Part of the Bay Area News Group

Recap of MDUSD vote to deny Clayton Valley HS charter

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, November 10th, 2011 at 7:50 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The Mt. Diablo school board meeting on Tuesday was packed with more than 300 people in the Monte Gardens Elementary multiuse room — with large contingents on both sides of the Clayton Valley HS charter petition debate.

I videotaped portions of the meeting and am posting clips below (with the usual disclaimer that I was unable to videotape the entire meeting due to limited storage space on my phone camera).

Before the board discussed the charter, Superintendent Steven Lawrence reported that the district had posted two items related to the budget on its website: Guidance from the Contra Costa County Office of Education and a letter from the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) regarding the estimated financial impact of a Clayton Valley HS charter conversion.

Here is a video clip of his report, along with a report from James Wogan regarding the district’s Foster Youth Services and Homeless Outreach Program for Education (HOPE):

Also before the charter item was introduced, special education Community Advisory Community representative Denise Lambert expressed concerns about the proposed charter special education plan:

Deb Cooksey, attorney for the district, says staff recommends that the board deny the petition:

Cooksey begins outlining staff’s recommendation:

CFO Bryan Richards explains why he believes the charter has not met all the financial conditions:

CVHS teacher Neil McChesney says charter supporters are a passionate group of people who are an asset:

CVHS parent Megan Kommer speaks in favor of the charter and questions the district’s estimates regarding its financial impacts:

CVHS student speaks in support of the charter:

Ygnacio Valley HS student Adam Hastings says he has collected 742 signatures on a petition against the charter:

Speech pathologist Laurie Arbour expresses support for the charter:

Clayton City Councilwoman Julie Pierce says the charter would be open to everyone and that there is no intent to be “elite” or to discriminate against anyone:

CVHS parent Jamie Terry speaks in favor of the charter, saying she believes the special education program would improve:

Chase Davenport, of the Californa Charter Schools Association, says this has been one of the “strangest processes” that he has ever been involved with, with one of the thickest approvals and one of the thinnest denials he has ever seen:

Luke Middendorf, CVHS teacher Pat Middendorf’s son, expresses support for the charter:

Dorothy Weisenberger, vice chairwoman of the district’s special education Community Advisory Committee, expresses concerns about charter plans to contract with the El Dorado County Office of Education Charter SELPA for special education services (partial recording):

Clayton City Councilman Joe Medrano thanks Trustee Lynne Dennler and CVHS teachers for their efforts on behalf of the charter:

Several other people also spoke, whom I was not able to capture on video.

They included CVHS teachers Pat Middendorf, Amber Lineweaver and Misha Safran, parents and students in favor of the charter, along with Barbara Johnson, speaking on behalf of Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. In addition, Marshall Mayotte, of ExEd, rebutted the district’s concerns regarding the charter’s financial plan.

Others who opposed the charter included Northgate Principal John McMorris and parent Joan Miller, who is president of the Mt. Diablo Music Education Foundation; Ygnacio Valley HS Principal Bill Morones, student services coordinator Socorro Lomas and teachers Steve Accatino, Kelly Cooper and Kara Yu, and a student; Pleasant Hill MS Principal Terry McCormick, Mt. Diablo HS English teacher Dan Reynolds and NAACP East Bay rep Willie Mims.

A few community members stopped short of speaking against the charter, but asked the board to consider the entire district. These included four district parents and Walnut Creek City Councilman Kish Rajan (who is also a district parent).

Due to technical difficulties, I’m unable to link to the videos I shot of the board deliberations at this time. Here is a recap of what happened:

Trustee Cheryl Hansen made a motion to approve the charter without conditions. Trustee Lynne Dennler seconded the motion.

“I would move that we not be afraid of change and approve the charter school without condition,” Hansen said. “I started out this process not the charter school cheerleader. I am open to change. I am open to different systems. I’ve worked with lots of different systems as a school administrator and as a county administrator. And I think what I have come to value and recognize over time is passion, dedication, commitment and the importance of a school culture.”

She said she had previously had a conversation with Lawrence, in which he told her he actually thought it would be a great thing if all of the district’s high schools were charter schools because that would raise the level of competition among the schools and drive some innovation and school improvement.

“I happen to agree with that,” she said. “I don’t think we have to be afraid of something different. I don’t think this is a massive threat to our system. I think it’s been very shameful the way it has divided this community.”

She said discussion about the charter had been obstructed.

“I think it’s one of those issues that should be a public debate and discussion that should bring a community together and not be kind of backroom politics that have gone on.”

She said she didn’t think the charter would be created at the expense of all the other district students.

“I think it is actually for the benefit of all the students that when you raise the bar and when you have passion, dedication and a commitment, we all benefit,” she said. “And that’s what I’d like to see filter through our community. And I’d like to see this actually as a chance to experiment and try some things. And perhaps that contagion will spread because we can always do better and be better. So, that’s why I absolutely support moving forward with this charter school.”

Dennler said she wrote down what she wanted to say, since she is new on the board (she was elected last November).

“I think we have the opportunity to bring resolution to this phase of the Clayton Valley charter and I will be grateful, as a board member — I would hope, as a board member — that I will not ever be faced with another charter in this district, another charter application.”

Many people reacted with surprise and laughter.

“No, it’s not funny,” Dennler said. “I think that it’s a very important question we need to have on all of our minds, is: ‘What led this staff to choose to sever their professional relationship with Mt. Diablo Unified School District?’ That question, I don’t hear being asked at all. Something major happened and we’re not even asking, ‘Why?’ I think, as a board and administration, we need to focus on seeking an understanding of the problems and issues that motivated the Clayton Valley community to make this drastic move to a charter. This is an important issue and it needs our attention.”

She suggested that the district establish a task force to address this.

