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MDUSD to discuss budget and charter’s possible financial impact on Monday

By Theresa Harrington
Sunday, November 20th, 2011 at 6:32 pm in Clayton, Concord, Contra Costa County, Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

As the Mt. Diablo school district prepares its budget report for December, it expects to take into consideration two possible events that could require cuts — a Clayton Valley High School charter conversion in 2012-13 and state “trigger” cuts due to lower-than-anticipated revenues.

The district has already set aside $330/ADA or $10.7 million in a “State Fiscal Uncertainty” reserve fund for midyear cuts. At the board’s Sept. 27 meeting, CFO Bryan Richards estimated the worst-case $4 billion state budget trigger scenario would be $296/ADA or $9.6 million.

“We are prepared,” he said.

This means that even with the $4 billion trigger, the district would have an extra $1.1 million left over. However, the LAO has projected a much lower trigger of $180 per ADA, which would amount to nearly $5.9 million. With this cut, the district would still have $4.8 million left over in its State Fiscal Uncertainties reserve.

The State Fiscal Uncertainty reserve is part of a $45.5 million ending fund balance that the district had at the end of the 2010-11 year. Richards reported that about $14.7 million of that was set aside for various uses including nearly $6 million in a required reserve for “Economic Uncertainties,” leaving an “undesignated” ending balance of $30.8 million. Richards said this was about $7.6 million more than anticipated.

Yet, district officials say they would need to cut about $1.8 million from other schools across the district if the charter conversion is approved by the county or state boards of education. The district is also pushing the MDEA teachers’ union to agree to seven furlough days this year and next year, including five fewer days of school in both years.

The district has built a savings of about $6 million into its budget for furlough days from all employees, including nearly $4.6 million for teacher furlough days that haven’t yet been negotiated.

Mike Langley, president of the teachers’ union, questions whether the furlough days are necessary at all, given the large ending fund balance. The charter committee, likewise, questions whether the district’s calculations related to costs and expenses for the charter are accurate.

Because of the intense debate surrounding the charter’s financial impact, Walnut Creek City Councilman Kish Rajan — along with Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier — asked the board on Oct. 25 to seek an independent review of the financial calculations from the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT). Rajan also suggested that the district convene and independent committee to review the financial data.

That same day (Oct. 25), the district requested a financial review from FCMAT. The independent agency visited the district Nov. 1 and used information available at that time to prepare its report.

However, a lot changed after the FCMAT visit. The next day (Nov. 2), Bill Clark, associate superintendent for business services at the Contra Costa County Office of Education, issued guidance to districts about how to prepare for midyear cuts.

The district asked the charter committee to submit new financial estimates based on this guidance, which the charter submitted on Nov. 4. The board denied the charter petition Nov. 8, based on the charter budget submitted Nov. 4. FCMAT did not review that budget.

Instead, the FCMAT review, based on data obtained Nov. 1, stated that: “Calculations prepared by the district to analyze costs associated with Clayton Valley High School are accurate, reasonable and based on either current year projections or prior year actuals when applicable.”

However, the report went onto state that special education costs had not been adjusted to show the charter’s intention to use the El Dorado County Charter Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) or to show revenues the district could receive from the charter for facilities and oversight.

The report concluded: “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. The district is encouraged to clarify these issues with the charter organizers.

The team provided Mount Diablo Unified School District management with suggestions on potential cost impacts associated with the possible conversion. FCMAT verified the source of the data utilized by the district in its calculations but did not perform an in-depth fiscal review or financial audit of Mount Diablo Unified School District, and accordingly, FCMAT does not express any opinion in this regard.”

To try to get a better understanding of how the district’s ending fund balance could possibly soften the need for cuts, I emailed some questions to Lawrence on Wednesday. I also asked him whether he was following up on the idea of convening an independent committee to look at the financials, as well as on Trustee Lynne Dennler’s idea of exploring issues that led to the charter movement.

On Thursday, Nov. 17, I received the following email response from Lawrence:


Q. “I believe you said you would create some sort of independent committee to look at the financial impact of the charter on the district. Have you done that? What is the status of the analysis?

A: I requested that principals attend a meeting next Monday evening along with two parent leaders from their site. The purpose is to review the District’s current budget situation based on the November 2nd letter from the Contra Cost Office of Education providing financial guidance on the 1st interim report, and the possible approval of the charter application at the county or State level. The meeting is from 5-7 p.m. at the Loma Vista center. Debi Deal from FCMAT is also able to attend the meeting. Please feel free to attend.

Q: Lynne Dennler said she thought the district should have a dialogue with the charter committee about its grievances, to try to remedy them and prevent future charter efforts. The day after the meeting, Gary Eberhart told me that he thought this dialogue should begin immediately. Has any dialogue begun between the charter committee and the district regarding grievances that led to the charter?

