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Mt. Diablo district may seek waiver for Mt. Diablo High state funding

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, December 29th, 2011 at 8:24 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The same week that teachers at Mt. Diablo High School (MDHS) presented a vote of No Confidence in Principal Kate McClatchy to the school board, district officials realized that they could apply for a state waiver to retain $1.6 million a year in Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) funding for the campus, according to Rose Lock, assistant superintendent of Student Achievement and School Support.

The school and district submitted a report at the end of the 2010-11 year to the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), which showed that the campus had failed to meet class size reduction requirements. In November, the County Office of Education sent a letter to the district confirming this.

Although both the principal and Lock knew this meant the school would lose its funding starting in 2012-13, McClatchy did not inform teachers about this loss until Dec. 7. They voted No Confidence five days later and presented their vote to trustees Dec. 13.

“As soon as we became aware of the waiver option during the week of December 13, staff kicked into high gear to prepare the waiver request to CDE (California Department of Education),” Lock wrote in an email. “In the process, we discovered some inaccuracies in the 2010-2011 report submitted by MDHS in June. The County Superintendent’s preliminary notification was based on our report. The State’s official notification is expected in February. In the meantime, the District worked with the CCCOE QEIA monitor and NorCal QEIA Technical Assistance to correct the data and have submitted an updated report for MDHS.

Based on the updated report, MDHS met all QEIA targets except for 1 area – ‘Rule of 27′ for six core classes. The waiver request provided compelling reasons why these six classes were above the class size of 27. We are asking for approval by our board…Jan. 9 to submit the waiver request to CDE. A copy of the application will be posted with the agenda.”

When I asked for a copy of the application now (since it is a public record), Lock responded that Lorie O’Brien (who was appointed as Assistant Director of Categoricals and School Support in August) has the final version of the application on her computer and she is on vacation this week.

“We can get a copy to you next Tuesday when she returns or you can certainly request it from CDE sooner,” Lock wrote. “Lorie worked with Peggy Marshburn at the county and Mark Calonico at NorCal QEIA Technical Assistance…”

It’s unclear why Mt. Diablo was in the dark about its ability to apply for a waiver, while many other districts throughout the state prepared waivers for the Jan. 11 state Board of Education meeting. Jennifer Sachs, who monitored Mt. Diablo’s QEIA funding before assuming her position as Director of Categorical Programs for the Pittsburg Unified School District, assisted in preparing a waiver for that district in time for the board’s Dec. 14 meeting.

In contrast, no Mt. Diablo district administrators mentioned the loss of QEIA funding to trustees at their Dec. 13 meeting. Instead, trustees heard about the loss from the MDHS teachers during their vote of No Confidence presentation.

Lock said Mt. Diablo district officials didn’t begin working on a waiver until they learned that other districts were seeking waivers.

“I first heard about Pittsburg from Jennifer Sachs at a County Curriculum Council meeting on Dec. 9,” Lock wrote in an email. “I read an article in the newspaper about the Pittsburg waiver hearing that weekend. When I told Lorie about Pittsburg the following Tuesday, she had just read about the waiver option in an electronic newsletter about categorical programs that she gets from CDE. As you know, CDE has numerous listserves for disseminating information. I can’t tell you how current their lists are. Neither Lorie nor I received any announcement about QEIA waivers. In talking with CDE, Lorie was told that they could do a better job communicating with districts. I am sure this is a result of their budget cuts and large staff turnovers.”

Staff turnovers in the district and County Office of Education could also be playing a role in the apparent confusion about QEIA rules. QEIA funding began in 2008-09, when Mt. Diablo HS had a different principal, the district had a different superintendent and the Student Achievement and School Support division had not yet been created.

On June 22, 2010, the board appointed McClatchy as principal of MDHS. According to Calonico, many high school administrators create their master schedules before the school year ends. This means the master schedule could have already been created when McClatchy assumed her position. If not, she and other administrators would have been scrambling to put it together in July and August for the 2010-11 school year, Calonico said.

Sachs left the district at the end of June, but was not replaced until Aug. 23. Denise Rugani, director of secondary support, left the district in September and has been replaced by an interim director.