“I think it’s really important to study the problems and issues that fester in this district among our parents and our teachers. For, the issues are not just at Clayton Valley. I can assure you — from my being in the schools, talking to teachers, hearing parents — this is not a unique problem. They’re just the first ones that did something about it. All is not well in Mt. Diablo. So, we have a choice. We can either choose to ignore the problem and face more charter applications. Or we can honestly examine where we are today and make the changes that are necessary. And then we won’t repeat history.”

The motion failed in a 2-3 vote, with Hansen and Dennler voting in favor and the other three trustees voting against it.

Hansen then moved to deny the charter petition. Trustee Linda Mayo seconded the motion.

Hansen said she approved of passing the charter without conditions, but she expected the board might end up denying the petition.

“I have been trying for the last couple of months to move this forward to closure — not to cut off information, but to get the information to come out more rapidly than what we originally had intended it to be,” Hansen said. “Because I saw the strife and divisiveness that this creates within a community, it’s better to move more rapidly to closure.”

She thanked the other trustees for bringing it to a timely conclusion that allows the charter to move forward.

“The only concern I have is the ongoing resistance I experienced to my requests for open, public discussion around this issue and the repeated incidents of obstruction that occurred in moving this process forward,” she said. “I’ve maintained that the public deserves to participate in open forums on public issues. And the public and the board deserves to receive all information in a timely and accurate manner. Today, we again experienced receiving information only hours before the board meeting, which hinders the process and doesn’t allow for discussion of and reflection on the process. I’ve seen this as a repeated pattern that information is kind of withheld ’til the last minute for whatever reason or explanation. It happened during school closure. It’s happening during the charter school conversion. And my concern is that there’s a lesson here that we need to learn from as a district. And I think Mrs. Dennler’s point is very, very accurate — that we have some symptomatic problems that we need to address. And one of them is around how we share information and how we respect each other — how we respond to open discussion and not be threatened and afraid to share different opinions. And how we can listen to each other and treat each other with respect. I have actually been appalled by some of the undercurrents that have gone on here — some of the backstabbing, some of the pitting of one community against another — and I don’t understand in an educational community why people are afraid to have a difference of opinion and why people have to resort to something personal instead of respecting the differences and trying to work together. I’ve found the withholding of information unacceptable and intolerable. I found it hinders the process. It creates public distrust. And from this, we should have come out stronger, not come out with an additional sense of public distrust. And I’m absolutely appalled by that. So, the district needs to learn from this mistake — and I do view it as a mistake — so we don’t continue on the path of creating more public distrust. We need to err on the side of over-informing. And I’d like to express my admiration for the charter school petitioners, who so passionately believe in their vision to improve student learning — who have actually slogged through the mess that we kind of threw out there for them — and kept on the path of determination and focus and commitment. And, again, I commend that and I think that is exactly what we are missing throughout many of our schools within our district — that passion and commitment. And we talk about Professional Learning Communities, while working toward that, but the core comes from that fire and that passion and commitment to students. And I’m not at all afraid of that. I embrace that and I admire that, so I would like to thank them for their courage in stepping forward and trying to do something. Maybe it doesn’t address all of the inherent issues that we have a district, but I do think it’s a beginning point for us to look at how we might be able to do something differently and better. I do not in any way, shape or form, think this is something to be afraid of and I am stunned that people take it as some sort of threat to all of our students. I actually see it, as I’ve said before, as a way to raise the bar and to encourage better practice. So, I am of a totally different mindset. Since the majority of the community to whom I’ve spoken believe that the charter school petition has merit and that there can be great educational benefit to challenging the status quo, I actually will be voting against my motion to deny. Nevertheless, I’m thrilled that we are finally — and believe me, it’s odd to say this — I am actually thrilled that we’re finally here tonight to bring closure to this issue so that the petitioners can move on.”

She also thanked staff for working on such a short timeline with the petitioners to speed up the process.

“I would have preferred that we approve it here,” she said. “I’m afraid that I saw the handwriting on the wall, when at 3:20 p.m., I got a resolution — just a few hours before the board meeting — saying that staff will recommend denying it. I had no idea until just a few hours ago where that stood. And, to me as a board member, I find that unacceptable and difficult to make really reasoned decisions.”

Mayo thanked everyone for participating in the process and said she did not believe that anyone was denied their rights to participate in it. She also expressed concerns that some people have alleged that she has disrespected and spoken ill of people involved in the debate.

“I would ask that you provide me with an email that I may have made a disparaging remark about one of you about this issue,” she said. “I have maintained my neutrality up until the vote was taken. I did not prepare statements in advance. In coming to this meeting, I have carefully listened to everyone who has provided statements and I have made notes throughout this process.”

She said she had also reviewed a binder full of supplemental material regarding the charter application.

“I also wanted to speak to the fact that I believe that there is much passion, dedication, commitment and courage on both sides of this issue and that both sides deserve to be credited for presenting their views before the Board of Education,” she said. “I am going to vote to deny the charter, based on the fiscal analysis that our staff has provided. At this point in time, that is based on the information that was received from the charter applicants as their final submittal on Friday. The previous analysis that was disputed by some in the Clayton community that was provided by the district has been supported by FCMAT. This leads me to believe further that our district staff does do good work and careful analysis when they are given information.”

She said that perhaps the county Board of Education would allow the charter to submit new numbers.

