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MDUSD omits information about some services in Program Improvement notice

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, October 27th, 2011 at 8:52 pm in Education.

1936 Carlotta Drive
Concord, California 94519-1397
(925) 682-8000


October 26, 2011

Dear Parents/Guardians of Students in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District:

This fall, Mt. Diablo Unified, along with 97 other districts, joined the growing list of school districts across the state falling into Program Improvement. Currently, 444 districts in the state have been identified as Program Improvement. Districts (LEA’s) are identified as Program Improvement because they do not meet all of the Federal Annual Yearly Progress targets. Currently, district-wide and all significant subgroups, including special education and English Learners, must have 67 percent of the students at the proficient and advanced level on the California Standards Test in English Language Arts and math.

ESEA/NCLB requires the CDE to inform parents/guardians of students about LEA performance. Mt. Diablo Unified School District has been identified as a PI LEA. You can find specific achievement data used to make this decision at . If you do not have access to the Internet, please contact Rose Lock, Assistant Superintendent, at (925) 682-8000, ext. 4015, and a hard copy of the report will be provided.

As a district in Program Improvement, we must:

• Write an addendum to our LEA Plan. 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. Once approved by the Board, the addendum will be posted on the district Web site.

• Reserve at least 10 percent of our annual Title I allocation to provide professional development for teachers and administrators.

• Continue to provide assistance to schools identified in Program Improvement.

As a parent/guardian in the Mt. Diablo USD, we encourage you to be involved in your child’s education by volunteering at your child’s school, regularly checking on your child’s academic progress, and attending/ participating on your School Site Council. Parents can also talk with district staff about the LEA Plan and the program changes that must be made to help students meet the state standards in ELA and mathematics. Additional information and resources about No Child Left Behind are available through:

• The California Department of Education o and

• The US Department of Education o and

If you have further questions about district-wide Program Improvement, please contact Rose Lock, Assistant Superintendent Student Achievement and School Support, at (925) 682-8000, ext. 4015.

Steven Lawrence, Ph.D.

This version of the notice was created after the district posted, then removed, its original version, which was based more closely on a template provided by the California Department of Education.

Noticeably missing from the final version is the following information, which explains additional services available to parents whose children attend low-performing schools:

” – If you are a parent of a student who attends a Title 1 PI (Program Improvement) school, ask about school choice options to transfer your child, with paid transportation, to a public school in your LEA (Local Education Agency) that is not identified as Program Improvement School.

– If you are a parent of a student who attends a Title 1 school that has been in PI for two years or more, ask about supplemental educational services that may be available for your child. Supplemental educational services are tutoring services provided outside of the regular school day for eligible students.

I encourage you to contact Rose Lock, Assistant Superintendent, for further information about any of these requirements and to find out how you can become involved in PI efforts.”

Here is a link to information about how to transfer a child from a PI school, with paid transportation, to a higher-performing school: The deadline to apply for such a transfer is Jan. 15 for the 2012-13 school year.

Here is a link to information about supplemental tutoring services available for some children who attend schools that have been in Program Improvement for two years or more:

Here is a link to district schools that shows which ones are in Program Improvement, along with the number of years they have been in PI:

Do you think the district should have included information about additional services available in its Parent Notification for Program Improvement?

OCT. 31 UPDATE: I asked Superintendent Steven Lawrence and Assistant Superintendent Rose Lock why the information was omitted. Here is Lock’s e-mailed response:

“Each year, we send a letter with this info to parents in all PI Schools. We will be doing that again shortly for this year. We consulted with CDE to streamline the first version of the district letter and were advised that this info did not need to be in that letter since it will be in the school letter going to parents of PI schools. However, when the PI school letter goes out, we will include the district PI status information as well.”

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51 Responses to “MDUSD omits information about some services in Program Improvement notice”

  1. Wait a Minute Says:

    The district is once again breaking the law either deliberately or through sheer incompetence.