Both the county monitor and the county technical advisor have also left their positions. A “QEIA Scale Down” fact sheet posted on the school’s website says the county and district provided close monitoring and guidance to ensure that QEIA requirements were met. So, it is unclear why this monitoring and guidance resulted in failure to meet the requirements.

Teacher Dan Reynolds told me today that the site council approved the waiver application in a 9-0 vote. He said some mistakes were originally made because the school or district didn’t realize they could count certain classes toward their class size reduction requirement, such as Teachers’ Assistant classes.

Gaye Smoot, assistant executive director for California County Superintendents’ Association, said districts have known about the rules since 2007.

“We work with the schools to help them toward achievement of the requirements — making sure they understand the requirements and making sure they do the actual monitoring,” she said. “So, we hope it’s not a surprise at the end of the year.”

Many questions remain. It’s still unclear whether McClatchy and the district intentionally failed to reduce class sizes or didn’t understand the rules. If they didn’t understand, then it’s unclear why the county and Northern California monitoring and guidance didn’t help them figure out the rules.

The biggest questions now, however, are:

- Will the state approve the waiver?

- And if so, will the school and district be able to comply with the requirements to keep the funding this year and beyond?

Reynolds said McClatchy has said in the past that the funding doesn’t really make much of a difference to the school. However, she has not shown specifically what she means by that, he said.

He and other teachers believe the funding helps tremendously because the grant provides smaller classes, which give educators more time with each student. The school’s test scores have increased, Reynolds said.

At the emergency site council meeting last Friday, McClatchy voted along with the rest of the council to approve the waiver, Reynolds said. Although McClatchy left me a voicemail last week while I was on vacation, she has not contacted me this week to discuss the QEIA funding. District schools are on winter break through Jan. 2.

Are you satisfied with the level of accountability and transparency shown by McClatchy and the district regarding the school’s QEIA funding?

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  • g

    2010: Please sir, may we have a waiver for SIG–we didn’t understand the rules. You can keep the SIG funds that we could have had for the students at Glenbrook–they really needed help, but we just stuffed them in at other schools that aren’t on ‘smaller class size’ requirements.

    2011: Please sir, may we have a waiver for QEIA, we thought it was “just too hard” to do what we promised we would do. Our Principal for the last year and a half thought it was a waste of money anyway–but please don’t hold that against us. We got our API up but failed just about every other SPSA requirement by about 50%, but promise to fix it later–maybe next year. And, we have a Superintendent that still, after two years, still hasn’t set foot on most of our campuses, or attended our Site Council meetings, but then we can say that about some of our Board members too.

    QEIA was approved in 2007 for Cambridge, Meadow Homes, and Ygnacio Valley Elementary,
    and Oak Grove and Riverview Middle, and Mt Diablo High– Elem schools get $500/student, Middle gets $900 and Mount got $1000/student. How are the other schools doing? I understand some classes, such as at Meadow Homes is still packed to the gills.

    As I understand it, the District gets: State and Federal Categorical Funding for: Title I, Title II, Title III, EIA, SLIBG, BTSA, AB430, QEIA, SIG and CAHSEE Intervention.

    How are the other schools handling SIG, QEIA and the eight other program requirements?

  • Theresa Harrington

    In May, 2010, Superintendent Steven Lawrence recommended the elimination of the Curriculum and Instruction Department — which previously helped schools with categorical funding to meet their requirements — and instead create the Student Achievement and School Support department, to provide coaching to principals so they would be stronger instructional leaders: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=2503&mtgId=268&mtgType=No

    Has this restructuring benefited MDHS?

  • Theresa Harrington
  • Doctor J

    @TH#52 Note that in the Board approved Org Chart, Jen Sachs continued in her role over categoricals, and reported to both the Director of Secondary and Director Elementary, both of which seem have have washed their hands of Categorical Programs. http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/687e2e3c-75a8-4dfa-8c20-ed3bec84aee9.pdf
    Lorie O’Brien was hired by the Board on August 23, 2011 to take Jen Sachs position over Categoricals which she vacated on June 30, 2011. We are now in January 2012, who was hired to take Lorie O’Brien’s position as an SASS Coach of Principals ????? I guess coaching the Principals isn’t as high on the priority list as it was promoted to be, eh ? When Lawrence and Co. spend all their time fighting a teacher trigger charter and ignore the real business of the district, are things getting better or worse ? Won’t take a very strong wind to blow over this house of cards.