“But, at this point in time, I cannot accept those numbers that have been submitted for one of the elements in the charter proposal,” she said. “I also have grave concerns about the education program. The charter school application is supposed to present something new and progressive and exciting. There are over 150 course offerings listed in this product that was provided by your charter school applicants. They are the same courses, except for a few, that are currently offered at Clayton Valley High School. This is what your community — your students — will be presented with for courses next year. There is no change in the course offerings. The teachers will be teaching the same subjects and they may even prepare the same Single Plan (for Achievement) that they did prepare the previous year. I don’t know. There are seven courses in this book (referring to the binder) that do not have a CSU or UC approval yet and there are nine courses listed — one that alternates by year — as a class option under ROP (Regional Occupational Program). It is my understanding that the Clayton Valley charter has not contacted the ROP program at the county (Office of Education) to discuss whether or not these ROP programs would be approved. These are supposedly some of the leading programs at Clayton Valley High School that are valued by your students. So, for two reasons, I am going to vote to deny the charter. I don’t believe that there has been sufficient presentation of new and exciting program and I do support staff’s analysis in regards to the fiscal element.”

Board President Gary Eberhart and Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh did not comment before the vote. The motion carried 4-1, with Hansen voting against it.

Eberhart thanked the public for coming to participate in the process.

Do you agree with the board’s decision to deny the charter? Do you think the charter debate exposes larger issues in the district?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

47 Responses to “Recap of MDUSD vote to deny Clayton Valley HS charter”

  1. Anon Says:

    Gary and his lap dog Sherry were a given. What is really disappointing is the swing vote of Mayo.

    For some reason she has decided to also become Gary’s lap dog.

  2. Doctor J Says:

    This afternoon the State BOE set policy precedent with the approval of the Synergy Charter approving it 8-1, after it had been denied both by Pittsburg Unified and CC County BOE, oestensibly on financial grounds. When they post the video archive, hopefully next week, you will see and hear the State BOE cut to the bone on the finance estimates. All they expect is an estimate of the number of students multiplied by the ADA, and expenses that are estimated less than income — they said “its not complicated”. Clearly they were not pleased by the financial hoops Pittsburg and CCC BOE was making the charter jump through. It was a rather simple decision for them. In a week or so you can watch the replay, and can read the documents attached to the agenda. See item 12.
    Hopefully, the CC BOE will get the hint and not let another legitimate charter have to appeal to the State BOE.

  3. Doctor J Says:

    Interesting that there wasn’t a motion to adopt the Cooksey resolution. It will be interesting to see if Gary signs a resolution that that was not approved.

  4. MArk Weinmann Says:

    As I attended the meeting, it was interesting to see that the MDUSD Board seemed to act on the one thing that they shouldn’t have considered – financial impact. Although they thinly veiled it under the guise of “cash flow” issues, you could tell that Dr. Lawrence’s campaign of fear and propaganda around this issue (via phone messages and pushed out to the princiapl’s ion the district) had worked in their favor. Even students from YVHS had been misinformed that the charter was dtereimental based on financial impact and the principals of YVHS and Northgate echoed this. Especially telling was Northagte’s Principal McMorris who implored the district to not let the CVCHS petition “split” the district, but his words and those of others had already done just that.

    An absolute shame that leaders of other shcools did what they themselves said should not happen – pit school against school. If they feel that CVCHS would do that to them, they, too are misinformed and should consider establishing their own charter petitions. What a bunch of political a-holes who can’t see the future for the fear they produce and endorse.

  5. Just a Parent Says:

    Well at least I know I won’t be voting for Hansen on Dennier since their grasp of logic is clearly slim based on these quotes.

    So in Hansen’s mind better performance and ‘raising the bar’ in one school will translate to all other schools. So, why exactly isn’t YVHS responding to NGHS? We have quite a bit of passion in our schools already and a few high performing schools that seemingly should spread like a ‘contagion’ through other schools.

    Even if you believe this, it doesn’t need to happen via a Charter and it certainly doesn’t help all schools when it will actually create more difficulty in funding those schools and programs.

    And Dennier seems to find the fact that people are upset and that they find the district to be inefficient to be troubling and need of investigation (which seems code for spending more money). That or, you know, just let people opt-out via a poorly constructed Charter.

    Not to mention that a recent analysis of non-CMO Charter Schools at the High School level showed no appreciable difference in performance. And lets face it, there is no innovation or new teaching method in this Charter. It was a grab for a bigger share of the public money available to all schools in our community.

    Sure it was also about self-determination and simple power, but the Charter Committee has demonstrated that it is no better than the district, perhaps worse in this regard. The tin foil hat contingent here with deep anti-government leanings stalks the Board and tries to strong-arm others by making baseless accusations of identity and then thinks the rest of us are somehow crazy. Good luck with that.

    What’s sad is that the Charter gathered support by saying that this wouldn’t impact other schools. Then when it looked like that wasn’t the case they decided not to take the district up on confirming that fact through a third-party.

    Instead supporters continued to claim it was a bogus fact and that other parents were somehow evil for not wanting Clayton Valley to get a Charter. That by being concerned about the funding of OUR schools, we were somehow pawns or dupes.

    Yet one look at the original Charter PowerPoint Deck shows that it was about money and that the Charter would have had a negative impact on all other schools.

    So who exactly was responsible for this division of the community? The ones reacting to the action of others to divert funds from all other schools into their own, or the ones seeking to divert more public funds to their own school?

    Sorry Charter folks, but it’s time to look in the mirror and call a spade a spade. It was you who divided this community, not the district and not the opposition. I’d have a lot more respect for the Charter Committee if they had been honest and said that, yes, the Charter would mean that other schools would be impacted.

    Instead, they claimed it wasn’t true, sped the process up and didn’t pursue a third-party audit of the numbers. But finally that fact was confirmed by FCMAT.

    So I really don’t want to hear the bellyaching about division and how awful it is from those who started the whole thing.

    There are far better ways to contribute to our schools and to change the system at the State level which is where it can make a difference for all students and schools. So take that passion and point it in a different direction.

