but now with those funds being paid out, and the SIG grants on hold, there could come a time soon when the cash flow won’t be there. We have seen what happens in the private sector when there is no cash flow — paychecks bounce. Could that happen at MDUSD ?

  65. Doctor J Says:

    @Wendy #60 I believe Shoe and he tells us the district has fought the charter every step of the way.

  66. Doctor J Says:

    @TH #61 Were the CREBS deposited into the General Fund or into the Measure C fund ? Isn’t that what the Measure C committee is all riled up about — whether or not the solar rebates can be deposited into the General Fund ? If they can’t, isn’t that a $2.5 million dollar hit to the General Fund ?

  67. Doctor J Says:

    @G #63 How could that possibly be ? Oh, maybe the shredder working 24/7. Ha Ha

  68. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe the CREBS are part of the Measure C fund, which is used to pay for the solar installation.
    Alicia Minyen has questioned whether the CSI rebates can be deposited into the general fund. I’m not sure when the district gets those.

  69. g Says:

    Also, Theresa or Alicia. You have copies of the CREBs applications. Did the District include Dent, Willow Creek and M&O buildings in those applications?

    On the one hand it makes sense, if you are hell-bent on adding solar, to do it wherever it might save on electricity bills throughout the District. But on the other hand, how does putting solar on those non-school facilities fall in with the rules for Measure C; class size reduction, student safety, etc.?

  70. Number Eight Says:

    TH #56, Hope springs eternal that MDUSD will do the right thing.

  71. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I don’t have copies of all of the CREBs, but I believe Dent and Willow Creek were included, since they’re among the 51 sites.
    According to the quarterly report, the Dent project is nearly $1 million over budget, with $2.1 million in committed contracts. The original budget was $1.1 million.
    Willow Creek is nearly $76,000 over budget, with $658,405 in committed contracts. The original budget was $582,719.
    Interestingly, the district decided not to install solar on the Shadelands and Sunrise special education campuses, saying it wouldn’t be cost-effective. Yet, these schools are fully operational. It’s unclear why it would make more sense to install it on Holbrook.

  72. Doctor J Says:

    @TH #71 How could Dent be $1,000,000 over budget ? Are Special Education campuses being discriminated against ? Everytime more facts come to light, its just worse and worse. Whoever is in charge, is just inept, dysfunctional, and . . . . .????? You fill in the blank.

  73. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It has committed nearly $2.1 million to contractors for Dent, but only budgeted $857,019. However, it is about $100,000 under budget on “special consultant” costs for the project.

  74. Sue Berg Says:

    G, #69, Willow Creek is a school facility. Diablo Community Day School is housed there. It is also used for all manner of trainings, including those for technology, curriculum, and professional development. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to meeting there when I haven’t seen groups of teachers and/or administrators conferencing or receiving training in several of the rooms. It’s also where teachers and other staff go to check out supplemental instructional materials. It’s a busy place that does provide support to the district’s educational program.

  75. Anon Says:

    Come on now guys, give the district a break.

    If there aren’t unexplained cost over-runs how would Pedersen and crew break bread to line their pockets?

    It is truly amazing how mob like the MDUSD is run. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it was indeed mobbed up.

  76. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Sue: I believe G is bringing up a question originally raised by Alicia Minyen regarding the use of Prop. 39 funds for solar projects on sites not used by students. Minyen says Prop. 39 is supposed to help reduce class sizes and provide other facility improvements that directly benefit students, such as science labs, replacing leaking roofs, etc.
    When I met with SunPower exec. Bill Kelly yesterday, I asked him if he knew of anyone questioning the use of Prop. 39 construction bonds for solar projects.
    He said he had never heard that objection raised before. Many districts use GO bond money to pay for solar projects, he said.
    Kelly served on the subcommittee that drafted the “Financing of High Performance Schools” portion of Tom Torlakson’s “Schools of the Future” report, which seeks to change laws to make it easier for schools to finance such such projects.