    File those Uniform Complaints aggrieved citizens and then appeal their findings to the Ca Dpt of Ed.

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Right after I tweeted this, San Francisco schools trustee Rachel Norton retweeted it to her 860 followers, with the comment: “Not good!”!/rpnorton

  3. g Says:

    What are the chances that he purposely wants parents to not use those services, or the funds intended for those purposes?

    I’d say those chances are pretty high.

    I’m pretty sure that any PI funds left over at the end of the year can then be moved to “unrestricted” to help the budget suddenly have more “found money”.

  4. CVHSMom Says:

    No wonder they took it down so quickly. Who is in charge at that place. They are a DISASTER! It is like the whole Dent Center is running like chickens with no heads, and Gary… poor Gary. He’s gotten so comfortable with himself and his role and authority, he’s forgotten protocol and the rules!

  5. Doctor J Says:

    Actually, Theresa, with this new notice, I believe parents still have option THIS SCHOOL YEAR for transfers under NCLB since the District designation as a LEA in Program Improvement resets the clock. That probably means that when ever these notices are mailed to the parents, the clock starts ticking all over again, and that means more free bussing to the new schools.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    Shame on you Steven Lawrence for not being honest and telling the parents when they are entitled to paid tutorial serivces for their children !!!! If you consider withholding information from those parents to be honest, take a class in ethics. “Where kids come first” as your motto — what a hypocrite !!!

  7. Just J Says:

    And Wendy lack questioned the comment I made yesterday about the district wanting change. They don’t want change they want more money in their pay checks! How dare they

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At Tuesday’s board meeting, General Counsel Greg Rolen said the district is busing a lot more students on NCLB transfers than it has in the past, which is contributing to increased transportation costs and the need to use the 19 busses originally intended for special education to supplement the district’s existing bus fleet.

  9. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Theresa, did Greg Rolen offer up numbers from this year and the last two years, of how many students – NCLB or Special Ed – are actually using the transportation? I’d like to see hard data. I tend not to believe lawyers at their word.

  10. Doctor J Says:

    Oh Please. There have not been any more increased schools named NCLB in the last two years. I agree with FT, lets see the hard numbers. 19 more buses this year ? The problem is they thought they could overcrowd the buses and no one would notice.

  11. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, can you do a story about the scope of the supplemental educational services such as tutoring that are offered to parents/students of schools that have been in PI for two years or more ?

  12. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Possibly. I remember the board discussing this when outside contracts were removed from the consent calendar for discussion several months ago. Trustees were lamenting the high cost of the services and were urging staff to see if they could somehow provide them in-house at a lower cost.
    Regarding Rolen’s report: he said he didn’t know how many students were transported by Durham last year. However, the staff report attachment said there were 113. So, I’m not sure if he’s disputing that. Unfortunately, as I have already pointed out, he has not followed through on his promise to present a transportation report to the board. Instead, he presented an oral report to the CAC. He promised to get more detailed information to Hansen after she requested it, but it was unclear whether he would present that publicly.
    Rolen also said the 19 additional buses were absorbed into the system due to wear and tear on the district’s existing buses. It sounded as though some old buses were replaced with the new ones. But, again, he gave no hard data on this.
    Previously, Rolen told me the district transports about 2,200 students, including special ed, NCLB and overflow. However, I don’t believe he gave a breakdown for each category and I don’t think he compared that to last year’s numbers.
    Hansen has said the public should be informed about whether the district is actually achieving its stated goal to save money by taking on busing itself.
    Recently, I received an email from a special ed parent who was dissatisfied by the service provided by AA Med. However, she was very satisfied with the service she received from Durham last year. She was also not pleased with the service provided by Pawar, saying they did not provide the required car seat. She was unhappy that she is now being forced to choose between AA Med and Pawar.