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: You are correct that the motion was to deny — not a motion to adopt the resolution. This means that the board did not officially adopt the findings in the resolution. I wonder how that will affect the appeal.

  7. Linda L Says:

    Just a Parent,
    Just as you are questioning the logic of Dennler, Hansen, and the Charter supporters, I question your logic.
    So in your mind you think we should continue forward in this District pleading for change year after year while another class of kids graduates without the skills they need for college or career. Also what about those kids who are lost all together in an archaic system and in a District that has made no effort toward reform or innovation?
    You ask why a charter that lacks an innovative program will raise the bar in the rest of the District. I will tell you why… and it speaks directly to what Lynne Dennler said on Tuesday night, we have a problem here that continually goes unaddressed. Until we break the monopoly held by MDUSD over our public education choices MDUSD has no reason to address our children’s needs or put in place any changes to the quality of education provided our children or level of customer service to our community. Other than Dennler and Hansen the Board does not even understand we have a problem. Mayo and Whitmarsh believe the education our children receive is good, nothing will change if they don’t believe our kids deserve better. I believe Eberhart knows we have a problem but can no longer admit that because he would have to agree with those of us who have made him so angry over the past several years. He chooses to blame the State, as does your last paragraph. Our problems go well beyond the budget and to ignore that is a travesty.
    Your first fundamental logic mistake in your analysis is that you believe the money allocated to our high school students belongs to MDUSD and it doesn’t. I suppose you have an issue with DeLaSalle, Athenian, Berean, Contra Costa Christian, Christ the King, Bentley, College Prep, Carondolet, Seven Hills, St. Francis, St. Marys, etc…. There are thousands of kids who go to these schools, have they taken the “District’s Money”?
    Your second logic misconception is that the FCMAT report provided the information we needed to understand the fiscal impact to MDUSD. Our District has a history of providing accurate but not honest financial information. Just like the 2002 Measure C audits, this analysis was based on the information provided by the district; it was not an independent audit of the financial situation. Go back and read the last page of the report.
    Lastly, and most importantly, it was most certainly this District’s actions that pitted school against school and community against community. Lawrence’s memo incited parents through his use of misleading statistics that can only be described as propaganda and Eberhart’s threats to the CV feeder pattern schools were shameful.
    So I can promise you that the bellyaching isn’t going away and while you won’t vote for Hansen and Dennler, I will be walking door to door in support of their campaigns if they continue to fight for change through leadership, communication, transparency, strategic planning, vision, innovation, and the belief that our children come first and deserve better.

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I had a long conversation with Board President Gary Eberhart on Wednesday. I plan to post much of what he said in a separate blog item, along with comments from Clayton Mayor David Shuey and Walnut Creek Councilman Kish Rajan.
    Eberhart praised Dennler’s statement and said he agrees that the issues that led to the charter need to be addressed. He also talked about problems at Northgate before Principal John McMorris arrived and he said he knew there were problems at CVHS, because his daughter attended the school.
    In fact, at the strategic planning meeting, he said his daughter struggled in math in college, in part because of the instruction she received in high school.

  9. Linda L Says:

    TH #8,
    I am glad to hear that and look forward to the article.

  10. Doctor J Says:

    @J.A.P.#5, Let’s have a REAL full audit of the MDUSD financial records, not just an organization like FCMAT saying, “yes those are the documents you gave us, but we can’t verify the accuracy of those documents.”
    As Cheryl Hansen said, the habitual last minute delivery of documents shows a lack of transparency. There is no trust left in the district leadership. I feel bad for Linda Mayo who claims she “relied upon the financial analysis” of the district — its sad to see Linda buffaloed by such balderdash. Unfortunately, she no longer is a critical thinker, but just a sheep following whatever she is told by staff — whether true or not.

  11. Anthony C. Says:

    @Just A Parent

    Here’s a post I made on another site. Regarding the financial impact we still don’t know the exact number, even after the FCMAT report.

    You may want to revisit that FCMAT report, in the Conclusion you will see that the numbers provided by the District are not the final numbers. In the words of FCMAT “As these assumptions change, so will the costs either POSITIVELY or NEGATIVELY” and “the financial impact associated with special education and facilities CAN BE SUBSTANTIAL”.

    Neither the special education or the facility numbers were included in the FCMAT report. Staff even pointed out that the Charter petitioners did not include the cost of renting the campus from the District in their financial report, however the District also left those numbers out of the info submitted for the FCMAT report.

    This report can leave you scratching your head wondering just what is that final number? Considering the District cannot legally use the financial impact on the District when approving the Charter and that the District released 5 different dollar amounts. Those numbers should have never been released, especially since they are not accurate. It is plain to see the District not the Charter was attempting to tear the community apart. And they have succeeded quite nicely pitting school against school.

    FCMAT reviewed the district’s cost impact based on a defined set of assumptions. As these assumptions change, so will the costs either positively or negatively, as these findings are based on a particular point in time. The district and the charter organizers have not completed negotiations regarding some major areas such as facility arrangements and serving special education students. In addition, the charter organizers have resubmitted adjusted financial statements since FCMAT’s fieldwork. The financial impact associated with special education and facilities can be substantial. “

  12. Ignorance is Bliss? Says:

    “Just A Parent” –

    So you have respect for the MDUSD, however, you don’t have respect for the Charter because they lied? Really??? The MDUSD continuously lies on so many levels..that I’ve lost count. They lie, calculate, deceive, violate all kinds laws, because they know they can get away with it. And you respect them, but not new board members?

    Here’s the most expensive example of lies…Lawrence, Eberhart, Whitmarsh, Mayo, Strange, and company, out and out lied to the MDUSD district voters about how our taxes will not increase while they put over a BILLION dollars of debt on the backs of our Community and kids from 2010 Measure C. Do you remember this? Have you looked at your tax bill? At least Hansen and Dennler aren’t breaking the State laws! The MDUSD is willing to violate the California Constitution…why should we believe anything they say?

