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Clayton Valley HS charter could be on verge of approval

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, October 27th, 2011 at 1:01 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

At Tuesday’s Mt. Diablo school board meeting, attorney Deb Cooksey told trustees the Clayton Valley High School charter conversion committee has met all but one condition — the financial plan. CFO Bryan Richards is still evaluating the finances, she said.

I videotaped portions of the meeting and am posting links below. Unfortunately, some clips do not include full video of the comments because of my phone storage limitations.

Cooksey’s presentation to board, followed by Trustee Cheryl Hansen speaking about her attempt to get a motion on the Tuesday agenda and her subsequent request for a final vote Nov. 8:

Northgate Principal John McMorris speaks against the charter and says the district should remain unified:

Charter supporter Jim Killoran urges the board to approve the charter, stressing the importance of a positive campus culture:

Walnut Creek City Councilman Kish Rajan and representatives of state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, read a letter urging the board to make a final decision Nov. 8 and to hire an independent agency to report the financial impact to the district:

Clayton resident Leigh Kirmsee recalls the Greek myth Sisyphus in describing the charter effort: (Partial recording.)

Mt. Diablo High School Principal Kate McClatchy speaks in opposition to the charter, saying the district can’t afford to spend more money on some students than others:

Clayton Valley HS teacher Pat Middendorf expresses frustation about the charter committee’s attempts to work collaboratively with the district: (Partial recording.)

CVHS parent April Winship says the district has been busy capturing the sun instead of capturing the minds of students:

Clayton Valley HS senior Kendall Winship compares the charter effort to the Revolutionary War: (Partial recording).

CVHS teacher Neil McChesney says district has been stirring up opposition to the charter my misleading principals about the impact:

Charter advocate Jae Greenwald asks board to support charter:

Clayton Councilman Joe Medrano says Roberts Rules of Order would have allowed the board to cast final votes regarding the charter at Tuesday’s meeting and urges the board to make a final decision Nov. 8:

Clayton Vice Mayor Howard Geller reminds board members of why they ran for office and urges support of the charter: (Partial recording.)

Ygnacio Valley HS Principal Bill Morones speaks against the charter, saying it would take money away from students throughout the district and could cause teachers to be displaced: (Partial recording.)

YVHS parent Gordon Nadean says all district parents want what’s best for their children and he spoke against the charter, criticizing organizers for wanting to leave the district: (Partial recording.)

Unfortunately, these are all the clips I was able to capture, due to limited storage capacity on my phone and Qik account.

Here’s a recap of the other speakers’ comments:

CVCHS board member Ted Merriam played recording of Lawrence telling Pleasant Hill Education Commission that he thought the charter would likely be successful.

Rebecca Jensen spoke against the charter, saying she has been appalled by the anger in the debate. She said she is a fairly new district employee and she appreciated Lawrence’s memo disclosing the financial impact of the charter. From my point of view, this looks like a small issue,” she said. “I would argue that the divisiveness did not start with the memo.”

Carmel Phillips, the parent of a special needs student, spoke against the charter, saying everyone is part of one community and should come together. “I believe there are a bunch of changes that could be made without the charter today…I am very concerned about how special education students would be served.”

Deb Heinzman said: “An important question that we need to answer is: What kind of a district do we want to be?” She said the debate should be accompanied by a plan and solid numbers. “This entire process has been reactionary on both sides,” she said. “I stand by my previous statement that the unintended consequences of the charter could be negative for the majority of children in MDUSD.” She said the district is doing wonderful things and urged the board to finish the strategic plan and work in a more proactive way. “When a school is begging for change, please investigate it right away,” she said. “More often not, I have seen that movement result in a win-win situation.”

Clayton Mayor David Shuey said: “Congratulations. After four months, you’ve brought an atmosphere of fear. What you’ve done is you’’ve brought a bunch of people out here under false pretense and false information.” He said the charter committee requested a special meeting and has not heard a response. “Whether it is a special meeting this week or whether it’’s Nov. 8, you’’ve heard all the elected reps from the state and federal government come in and tell you: ‘Let’s get this done.'” He said some charter supporters don’t want the district to approve the charter, because they’d rather have the county oversee it. But others do want to be approved by the district so they can be innovative and share ideas. “Please stop the fear mongering,” he said. “Let’s get this done unequivocally on Nov. 8.”