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The supplemental tutoring was discussed at the Dec. 14, 2010 board meeting, items 10.29-10.35:

  14. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#13 That contract appears to have ended on May 31, 2011 and never renewed or replaced. Thus MDUSD is in violation of the NCLB act by not providing for these services. They do no appear to be listed in the SIG Grant applications either. No wonder Lawrence wanted the reference removed from the letter. I guess every parent of all NCLB schools should be calling the CDE in Sacramento and DE in Washington.

  15. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The board didn’t approve those contracts until December, even though they were for the 2010-11 school year.
    If it sticks to that timeline this year, it could be planning to approve this year’s contracts in November or December as well.

  16. School Teacher Says:

    It amazes me that when they need to cut costs they have no issues asking for more from staff and teachers, where they will pay a minimal rate compared to other sources. I would like to suggest they cut administrative salaries to help save money as well. Based upon district performance involved with busing, textbooks, compliance on a variety of levels, I certainly don’t think they deserve the levels of compensation they are getting. I’m sure the district could get at least this level of sub par performance from its administrators for less money.

  17. LindaL Says:

    At the meeting the other night I heard Rolen say there were 300 additional students to bus this year. That seems very high to me. Could that be correct?

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    LindaL: In looking at my notes, it looks like I didn’t quite catch the number. I wrote 183? (meaning I wasn’t sure if I heard correctly).
    During item 14.3 regarding the addition of special ed students, Superintendent Steven Lawrence said the district’s special education population grew by an additional 90 students with IEPs.
    The agenda report for item 18.6 shows that 61 students were added to the non-Durham special ed contracts. But it shows 113 were previously transported by Durham. It’s unclear how many of the 61 students were previously transported by Durham and how many are new students.
    General Counsel Greg Rolen told Trustee Cheryl Hansen: “We have those numbers and we can provide them to you.”
    It would be helpful if Rolen would provide a comprehensive written report to the board, so trustees and the public could see exactly what is going on.

  19. CVHSMom Says:

    Am I just forgetting things, or has Rolen EVER sent out a district-wide message? Why did Rolen send the message about the crazy letter sender guy? Is Lawrence out today? It struck me as strange that in the midst of all this craziness that the Supt hasn’t been very communicative expect as it relates to the charter, and then this, he has Rolen do?

  20. CVHSMom Says:

    oops, that would be *except

  21. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Theresa, just because a student has an IEP does not mean they automatically get transportation. That is generally reserved for SDC (Special Day Class), autism-specific, and other such students. You can have and IEP and still be in a mainstream classroom.

    So just because there are more IEPs doesn’t mean there are more kids to bus. Quite the non-sequiter from Dr. Lawrence.

    Also, I know a lot of parents who drive their Special Ed children themselves. Some kids are on the bus at 6:15am! I’m still in the shower at that hour.

    Can you get solid numbers from our esteemed Transportation lawyer? How many Special Ed kids get bussed, how many NCLB, how many overflow? How many kids who are entitled to be bused actually get driven by their own parents, and what mileage are they paid to do so?

  22. Just J Says:

    From what I understand mdusd has more special day classes than ever. I know they started a program at mt diablo but am unclear if the same schools that had them last year still do. Flippen is right just because you have an iep does not mean you get transportation. There are many layers to special education. You have “resource kids” you have autism, down, mental illness and so on there are many many layers along with this you have private pacement kids.

    It would be great to know what the break down is over the last two years and what was spent so that we could try to make sense of this.

    It was weird to get a message from Rolan. But at least there was a message. Maybe Lawrence needed a day off after all the comments or maybe he had an interview.

  23. Linda L Says:

    CVHS Mom,
    I thought that was odd too. Maybe it was just about who was available. I have lost hope in the idea that Lawrence with be an effective and dynamic communicator. I hope if he is looking for a “voice” for the District, he would pick someone other than Rolen.

  24. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have just posted a new blog item that includes the district’s SIG Corrective Action Plan:
    Do you think this will merit funding renewal?

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a blog post that includes a link to Rolen’s message, along with information about how the district hopes to recover the funding lost when students stayed home:

  26. g Says:

    I would imagine Rolen keeps a very close eye on the Special Ed issues, as that is/was his area of “legal expertise” when he was with Miller-Brown-Dannis. Remember the District’s very long standing “no-contract” legal representative?