  77. Wait a Minute Says:

    TH, @73
    “special consultant” costs sounds a lot like a license to steal for this bunch.

  78. g Says:

    Thanks, Theresa. That is exactly what I am questioning. Obviously, in “some way” each of the buildings in the District benefit the schools, whether it’s maintaining database, housing Admin, repairing buses, training teachers. But Measure “C” made certain inferences/promises.

    49 solar site plans were part of the Original Bid package-(which incorporates guaranteed savings) and includes Sunrise, but does not include M&O or Willow Creek.

    Site Summary list totals 50, and includes M&O and Willow Creek, but not Sunrise/Shadelands.

    Then on that Ballot promise to the taxpayers, we have the full text of Measure C which lists every school, and every possible program–even those without an actual facility structure, but makes no mention of Dent, M&O or Willow Creek.

    I call it BS, and just a bit more District slight-of-hand against the taxpayers.

    To Mr. SunPower: Yes some, but I doubt if “many” districts may be using GO Bonds and making their grandchildren pay for it for 40 years, but then again, “many” ARE taking advantage of utility savings and guaranteed rates to pay for what they can build FOR FREE!

  79. A Clayton Valley Mom Says:

    Sue Berg, I see David Shuey, the Mayor of Clayton, is asking you to contact him about the charter school. Before you do that, I urge you to read the letter he sent to the MDUSD board regarding the principal of Northgate High School. It was posted on on October 11. The article is called “Northgate jumps into the CVCHS fight – Clayton mayor sends nasty letter to MDUSD”. It will give you some insight into his character, and you can better decide if he’s someone with whom you would want to have any contact. FYI.. he’s also a lawyer.

  80. Doctor J Says:

    @G #78 As I recall, doesn’t the law require “specifics” by listing the school and the project — so if M&O and Willow Creek were not specifically listed, doesn’t that disqualify them, and when money is spent for them some taxpayer group can sue the district and require that money come from the general fund and basically make the district insolvent ?

  81. Wendy Lack Says:

    Re #76 – TH:

    I have a strong negative reaction to the “everybody does it, nobody has raised an objection” argument. It’s a deflection from the issue, a diversion. It’s a non-responsive response to the question.

    The “everybody does it” rationale didn’t work at ENRON — and it won’t work with CA schools. The herd mentality offers a false sense of security to those who naively believe that there’s legal safety in numbers.

  82. Wendy Lack Says:

    Re #64 – Dr. J

    Thanks for the primer. I clearly need to remediate . . . and a glossary cheat-sheet would help, too!

    Thanx again.

  83. Concerned Parent Says:

    Wendy Lack said “The widespread dissatisfaction with the District’s performance is what is driving interest in charter schools — and nothing else.”

    I disagree completely with that statement, Wendy. The CVHS charter effort is a “teacher trigger” conversion. The Clayton Valley teachers leading the conversion effort made it very clear from the beginning that they were motivated by money. They saw that a charter high school got more money per student than a high school in a unified district. In their words, the extra money would “stop the downward trend of per pupil spending, employee salary decreases, benefit bleeds, and furlough days.” Unfortunately, they didn’t realize the extra money would come from the MDUSD budget. They thought it came from the state and federal governments.

    I do agree with your first statement that the path for charter schools isn’t smooth or easy. In their first public presentation, the teachers leading the CV conversion effort listed several charter schools as examples for CV to follow. One was The Academy of Alameda, a conversion charter middle school that opened just last year in Alameda. It had a very rough first year. It’s executive director quit after the school had been open only three months. The head of the governing board quit shortly after that. The head of the Alameda school district, whose wife was the PTA president, withdrew his child, as did dozens of other parents. Many of the more experienced teachers had transfered to other Alameda schools rather than lose their seniority, so many classes were taught by inexperienced teachers who had difficulty commanding a classroom. It was complete chaos, with parents complaining that the school was worse than it had been before conversion. But by the end of the year, things seemed to be settling down.