A: We did have a meeting last spring to learn of the concerns that the charter petitioners have. The District then began working to address those concerns by, among other things, interviewing Clayton Valley staff members to determine what they felt was going well and what needed to be changed. Based on those interviews, we made leadership changes at the school. Though we appreciated the efforts of individual administrators at Clayton Valley, there was consensus that a new leadership team would help move the school forward. Since her arrival, Ms. Brothers has meet with both parents and staff members to identify concerns and address them. We continue to support Ms. Brothers, like our other principals, to meet the needs at their site. If the principal at any site thinks it would be useful to have me attend a site leadership meeting to listen to concerns, I would be happy to do that.

Q. Gary (Eberhart) also said he thought the district would need to identify $1.8 million in cuts in the 2012-13 budget for the first interim report, in case the charter is approved by the county or the State Board of Education. Is this what you are planning?

A: Bryan is at the CASBO (California Association of School Business Officials) conference so I do not have the most updated numbers. The financial impact and how it was arrived at will be presented at the meeting on Monday.

Q. What is your response to some critics, who say the FCMAT disclaimer at the end of its report shows that the agency did not actually verify the numbers provided by the district. Therefore, some people are still skeptical about the district’s estimates of the financial impact of the charter.

A: This is why we are having the meeting on Monday evening because Ms. Deal and Mr. Richards will be there. Between the two of them, we can answer questions about the FCMAT review as well as how the District developed its numbers.”


“Thanks very much for this. Is the public invited to the Monday meeting?”


“The meeting is set up for principals and two parent reps from each school. Given that is 150 people that will fill the room at Loma Vista.”

It was unclear to me whether this meant the public could attend. I followed up with an email to Lawrence on Friday, asking whether a “robocall” had gone out about the meeting and stating that there seemed to be some confusion in the community about whether or not it was a public meeting.

I also contacted Clayton Mayor David Shuey on Friday, who told me that the charter committee had not been invited. After my call, Shuey sent the following email to Lawrence:

“Subject: FCMAT meeting Monday?

Dr. Lawrence,

Theresa Harrington called and asked me about a meeting that is apparently being held on Monday that will include a presentation and update from FCMAT on the charter school issue. I have seen no notice of such a meeting (looked on your website just now) and only learned from Ms. Harrington that it is apparently Principals of each school and two parent representatives. I asked our group if anyone had gotten notice of this and am currently unaware of such notice. I also have not seen anything come back from any of my kids schools regarding parent participation. So as you can see I am a little confused on this meeting.

Please kindly provide me the time, location and agenda for this meeting so that those of us interested can attend.

David “Shoe” Shuey
Mayor, City of Clayton”

Lawrence copied me on his response to Shuey below:

“Mr. Shuey,

The meeting is at the Loma Vista Center from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. We asked each principal to invite two parents because that would be a group of about 150 people. However, as long as there is room in the room we won’t be turning people away.

Steven Lawrence”

I also called Rajan to find out if a committee comprised of principals and two parent leaders they chose to invite was the type of “independent” committee he envisioned when he suggested the idea of a charter budget review on Oct. 25.

Rajan said he was aware of the meeting, but wasn’t sure at that moment how the committee was selected. He later followed up with the forwarded email below, which was sent to him, along with representatives for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and Rep. George Miller:

Sent: Monday, November 14, 2011 6:07 PM
To: Kish Rajan; Herbert, Mark; Satinder S. Malhi
Cc: Johnson, Barb
Subject: FW: Budget Meeting e-mail to principals

Good evening,

I wanted to let all of you know that I am following up on the suggestion from Senator DeSaulnier, Assemblywoman Bonilla and Councilman Rajan for a public meeting to review the district budget and loss of funding due to the a conversion charter high school. It would be great if they or their representative could attend the meeting.

Steven Lawrence

Sent: Monday, November 14, 2011 5:59 PM
To: All MDUSD principals
Subject: Budget Meeting e-mail to principals

Good afternoon,

In order to publicly answer questions about the District’s budget and our calculations around the loss of funding that will result if the County or State approves the Clayton Valley conversion to a charter school, we will hold a public meeting at the Loma Vista Center next Monday, November 21, 2011 from 5 – 7 p.m. I know this is the first Monday of vacation, and I completely understand people may have travel plans or other commitments that will not allow them to attend the meeting. We are holding the meeting on November 21 because Debi Deal, who conducted the FCMAT review, is in the area and able to attend at that time. Please invite two of your parent leaders to attend the meeting. If there are specific questions that you or your parents would like to have answered at the meeting, please forward your input to Rose or me so we include the information in the discussion. If people are unable to attend this meeting we will have follow-up evening meetings to address budget concerns. Again, I am sorry that this meeting is during vacation, but Ms. Deal lives in Southern California and happened to be working with another district in our area on November 21st.
Steven Lawrence”

In his email to me, Rajan said (in part): “This was sent to every principal in the district. This is clearly not a ‘hand picked’ group. And there is no effort to exclude or obscure. It appears very consistent with our request for an open transparent meeting on this matter.”