  • Theresa Harrington

    As promised, I expect to publish a story tomorrow about another issue the district is spending time and money fighting. I will be interested to hear the public’s reaction.

  • g

    D: After you read the Grand Jury report, which highlights the District Budget woes, go to the MDEA site to compare the Reserves the District has amassed while crying broke:

    http://www.mtdiabloeducationassoc.org/pdf/MtDiabloUnUN09-10Oct11_103827.pdf

    Of course, after that cat was out of the bag, Bryan Richards try to get it back in by saying, oops–it isn’t really what it looks like. It’s what we call Fudge accounting.

  • Doctor J

    On May 10,2010 Lawrence promised the Board that the SASS members of this new department “will be annually evaluated based on criteria that also include:

    1. Whether or not the schools they support meet or exceed the growth targets identified by the State for school-wide and subgroup API data;
    2. Whether or not the EL students in the schools they support make annual progress on the CELDT. Our goal is that all EL students are redesignated English proficient within six years of entering our schools.
    3. Whether or not all students are making measurable gains on district benchmark assessments that measure students’ progress toward mastery of the State standards;
    4. Whether or not our high schools are increasing the graduation rate, increasing the number of students completing CTE pathways, increasing the percentage of students taking AP classes and achieving a 3 or better on the end of course assessments, increasing the percentage of students taking the SAT/ACT, and increasing the SAT/ACT scores for all subgroups of students on an annual basis.
    5. Annual principal surveys that focus on whether or not principals feel supported in moving their schools forward.”

    For the first school year, 2010-2011, did they meet ANY of these evaluation criteria ?

    For the first half of school year, 2011-2012, have they met ANY of these evaluation criteria ?

    http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=2503&mtgId=268

  • g

    To Explain, when you look at the MDEA chart, The green shows the legally required reserve for economic uncertainty (slightly over $5million). The blue shows additional reserves the district has held. The first five years show actual dollars and the last shows projected dollars.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Regarding the QEIA timeline, Superintendent Steven Lawrence did not inform the community about the potential loss of MDHS funding until he released his Dec. 29 news update (which wasn’t sent out until Dec. 30) — approximately six months after the district sent a report to the county showing that it hadn’t met its QEIA class size mandates and more than two weeks after MDHS teachers presented their vote of No Confidence to the board on Dec. 13.

    In contrast, Lawrence provided the community with a News Update about the possible CVHS charter conversion on May 20 — more than two weeks BEFORE CVHS teachers voted on the charter petition.

    Please note that the Dec. 29 News Update states that QEIA funds help pay for “improving teacher and principal training.” I wonder if this includes principal training in meeting QEIA mandates.

    Dr. J: Last March, the SASS Dept. showed that it was meeting its goals: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2011/03/29/new-mt-diablo-student-achievement-and-school-support-division-gets-generally-high-marks-from-principals/
    It will be interesting to see if the department presents a similar report this year.

    g: Regarding the reserves, they originally included money that didn’t actually exist — based on projected furlough days the teachers’ union hasn’t agreed to.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#59 — The survey only evaluation criteria #5. Evaluation criteria 1, 2, 3 and 4 were never presented to the Board directly concerning SASS. However, we do have the Norm Gold report which blasted MDUSD on the EL programs or perhaps better said, non-programs. We also have the API scores, only two point gain for the entire district, even though a couple of schools really made some great leaps, but not sure you can attribute that to SASS. Never a discussion on Lawrence’s Goals and Objectives he promoted in lieu of a Strategic Plan. And no discussion on #4 either. SASS on present the one halfway bright spot their own survey.