Charter supporter Gary Hood said: “This is not an issue about us against you or you against us. Clayton Valley High School has the right to go after the charter. They’’ve met the guidelines.” He said some were setting a very bad example for their children with the political back and forth debate. “This is very embarrassing,” he said.

Diablo View MS teacher Lynda Rush said she believes the charter’s plan is sound and she said her students are unable to communicate their Powerpoints because of Windows 2003 technology at her school. “Your letter explains a (teacher) bumping process but fails to say it is a yearly process. Your bumping process is not because of the charter. If 80 percent stay and 20 percent go, that would be normal operating procedure. I respectfully submit my application to the charter, if they would have me, and tender my resignation with the district.”

Carlyn Obringer of the California Charter Association said approving the charter would “truly create an exciting opportunity, an exciting incubator for best practices that can benefit the entire district.”

Monica Fitzgerald spoke against the charter, urging the board to consider comments made by some of the princpals and Rajan. “Everybody wants a fast decision, but I really think we need some more information,” she said. “Every single person in this room clearly cares about education and whatever you decide, I know that you have the best interests of the children in mind. I encourage to think about the language you’’re using.” She said she did not believe the board’s actions were a “power ploy.” “Never before have I been called a lap dog when I’’ve agreed with you. We have missed a big opportunity to have a conversation about education.” She urged people to take their anger and frustration to Sacramento and to have a meaningful conversation about the state of education.

Les Garaventa Jr., a CVHS parent and CPA, listed the qualifications of the CVHS charter lead accountant Marshall Mayotte, of ExEd. He said Mayotte found the charter would be successful and would not be a drag on the district office. Mayotte also found that CVHS receives the second lowest amount per student of all district high schools. “Reports about the district losing money to other schools is not entirely accurate, since the district has already chosen to spend less for CVHS than other high schools in the district,” he said.

Chase Davenport of the California Charter Schools Association said charter supporters were looking forward to list’s of expense reductions from the district as the result of the charter, such as costs associated with education programs, assessment, professional development, staff including site-based administration, food service, human resource function, facilities, finance, and staffing for payrolls. The charter group would also like to see the district build in additional revenues as the result of the charter, including oversight fees, facilities costs and any other contracted agreements that may be reached. “I urge you not to draw an analysis based on per student spending,” he said. Of over 140 charter school conversions across the state, he said his organization was unaware of one that had caused serious district cuts and said some ended up being cash positive. His organization was also unaware of any charter conversions that closed due to financial instability, he said.

Shuleen Martin, the parent of four children in district including two high school students, said she didn’t think now was a good time to approve the charter, because of the financial impact. “Maybe in the future,” she said, “when we have more money.”

Gregory Gardens Elementary Principal Cheryl Kolano encouraged the board to “truly consider every child.” She said she felt that some comments at the last board meeting were “bullying” and that she truly appreciates the members of the board. She said truly listening to all sides of the debate says a lot about who we are as a community. She ended by quoting the slogan of Ygnacio Valley High School leadership students: “Leadership is an action, not a position.”

Trustee Linda Mayo thanked everyone for coming and speaking. “I know that we may disagree about the role of the board in reviewing the 16 requirements,” she said. “It is part of our process and it is a charge from the Department of Education to do that. I appreciate our staff’s work an I appreciate the Clayton Valley High charter committee’s work as well.”

Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh also thanked everyone who came to speak. “As a board,” she said, “we have to do what’’s best for the school district.”

Board President Gary Eberhart said he thought it would be a “positive process” to partner with an outside agency and come up with an objective view of the ramifications of approval. He said the possible loss of about $2.5 million was an unintended consequence of the charter. “I actually think it’’s a legislative issue that needs cleanup,” he said. “I think the legislature has spoken many times about the power of charter schools and I don’’t think that was their intention…We would be remiss if we made any decision without considering the financial ramifications to the school district as a whole.”