    It was surprising that the school had such a difficult year when you look at the stellar founding board. It included an Alameda county commissioner and a former schools superintendent. The conversion was wholeheartedly supported by the school board and it was a relatively small school of about 500 students. The new head of the governing board said that it was to be expected that the first year would be rough and parents had been warned that would be the case. He said opening a new school is difficult and they were lucky just to get the doors open.

  84. g Says:

    Dr J. @79: That Ballot Measure was a farce, and many of us will complain, but no one will do anything. The Oversight Committee is in charge of making sure the money is spent “as the wording of the Ballot promised”. But all they can do is report discrepancies after the fact, and what good is that?

    Like most ballot measures it was purposely vague, and the voters didn’t read between the lines. Really, the ignorant and apathetic voters trusted their School Board and agreed to be taxed for 40 years to do “facilities improvements” for things like Work Experience, Transitional Learning and Home Study, and oh yes, (“e.g. solar…”)!

  85. Doctor J Says:

    Yesterday, Lawrence “suggested” to all principals they show up at the board meeting and oppose the charter — or they weren’t on the “team” and weren’t part of a “unified district”. It was an implied threat to their jobs which he alone controls. I have this confirmation now from more than 3 principals who feel threatened. It is wrong. I believe it is illegal to do this. This completely contradicts Wendy Lack’s report of Lawrence’s prior statements. Personally, and I don’t have proof, but I believe that Lawrence is being pressured by one board member to do this. Guess who ?

  86. Anon Says:

    Dr. J. (#85),

    If what you say is true, that is definately illegal. The problem is that one of the principals is going to need to stand up and take a stand on it. Most are probably like McMorris and will simply follow instructions.

  87. g Says:

    Lawrence isn’t fighting the Charter–not much!
    Not with his hiring of Sue Brothers (whose former employer told her they would “honor her remaining contract time” by giving her an empty desk to sit at, with no job to do)– Not with his three “financial impact” Newsletters–Not with his first Principal campaign that got the McMorris-Marones Team to stand and speak against it–Not in his request to all Principals to send emails to the Board–Not with this most recent threat to the Principals. No, not much!

  88. Wait a minute Says:

    Well Dr. J,

    This REALLY serves to demonstrate how openly dishonest, disingenuous, dupicitous, bullying, manipulative, Stevie Lawrence and company are.

    Talking out of both sides of their mouths about how they are not “fighting the charter” while pulling this crap = DESPERATE.

    Meanwhile, they and their minions keep posting on the blogs here trying to cast doubts on the charter.

    Sounds like this latest antics by Lawrence and company are the basis for yet another Grand Jury complaint.
    Manipulation and pressure by at least Stevie Lawrence in pursuit of basically political goals.

    Lets get these people under oath and let the truth come out.

  89. Number Eight Says:

    Doc J #85, The principals have First Amendment rights which are being violated, and they have legal recourse if they are disciplined in any way.

  90. Anon Says:

    Doctor J, I hope you do more than talk about this on a blog and provide the full text of the email to media and the Grand Jury. STop hiding behind your anonymity and do something!

  91. Anon Says:

    Isn’t there audio available (or video) from the PH meeting that Wendy Lack talked about. Someone needs to play that at the next board meeting ! This has to stop. And Dr. J, you seem to know so much.. I just can’t believe you won’t step out of your hiding and do the right thing. There’s not much help you can be when you are anonymous – just ask the claycord guy . You’re a good gossiper, but when it comes to brass tacks making a difference, you need to step out.

  92. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Unfortunately, I didn’t know the superintendent would be at that meeting and I didn’t attend.

  93. Anon Says:

    But don’t they record their meetings?

  94. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On a completely different note: How did your school fare during the earthquake?

  95. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Concerned Parent – #83

    I was unaware of evidence that teachers supporting the CVHS charter are motivated by the prospect of higher salaries (other than community rumors to that effect). But, if this is true, you gotta figure that that’s simply rational human behavior . . . what you’d expect would be a motivator for some.

