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Mt. Diablo HS teachers lay out reasons for ‘No Confidence’ vote in principal

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, December 15th, 2011 at 11:16 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

In an unprecedented move in recent Mt. Diablo school district history, the teaching staff of Mt. Diablo High School in Concord has presented a “No Confidence” vote regarding Principal Kate McClatchy to the board.

Five teachers spoke — while many more stood in solidarity holding handmade “No Confidence” signs — during the Tuesday board meeting. Several members of the audience looked on in surprise, as teachers walked to the podium one after the other to detail their concerns about McClatchy’s leadership.

The board and district administrators did not respond to the teachers’ comments. I tried calling McClatchy for a response, but have not heard back from her.

English teacher Dan Reynolds, who is the lead union representative at the site, told me after the meeting that he and other teachers hope to receive some type of response from the district in the near future.

Reynolds said teachers voted Monday, after numerous attempts to work things out with McClatchy and district officials failed. Teachers enlisted the Mt. Diablo Education Association teachers union to facilitate the vote to assure that all teachers would feel comfortable casting ballots, said Mike Langley, teachers’ union president.

“It was as neutral as possible,” he said of the voting process. “They could vote any way they wished. The integrity is the best that can be expected in such a situation fraught with emotion.”

Fifty-five teachers voted “No Confidence,” 11 voted “Confidence” and 13 abstained, Reynolds said.

“We, as the teachers, don’t have authority to do anything,” Reynolds said. “My next step is to wait to see if the board responds, to see if this works as a political tool. A vote of No Confidence invites a response.”

Since McClatchy was appointed principal of the school in June 2010, Reynolds said she has not worked collaboratively with teachers.

“Her response is to attack people,” Reynolds said.

Langley said he has been aware of teachers’ concerns at the school for a while.

“I would say the staff at Mt. Diablo High School was quite patient,” he said.

Both Reynolds and Langley said district administrators and trustees were told of the concerns, but did not seem to be taking action to remedy them.

“It does not seem to have worked,” Langley said. “It has been getting worse for the (union) members and I encouraged them to bring it to a vote.”

Some teachers, they said, were afraid of retaliation by McClatchy.

Reynolds, who was named one of the district’s Teachers of the Year in 2010, said he proceeded in the same way he teaches his Human Rights students about how to effect change.

“You don’t have a strike on the first day or angrily attack,” Reynolds said. “You use a process that respects the people.”

Langley said he wants the district to address the issues raised by teachers during their comments to the board.

Here are their comments (or excerpts), along with links to video clips of their remarks:

Reynolds: “Last year, you placed a new principal at Mt. Diablo High School — Kate McClatchy — and things began to deteriorate. This deterioration has caused teachers to have numerous concerns about Kate McClatchy’s abilities.

We feel that the climate of our site does not promote fairness or respect, that decisions that affect teachers are not made fairly, that decisions that affect students are not made fairly. Teachers don’t feel supported by the administration. Teachers feel that their suggestions or recommendations are not used when making decisions at the site. Teachers don’t feel that they are treated with respect by the administration. Teachers feel that meetings are excessive and that time at these meetings is not spent wisely. We feel unsupported by the administration when it comes to enforcing student discipline policies. Teachers feel that students are not receiving appropriate consequences for breaking rules.

We feel that parent concerns are not handled effectively and that testing and test-preparation unduly infringe on teacher time. We feel that instructional time is not given the priority it deserves from the administration and we feel that the administration does not demonstrate integrity that they are not honest and that they do not follow through. Teachers feel that their autonomy and ability to implement what works well in their classrooms is not valued.

And that deterioration crested last Wednesday, when we found out that due to Kate McClatchy’s refusal to create a Master Schedule compliant with the mandates of QEIA, we had been terminated from the program. This termination will cost the students at Mt. Diablo High School $3.2 million over the next two school years.

The teachers could stand no more and yesterday we held a vote of No Confidence in Principal Kate McClatchy. Seventy-nine ballots were cast — 55 no confidence, 11 confidence and 13 abstentions. Only 11 teachers at Mt. Diablo High School expressed confidence. Overwhelmingly, the teachers at Mt. Diablo High School have no confidence in Kate McClatchy.