    YVHS principal comes out against the Charter? Really? YVHS doesn’t matter because your school is on the chopping block..not because the Charter, but because there’s a new high school to be built in Bay Point.

    The division of the MDUSD is not a result of the Charter, but the process certainly exposed the MDUSD’s inequitable allocation of ADA accross our schools…we should all be very angry at the MDUSD not the Charter.

    I don’t blame CVHS for wanting to get out of this unethical school system with an immoral tone at the top (excluding Hansen and Dennler). Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill have been defeated in the past from wanting to separate from this district. If that can’t work, I say we all charter out!!! Let’s start with the highschools, which are all being ripped off. Then we should move to the Middle Schools. This is the only way to have local parents, teachers, be in more control of our children’s educational destiny.

    By the way, FCMAT did not perform an audit of the numbers and their report clearly states that. Their results are unreliable because of their limited scope which did not include a true audit and confirmation process.


  13. Jim Says:

    I’d like to make an observation about the charge of “dividing the community”. I agree with Linda’s analysis of where our current education model stands, but I am not as concerned about “divisions” in our community as some other posters appear to be. As much as I object to the misleading and threatening propaganda that Lawrence et al have used with the community, intimating all sorts of dreadful consequences for students and teachers — most of which the district could reduce or eliminate, provided their predictions are even remotely accurate — that objection is based on a general dislike of demagoguery. I am not quite as adverse to a “divided community” as many others are.

    The fact is that we are facing a crossroads in the education of future generations of children. We can continue to allow a very large, unresponsive, unaccountable public monopoly to undereducate our children by micromanaging our schools from afar and imposing failed one-size-fits-all “solutions” on students and professional educators, or we can demand more choices for ourselves in this crucial aspect of our lives. The status quo has been deteriorating steadily for the past 30 years, for a variety of reasons that we can all bemoan. But a crucial result of this deterioration has been a loss of faith in the current dysfunctional monopoly by parents, students, and even educators. Particularly in the most dysfunctional districts like MDUSD, it’s not really working for anyone, except perhaps the entrenched leadership, along with their buddy contractors, vendors, and leagues of consultants.

    So now we have to figure out how to set things right. People are divided on the best path to take. So be it. So long as people are civil in their discussions and try to stick to the facts, then let the “divisions” be discussed and worked out. Only authoritarian societies try to move forward without “divisions”. Education is political because it is currently a complete creation of the state. Moving it more from the domain of state control to a system more driven by the individual decisions of the users, who have the most at stake, is likely to involve big divisions in public opinion. There are lots of entrenched interests that will resist any reduction in the control and influence that they now command. It is frustrating for many Americans to have something so important as their child’s education be so completely dependent on the whims and (in?)competency of unaccountable bureaucrats, but that is where we are. Until people become more aware of the tragedy of that approach, and maybe become more “divided” about the wisdom of that approach, we will continue to underserve our students.

  14. Anthony C. Says:

    @Just a Parent

    “There are far better ways to contribute to our schools and to change the system at the State level which is where it can make a difference for all students and schools.”

    I have to disagree here. What’s the saying? “All politics begin locally”. I believe results are best achieved working from the bottom up. Start with the district and work your way up. It’s hard to change things at the state level and even harder nationally. Unless you can afford to pay a lobbyist to do the work for you, the only other option is to protest. You can write letter until you a blue in the face, most politicians at higher levels have other interests in mind and they usually come with a dollar figure attached to them.

    Converting to a Charter was a great option to start make changes at a local level. I am a former Glenbrook student, look how this District served that school.

  15. IthinkNot Says:

    It is immaterial to the argument at this point, but here is why I oppose this charter. While the charter movement in Clayton may have extensive neighborhood and city support, they also have statewide support; Support from organizations that are not from their community or our District. If you ask what motivation would an outside group have in a conversion of one of our District (not community) schools, look up the word ‘Money.’ The external support the charter receives is not from an altruistic organization composed of saints, heroes and givers. Their motivation is the money the groups can, and will realize from investing their capital in a conduit that will funnel monetary return to their, and only their interests. If you bothered to read the financials, as I did in my homestyle manner, you might have asked “Where are they going to get a $2 Million loan from?” Well look no further than the groups helping with the charter: EdEX specializes in securing loans from banks for charters. Which banks? Banks with ties to the founder of EdEX maybe? While Clayton proposed to be a non-profit charter, not all are, including the much flaunted Granada Hills HS. When that organization accumulates a multi-million dollar reserve (can anyone say profit?) then the perception is “Look at how well they are run.” Who do you think gets to hold and manage this largesse? Again you need not look any further than the organizations that support the charters. The charter schools use the same law firms, banks and accountants. Proponents of the charter movement (usually members of these same firms) see no harm or foul in usurping public investment (schools) for private profit. I do.

    BTW, all the schools built by the District belong to the District. Unless I missed the announcement, Walnut Creek (the city) did not fund the construction of Northgate High, nor did Concord or Clayton or any other city in the District fund construction of any District school. To say this is “our” school is to say this is “OUR” school. Note that is the larger OUR, as in belonging to a bigger WE. The students may be your children, but it is still OUR District.

  16. Wait a second Says:

    Maybe this is a sign that the charter is really not going to work. You all were out smarted by a real school district and if you want to play with the big boys, you have to have all the right answers. Doesn’t the charter have to the end of this month to give the district notice that they will be using the site next year? Maybe the teachers involved should start up their academy school at another site independent from the High School. That would be a win win for both sides, they get their school and we get Sue Brothers for 4 more years.