  • g

    Yes Theresa, I agree. Fudge Accounting. That speaks to the column 6 figures. Columns 1-5 speaks for -we couldn’t afford to keep neighborhood schools open, and take more than 4 months in a careful decision process- and -properly plan to save SIG grants for 700 students-, or to -transport students safely-, or even to -hire teachers to meet QEIA requirements for 2008/2009/2010/2011-.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Dr. J: At the same board meeting, SASS presented a Powerpoint showing how the dept. was meeting goals and objectives, along with “next steps:” http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=3817&mtgId=300&mtgType=No

    Regarding the waiver, I have just spoken to another person at CDE who said an application is not normally considered complete unless the board meeting has already happened. In fact, when the applications go online in a few months, a district will not be able to submit it unless the board meeting has already occurred. However, the CDE has not yet made a final decision about whether it will accept the MDHS waiver in time for the March SBE meeting.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#62. Sorry, I disagree — it does NOT show SASS was meeting the Goals and Objectives — point me to the G & O that were being met. The PP did NOT evaluate if the Goals & OBjectives were being met — it was only March and the API scores weren’t released until late August or early Sept. The PP merely stated some of the things SASS would be doing and despite the fact that it was 2/3 of the way through school, I don’t think they got very far in the last couple of months. Here are a few excerpts. Note: it was just in the last meeting that the Board even approved the “job descriptions” of SASS, a year and a half after it was formed.

    Ask yourself, how did SASS do with these ?

    p. 3 “support principals with individualized assistance to implement their Single Plans for Student Achivement”. I would love to know what SASS was doing to support Kate McClatchy with “individualized assistance” so she could accomplish the SPSA for MDHS. If that would have been happening, the QEIA mandates would have been met.

    p. 5 SASS “oversses compliance” and “ensures that the district meets all dtate and federal mandates”. Really ? As of this presentation date, March 29, the district already had violated the SIG grants and the QEIA grants, and were fully aware of the violations for several months. See timeline.

    p. 13 You have to love the “Math Benchmarks” that were presented to show that Math comprehension was skyrocketing. While it is true that some math API scores improved, the overall Math API scores did not match the “benchmarks” shown. Comparison of these Math Benchmarks and the API Math scores reminds me more of the MDUSD accounting department shell games.

    Bottom line for 2010-2011 school year: The API gain of just 2 points was a dismal failure of the implementation of the strategy outlined in the PP.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Dr. J: OK, the PowerPoint showed how SASS was trying to meet the Goals and Objectives. Do you think the superintendent’s recommendation to eliminate Curriculum and Instruction in favor of SASS has been successful?

    Regarding the waiver, a PIO for the CDE just told me they won’t release it until the board acts on it, since the CDE still considers it to be in “draft” form. This is the third person who has essentially told me the application may be deemed “incomplete” until after the MDUSD board vote — which would mean the SBE won’t vote on it until May.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#64 At the time of formation of SASS, I was in favor of the theory of using successful administrators to mentor or coach — ones that “turned around” underperforming schools. I still think its viable, but instead, SASS has got away from its original mission in just the first year — because Lawrence wasn’t handling other issues, and SASS was constantly being called upon to try and fix the textbook issue because the warehouse didn’t even have an inventory of textbooks in the schools. Then there has been the two year fiasco on transportation. And on and on.
    But even more central to the failure: who are the “successful administrators” that are “mentoring or coaching” the principals ? Has Rose Lock ever turned around a distressed school ? Did Rugani turn around Riverview ? Now Avalos ? Petersen had signifcant success with Delta View. What about Holleworth [retired after first year] ? O’Brien [now categoricals with no experience]? Hukkanen ? Postrk ? Boje ? Now Hutcherson ? These are people who Lawrence described as having had success turning around schools. Lets see their API records on how they turned around their schools and made a vast improvement. That’s what SASS was supposed to be about — not inventorying textbooks.

    On May 11, 2010, Lawrence told the Board this was the mission of SASS: “we need instructional leaders who have successfully moved schools forward to help support and coach other principals and school staffs.”

    That’s what SASS is supposed to be; that’s not what it is. Four plus months since O’Brien got promoted — and her job still has not been filled. Why not ?