    I’ve always figured it was while he was with that firm that he first noticed the outstanding “benefits” of working for, and having children attend, this particular District. You know the bene’s are good when they’re better than private law practice!

  27. Jaded Says:

    Regarding comment #13:
    It is a bit frustrating to hear nothing but complaints. Couldn’t this mother have provided a car seat? As a society, it seems we are so quick to raise a ruckus when our entitlements are not as we see fit. I am guessing transportation via AA or Pawar is at least 75 bucks each way, per day. Is the mother unable to transport her child?
    How do other districts handle this?

  28. Jaded Says:

    Oops, sorry, #12, not #13.

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Many districts contract with Durham Transportation through the County Office of Education.
    MDUSD has pursued a strategy that initially called for more transportation to be done “in-house,” but has ended up contracting out for some, because it couldn’t accommodate all of its students.

  30. Doctor J Says:

    @#27 Jaded, if you are “jaded” by a mother unable to transport her child or provide a child seat, you missed the discussion of a certain highest ranking MDUSD transportation official having his child or children transported at the district dime [read that several hundred dollars per day per child] to Solano County for their special education. I don’t hold this against the child, but if you are going to criticize the mother in #12 for not transporting the child, you had better start at the highest echelons of MDUSD. The law provides for their transportation. If you don’t like the law, call your Congress representatives and see how far you get.

  31. Doctor J Says:

    @TH #29 Do we have any of the MDUSD cost analysis from last year paperwork on why they thought “in house” would be cheaper than Durham ? And with the latest $863,000 cost increase, is the cost now more than last years Durham ?

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    This blog post I previously did explains some of the data that Rolen had collected and links to staff reports about the cost analysis developed by Pete Pedersen:
    In this blog post, Rolen said he district was transporting about 250 more special education students this year than it had in the past. He said there were 123 more students with IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) along with 108 more enrolled in county programs.

  33. Doctor J Says:

    I don’t buy Greg Rolen’s excuses for many reasons:
    1. There were problems last year that he didn’t fix
    2. The district knew there were 123 more IEP’s since the district conducted all of the IEP’s. Does Transportation claim that Special Ed gave them the wrong number of total IEP’s or did Transportation just forget to ask ?
    3. Didn’t Transportation confirm the numbers enrolled in County Programs ? They knew how many they had last year.
    4. From the school closure process the District knew exactly how many children were going to be overcrowed and had to be moved to other schools.
    5. NCLB students have to apply to be transported so they had these numbers.
    6. Where are Pete’s calculations on the money to be saved ? If he can’t get the numbers right on the buses, perhaps we should check his calculations on the solar too.

  34. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s the link to the Nov. 17, 2010 staff report that outlined the projected savings:

  35. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#34 There is something very fishy about Rolen’s numbers. He got a $863,000 bus INCREASE, but his projected TOTAL COSTS for school year 11/12 for: (1) Durham through the CCCOE was only $1.1 MILLION, and (2) keeping it in house $917k, resulting in a savings of $243k. Now, he asks for an INCREASE of $863,000 and that means, according to Rolen’s numbers, that the district will go into the hole about $620,000 for year 11/12. Wouldn’t the district have been better off to stick with CCCOE through Durham ? Extremely poor cost forecasting and preparation — but I guess that’s what Gary and Sherry asked for when they gave Rolen a $27,000 raise to run the transportation.

  36. Just J. Says:

    Theresa, Thank you so much for posting all of this. Your site in invaluable. You have been very busy this weekend.

    Just wanted you to know that you are needed and we love this site.

  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Thanks, Just J.
    FYI, I have just posted an Oct. 31 update above, in which Rose Lock explains why the district removed the information.

  38. Doctor J Says:

    And what is wrong with telling parents twice about help available to improve the education of their children since both letters need to be sent anyways ?