  17. Jim Says:

    IthinkNot: You oppose a local charter group relying on the financial, organizational and legal expertise of charter groups established specifically to help new charters? Were you also one of the people trying to attack the charter application because of some minor nits that didn’t comply with somebody’s interpretation of this or that regulation? Please. It is a significant undertaking to start a new charter school. Should the people in CV try to reinvent the wheel all on their own? Should they ignore all of the available experience that has been gained in starting and growing hundreds of successful public charters across the state? Sorry, but “going it alone” and ignorning widely accepted practices and experience is, well, the kind of approach we would expect from MDUSD, not from a sensible group like the CVCHS supporters.

    No public charter is, or can be, a profit-making organization. It simply isn’t permitted. Some people criticize CVCHS because they may not be financially sound, yet you want to criticize them because they might acquire — might — ast some point in the future, build a significant financial reserve? Ha! Which is it? Do you want them to be run as irresponsibly as the district? Or be financially sound? I thought that we WANTED our schools to get on a better financial footing. If some school in S. CA is able to attract support from private donors — because of how well the school is run and because of the success shown by its students — you want to say that is somehow wrong?

    As far as bank lending, very few banks have an interest in lending to charters, or public schools for that matter. They do it more for community relations than for profit, under their community lending requirements. Would you prefer that banks quit lending to public schools altogether? Given the financial problems of schools that are coming down the pike, I’m sure that most of them would be happy to oblige.

    As far as owning the building, read the charter proposal. MDUSD will continue to own the property, and they will be able to charge the charter rent. Ownership does not change. Districts are required under Prop 39 to offer any approved charter reasonable facilities (a requirement that MDUSD flouted in the Flex Charter and may try to do with CVCHS as well). If the charter would for some reason became insolvent (before MDUSD does), then the district would regain full control of the property, as any landlord would.

    If you want to feel that MDSUD is YOUR district, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, then go right ahead. Most of us have not felt that sense of ownership in a very long time. However, we are certainly talking about OUR children and OUR tax dollars, a concept that MDUSD is evidently still trying to digest.

  18. Linda L Says:

    I wanted to respond to “I think not” but after reading your post I could not say it any better! Excellent!

    To I think not,
    BTW, our public schools are owned by the State and paid for by the taxpayer. They are OUR schools. They are available as public schools through Districts like MDUSD, but are also available to charter schools, which contrary to what many understand, are also public schools.

  19. Irgnorance is Bliss? Says:

    @I think not – “BTW, all the schools built by the District belong to the District.” All schools built in this State were paid for and funded by tax payer dollars from tax payers accross this state, and many schools are deeded to the State, and not the school District. So the State and other organizations may support Charters and they have every right to express an opinion and should have influence since they are all tax payers too where their dollars contribute to all students across this state.

    You imply Charters are for profit and riddled with conflicts of interest. Well school districts also use the same law firms, accountants, consultants, bond underwriters, banks, leasing agents, insurance agents…you name it. Where do you think the MDUSD gets its loans from? It uses any legal counsel and financing agent that gives campaign money to pass bonds like 2010 Measure C. This is clear conflict.

  20. g Says:

    Ithinknot said: “BTW, all the schools built by the District belong to the District. Unless I missed the announcement, Walnut Creek (the city) did not fund the construction of Northgate High, nor did Concord or Clayton or any other city in the District fund construction of any District school. To say this is “our” school is to say this is “OUR” school. Note that is the larger OUR, as in belonging to a bigger WE. The students may be your children, but it is still OUR District.”

    I say: Your ignorance is showing.

    Thank you Jim and Linda L!

    It is a shame that so many do not realize that a school district is merely the steward of funds and properties acquired “by and for” the taxpayers, and overseen by the state, (supposedly) for the benefit of the students, with a fiduciary duty to carry out the will of the actual “by and for” owners.

  21. Dan Says:

    I might add that the CEO that “we hired” to run this enterprise for us is Gary Eberhart.

    I don’t think there has been a worse, evil, or terrible, CEO in the history of mankind.

  22. Curious parent Says:

    A previous post mentioned that the charter must notify the district of their intent to use the CVHS campus by the end of the month. Are you aware of this date? If they do not have official approval, can they give notification? If they do not give notification does that mean the opening will be postponed? I am pleased with the current administration and would like to know if they will be staying a second year. When can families expect to be notified if the 2012/2013 opening date has been postponed and who will make that notification, the steering committee or district?

  23. Wait a Minute Says:

    I think WAS#16 just gave up the MDUSD’s so-called “leadership” strategy from here on out. WAS is obviously connected to them.

    If the charter is approved by CCBOE or State, they will pull their same disingenuous crap on them that they did to stall them this far already.

    They will talk, and talk, and talk to the charter about a facilities use agreement but somehow not actually sign a contract.

    If they can deny them CVHS’s facility next year then the district can again open CVHS next year as a rival school if the charter people get another facility or perhaps as a ‘shared” facility?

    Could very well be their Plan B, basically more divisive Divide and Conquer tactics.

    As far as Stevie Lawrence saying he thinks it would be a “great thing” if all the High Schools went charter I’m sure he means DEPENDENT CHARTERS so the leaches of Dent can continue to suck out at least 35% of the money right off the top.

    I would also like to give a big shout-out to Mark Weinnman@4.
    Here is a person who started out opposing the charter but switched to a supporter when he recognized the dirty-tricks campaign that Dent was running.

    Dent can AstroTurf some hyped-up opposition all they want but it still pales in comparison to the grass-roots support that the charter has.

    It is also very divisive and damaging to the district as a whole since all they are doing is protecting their power/control to continue to ignore the real problems and squander the precious resources that belong to the people.