He also asked me if the charter folks were participating and said he hoped they would “participate honestly and not be dismissive of the critical financial facts.”

In addition, Rajan asked how the charter committee felt about the state “triggered” budget cuts and whether they would be insulated from them.

I responded, letting Rajan know that the charter folks were not invited, but that Lawrence told them late Friday they would not be turned away, after Shuey asked to attend. I also said that Lawrence’s decision to allow principals to select two parent leaders could give some the appearance that the committee was “hand-picked”. In addition, I asked whether he thought the meeting should have been publicly noticed, since some people were questioning how open and transparent it really was.

Here is Rajan’s (excerpted) email response:

“I trust the principals to invite responsible parents who have no agenda other than to help the kids at their schools.

I think the charter folks have every opportunity to live up to their statements that they want to know the facts of the financial impact the charter would have on the rest of the district. And given the larger triggered cuts that are looming, I would hope the charter proponents are sensitive to the impact all parents are bracing for.”

To get a better idea of how midyear cuts may affect the district, I emailed some questions to Lawrence on Thursday and received the following response:


Q: “I know that the district set aside $330/ADA in anticipation of the cuts, or $10.7 million. According to Bryan (Richards)’s most recent budget presentation, the district estimated midyear cuts would cost about $296/ADA or about $9.6 million, which leaves a cushion of about $1.1 million. This doesn’t include the extra $7.6 million in the district’s ending fund balance that wasn’t anticipated. Do you agree with this?

A: Bryan is at the CSBO so I can’t run your assumptions by him to validate your numbers. If you review the November 2 letter form CCCOE CBO Bill Clark that is attached to our website the County is recommending that not only do we assume the triggers will be pulled, but we assume they will be on-going, not one time, and we remove any COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) from our budget for the next two years. Here is the link to the letter

Q: A recent MDEA (Mt. Diablo Education Association) bargaining update says the district is proposing one furlough day for every $42 in per-student funding from the state, which would equal seven furlough days, if the trigger costs the district $296/ADA, as projected. I understand that MDEA wants to propose a counter-offer. Do you agree with this?

A: I can’t speak for MDEA; please contact them.

Q: Another MDEA bargaining update states that the district is asking teachers to agree to ‘Make no plan dates,’ in anticipation of furlough days. It states that teachers don’t want to agree to this unless the furloughs have actually been negotiated.

A: We have received concerns from teachers, high school parents, and principals that they need to know what definitive dates graduation will be held on. They have to reserve dates at the Concord Pavilion and the Concord Center. Parent groups that sponsor grad night need to enter into contracts with vendors. Elementary and middle school teachers don’t want to have to change their plans and lose fieldtrip deposits as they almost did last year when furlough days were agreed to late in the school year. Therefore, the District recommended dates that would not impact holding graduation during the last week of school on the current district calendar. We also want to make sure that furlough days don’t impact AP Testing and STAR testing.”

I also asked Lawrence for quotes the Times might be able to use in a story about midyear cuts.

Q: “Might you be able to tell me in general how you expect the district to cope (will you rely on the reserve you set aside for midyear cuts)?”

A: We set aside a reserve to address one-time, midyear reductions, not ongoing cuts the County is asking us to assume.”

I also asked for a general quote regarding the state budget’s affect on the district.

A: “Children are being minimized and marginalized by the continual reductions to education funding. We are robbing a generation of children of the rich educational experiences that others received in the past. The Legislature and Governor have to stand up and not let the hemorrhaging continue.”

Langley said the district has consistently underestimated its ending fund balance during the past few years, which has prompted the board to make deep cuts to balance its budget. In June, the board cut the hours and benefits of special education assistants — even after Lawrence and Richards said the additional reduction would not be necessary to certify a “positive” budget.

These cuts are hurting students and teachers, Langley said, because the district has been unable to fill many of these positions. He speculated that the district’s inability to fill the positions could be because the district reduced the hours to three per day and eliminated benefits. This was an outcome that many predicted before the board made the cuts.

Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh pushed for the special education cuts, saying they would be necessary if teachers didn’t agree to furlough days. Now, the district has made so many cuts and has such a large ending fund balance that furloughs may not be necessary this year, Langley said in an email.

“The question parents should be asking is: Why is MDUSD proposing to cut out a week of student instruction when they have a $40 million excess reserve?'” he wrote.

In response, I asked Langley if he thought the public should also question whether the district would need to make cuts if the CVHS charter is approved.

“Anytime the district says it has to make cuts, it should be in context of the amount of reserves,” Langley replied. “Although it is important to project the estimates for future demands on reserves, one must remember that the district reserves have been growing during times when their estimates have seriously underestimated the ending balances. This does not bring into question that spending cuts were needed in the past. It does bring into question the severity of the cuts and the areas that were cut. As long as the philosophy of the governing board and top management is focused on pouring resources, time and money, into narrow data-driven goals and starving the human resources that are critical to the education of our children, the public must question every cut and every expenditure. That question must address the basic need: access to a well rounded education.”