  39. g Says:

    The whole bus expense thing is still bugging me. So–the district decided to put 19 new buses on 7year “lease/purchase” and hire 19 drivers plus 7 assistants to help with the problem kids–(Thank you Pete and Greg);

    and– at the same time received a Grant for $1.7Million to “purchase” 10 new 65 passenger fuel efficient buses (Thank you Jeff and Angela);

    and– already had approximately 100 buses and vans sitting on the service lot (not counting the rust-buckets sitting on the fence line).

    So, did the district actually get 29 new buses this year, with plans for only 19 drivers? or—

    Did somebody do a slight of hand with that $1.7Million Grant money for some other “found money” fund?

    Did those new drivers take one look at their little charges and give up on about half of them already–so Pawar and AA have to drive them after all?

  40. Doctor J Says:

    @G, can you give us some sources ? I know the Nov 17, 2010 Board meeting addressed the district saving $240,000 by taking over the bus transportation and Rolen supported it with calculations. If what you are saying can be documented, it should be turned over to the Grand Jury.

  41. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#37 Under Title I, when is the deadline for sending out the annual notification about transfering in NCLB ? Perhaps I am a little naive, but to transfer to a different school, shouldn’t that occur earlier than 10 weeks into the school year ?

  42. Just J. Says:

    G, The bus thing is bugging me too. I am not sure what they are up to but I am sure it is no good. Where is the money and do they have the buses? Did all purchase/lease go? Greg said at the Board meeting that they were training the drivers. Is that true? Are they still hiring and if so shouldn’t the hiring and training happened over the summer so that we could start the year off right? This seems to be costing the district more than it did to contract with the county that already knows what they are doing?

  43. g Says:

    THE 19, or is it 29, BUSES: It’s hard to say for sure, since so much of the District’s site is not kept up to date, but the Transportation Dept says: “The school buses operated by the Transportation department of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District travel a 150 square mile radius each day. They presently transport over 4700 regular and Special Education students each day to 49 school sites and centers. The fleet of 88 buses drives over 1.5 million miles a year.

    Google Maps (Gasoline Alley) allows you to count about 100 buses and vans. Obviously, the district needs to do some large scale scrap metal sales to raise some money to cover Pedersen’s miscalculations of transportation costs.

    First Cost Analysis and recommendation came from Pedersen (using Pedersen math). Note: “As of this (Feb 2010) date, a computerized routing system has been purchased and is presently being installed for staff training and implementation this spring”. Considering the 2011 busing fiasco, they may need to do some more training on routes.

    11/17/10 Board Meeting– Taken from the 11/4/10 Memo request for initial funding and drivers, etc. (NOTE- Rolen just rehashes Pedersen’s Feb Memo):

    “The present day cost of nineteen (19) new and appropriately equiped school buses would be approximately $1,378,925. The annual debt service for a seven (7) year lease/purchase for these nineteen (19) buses would be approximately $209,992.00. Using
    present-day vehicle maintenance and fuel costs, projected expenditures for regular maintenance and fuel for nineteen (19) additional buses would be approximately $137,750.00”

    Then in July 2011, in Supt’s Measure C Message (very last paragraph): “Lastly, our transportation department applied for and received a $1.7 million grant to purchase new buses. This will allow the district to purchase 10 new fuel efficient 65 passenger buses without having to expend any district resources. I would like to give special recognition to Jeff McDaniel and Angela Goakey who lead the grant application process.”

    Now I would like to know just how many buses were put on 7 year “lease/purchase” and how many were bought with the $1.7Million Grant.

    How many buses are actually kept operational of the somewhere between 88 and 125?

    They budgeted this (2011-12) year for 57 bus drivers total (plus 4 trainer/managers,etc).


  44. Doctor J Says:

    Nice work G, and then you add that they had a $917,000 budget last week that needed augmentation by another $863,000 for cost overruns. None of it adds up. It sounds more like the district is trying to get rid of that extra $7.6 million that Lawrence was bragging about, and Mike Langley of MDEA realized might mean no furlough days. Just too much misinformation and uncertainity. And too much distrust.