  24. g Says:

    I wouldn’t worry much about the District trying to take the “facility” away. In the law it has been found that the very term “conversion” indicates that the charter does intend to occupy the “same facility” for at least the first year. It will be up to the County, or State if it goes that far, to advise MDUSD that CVHS will be CVCHS beginning xx/xx/xxxx.

    What was recently required to be turned in was the “Intent to Enroll” forms with verifiable information to show prospective ADA to the State and whomever becomes the deciding governing entity.

  25. IthinkNot Says:

    Long day and I could not wait around to jump back in-
    So for JimSays #17

    Your statement “Most of us have not felt that sense of ownership in a very long time. “ is very apparent and symptomatic of a deeper problem that blog entries won’t correct.

    But here are some points that can be discussed in a blog:
    From the ed code. (
    “47604. (a) Charter schools may elect to operate as, or be operated by, a nonprofit public benefit corporation, formed and organized pursuant to the Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation Law (Part 2 (commencing with Section 5110) of Division 2 of Title 1) of the Corporations Code).”

    NB: ‘may’ does not mean ‘shall’ and thus is not required. Please Explain this vis-à-vis your statement ‘No public charter is, or can be, a profit-making organization. It simply isn’t permitted. ‘ Show your sources.

    Even though I’ve easily identified charter schools operating as non-profits (by going to, my statement is still true that Granada Hills is not, unless you can direct to an IRS 990 for that school.

    And the points made about the schools being funded from the state (=taxpayer) and not the district, just show how much bigger the WE has become. Locally funded bond measures (C anyone?) are of course exempt from State taxpayer’s ownership, right?

    The point still stands: The Charter Movement is usurping public (=taxpayer) investment (=school) for private profits. I do not support that movement. I do support improving, innovating and investing in schools to make them better, but I don’t think the charter proposed for Clayton would do what they said. And at this point it doesn’t really matter because we do have representative democracy and the decision has been made. The process will continue. But I still will not support the Charter Movement.

  26. 4Parents Says:

    You embody the saying “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Please stop spreading misinformation. You have confused the types of charters, who are the taxpayers, and the concept of public vs. private.

    Local property owners pay for the schools, with taxes or developer fees. The schools belong to the State. A bond is like another mortgage, usually to repair old sites or sometimes to build new sites. Although most mortgages are for a 30 year term and Measure C is for 40 years, accruing interest, ka-ching!

    The district board are TRUSTEES for the children, and the staff are only employees. The local taxpayers are the clients. The district exists only to serve the children. The district entity itself is not important unless it is serving the children. The district must comply with every State law and regulation including those for the creation of conversion charter schools. A conversion charter is just a change of management.

    Public charter schools do not make private profits.

  27. Linda L Says:

    I think not,

    You wrote last night:

    “Your statement “Most of us have not felt that sense of ownership in a very long time. “ is very apparent and symptomatic of a deeper problem that blog entries won’t correct.”

    Just curious, what is the point of blogging on your part?

    In order to make a difference perhaps we should join the Bond Oversight Committee and pay for public records that should have been provided to the committee for free. Perhaps we should attend the PAC meetings and be spoon fed propaganda and work on non-enforceable homework policies for two years. Perhaps we should volunteer for school closure committees and analyze the potential scenarios with constraints that make a true analysis impossible. Perhaps we should sit on our school site councils and pretend we make a difference when in reality the SPSA is a bookshelf document without follow-up.

    Don’t get me wrong we have PTAs, PFCs, boosters, committees and foundations all doing incredible work at our local school sites but those efforts, as vital as they are, provide temporary relief from a much more systemic problem at the district level(and of course the State).

    Public discourse and debate have been a catalyst for change throughout history. Today the forum happens to include blogs. If blogs don’t influence change or public opinion, why did Gary Eberhart use his blog to change the board majority and oust the Superintendent in 2008 and why did he shut down his blog in 2011 when it turned on him?

    I am not sure of the point you are trying to make regarding the State. I think your argument is a matter of semantics. The State owns the public school properties. If you are trying to prove the property does not belong to the Clayton Valley community you are missing the point.

    As for your contention that Charters somehow usurp public investment for private profit, I say so what. Our focus should be on the utter failure of the institution of education to change and address the needs of a new generation of children and those in leadership roles who refuse to address those issues. If charters are only vehicle currently available for change… great. And I would remind you that Lynne Dennler said it last Tuesday, if MDUSD was doing their job and moving this District forward we would not be discussing the pros and cons of the charter option. When Lawrence came on board in February of 2010 he was told by a group of parents the he had bigger problems than an abysmal budget situation, he ignored pleas for planning and communication. That alone says it all about a District that just doesn’t get it.

  28. g Says:

    Ithinknot: Your swill just keeps getting deeper. Until it Chartered, Granada Hills was a Magnet school. Their 2010 forms have not yet been submitted to Guidestar, however, that organization does indicate that GHCHS is properly registered with the IRS.

    On the other hand—MDUSD has had their Exempt status revoked– “This organization’s exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years. Further investigation and due diligence is warranted.”

    But what does all of this mean? It simply means that in 2010 Granada registered as a Public Charity, and for at least the past three years MDUSD has chosen to not be registered as a “Public Charity”. Big Deal? NO.

  29. Just J Says:

    Thersa, Do you know if the bussing issues were solved? Did the schools ever get all of their books?

    At the meeting the President of CAC got up and said she was worrid if the charter goes with El Dorado Selpa that IEP’s would not be met. What about the IEP’s that are not being met now? I know personally of 5 State complaints that are valid by the state for non-compliance. What happened with those IEP’s? Why didn’t the district make sure those IEP’s were being met? I am quite sure there are more complaints that I don’t know about.

  30. Doctor J Says:

    @G, What does it mean exactly ? Your donations to MDUSD are not tax deductible ?