To explain our concerns about QEIA, at the February 2011 site council meeting, the council was presented with a report from Jen Sachs and Bryan Richards that discussed QEIA budgeting and class size reduction. That night, the council said to Ms. McClatchy the same thing we’d been saying for months: ‘You must create a QEIA-compliant master schedule.’ A council member said (and I quote): ‘If we don’t master schedule for QEIA mandates, we are putting a nail in the QEIA coffin.’ At this same meeting, Ms. McClatchy said (and I quote): ‘We did not master schedule for QEIA mandates.’

At the end of the 2010-11 school year, the Mt. Diablo High School QEIA account had hundreds of thousands of dollars of carryover. As long as there was one penny left in that account, we should have been using it to serve our students and meet the QEIA mandates.

Ms. McClatchy is not valuing student input. Students are ignored completely or told that their input is not valid. They are told that decisions do not affect them, when they do. They are lied to. The entire student body suffers for the disciplinary and behavioral faults of the few.

Last spring, when a parent raised concerns about her daughter’s access to AP classes, she was told: ‘If you don’t like it, send her to another school.’ Students are not being allowed legal access to bathrooms.

Kate McClatchy deprofessionalizes teachers — especially if they attempt to raise a voice of concern — saying things like, ‘Oh, people don’t want to read the minutes, so why should we distribute them?’ She is using compartmentalization as a tactic to pursue her own agenda, while making it seem like teachers’ voice is being considered. An example being the Smaller Learning Communities committee, which she references in other meetings, even though very few people at the SLC meeting support the decision she is making. And please understand, she is making these decisions and not listening to the teachers, who have repeatedly told her that we think her academy scale up model is bad for our students.” (Stopped when told time was up.)


Science teacher Linda Flower: “We’re extremely concerned about student discipline and school safety. The administration has created a support call program that replaces student discipline referrals. This program is ineffective. Teachers are left unsupported in their classrooms. The administration is not responding to the support calls and when they do, they are not thoroughly dealing with the issue. They are sending students right back into the classroom and won’t remove them from the classroom and we have to deal with it. Administration are chastising teachers that they’re making too many support calls and then are just leaving disruptive students in classrooms because they do not want to deal with them in the office. Often, they are not reported. The support calls are not even recorded in the ABI system, attempting to make it look like there’s less of a discipline problem. Students found drunk — and this personally happened to me — was found drunk in the classroom, was given one period of suspension. That day, I had him fifth period. He was suspended for sixth period and allowed to come back the next day.

Students are using diminuitive…and flirtatious talk toward teachers and admin is not supporting teachers in their attempts to get it to stop. We had one teacher verbally assaulted in her classroom and she asked the administration to remove the student, but they did not. The student then touched the teacher’s bottom and the teacher had to angrily demand that the student be suspended because admin was not going to do it on their own. Upon returning, the student physically assaulted the teacher and the teacher filed a police report.”

She said the administration blames teachers when they complain.


Science teacher Askin Topal: Said McClatchy’s leadership is causing low morale, due to a top-down, micromanaging leadership style, which hinders open and transparent communications. He said she is destroying the arts on campus and is pushing a 7-period day schedule. He also said that McClatchy had repeatedly attempted to spend funds without site council approval. Finally, he said McClatchy knowingly allowed the school to be terminated from the QEIA program, which will cause the campus to lose $1.6 million a year in funding.


Science teacher Patrick Oliver: “I’m very sad to be here….

As you heard earlier, only 11 teachers expressed confidence in her leadership…

Her disrespect to teachers has been continuous. Personally, what brought me to address you was that the administration has failed to create a QEIA-compliant schedule and as a result of losing this $3.2 million, we are going to lose 22-24 fulltime staff positions, 2 school SSC student support counselors, one security person and 60 percent of a campus supervisor.

My classroom is likely to go from 20 students to 37 in my sections. We’ve increased our test scores for the lowest socio-economic indicators in the district and I’m proud of all the work that we’ve done to comply with the mandates and to make a difference in the lives of our students. And, for the past two years on the site council, we’ve been reminding Ms. McClatchy of the responsibilities to fulfill the QEIA mandates by providing a schedule that accommodates continuation of the grant. We’ve been blown off, to say the least. I daresay there’s been some deception involved. I’m not sure, but that’s the way it seems to me.

