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Catholic colleges oppose federal law, arsons on Antioch campuses and school closure debate in Oakland

By Theresa Harrington
Sunday, October 16th, 2011 at 12:54 pm in Antioch school district, Education, Katy Murphy, Matt Krupnick, Mt. Diablo school district, Oakland school district, Paul Burgarino.

Although this blog typically focuses on education news in Contra Costa County with an emphasis on the Mt. Diablo school district, I would like to throw a few other regional stories out this week for discussion:

Higher education reporter Matt Krupnick reports that Bay Area Catholic colleges are joining a fight against a new federal law that requires health plans to cover birth control. They argue the law violates their rights to oppose contraception: http://www.contracostatimes.com/top-stories/ci_19123137.

Do you think Catholic colleges should comply with the law by providing contraception to students?

Antioch reporter Paul Burgarino reports that arsonists have struck two elementary schools, decimating the play structure at one and damaging the wall of a multiuse room at another: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_19121741.

“When the kids saw (the burned play structure), their faces fell,” said Lone Tree Elementary Principal Patty Ward. “You could see some of them were in tears and just asking why this happened.”

What do you think the community can do to try to prevent such incidents in the future?

Oakland schools reporter Katy Murphy reports that some members of the Oakland school board are having second thoughts about a plan to close five elementary schools to save $2 million: http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_19106686?IADID=Search-www.contracostatimes.com-www.contracostatimes.com.

This year, the Mt. Diablo school district in Contra Costa County closed one elementary school and one middle school in an attempt to save $1.5 million, along with other cost-cutting and revenue generating strategies.

Like the Mt. Diablo district, Oakland has experienced declining enrollment. Many Oakland students have also moved out of the district or transferred to charter schools that are not district-operated.

Do you believe it makes sense to close schools in districts with declining enrollment?

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  • g

    “Catholic Colleges …new federal law that requires health plans to cover birth control”

    But they sure didn’t put up a fight when the same insurance companies were told to pay for their “little blue pill”!!!

  • Number Eight

    A better question would be whether to close schools or consolidate schools? In Oakland and other districts they are consolidating middle and high schools. MDUSD has been blindly ignoring this possible solution.

    Another story came from Alameda, a small city. For relative size, the city’s total population is 73,812, only about double the number of MDUSD students. Again Alameda is one of “100 Best Communities for Young People” because of a science and technology institute and a college prep high school partnering with College of Alameda. If a smaller district can maintain this sort of school choice, then why not MDUSD? http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_19119537?IADID=Search-www.contracostatimes.com-www.contracostatimes.com

  • Theresa Harrington

    Number 8: As you probably recall, the Superintendent’s Council did suggest combining Oak Grove MS and YVHS, as well as Glenbrook and MDHS, and creating a 7-12 campus at Riverview MS in Bay Point, while making the Bay Point elementary schools K-6. But, the School Closure Committee members rejected these ideas, partially because they did not generate them.
    Now, the district is pursuing the Bay Point ideas at the direction of the board.
    Regarding Alameda, the story also says that city has a “Youth Collaborative.” I’m not sure what this is, but it sounds like it is a community group that includes city leaders and youth. This is something that is missing in MDUSD.
    MDUSD does have academies, including some that have launched the Project Lead the Way engineering program. However, these programs appear to be operating kind of in silos.
    When I was at the Digital Safari multimedia academy at MDHS last week, I noticed some similarities between what that academy does and Project Lead the Way, which is part of the school’s Architecture, Construction, Manufacturing and Engineering Academy. When I mentioned this to the teacher, he said he wasn’t familiar with Project Lead the Way.
    Better collaboration between successful programs could help elevate the level of education in the district and create synergy. However, there doesn’t seem to be anyone charged with doing this.
    It will be interesting to see how Denise Rugani’s replacement(s) tackle the many challenges the district’s middle and high schools face.

  • g

    Number eight:

    Why did we allow the MDUSD to spend many, many millions of dollars to “tear down and REPLACE aging portables” at most schools over the last eight years when we knew the student population was dwindling. Now, the plan is to make that same mistake at the rest of the schools, all while considering the possibility of closing even more schools due to declining enrollment.