  • Doctor J

    @TH#64b Did the CDE make a distinction between a Board meeting and a Noticed Public Hearing as discussed in Instruction #4 to the General Waiver application ?

    Has anyone seen a Public Hearing notice published or posted for the MDHS QEIA Waiver application ?

  • Doctor J

    @TH, Did Lori O’Brien supply you the Wavier copy like Rose said she would ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    It appears that the emphasis may have shifted from principals who have “turned around” schools to principals who have run successful schools.
    Lock ran Walnut Acres Elementary, Hukkanen was at Mountain View Elementary, Hoellwarth came from Monte Gardens Elementary, Postrk led Sequoia MS, Hutcherson was at the helm of Foothill MS and O’Brien headed up Hidden Valley Elementary when it was named a CA Distinguished School.
    Petersen was very successful at Delta View and Rugani was moderately successful at Riverview MS (which had substantially more challenges than some others).
    I’m not familiar with the backgrounds of Boje and Avalos. I don’t believe the board approved Avalos’ appointment, since she is in an interim position.

    Regarding the waiver application: No, the district still has not provided it to me, as promised. I have requested it from Superintendent Steven Lawrence, Lock and O’Brien.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#68 That’s a fair analysis — its just frustrating they can be so “off mission” in their first year. And the API scores showed it.

    Its now been ten days since you requested the Waiver and it clearly became public record at the Noticed Sitecouncil meeting. If we learned anything from the Yolo Country Grand Jury investigation of Lawrence & Brother’s old district while they were there in January 2010, is that the Sitecouncil is a public meeting and what goes on there is public record. Their holding back on the document clearly violates the Public Records Act. I am surprised that Dan won’t give you a copy.

  • Theresa Harrington

    It’s possible that Dan can provide it, but he is busy today.
    As previously noted, Lock originally said I could get it from the district today. Peggy Marshburn is out sick today.

  • g

    Dr. J: I searched to see if maybe they did do a legal 10 day advance publishing of the hearing on the QEIA waiver request. I found nothing.

    http://www.mypublicnotices.com/BayAreaNewsGroup/PublicNotice.asp?Page=SEARCHRESULTS

    A lot of other interesting stuff, but no MDUSD.

  • Doctor J

    The comparison between how Pittsburg USD and MDUSD handled it is light years apart.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Lorie O’Brien has forwarded it to me. I will post it after we have uploaded it to DocStoc.
    In essence, the district is requesting a waiver of the Rule of 27 through June 2012, based on not understanding the rules, staff turnover, poor training in master scheduling, lack of monitoring this year and scheduling restrictions due to academies.
    However, the application is very adamant that the funding is critical to the continued success of MDHS students.

    Dr. J: Yes, MDUSD had to admit that it made errors and did not train staff adequately to comply with the QEIA requirements.

  • Doctor J

    Thanks Theresa for you outstanding gum shoe work. I will be anxious to compare with my timeline. The only thing I see is that they are still refusing to make immediate corrections to bring into compliance. If they could get it fixed, have CDE review it in May and show actual compliance in the second semester this year, it might work. But that mid January 2010 meeting with Rose Lock, Denise Rugani and Jen Sachs still hurts their credibility big time and they had actual knowledge and took no corrective action.

  • Theresa Harrington

    To be honest, the application does a better job of showing the timeline for improved student achievement than it does for explaining the school’s failure to comply with QEIA requirements.

  • Wait a Minute

    And you can bet that they took no corrective action on the orders Stevie Lawrence.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Although staff turnover was the first excuse mentioned, a new superintendent was not listed.