    As I understand it, the charter model may also mean that there are new work rules (old union contract rules don’t apply) and there will likely be cost-cutting concessions in other areas of compensation (e.g., benefits, pay raises, performance pay) . . . so, in a sense, it seems that teachers solely motivated by money may be in for a rude surprise of the “be careful what you wish for” variety. Obviously we’ll all have to wait and see what evolves as re teacher compensation for the CVHS Charter.

    Since charters are exempted from much of the Ed Code, isn’t that reason enough for teachers to gravitate towards supporting them? Who doesn’t want to escape regulations — some of which are unnecessary, self-defeating or have unintended consequences that don’t help kids learn — and get more funding, to boot?

  96. g Says:

    Dr J. @85: If Lawrence made even vaguely implied threats to Principals, suggesting they stand united against the Charter in order to be considered part of the “team”, can you imagine the hammer he’s holding over the very Staff he sent to supposedly dialogue and work with the Charter leaders!

  97. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On a lighter note, it looks like CVHS has some fun Alice in Wonderland-themed Homecoming week activities, in preparation for tomorrow’s big game:

  98. Just J Says:

    @WAM, Do you really think that putting these people under oath will make the truth come out?

    At the last meeting a teacher stood up and said when they first approaced Lawrence about the Charter he said to them “that can’t happen because it would make me look bad” Well Mr. Lawrence it doesn’t take a charter to make you look bad.

  99. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In case you haven’t heard, the Superintendent has alerted the community to a dangerous threat at Concord HS:

  100. Concerned Parent Says:

    Wendy Lack, Last spring I went to one of the first informational meetings the teachers held for the community. Teachers Middendorf and McChesney played the Powerpoint presentation they had put together to convince the other teachers to sign the charter petition. They didn’t hide the fact that money was the main reason for doing this. They pointed out they were taking 3 furlough days in 2010/2011 and 7 furlough days were built into the budget for the next 2 years. They pointed out that MDUSD spends 13% less per student than the average CA district and that MDUSD teachers are paid 2.9% less than state average. They felt that with the extra money the school would get from being a charter, they wouldn’t have to take the furlough days, etc. The PowerPoint is still available on the CVCHS website, if you want to watch it. It’s the presentation dated 4/19/11.

    The presentation also made clear that the teachers felt they didn’t have enough say at the school. They didn’t like the “top-down” management structure where they had to take orders from the principal and the principal had to take orders from the district. They felt that they had a much bigger say in the past. (I’m sure they did in the days before No Child Left Behind, with its tougher state standards and high stakes testing, and the relentless budget cuts.)

    Middendorf seemed to think there would be lots of money: Federal dollars, grants, parent fundraising, in addition to the extra money from the state. She started listing all the things we could do with the money: reinstate summer school, freshman summer program, add a seventh period, build a theater, etc. But the man they’d brought with them from the charter schools association jumped in to say that we needed to be realistic. We didn’t live in NJ or NY where schools were funded at 14K/student. He said it wouldn’t be all that much more money. A parent questioned whether she had a finacial plan prepared to show what was actually possible. She said no, she didn’t have any financial info yet.

    Becoming a charter doesn’t automatically alter any work rules. This is one way start-up charters are a bit different from conversion charters. Start-up charters are usually non-union. But when it’s a conversion charter, the teachers remain unionized. They just have to negotiate a contract with the Governing Board. The CV teachers have said that they plan to keep the same contract for the first year of CVCHS operation and that all current CV teachers are guaranteed a job at the charter. Unless it’s been changed since I last looked, it’s written in the charter that the teachers expect to be paid at least what MDUSD teachers are paid, but without the furlough salary cuts. I believe an earlier iteration added that they ultimately expected to be paid more than MDUSD teachers. That line might have been cut, though. I think I remembers seeing in the financial plan that they have increased the amount spent on benefits.

    The teachers got to determine the composition of the govering board when they wrote the charter, so they made it “employee friendly”. I don’t think they’re in any danger of losing any of their current job protections. Four out of nine members of the board are employees and a fifth is a retired teacher. Plus the two community members are appointed by the board. Not much chance they’ll see “pay for performance” any time soon.