  45. Doctor J Says:

    Its my understanding that for our NCLB schools who fail to make AYP for five consecutive years, there are additional sanctions. What is that significance ? Here is what I found:
    Year 5: Restructure (planning year)
    If a school fails to make AYP for 5 consecutive years, after one full year of corrective action the
    district must—

  46. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have just received an email that states some special education parents are still having serious problems with busing and are frustrated by the district’s lack of responsiveness.
    Students are still being picked up late, not picked up at all, or are being picked up without an aide, according to the email.

  47. Doctor J Says:

    CDE lists the timeline until schools must “restructure”: either 1. reopen as a charter; or 2. Replace all or most staff including principal; or 3. Contract with outside entity to manage school; or 4. State takeover.
    According to the CDE this restructuring plan should have been in place during Year 4, and implimented in Year 5. I see no record of such plans for the four schools that show up in PI Year 5, with 5 consecutive years of not meeting their APY: Bel Air, Fair Oaks, Meadow Homes, and Shore Acres. Why don’t these schools have restructuring plans and posted on their websites ? Regardless of the SIG Grants, it looks like we should have 4 schools in restructure mode ASAP. What a shame the district is not on top of this.

  48. Theresa Harrington Says:

    When I interviewed the Rio Vista Elementary principal, she said the school had gone through restructuring, but I am planning to follow up to find out more about what type of restructuring was implemented.

  49. Doctor J Says:

    Restructuring under the SIG grant and under Title 1 are different. SIG only requires EITHER replace the principal or 50% or more of the staff; Title 1 requires BOTH, or one of the other alternatives. Just received this from CDE to back up their website [Note the role of the district in facilitating the discussion]:
    There are two legal references for school district requirements for its schools in PI Year 4 and 5.
    1) The LEA provides prompt notice to teachers and parents of schools in PI Year 4 and Year 5. (20 U.S.C. § 6316 (b)(8)(C)(i).)
    2) The LEA provides teachers and parents of schools in PI Year 4 and Year 5 with the opportunity to (20 U.S.C. § 6316 (b)(8)(C)(ii).):
    (a) Comment before it takes action on alternative governance.
    (b) Participate in developing any alternative governance plan.

    I also asked how it gets corrected if it isn’t happening at the district level since we are now at Year 5 and I don’t think any of this happened at Year 4 in any of the four schools I identified. This is the response I received: “parents and staff are eligible to use the school district’s Uniform Complaint Procedures to file a complaint. The complaint first goes to the district. The complainant has the right to appeal the resolution of the complaint to the California Department of Education (CDE).”

  50. Wait a Minute Says:

    Yes Dr J,

    as I have said before the virtually unknown UNIFORM COMPLAINT is the legal process by which the aggrieved citizens and employees of the MDUSD can hold the leadership accountable.

    See here:

    Since in the MDUSD’s “leadership” you are basically dealing with car salesman personalities with their endless scams, after you receive their legally required response you simply appeal the complaint to the Ca Dpt Ed. If they don’t respond you can appeal on that basic also.

    This will start an OUTSIDE INVESTIGATION and could even lead to a State takeover of the MDUSD which means Stevie Lawrence will be replaced and the board loses their voting powers!

    File the complaint against the Superintendent with the form on this page,

  51. Doctor J Says:

    The only viable option for the four schools in MDUSD is to replace the principal and 50% plus of the staff and that would occur in August 2012 — next year. That is simply becuase MDUSD was ignoring the law and didn’t put a plan into place this year to avoid that result. Another big mistake of Lawrence and Eberhart. It looks like Bel Air, Meadow Homes, Shore Acres and Fair Oaks will not only lose their principals, but 50% of their staff. When is MDUSD going to get with it ? They claim to have two experienced district lawyers — but neither of them saw this coming. How sad.

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