He also criticized some of the emails he’s received about the charter. “The tone of some of these emails is frankly shocking,” he said. “And from people who are supposed to be leaders in our community — it’’s shocking…I’’m not going to point fingers and I’’ve tried not to respond to some of the negativity.”

He pointed out that the board took action in September and established a timeline through February. Initially, he said, the charter committee said it would be difficult to meet all the conditions in that time frame. He defended the amount of time the district is taking to review the conditions and objected to accusations that the district is “dragging its feet.”

“This is an important decision and it deserves and demands comprehensive analysis to determine whether or not the students in Clayton (and Concord) will be served well, the parents will be served well and we are living up to serving all students in the Mt. Diablo School District. So, that analysis that must take place is essential…I believe we will make a final decision on Nov. 8…When we make that decision, it wil be a full 100 days ahead of schedule. For anyone to suggest that the district is dragging its feet — it’’s just baseless. I’’m not ashamed that we are providing this analysis so we can make sure that whatever happens at Clayton Valley High School, it stands the test of time.”

Trustee Cheryl Hansen then said she wanted to make a few comments. At first, Eberhart objected, saying she had her chance to speak up earlier. However, she continued speaking.

She said students are looking to the board and district community us as models of civil discourse. “I’’ve said: ‘When a family is faced with a crisis, do you pull together or do you turn in on each other?’ Change should not be seen as a threat.”

She said the board needed to learn courtesy, respect and appreciation for civil discourse in public, which was why she had previously suggested holding a board study session about the charter.

At the end of the meeting, during Board Reports, Eberhart spoke about the need to communicate better.

“This is a time where as a board, we need to pull together and work as a team and work collaboratively and not step on each other and not accuse each other, but to find ways that we can work together,” he said. “Because what we do has a huge impact on the children of our district.”

He said he has recently felt the need to consult Roberts Rules of Order regarding how governing bodies can respectfully work together “for the betterment of the people we serve.” He said he has never before felt the need to walk around with that book in the 15 years he has been on the board.

“Fortunately, I only have one more meeting as President and then I can sit in someone else’s chair, which will be fine with me,” he said. “Are we going to have to raise our hand to be noticed by the president? Are we going to have to develop rules so in the middle of the night we don’’t’ send each other emails that are accusatory and disrespectful? We are here to do what is right for kids and it is impossible for us to carry that out if we cannot all get along together, if we can’’t extend the verbal courtesy to each other that’’s what we expect of our students at the elementary level. We expect our students to understand basic courtesies. I don’’t know what the answer is, but I know that somehow we have to get back to that. We have to have civil discourse and set an example for our kids and our staff.”

Do you believe the board will be ready to make a final decision on Nov. 8?

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31 Responses to “Clayton Valley HS charter could be on verge of approval”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    Can someone please give Theresa a copy of the Lawrence recording at the Pleasant Hill meeting that can be uploaded so everyone can hear his words ?

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have been given a copy of the 2-hour meeting, but I haven’t had a chance to listen to it.
    I did hear his words at the MDUSD board meeting, but I wasn’t able to completely transcribe what he said.
    According to my notes, he said he expected the charter would be successful, since he anticipated that most families in the attendance area would want to send their children to the local school.

  3. Doctor J Says:

    @Linda Mayo: 56 [Fifty-six] conditions, not 16 [Sixteen]. Maybe you only read the first page. No other charter in California or anyplace else I could find, has been conditionally approrved with 56 conditions. Lawrence acknowledged in Pleasant Hill where he was tape recorded that the Charter will meet the financial conditions. That pretty much sinks the MDUSD ship of opposition.

  4. Anon Says:

    Charter Proponents Beware,

    Notice the very nuanced language of The Gary.

    I can almost guarantee you there will be an attempt to push out the final up and down vote well past the Nov. 8th deadline.

    To date the charter proponents have been much too concillatory towards The Gary and Stevie boy.

  5. g Says:

    Gary: “verbal” and “basic courtesies”?? How about physical exhibitions of disdain, evidenced by rolling eyes, flipping head, smirks shared with your pseudo sole-mate on the board? You should be embarrassed at your own childlike lack of personal control.