Shuey said the charter committee had submitted new financials to the district Nov. 4, which responded to the County Office of Education guidance related to midyear cuts.

“We are as interested as anyone else to find out the complete factual basis and truth of the (charter’s financial)impact on the district,” he said.

In addition, Shuey said he would like to know why each high school gets a different amount of money per student and why some get less than other schools throughout the district. He said he wants the district to explain the methodology it uses to calculate school funding and he wants to know how MDUSD’s methodology compares to other districts.

“There’s a lot of preliminary factual information that I need to get an understanding,” he said. “I’m hoping the meeting on Monday will start that process.”

Are you satisfied with the composition of the committee and the district’s notification to the community about the meeting?


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100 Responses to “MDUSD to discuss budget and charter’s possible financial impact on Monday”

  1. g Says:

    Anon @ 46, let’s face it, the Charter proponents tried to play fair the whole way. The District chose to fudge the calendar, hide the pea and has been cooking books for several years every which way it can in order to “appear” to be more solvent than it actually is.

    They built a “voila–look at all this money we found–reserve” based largely, perhaps, on the backs of low income, ESL families commuting miles from their two closed schools that the district cannot/will not support or account for openly. (Just as a side note–how many of those children that qualify to get a free meal can no longer get to school 2-5 miles away in time for that meal now–but the district is still taking in the money to pay for those meals?)

    Now they want to deplete the Charter’s funds by suggesting the Charter should help them clean their own house? BS.

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s how Debi Deal described the difference between the district’s review and a typical FCMAT analysis: “The difference is that we start with the district’s numbers and agree those are correct,” she said. “Normally, FCMAT will do an indepth review.”

  3. Linda L Says:

    TH #52

  4. anon Says:

    46, actually since the impact to the district can’t be a consideration and the district already denied it.. why bother anymore. Good grief. I don’t think the charter should beg or plead anymore. Move on.

  5. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Superintendent Steven Lawrence said the true costs may not be known until after the first year is over.

  6. anon Says:

    You all complain that the district’s numbers are “wrong”, but no one seems to want the “right” numbers. You claim that there is no harm to the rest of the district, but are unwilling to collaborate on a process that will provide the factual data so we can all decide whether or not cuts have to be made in the event that the charter is approved. I don’t see that this has anything to do with the charter approval or denial. The charter has been denied, but may be approved later in this process. The community has an absolute right to know the accurate cost of the charter program if it should be approved so that we can understand what programs will have to be cut to pay for it. I’m not sure why the charter organizers are spending so much time trying to discredit the school district. What exactly is the motivation there?

  7. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, here is a new report about the growth of charters in California:

    And here’s my story about the MDUSD budget meeting:

  8. AnonParent Says:

    So, the Mayor of Clayton has gone from saying that the Charter wouldn’t have an adverse impact on the district to characterizing the impact (between 1.8MM and 4.2MM annually) as a “drop in the bucket” compared to the state issues.

    Wow, that’s truly gutless.

    If it’s a drop in the bucket, then pony up the money from the parents and from Clayton itself. If the state is the problem then help the rest of us do something to boost funding for all of the students in the district – in the state!

    So what is “Shoe” doing? Is he working on ways to help turn the tide on the state level? Talking to other mayors and forming a powerful coalition to help fund our schools at a higher rate? Nope.

    He just wants that “drop in the bucket” even at the expense of everyone else in the district. David “Shoe” Shuey, the Gordon Gekko of our education advocates.

  9. Audience Member Says:

    I can’t wait for the charter to be approved by the county. Our public high school students will have something different to choose from and I think the whole district will be the better for it. I don’t have a student who will be able to attend the charter at this point but I am very excited for the change.

    I am glad that #58 knows everything about Mayor Shuey (sarcasm).

    I will also be interested to see how the financials play out after the fear mongering is done. My prediction is that you will discover that either CVHS has been used as a cash cow to support the rest of the district or that the money comes out close to even.

  10. Just J Says:

    Anon parent. What are you doing to make change? Pushing for another parcel tax that will go to useless ADMINS? Perhaps you are out their voicing your opinion on change? I did not get the same tone from Shuey that you did. What I think he is saying is the charter movement is really small in the whole picture. It is small. Nobody knows what the real figures are due to accounting practices in place ( the hide the pea game). The district said they did not take into consideration the funds they will get from “rents” that will offset the negative.

    Lawrence said that Cv takes in more then it’s expenses. Why does cv look so bad and is unable to fund programs that we desperately need? It’s because we need to take extra funds to fund other schools. Hmmmmm where is the fairness in that? Why does Northgate get so much more than other schools and why are they not funding the other schools?