    But charter schools are getting their funding cut, just as school districts are. So the governing board is going to have to start making hard decisions from the get-go. Given the composition of the governing board, I do question whether the needs of the students will be placed above the desires of the teachers. When it comes down to a question of paying more of the health insurance costs for the teachers, or using the money to benefit the students, which way will the Board go?

  101. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Concerned Parent – #100:

    Thanx for the background.

    There are many layers to this onion and I’m coming in late in the game.

  102. Anon Says:

    As an FYI, tenure is an Ed Code policy not a union contract issue. So if the charter is not subject to Ed Code there is room for change. It will all depend on how progressive the teacher led Board is and how motivated they are to raise the quality of education offered to the students. It will be interesting to see.

  103. Anthony Chippero Says:

    @Concerned Parent

    I’m curious, how would “pay for performance” work? Some students are impossible to teach due to their unwillingness to learn and being the byproduct of their parents or the way they were raised. How do you structure it so teachers do not get penalized for those students? Teaching is a bit different than managing a group of employees. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, the student either cannot or is unwilling to learn.

  104. Concerned Parent Says:

    Anon is correct. The teacher contract is subject to negotiation between the school’s governing board and the union. At that first charter informational meeting I attended, there were many questions from parents about the teacher contract. Would they be willing to get rid of tenure? Will the parents have a roll in hiring/firing teachers? Will the parents have a roll in evaluating teachers? Would they be willing to institute pay for performance? Are they going to get rid of the “bad” teachers?

    The representative from the charter schools association said that some charter schools have a “thin” contract, which makes it easier for the school to fire teachers. But none of the teachers in the meeting gave any indication that they were considering that. They remained very noncommittal about all of the contract questions.

    One of the slides in the teachers’ presentation give three options to the teachers concerning their union representation and contract. They could stay part of the same union and keep the same contract. They could stay part of the same union and negotiate a separate contract for CVCHS teachers. Or they could form a separate bargaining unit and negotiate a new contract for themselves.

    I left that meeting thinking that the teachers were going to regret the charter conversion because the parents would force major concessions in their contract. I assumed the parents would be in control of the governing board. But when the teachers created the governing board, they gave only two out of nine seats to parents. The parents didn’t even get to elect their representatives. They would be appointed by the other governing board members. (That was changed after a fuss was made about it on another blog. The parents now elect their two representatives.) The governing board contains twice as many employee representatives (four) as parent representatives, plus there is a seat for a retired teacher who will be appointed by the other board members. Employee interests are well-represented on the nine-member Board.

    The teachers have since announced that they will keep their current contract for the first year of CVCHS operation and all current CV teachers are guaranteed a job at the charter. The charter intself contains several things designed to improve the situation for teachers in addition to salary/benefit issues: more training, more collaboration time, more say in curriculum, more say in hiring fellow teachers.

    I’ve been reading about charter schools and school reform efforts in LA, where there are many charter schools, both start-up and conversions, as well as quasi-charter schools run by the school district itself. In many of those schools, teachers have “thin” contracts that allow for easier hiring/firing of teachers as well as making it much easier for the administrators to control the budget, schedules, etc. The typical “thin” teacher contract is only 75 pages versus 300 pages for a traditional contract.

    It will be interesting to see if the CVCHS teachers will be willing to give us some of their job protections in the interests of improving the school. I wonder how much research the CV teachers really did before they decided to go charter. I doubt many of them did it with the intention of negotiating a “thin” contract that made it easier to fire them, and I can’t imagine them being willing to accept such a contract.

  105. Concerned Parent Says:

    Anthony, that’s a good question about how pay for performance could work. I don’t know the answer. But I do know that most private companies pay their salaried employees based on their performance. They find a way to do it, even though employees work on different assignments under different circumstances.

    Changing the current teacher contract was certainly something many of the parents in the room wanted to see.

  106. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Superintendent Steven Lawrence says the board won’t discuss the charter Tuesday:

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