  6. Just J Says:

    The point that I keep hearing over and over by the board is that they need to keep in mind the financial strain on the district…..the law says they cannot consider that. Also people keep saying let’s pull together and change the whole district I agree but the district has been bad for 30+ years. The district needs to be willing to change and I don’t think they are.

    I meet parents all the time that graduated from a mdusd school unable to read. It is still happening. How many years does it take to fix a problem. Apparently more than 30
    The district has an opportunity to change. How much do you want to bet they won’t

    I think I read something recently about walnut creek wants all wc schools in the wcsd? How does mc Morris feel about that? Is he going to send out something against that?
    And isn’t YV a failing school?

  7. g Says:

    Gary said: “We would be remiss if we made any decision without considering the financial ramifications to the school district as a whole.”

    In other words, he fully intends to continue to disobey the law! Nothing newsworthy there, I guess.

  8. Doctor J Says:

    Gary has finally realized that the CVCHS Charter is his Little Big Horn, and thus he is desperately trying to parlay it into political endorsements for another office next year. Unfortunately none of the Federal or State politicians are willing to endorse him because of his bizzare behavior. Incredibly Gary does not tone down his behavior, but turns up the volume and intensity, which is distancing even more endorsers away from him. So like any narcisist, he believes he is invincible, and thus the CVCHS approval will become “Gary’s Last Stand”. At the end of the day, like any other dictator, he will find himself much like Mubarak or Gadahfi, disrespected and disregarded. Fortunately in our country we allow them to live in their disgrace, rather than be trashed. I don’t think there will be any buildings named “Eberhart” even though he is the longest ever serving trustee of the district. Afterall, what did Dent do to get the District Offices named after him ?

  9. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Anon #4:
    Yes, delay is the only tool the District has, inasmuch as ultimate approval of the petition is inevitable.

    @ Just J #6:
    Have you considered the possibility that the District’s sustained unsatisfactory performance is not attributable to its willingness to change, but rather to its capacity to do so?

    Perhaps the level of service the District delivers is “as good as it gets” (for a whole host of reasons).

  10. Wait a minute Says:

    Anon @4, what you call “nuanced language:, I call classic speaking out of both sides of Gary’s big mouth.

    When in public being taped he plays up–courtesy and civil discourse? Wow, Gary the “victim”.

    The fact of the matter is that Gary, Stevie, Rolen. etc, have done enormous damage to the MDUSD (and themselves)by leading this “dirty tricks” campaign against the charter.

    Just the fact that Lawrence was able to bully and get some principals to take a political position against the charter is damage likely to remain long after he is gone.

    West Sac is still dealing with the fallout of Stevie and Sue’s reign of terror there as they confront the diviseness leftover from their similar “divide and conquer” tactics and bullying. A principal there told me West Sac was basically going through a long period of “De-Stalinization” in order to recover their morale and unity and rebuild trust amonst stakeholders.

    Nice people huh? Where Children Come First, not egos.

  11. Doctor J Says:

    MDUSD hired the wrong Lawrence — we hired Steven when we should have hired Michele, former Supt of Berkeley. She took over on an interim basis in West Sac when Steven left, got the district functioning again, and then it had 37 applicants for the Supt position. That’s what we need in MDUSD — she already knows how to clean up after Steven.

  12. Just J. Says:

    Wendy, They are unwilling to change and I do not believe for a second that they want input from parents.
    They are unwilling to listen, unwilling to take a chance and unwilling to change. Yes some things are bad because of the laws in place are bad but there is room to wiggle within the guidelines. They are wasting money and are not very efficient.

  13. g Says:

    Wasn’t it under Michele that Sue Brothers was given her “empty-desk-with-nothing-to-do” reassignment?

  14. Doctor J Says:

    Watered down excuse letter for Title 1 Sanctions posted today but dated yesterday — obviously much less than the one urged by the CDE. I urge you to call Rose Lock, 925-682-8000 ext 4015 to be on the committee that reviews the data and writes the ‘Addendum’ to the Plan that has not worked for two years. Lets flood her with calls so she and Lawrence know that parents in this district care. Letter recommended by CDE:
    Compare and decide for yourself which is more open and transparent ! MDUSD again covering up the truth. A pig with lipstick is still a pig.