There’s a number of other situations that have been brought to her attention. As you have already heard about, campus security has been really a problematic. As a union representative, I hear about these things all the time. I asked teachers to put their concerns in writing and I’ve received a number of them.

There is a lack of safety on campus and consequences for students. There is obviously the dictatorial management style you’ve heard about. Teachers, parents and students are not valued and their input in the decision-making process….

My father is a retired captain in the US Navy and I was raised under the belief that the person at the top is fully accountable for the entire system.

She has failed Mt. Diablo High School by not supporting the students, not valuing and listening to the teachers and especially offering our students the best opportunities for learning that they can. I sincerely believe its going to be extremely difficult to increase STAR test scores or attendance rate our graduation rate with classes of 37 students with the loss of QEIA funding.

As I said, I am really sad to be here and I hope you take what we say into consideration and realize that it comes from a place wanting to improve the educational facilities there, as we have.”


Alison van der Heide, science dept. chairwoman: “Ms. McClatchy is replacing learning with testing, data sets and a push, push, push for the test, test, test and following the EDI, EDI, EDI, but not really showing a dedication to actual learning from our students. We will even have to spend time in our class before WASC to study for ESLERS and even give our students a test on the ESLERS.

We are also concerned about how the evaluation process is being applied. The entire process is being made to feel punitive, though it’s supposed to be made to support teachers…”

She said teachers feel they are being targeted and that McClatchy gives “lip service” to collaboration, but doesn’t practice it. She also expressed concerns about choices students are foced to make regarding AP classes.


When the Mt. Diablo school board voted to deny the Clayton Valley charter petition, Trustee Lynne Dennler said that many other schools have concerns, but that Clayton Valley was the first to do something about it. She suggested that the district establish a committee to facilitate discussions about concerns on campuses.

Although then-Board President Gary Eberhart told me he thought that was a good idea, it has not been done. I also asked Superintendent Steven Lawrence about the idea, specifically related to remedying issues raised at Clayton Valley.

Here is his response, from an email:

“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.”

How do you think the district should respond to the concerns raised by MDHS teachers?

5:38 PM UPDATE: Earlier today, I received a phone call from Gary Peterson at MDHS. Without initially identifying himself, he told me the teachers who spoke at the board meeting had mischaracterized why the school is losing its QEIA funding. He also said, “It’s only for two years, so it’s not like it’s ongoing.”

Peterson told me the teachers who spoke at the meeting skewed the facts because they have a personal grudge against McClatchy. He said the real reason the school lost its funding is because the district would have needed to hire more teachers and it couldn’t afford to do that. He urged me to contact district officials to confirm what he was telling me. When I asked who he was, he told me his name, but didn’t reveal that he was a vice principal (which I learned when I searched his name on the school webiste). Peterson also told me the district prepared the “QEIA Scale-Down Q&A” that is on the school’s website.

In response to Peterson’s phone call, I left phone and email messages for Superintendent Steven Lawrence, Rose Lock, interim director of secondary education Doris Avalos, Lorie O’Brien and Julie Braun-Martin. I also tried to reach Bryan Richards, but was told he was out of the office until Monday. I also sent an email to McClatchy, after not getting a response from the voicemail message I left her yesterday. I did not hear back from McClatchy or any of the district officials I contacted.

The Q&A states that the district filed regular reports with a County Technical Advisor and that the district has also worked with the Northern California QEIA Center. So, I called Peggy Marshburn, who is the QEIA monitor, to find out if she could shed any light on what happened at MDHS.

Marshburn told me that QEIA schools had three years to achieve the goals set out in the QEIA contract, incrementally working toward achieving one third the first year, two-thirds the second year and 100 percent by June 2011, Marshburn said.

“They had until the end of the (2010-11) school year to complete the process, to make sure they met their class size reduction targets — to make sure they didn’t have more than 27 students in the classroom,” Marshburn said. “All these are things which they knew as part of their contract with QEIA. Why they weren’t able to do that — I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know if it was a master scheduling problem. I know that when they turned their paperwork in, their paperwork didn’t meet the required goals.”