    You all are missing the point that the current system we are in is broken. We as one community cannot change the whole system. CVCHS was willing to share with the district programs that work. The district decided that they want nothing to do with working together that should tell you a lot! Go “Shoe” Shuey the only Mayor willing to stand up and fight!

  11. anon Says:

    Anon 56. Too bad, so sad, then you should’ve supported the board approving the charter so everyone “could” all work together. The district, and the district alone, closed that door by denying. So now the whole district wants to know these things, well what is stopping you from finding out. Since the impact to the district was not something they could consider in the approval process, it is all moot now isn’t it. I hope the county or state approve it and then MDUSD just loses more power over the charter. Ever heard that keep your friends close, and enemies closer? Well clearly the district set up the charter as public enemy number 1, and instead of doing the smart thing by approving it and keep them close and being involved, they slammed the door – and did a helluva lot of damage on the way… the district should be embarrassed and ashamed. I hope Lawrence lays awake at night – he’s maybe the worst thing that has ever happened to this district, and it is the board’s fault (the previous board that is who recruited him in).

  12. Anon Says:

    Sorry 61,

    You made one small mistake. Paul Strange is the worst thing that has ever happened to this district.

  13. School Teacher Says:

    It has been pointed out by the district that they have a very low administrator to student ratio compared to some other districts. What are the percentages of the budget in these other districts with the higher ratios that are eaten up in what here we call “centralized” costs? If our administrator to student ratio is so rock bottom, but our comparative centralized costs are higher, then where is all that money going? Are there subcategories of expenditures that those costs can be broken down into to try and track the money more efficiently?

  14. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, but the administrator to teacher ratio includes school administrators, who are coded to the schools. Richards said the central services costs include positions not coded to any school, such as floating music teachers, etc. However, most of these types of positions were restricted, such as psychologists, he said.
    Richards also mentioned that the Dent Center is “Site 10” on the spreadsheet. In 2010-11, the district spent about $12.1 million in unrestricted funds on the Dent Center and more than $17.8 million in restricted funds, for a total of more than $29 million.
    Based on the district’s ADA of 32,534.54, this means the district spent an average of $919.69 per student on Dent Center services, including about $371.92 per student in unrestricted funding and $547.77 per student in restricted funding.
    In analyzing the data, I’ve found so far that CVHS, College Park and Concord High each spent $826.27 per ADA in unrestricted funding on central services. Based on the Dent Center calculations above, this means that an average of nearly $372 (or 45 percent) of that pays for Dent Center services and about $454 (or 55 percent) goes toward other central services.

  15. g Says:

    Theresa, am I correct in my belief that costs associated with Every Site Code beginning with a zero ie. 000, 010, 051 etc, is spread out proportionally by ADA to every school?

  16. g Says:

    Sorry, I meant to include the link for reference.

  17. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: I don’t think so, since some of those generate ADA revenue and actually contribute to the rest of the district, according to the spreadsheet.
    These include 021 HOME, 044 CIS and 090 H&H. However, I believe all the ones that don’t generate enough revenues to be self-supporting are spread across the district.
    The spreadsheet also shows how much ADA funding each site generated and how much it contributed to other programs (not at the school).
    In 2010-11, CVHS generated about $9 million in unrestricted revenues, of which about $8.1 million was spent at the school, leaving about $900,000 (or about 10 percent) that helped pay for other programs districtwide.

  18. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, there has been much ado about elementary costing more than their share of the ADA compared to the high schools. I think it was Lawrence that blamed higher paid teachers in elementary. But since most of the elementary schools, even schools with high enrollment, only have a Principal, and no Vice-principal, while middle and high schools have very high numbers of administrators, shouldn’t this be balanced out someplace ?
    Also, I know its not a popular idea, but it seems that the closing of the two schools, did result in some significant savings as the reserves have increased significantly. Again, I know this isn’t a popular idea, but why has the school closure committee not been meeting regularly to look at consolidation of more schools, especially if the feeder pattern is disrupted by the Charter adoption ? I know I am not popular for saying this, but about two or maybe nearly three years ago, I called for the closing of 4-6 schools. We have to get our schools at or close to full capacity to take advantage of the economies of scale for administrators and support services. This standing committee needs to take the politics out of the decision.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Elementary schools may also have fewer students per teacher, so they could be generating less revenues to pay for the teachers. Class size in elementary schools is about 31, whereas it can go up to 37 at the high school level — higher for music classes.
    But to really answer your question, the district would need to release the actual budgets for each school, so teachers’ salaries could be compared to other items, such as administration.