  15. Doctor J Says:

    @G #13 Acting Supt. Michele Lawrence had the district “reassign” Sue Brothers to ??? unknown duties, and then Sue Brothers pressed her speed dial and got appointed as Principal of CVHS, and the MDUSD Director of Secondary for SASS was left unfilled on a permanent basis, with only a temp hired for 2011/2012. Its not very hard to connect the dots. Especially when Sue Brothers bragged to the CVHS community that she has a “direct line” to the Supt.

  16. Doctor J Says:

    “We must consult with parents and school staff when writing the LEA Plan Addendum, which will include information on how we plan to use Title I and other funds to improve student achievement” From Steven Lawrence’s letter posted today and yesterday, but both dated yesterday. Call Rose Lock’s office 925-682-8000 ext 4015 but if you leave your name and number, don’t expect a call back. Rather, I suggest calling them every day until there is an answer.

  17. Wait a Minute Says:

    A West Sac principal told me that it was Michele Lawrence who started the “De-Stalinazation” process by putting Sue Brothers in check.

    At the first admin meeting conducted by Michele Lawrence she asked a question of all the principals and when the dominating narcissist Sue Brothers began answering the question at great lengths Michele told her to shut up so the principals could talk.

    This principal said that after the meeting they were high-fiving each other in the hallway as they finally felt like they being treated as professionals worthy of stating their opinions which was never allowed under Sue and Stevie.

  18. Another CV Parent Says:

    I don’t know if the charter will be approved on November 8. Whether or not the charter is able to put together a reasonable budget hasn’t been determined yet. Wasn’t one of Mayo’s previous concerns about the charter budget that they didn’t say in the charter petition exactly what programs they planned to implement or changes they planned to make during the three years the budget covered? They needed to do that and tie those plans to actual numbers in the budget. I hope this time around the charter petitioners used actual Clayton Valley teacher salaries instead of average charter school teacher salaries. I think that was a pretty clear indication of how flawed their first attempt at a budget was.

    I’d also be interested to see how they answered the question about how their school would be different and innovative. Their initial response that they don’t have to be different or innovative was certainly unsatisfactory to me. I read the charter petition as originally presented and as a CVHS parent, I can tell you there wasn’t much new or innovative in it.

    The staff can give their opinion on whether or not the charter petitioners have met the 16 required elements of a charter petition, but it’s ultimately up to each board member to decide.

    It’s interesting to see how the steering committee has chosen to politicize the charter effort. Local politicians speaking last night included Mayor Shuey, Ted Merriam, Carlyn Obringer, and Kish Rajan, as well as a letter red on behalf of DeSaulnier and Bonilla. And of course, George Miller has weighed in before. It doesn’t bode well for the charter that they have one politician on the governing board and another who would have been except for a conflict of interest and is, instead, on an advisory committee.

  19. Hmmm Says:

    Another point worth mentioning is that imediately after Gary finished lecturing the charter supporters on their tone, he not only objected to Mrs. Hansen speaking, but was demonstrably agitated for the next several minutes while she spoke. He was shuffling papers, adjusting his microphone, bending over, turning around, adjusting his microphone again, shuffling more papers, all clearly meant to show that he was pissed off at her. “Do as I say, not as I do.”

  20. Anon Says:

    Another CV Parent is Sue Brothers,

    Hey Sue,

    What are your plans for next year?

  21. anon Says:

    The disrespect shown at that board meeting by elected officials there to address the board was unbelievable. By the looks of things, it appears that the Clayton City Council believes that this charter proposal should be the only thing the school district should be working on. I don’t care one way or another if the charter is approved as long as it doesn’t suck money away from the rest of the school district and as long as it doesn’t consume all available time of mdusd staff to get it done. I think all of the elected officials endorsing the charter is nothing more than vote pandering by politicians who have nothing at all to do with the issue. I hope this is settled on 11/8 so other issues that are much more important can be dealt with.