Because the school failed to come into compliance by June 2011, it entered a “soft landing” phase this year (2011-12), she said, in preparation for no funding in 2012-13 or 2013-14.

Marshburn said a number of schools across the state in the QEIA progam have also been unable to meet all the goals.

“When you set goals three years in advance,” she said, “a lot of things change, including all kinds of funding.”

Although the district’s Q&A states that the district cannot appeal its disqualification, Marshburn said she was informed today that the district intends to try.

“I understand from Lorie O’Brien that Mt. Diablo is going to appeal to the state for a waiver,” Marshburn said, citing an e-mail O’Brien sent today to the Northern California QEIA Technical Assistance Center.

Marshburn said she hadn’t seen the Q&A, which states:

“Q: Can we appeal any of this with CDE?

A: CDE has indicated that districts may only appeal on incorrect data. MDUSD worked with the Northern California QEIA Center and the Contra Costa County QEIA Monitor to rerun Mt. Diablo High’s numbers during the month of October. This resulted in no change of status for Mt. Diablo High.”

When I mentioned this to Marshburn, she responded:

“As far as I understand, they are planning to appeal. I don’t know the requirements the state would require for them to get a waiver.”

Marshburn said she was not present at the February 2011 MDHS site council meeting cited by Reynolds and could not comment on what occurred there. She encouraged me to contact the Northern California QEIA Technical Assistance Center for further information about that.

I expect to hear back from a state QEIA representative tomorrow and will update this blog (or create a new blog post) when I get more information.

DEC. 16 UPDATE: I just spoke to Lorie O’Brien, who oversees QEIA grant funding for the district (she assumed this position over the summer). She said she did not believe the district couldn’t afford to hire more teachers. She is canceling her vacation next week so that she can scrutinize the master schedule and pull students’ schedules to see if the district can apply for a waiver. She said she does not know why the QEIA mandates were not met, but she is trying to find out. It would be illegal to agree to accept grant money, but knowingly fail to abide by the grant requirements, she said.

O’Brien said she wrote the “QEIA Scale-Down Q&A” and that she had made a couple of typos related to dates. In the third paragraph, the notification date should be February 2011 instead of February 2010, she said. In the second-to-last paragraph, the answer to the question about funding carryovers should say: “All participating districts were notified recently that any funds not used by the end of the 2011-12 [instead of 2010-2011] school year (June, 2012) [instead of June, 2011] will be ‘billed back’ to CDE.”

I also spoke this morning with Mark Calonico, who provides technical assistance to districts regarding QEIA in northern California. He told me the QEIA funding had been extended to 2014-15. This means the school could actually lose $4.8 million over three years.

2:21 pm. UPDATE: I just spoke with Denise Rugani, the previous director of secondary support (for the 2010-11 school year). She said she did not supervise McClatchy — that was the responsibility of Rose Lock and Superintendent Steven Lawrence. Rugani said it was her belief that by the end of the school year, MDHS had created a master schedule that met QEIA requirements. She now works in the Liberty school district and is not aware of the county’s findings, she said.

3:35 pm. UPDATE: I just spoke to Marshburn again and she said the district should have known when it turned in its paperwork to the county, which was due July 15, that it hadn’t met the QEIA requirements. That paperwork was prepared by the school, Marshburn said. It clearly showed that the requirements were not met, she said. It was signed by McClatchy and Rose Lock. Marshburn also said she knew that Sachs had been working closely with MDHS administrators on the requirements.

DEC. 19 UPDATE: I just received an email from Jennifer Sachs, who now oversees QEIA funding in the Pittsburg district (which is appealing its loss of QEIA funding for Pittsburg Jr. High). Unfortunately, Sachs did not directly answer my question, which was: “Were you aware
that MDHS was not compliant by the end of the school year?”

Here is Sach’s reply: “The regular monitoring of the Mt. Diablo High School QEIA program did reveal challenges. The county reports provided to the Mt. Diablo Unified School District each fall documented the areas where the site did not meet the QEIA targets.”

I then received a follow-up email from her stating that she is out of the office until Jan. 3. So, it is still unclear whether Sachs knew the school would lose its QEIA funding when the school year ended.

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