    Also, in looking more closely at the spreadsheet, I realize the $900,896.52 that CVHS contributed toward other programs last year is on top of the $826.27 per ADA it spent on unrestricted central services. So, the school contributed an additional $513.66/ADA toward “other programs.” This brings the total for centralized services plus other district programs to $1,339.95 per student or $2.35 million. This appears to be where the district is getting its estimate of a $2.4 million impact, which is what Debi Deal said her FCMAT review found.
    But, this doesn’t include the $1.8 million in lost revenues, which brings the total impact up to about $4.15 million.
    The bottom line is that CVHS has been heavily subsiding central services and other programs.

  20. School Teacher Says:

    Do they even have actual budgets for each school? Sure doesn’t seem like it when they can’t come up with how much it costs to run a site in the case of the charter discussions. If they don’t, I would hope this would be in the process of being set up because it doesn’t make the district look like they have a good grasp on their finances. In a certain way, I think most people understand that some money moves from one site to another to cover overall costs, but I think people would like to see that more broken down so they know what the money is going to. And, assuming this information is available, would this information be available for public scrutiny? I think in many of the discussions about budgetary issues, the district has these very broad categories, and I think the public would like to see more detail about where (to whom) that money is going. This would include individual site, and particularly “centralized” costs.

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, the district does have individualized school budgets. The spreadsheet shows the total budget amount, including restricted and unrestricted, with and without central services.
    Richards provided me with a more detailed accounting of the direct unrestricted $6.7 million in costs for CVHS in 2010-11, which is posted here:
    This includes a breakdown with teachers’ salaries, administrators’ salaries, benefits, books, etc.
    What the district hasn’t provided is a detailed accounting of centralized costs and “other programs” that CVHS contributes to.

  22. Doctor J Says:

    Let’s start talking TURKEY — appropriate at Thanksgiving. I proposed this list on March 1 and May 4. Its time to start carving the TURKEY.

    1. Eliminate all medical benefits for board members.
    2. Reduce the Supt and all Asst Supt’s salaries by 20%.
    3. Reduce all directors salaries by 15%. Its outrageous that more than 200 MDUSD employees are compensation more than $100,000.
    4. Double up small elementary schools to share one principal.
    5. Eliminate Vice-principals at Middle Schools. It worked in Elementary schools.
    6. Cut by 50% vice-principals at high schools.
    7. Rescind the Gang of Five raises.
    8. Hire another in house lawyer for the legal department and reduce outside lawyers to $100,000 from $600,000. Require ALL inside lawyers, including Rolen, to have 2000 “billable” hours per year. Redistribute Rolen’s administrative responsibilities to Lawrence.
    9. Immediately freeze all longevity salary increases of administrators.
    10. Immediately stop ALL overnight travel, seminars, conferences, unless approved by the board.
    11. Stop watering the lawns, reduce mowing to once a month, and stop weeding.
    12. Cancel all cell phone subsidies.
    13. Consolidate an additional 4 – 6 schools.

    In light of additional ‘REVELATIONS’in recent months, I would make the following changes and or additions:
    14. Increase the cuts to Supt and Asst Supt’s annual salaires to 25%. If they choose to leave, so be it. They are a big cause of the problems.
    15. Reduce the annual compensation of Board members to $300 per month and no medical, dental or other benefits.
    16. Publish quarterly financial updates within 20 days of the end of each quarter and hold a public workshop to allow for all questions 10 days later.
    17. Any school that is Program Improvement for 5 plus years, goes into the Reformation Model and not the transformation model or is closed.
    18. All Dent administrators are IMMEDIATELY put on ONE year contracts, reviewable each year by the Board. Its time that Dent stops being a “spike your retirement” hideout.

  23. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Theresa, elementary classes are as follows:
    Kinder – up to 32 students
    1st through 3rd – up to 31 students (was 20)
    4th and 5th – up to 34 students

    “Doctor” J, you have obviously never worked in an elementary or middle school, or you’d understand how having a part-time principal (elementary) or no vice principals (middle) is ridiculous. I challenge you to spend time in a school office, so you can see the absurdity of your #4 proposal.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    @FT #73 Tell me Flippin, how Principals at some of our Elementary Schools with over 700 students have operated without a Vice-Principal ? I might be open to sharing principals between schools with Vice-Principals at each school if the enrollment are 90% of capacity. Teachers have to be in control of their classes and not sluff it off to “the office”.

  25. Audience Member Says:

    Stop weeding?

    A few years ago the front of CVHS looked like such a run down overgrown ghetto prison that I truly questioned my decision to send my child there(and several new high school parents were so appalled that they left for private schools without question). My husband actually went over and spent hours pulling out a truck full of 5 foot weeds that had all gone to seed. That was probably the year with the lowest student morale and the year before the Project Pride committee started to turn things around. Pride and respect for your school are an important part of changing students’ attitude and behavior.