  31. Doctor J Says:

    @Just J #29 — Of the little I caught of the State BOE meeting this week, there was discussion that over 90% of the Special Ed complaints from parents are valid and enforced by SBE against the districts. What strikes me as disturbing is that in June 2010 MDUSD is cited as one of 80 out of 1000 districts that are in violating of disproportionality in Special Ed, that there are numerous Spec Ed bus issues continuing over the last two years, that there are huge issues with IEP’s being completed and followed, and yet Mildred Browne get’s named as State Special Ed Administrator of the Year. Who investigated that application ? yes, there continue to be bus issues: pick up, drop off, some young students kept on the bus up to an hour and a half, and end up wetting their pants and soiling themselves. I couldn’t find the lawsuit Theresa described.

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Just J: No one brought up busing issues at the most recent CAC meeting. However, I received a copy of the minutes from the Oct. 3 meeting, which gave an overview of the transportation update Greg Rolen had provided. I will post that portion of the minutes separately.
    However, I’m not sure if the busing issues have been resolved. I recently received an email saying there was a problem with buses for an autistic program and that parents were so concerned they wanted to set up a meeting with district administrators to address it. I don’t know if that happened.
    Also, since the beginning of the school year, I have heard some CAC parents express concerns about the district’s inability to fill special education teacher and assistant positions, which results in a lack of continuity for their children, who must repeatedly get used to working with subs each day.
    The lawsuit is in small claims court and I may write about that next week.
    The minutes also show that MDUSD is under “verification review” by the CDE because it is not fully compliant.

  33. Just J Says:

    Why are people not as pissed as I am about this? I am not sure what is going on with everyone. We should all be at every board meeting demanding these items be addressed and resolved.

    I am not sure MDUSD could ever be fully compliant with the current peole in charge. Mildred obviously doesn’t care Mr. Lawrence is more concerned with keeping the status quo and Rolen should be ashamed of himself!

    Dr. J, When Mildred was named as Special Eduction Admin. of the year I was so sad that she could be the best the state has to offer…These brilliant loving children and their family’s deserve better!

    I am not sure how you sit in those CAC meetings Theresa. I know I can’t! They drive me absolutly nuts. These people can’t get it together.

  34. g Says:

    Dr J.: I don’t want to go out as a tax expert, but the only thing currently listed for MDUSD itself is showing as not exempt. There once was a district building fund thingy listed, but I think they stripped that one dry. On the District site they ask for donations directly to the District and say that they would be tax deductible–but I don’t know if IRS would see it that way.

    Some of the PTA groups do maintain exempt status and the United Mt Diablo Athletic Foundation shows as exempt. There is also the Music Foundation, and the District lists it, but MDMEF makes it very clear that the Foundation is separate from the District. Whether or not donations to those groups would be personally deductable is probably dependent on the particular type of donation and use.

  35. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The CAC meetings include a lot of parents who care very much about trying to make the district better for their children.
    Mildred Browne is responsive to them. There are many good things going on in special education related to assistive technology and augmentative communication and other things. The district recently held a “Celebration of Success” that highlighted students’ achievements.
    The last meeting also included a very informative presentation about the Seneca program at Glenbrook. It would be helpful, however, if the district would post the agendas and minutes online.
    Based on questions raised by CAC members about the charter, it might also be beneficial if someone from the charter committee would make a presentation about the charter’s plan for special education.

  36. g Says:

    If complaints were made about missing books or a shortage of teachers it doesn’t seem they went to the District, since on 10/28 Lawrence signed off on the Williams Report as “No Complaints Filed”.

  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    You are correct that no Williams Report complaints were filed. I’m not sure if that’s because many of the missing books were “disposable workbooks,” instead of texts.
    Also, I’m not sure if the CAC members are aware they can file a Williams complaint about a lack of permanent teachers. The Oct. 3 minutes show there were 10 teacher vacancies at that time.

  38. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a special education update, including busing, from the Oct. 3 special education Community Advisory Committee minutes:

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The district has posted information for parents on its website about it’s new “Report of Student Progress,” formerly titled “Report Card:”
    What do you think of the changes?

  40. g Says:

    It is a shame if Mildred Brown or Hillary Shen has not fully advised all special ed parents of ALL of their rights. They shouldn’t have to find this stuff out on their own or on a Blog or even by having to join in at CAC Meetings.

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I haven’t heard the Williams Complaint Process discussed at a CAC meeting. However, the CAC also has a blog that could explain it to the special ed community.

  42. g Says:

    Yes, they have a very good and informative site. I’ve wondered why there are few, if any comments. It seems it would be a good place to post questions and even some complaints.

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I’ve also noticed that. Previously, a member of the CAC had a blog that posed questions and even some complaints. She also used to comment on Gary Eberhart’s blog.
    However, since she moved out of the district, I haven’t seen the same level of discourse regarding special education on blogs.

  44. Just J Says:

    Where is the cac blog?

  45. Doctor J Says:

    Do we want “teachers” or “testers” ? MDUSD is moving toward just having “testers”.

  46. KB Says:

    @#34 “G”
    All official PTA groups are tax exempt. You are correct that the amount of what is deductible depends upon what is donated, and if any goods or services are given in return. I was surprised to find out that the purchase of raffle tickets is NOT tax deductible at all. Check with the organization to find out how much of your donation and or purchase is deductible.

  47. Doctor J Says:

    Watch and listen WHY the CA BOE will slam dunk Eberhart, Whitmarsh and Mayo and APPROVE the CVCHS charter as you watch the testimony and most importantly the comments of the State BOE. Note that it will take about an hour and a half. Its posted. Item 12 on November 10. I believe it starts at 3:25.

    Gary, Sherry, and Linda, grab your ankles. Enjoy !

Leave a Reply