  22. Tagg Says:

    Wonder Woman, or just the only board member with INTEGRITY?
    I dont care what side of the Charter movement you are on, take a look at how she cuts through the BS, and weighs each proposition set before her; such as the 19 mystery buses that were bought to save the distric a quarter million $$$, and instead somehow got voted to fund another three quarter million $$$. WTF? And no one on the board wanted to question this except Cheryl Hansen? Smells like corruption and the board trying to bury the stench. Or is it simply incompetent leaders?
    This is a 60 Minutes segment just waiting to air on school board corruption.
    I believe in term limits for Gary and his mindless puppets. The first term on the board, the second term in prison.

  23. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Tagg #22:

    We all need to take a long look in the mirror. After all, WE elected this bunch.

    The problem is we need sharp, capable, courageous candidates of integrity to run in 2012 — in the mold of Hansen. Such candidates are tough to find, since (honestly!) one has to have a bit of a masochistic streak to run for school board in the first place.

    Parents and residents who care about education and efficient use of tax dollars need to get to work identifying school board candidates that will give Hansen support on the Board. We need leaders with the guts to be change agents. We need leaders that are open to new ideas and will not tolerate autocratic management of the District.

    The two Mt. Diablo Unified Board seats expiring next year are among the most pivotal issues facing Contra Costa voters.

  24. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a new blog post detailing the apparent power struggle between Board President Gary Eberhart and Trustee Cheryl Hansen:

  25. Wait a Minute Says:

    Got to love Sue Brothers posting all over the place on the blogs under assumed identities.

    Keep on blasting those greedy charter teachers and their politician supporters Sue.

    Real smart move taking on the Federal and State Representatives, State Senator and multiple mayors and city council members.

    Before you know it Michelle Lawrence will be in as an Interim Superintendent again and you know what that means for you!

  26. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Wait A Minute,

    perhaps the folks you accuse of being administrators are just people like you, who use a pseudonym (like you), because they know their opinions are not mainstream, or they are in positions to have particular kinds of information? Why does everyone have to be Sue or Paul or Gary in disguise?

    Paranoid, much? It’s pretty pathetic. This board is for grown-ups only; act like one.

    I expect you and “Doctor” J will come out of your closets when you run for the Board next year, right? You both know so much, you both know how things should be done, and you both have no problem stepping up to the plate and taking on the hard jobs. Let us all know and we’ll work on your campaigns.

  27. Wait a Minute Says:

    I have a feeling that some good people will run FT and do the job that Gary, Sherry, and that Poseiden guy so miserably failed to do.

  28. vindex Says:

    I don’t know Eberhart personally and he might be a nice guy. I’ve watched his professional career and it started with a lie… He is a piece of work and his handling of district has been disgraceful. Now, he says that he wants civility. I have rarely seen that from him at board meetings. Time to vote him out.

  29. Helll Freezing Over Says:

    In the video of Northgate Principal John McMorris emphatically and passionately states his concern that if approved CVCHS would take money away from Northgate. He also just as passionately states MDUSD should remain unified, and pool resources.

    Mr McMOrris, does that standard apply to Northgate? Does that mean NG is willing and stands ready to divide and share all the funding (regardless of where it comes from) it recieves with the other 55 schools in the MDUSD?

    Just wondering …

  30. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Northgate’s Parent Club raises enough money to pay for extra class sections. This is partially why Northgate is able to offer more “A” period (or zero period) classes than other schools.
    MDHS Principal Kate McClatchy said the district can’t afford to spend more money on some students than others. However, this is already happening. Title 1 schools such as MDHS receive extra money to help support low-income students.
    Some schools that do not qualify for Title 1, but also do not have affluent parents, complain that they are caught in the middle: they don’t get extra federal money and they can’t raise as much as schools like Northgate.

  31. School Teacher Says:

    I understand the concept of the district being funded on a “blended” rate because it is a unified district, but does this mean that the high school sites are actually getting under funded because of that? If so, maybe all the high schools should leave and form a high school district so that they could be funded at the high school rate and receive the funding they are meant to receive. If the high schools don’t actually receive their appropriate funding because of this, what benefit are they getting by being part of a unified district?

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