  26. Just J Says:

    So do the other high schools subsidize programs like cv does?
    So knowing that the district is taking more from our students to pay for others I have to ask
    The question are you all still mad at Clayton for taking away from the other schools even though you have been taking more than a fair share from our students? I think the real deal
    Here has been mentioned before. The district is more worried about loosing its cash cow

  27. Doctor J Says:

    @AM #75. What is more important in a school ? Getting the white boards hung that have been sitting unhung for 8 months or getting the weeds pulled every week ? I agree with what your husband did. I also agree that many student clubs and parent booster clubs can participate in the beautifucation of school grounds. When the schools are in a financial crisis, priorities have to be reexamined. I also have to agree that it is pretty hard to sell to the public that MDUSD is in a financial crisis when it has been concealing a $40 plus million dollar reserve for the last two years.

  28. Flippin' Tired Says:

    [This comment has been edited to delete an offensive remark]

    Again, “Doctor” J, you must never have spent time at a school site. Teachers need to teach. If there is no full-time principal, then discipline falls to the office manager and secretary. The district already doesn’t pay them enough.

    Your chutzpah is really astonishing – you “might be open” to sharing principals? I thank the stars you have no power in this district…

    Since you are clueless about what happens on the front lines, you must be one of those Dent Center people who is overpaid. Why don’t you head over to Payroll and offer to cut your pay?

  29. Doctor J Says:

    @FT Paul #78 — Name calling again — I guess you’re back again. I think its you that doesn’t understand. When the Elementary Principals have a principal meeting or other duties at Dent during the school day, who is in charge at the school since most of them don’t have Vice-Principals ? Not its not the office manager AND secretary. Guess you didn’t get the memo, but those two jobs are now less than full time and often only one of them is present. The principal designates a “teacher-in-charge”. We have elementary schools operating without principals present for hours at a time and sometimes the entire school day almost every week. So we will let everyone else decide who is clueless. Its clearly not me.

  30. Doctor J Says:

    MDUSD’s “on leave” Torlakson sent in an “incomplete application” to the feds for its share of the $200 million “Race to the Top” and California has been disqualified. Eberhart keeps him on “speed dial” — birds of a feather flock together.

  31. Flippin' Tired Says:

    “Doctor” J, I know precisely who handles the problems when the principal is gone. I know how the office staff stagger their time. Both are on-site when students are on-site. The office staff handle routine discipline if the principal is gone. If the TIC has to handle anything, who do you think takes over their class, the Tooth Fairy? Here’s a dollar for the clue you need to buy.

    BTW, still not Paul, but good to see your paranoia running at full steam!

  32. anon Says:

    Question for Theresa: Are you proud of this work that you are doing? What is being accomplished by allowing this back and forth to go on? Doesn’t the newspaper have a desire to uphold some level of legitimacy? There is so much fiction and so little truth, I don’t see how this benefits anything or anyone. I seriously doubt that it benefits the Times. I am truly appalled.

  33. Anon Says:


    I suspect some of these comments are cutting a little close to home.

    #82 = Eberhart, Lawrence, or most likely Sue Brothers

  34. g Says:

    @82: Theresa provides a service, a venue, a blog. While there may be a lot of speculation on the blog, there is also a lot of truth. Problem is, some people don’t like to face the truth and some wouldn’t recognize it if it bit them.

  35. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: The Times provides a blog for discussion about education issues. I don’t control what people write in the comments section. I am on vacation and wasn’t monitoring the blog this afternoon and evening. However, after reading the “back and forth,” I removed a portion of one comment that was offensive and inappropriate (as I have done in the past and will continue to do).
    Dialogue about staffing at school sites and the Dent Center is valid. However, there is no reason for commenters to call each other names or otherwise disparage each other. I respectfully request that those of you who choose to comment here please respect that.
    Anon, if you believe some commenters have written something that is untrue, please point it out.
    Unfortunately, the district no longer videotapes meetings and it posts minutes weeks or months after meetings take place. The district did not post an agenda for the Monday meeting about the charter/budget and has not posted the Powerpoint presented by Bryan Richards or the spreadsheet handed out at the meeting. This blog provides a forum for people to discuss what is going on.

    Just J: Yes, the other comprehensive high schools also subsidize other programs, but the amount varies widely from one school to the next.
    Although most appear to spend roughly the same amount of ADA for unrestricted centralized services, they don’t all contribute equal amounts to other programs.
    Here’s the breakdown of contributions to other programs (taken directly from the ADA revenue generated by each school):
    Clayton Valley: $900,896.52 or $513.67/ADA
    College Park: $1,442,341.58 or $784/ADA
    Concord: $1,132,773.06 or $784/ADA
    Mt. Diablo: $535,889.19 or $389.70/ADA
    Northgate: $402,005.87 or $282.73/ADA
    Ygnacio Valley: $234,628.75 or $198.82/ADA
    It’s unclear how these contributions are determined.

  36. g Says:

    Interesting that those bottom three contributors match the three principals verbally opposing the Charter on grounds that the charter would “take funds from their schools”.