    Why did they replace portables at Glenbrook and Mt. Diablo at the EXACT same time they were putting us in debt for $11 million for just 11 acres on the side of a hill. $1 million dollars an acre planning to build a new school in Bay Point to cut back on busing over the hill.

    The million$ spent on maintaining or increasing the “portable” capacity of just Holbrook, Glenbrook and Mt.D schools could have flat out paid cash for that property! Or it could have been the financial foundation to build the new school in Bay Point/Pittsburg and those three Concord schools would still be adequate size to have housed their local populations.

    On the Closure Committee, the ONLY representation for the MT Diablo feeder pattern ALL came from Bay Point area schools, and at least one of those was also on the Measure C Oversight committee (and is again).

    Wasted Measure C, Prop 55, and Deferred Maintenance Funds!

    They could merge K-8 or at least send 6th back to neighborhood elementary and merge 7-12 at their neighborhood high school. There were all sorts of ways to avoid closing a neighborhood elementary school. The decision makers just refused to look at all the possibilities because alternatives would affect “their schools”. Most of us grew up where we had to travel to get to middle or high school; but we all grew up with our elementary school just a few blocks away. What ever happened to that concept?

    At Holbrook, you have a neighborhood that will not, cannot, has no place to grow in size, but was one of the last schools worked on with the last Measure C. They replaced the portable buildings that housed 8 classrooms and built an additional building to house another Kindergarten classroom all the while knowing that the student population was not only dwindling, but would likely never grow larger than what it was originally built to house. Roughly $5 million of the $5.5 million total spent at Holbrook was for those new portables.

    There will be small fluxuations of need, but we are not likely to have another “baby boom” of the 40s and 50s. Right when the “boomer’s” kids hit the schools in the 70s and 80s the District somehow saw fit to close Williams Elementary (which was only about 20 years old) and Hillcrest elementary (both also in North Concord), and added portables to Holbrook and Sun Terrace. So, it was necessary and a reasonable alternative since they were “relatively” close to those closed neighborhood schools, but in 2005, if the need was no longer there, those portables should have just been removed-period. Then the whole concept of “the school could hold 600 kids but only has 400″ would not be an issue.

  • g

    Theresa, the District was supposed to interview this past week for the new 2002 Measure C Oversight committee. Can you find out how that went? Did they get enough sign-ups?

  • Number Eight

    Theresa #3, I heard at the time that the School Closure Committee was told it wouldn’t work for some reason. I have been curious why the idea was rejected and/or why it wouldn’t work. That seemed to be part of the failure of the process that Cheryl brought up.

    G#4, I agree. What a waste!

  • Theresa Harrington

    I attended the School Closure Advisory Committee meeting where Rose Lock and Bryan Richards unveiled the combination middle-high school idea.
    As far as I recall, no one said it wouldn’t work. But some committee members raised objections to it.
    One mom said she wouldn’t want her sixth-grader to be on a campus with high school students.
    Some committee members said they didn’t realize they could think out of the box about reconfiguring schools, while others said they did think that was within their parameters, but they had decided against it.
    One person questioned the message that might be sent to the community if only schools in the poorer areas of the district were consolidated. That person seemed to believe it should be all or none.
    However, the consultants did acknowledge that there was capacity at YVHS for Oak Grove MS and at MDHS for Glenbrook students.
    They weren’t sure if Riverview could accommodate a 6-12 population, which is why the idea of converting the elementary schools to K-6 came up.
    Basically, it seemed like some committee members felt the idea came out of left field at the last minute and they sort of resented the fact that it seemed like the superintendent’s council was rejecting all the work they had done by coming up with a completely different proposal.

  • Number Eight

    It was government by committee at its worst. The result was closing a high-performing school, losing SIG money, and charging low-income families for overcrowded buses. Given a choice in MDUSD they will choose the worst one!

  • Doctor J

    @TH#7, I recall that when Lawrence was hired, and perhaps before he even showed up, he floated the idea of reconfiguring the the grade groupings very early on — but he got sidetracked by Measure C. I don’t recall if it was mentioned in a blog or an article. So I take the last minute mention of grade reconfiguration by the Supts Council was an act to control the committee and Rose Lock and Byran Richards were his mouthpieces.