  • Wait a Minute

    I meant to say on the orders OF Stevie Lawrence. I bet he knew and ordered the deliberate non-compliance with the lower class size staffing ratio. He is infamous as being tightfisted with money and resources regarding teachers. He has no compunctions however with district office spending or taking gratuities from Chevron over the solar.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here is a new blog post, which includes a link to the waiver application and an interview with Rose Lock about the application and waiver timeline: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2012/01/03/mt-diablo-district-seeks-forgiveness-from-state-for-failure-to-comply-with-grant-requirements/

  • Theresa Harrington

    The Parent Advisory Council expects to discuss the district budget on Wednesday: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2012/01/03/mt-diablo-district-parent-advisory-council-to-discuss-budget-wednesday/

  • MDHS Teacher

    Dear Theresa,

    I am a big fan of yours and I thank you for all the support you are giving us MDHS teachers. However, I have a hopefully clarifying comment in response to #73 and other posts where you use the term “staff at MDHS.”

    You said “Dr. J: Yes, MDUSD had to admit that it made errors and did not train staff adequately to comply with the QEIA requirements.”

    Please know that there are two types of “staff” at MDHS: Teaching Staff and Administrative Staff. They are quite separate with starkly different responsibilities and unions even. The “staff” in question regarding all of this QEIA debacle is the ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF. They (McClatchy, Parks, etc.) made the non-compliant master schedule and forced it upon teachers who told them they were out of line. There was no “collaboration” in those efforts, it was dictated to us.

    Our job as a “teaching staff” is to put students and their learning first. We are expected to teach to the CA State standards for our instructional area, monitor and assess student progress, teach, test, and support students in all areas of their learning. Of course teachers do so much more than this including lesson planning, grading, paperwork, classroom management, committee/meeting attention, academy and club membership and leadership, building rigor, relevance and relationships with our students in the classroom, etc. etc. etc. but we as a teaching staff at MDHS are not in any way responsible for the loss of QEIA.
    Please note the differences between the two “staffs.”

    Thank you!!

    -MDHS Teacher

  • Theresa Harrington

    MDHS Teacher: I fully understand the difference between the two staffs and I am sorry if that was not clear in my comments. I believed it was obvious that the teachers were not responsible for the noncompliance and that my references to “staff” pointed to administrators. However, I will clarify that in the future.
    I’m curious about your reaction to the QEIA waiver application, which lists staff turnover as the very first “justification for total core sections above 27.”
    It says: “Mt. Diablo High has consistently had significant administrative and staff turnover, which made the training, scheduling, and execution of the master schedule difficult at best. Currently, only about 50 percent of Mt. Diablo High’s 91 certificated teachers have been there more than four years.”
    Do you agree that this impacted the school’s ability to comply with QEIA requirements?
    Do teachers know if their classes are considered to be “core” under QEIA? If so, did they speak up when more than 27 students were placed in their classes?
    Also, I have heard that some teachers believe they have not received adequate training in new teaching strategies such as Explicit Direct Instruction. Yet, the QEIA grant is supposed to help pay for such training. Do you believe the money is being spent appropriately?

  • MDHS Teacher

    Thank you for your concerns.

    Yes, MDHS has been plagued with a very high turnover rate for both teachers and administrators over the past five years. This never helps a school. I honestly don’t know how this impacted our school’s ability to comply with QEIA.

    “Core” classes under QEIA include: English, math, social science (history) and science.

    I have had 27 students in my class this year but never over that number, so I cannot speak for anyone else.

    I was in the first round of EDI trainings and I feel I was trained but I have also heard of other teachers who still have not received the level of training I had…I don’t know why. Regardless of positive past practices in the classroom, teachers are expected to teach using EDI (Explicit Direct Instruction) which is a teaching method many successful teachers do not agree with. Personally, I find some EDI strategies to be helpful when infused into my day to day teaching, I have not committed myself fully to the program as Ms. McClatchy expects of me and every other teacher at the school.

    If teachers do not comply with her mandates they are harassed and “visited” in the classroom multiple times a day/week by administrators on “walkthroughs” where evaluation data is collected.

    No I don’t think the QEIA money should be spent on these trainings. I believe groups at MDHS like CILC (Curriculum and Instruction Leadership Committee), Site Council, PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association) and ELAC (English Learners Advisory Council) which are made of up teacher leaders and administrators alike should be given more descion making power on where the money is spent, not just decided behind administrative office doors. Teachers, Students and Parents need to be supported and empowered, not silenced and shut out.