  37. Pat Carney Says:

    First time on this blog and surprised to see no commentary on the solar savings for the school districts. All of the size, cost and savings numbers are extremely inconsistent and defy logic. Net present value calculations of future savings versus current costs seem to be off the table. This is clearly a play by the schools to generate extra revenues for the operating budgets instead of benefiting the bond holders. Are expensive inverters even considered in the long term when they need replacing within 15 years? Where is the hard hitting journalism required for dollars of this magnitude?

  38. Doctor J Says:

    Loss of ‘Race to the Top’ funds explored in more detail by ‘EdSource’. I wonder why MDUSD didn’t consider being a partner in the application where the money would be spent: “a meaningful share of the award be spent to advance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the state.” Isn’t that a part of the proposed “Strategic Plan” ? Didn’t Measure C promise those same things ?
    I don’t ever recall the Board having this discussion about partnering with the other districts. Did they ?

  39. g Says:

    Pat Carney—goodness, you just haven’t looked enough. This is a huge issue, brought up on almost every thread, with some blogs dedicated to it. But, welcome! Come help us out.

  40. Theresa Harrington Says:

    My recent story did state that some taxpayers question whether the solar projects will produce the savings estimated. There has been considerable discussion about this issue on this blog, mainly related to coverage of the Mt. Diablo Bond Oversight Committee:
    Unfortunately, our company recently went through another round of layoffs, so our resources are spread very thin. However, I do plan to continue following this issue to see whether costs exceed estimates and savings live up to expectations.

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    No, I don’t believe MDUSD was considered because the teachers’ union did not support the original Race to the Top documentation years ago.
    This has been one of the big problems in California — its inability to get the teachers’ unions on board.
    So, the state chose districts where there was more commitment to implementing the required reforms.

  42. Doctor J Says:

    @TH #91 The SIG MOU with MDEA seems to suggest that MDEA is willing to tie test scores to teacher evaluations — a requirement of SIG. Or is it just a ruse to get the money ? BTW, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, even those with whom I have policy disagreements.

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, MDEA has shown more willingness to work toward reform recently.
    However, after California’s first Race to the Top application was rejected, the state changed its strategy and decided to work only with those large districts that were on board from the beginning.

  44. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, but I am not aware that the District was willing to tie test scores to teacher evaluations either until they were denied the year two SIG grants. So I think it was a two way street — and as a result the children lost again.

  45. Just J Says:

    Dr. J. This is another issue that California will never get on board with. I am still not sure I understand why everyone is afraid of this…..besides bad teachers will actually have to work.
    As long as the people in charge stay this way we will never get out of the mess we have. We will continue to bleed untill we are dead. This is very sad.

  46. Doctor J Says:

    Just J: I wouldn’t go that far. Seven large school districts were willing to do it, and that says a lot since they must see the value. Also, There are about 81 schools that did SIG grants, Cohort 1 that committed to it, but many like MDUSD had to write Corrective Action Plans and include an agreement with the Teacher’s Union to include in Teacher evaluations test score results. We will have to see if MDUSD follows through with it this year, and how far the District and the Union are willing or else the funding could be lost again. Its the inevitable clash between teachers considering themselves as Educational Professionals who don’t need data evaluation as oppossed to feeling that they are “teaching to the test” rather than educating.

  47. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, I have just posted an uplifting look at three award-winning teachers, including excerpts from their speeches at the Warren Eukel Teacher Trust Awards ceremony:
    One teaches special education at Stanley MS in Lafayette, one teaches PE and dance at Richmond HS and one teaches history at San Ramon Valley HS in Danville.

  48. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, I have just posted a very indepth recap of the CVHS charter budget meeting held Monday, including the content of the PowerPoint and a comparison of costs at each of the six comprehensive high schools:
    There are also links to video clips of portions of the meeting.

  49. Doctor J Says:

    Richards and Lock have been stalling releasing the spending reports on the SIG Grants Cohort 1 for the four schools and the district. They were filed Oct 12 with CDE — by closing Glenbrook, the district LOST an unspent balance for 2010/11 of $273,000 AND a total of $2.1 MILLION for Glenbrook for the balance of the Grant through 2013. Bel Air did NOT spend $593,000 of its 2010/11 Grant but is allowed to carry it over to 11/12 for a total SIG budget next year of $2,000,000 — How can Bel Air possibly spend that much extra money on the items identified in SIG Grant application and CAP next school year ? And you can go through school by school AND the district left unspent nearly 50% of its SIG money of $933,000 so it now has nearly $1.4 million to spend on its identified projects in the SIG grant and CAP.
    Looks like the doom and gloom of the state budget crisis, is now SHOCK and AWE at the SIG Schools and Dent Center.

  50. Doctor J Says:

    Bel Air has about $4500 PER STUDENT to spend in 2011/12 school year from the SIG Grant in addition to regular budget monies ! If test scores don’t skyrocket with that kind of money, there is something wrong. I think every underpeforming student could have a private tutor all year round for that kind of money !

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