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Archive for December, 2011

Diablo View MS teacher confesses to unlawful sex with minor

Teacher Andrew Bruce Cottrell was arrested Friday at Diablo View MS in Clayton.

This afternoon, Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence alerted the community to the arrest of Diablo Middle School teacher Andrew Bruce Cottrell.

Here is a link to Lawrence’s message:

Later, the Walnut Creek Police Department released further details, reporting that Cottrell, a 41-year-old Walnut Creek resident, had confessed to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under 16 and lewd acts with a victim who is 14 or 15 years old.

Here is a link to the Walnut Creek news advisory:
Please be aware that it includes explicit information about the sexual charges.

Cottrell’s bail was set at $975,000.

Police arrested Cottrell at noon, when students were on campus. After school, word was still spreading about the arrest.

“Right now, the kids are all kind of hyper,” said Melissa Kirmsse, parent faculty club treasurer, on Friday afternoon.

Kirmsse said she was saddened by the news and concerned about the victim.

“My heart goes out to the child that is brave enough to come forward,” she said. “I hope this is not going to lead to a Penn State situation, where more kids come forward.”

Anyone who might have other information is asked to contact Walnut Creek police at 925-943-5844.

Posted on Friday, December 9th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 28 Comments »

15 Contra Costa County school districts and foundations to receive total of $200,000 from Wells Fargo

To assist school districts that serve low- and moderate-income families, Wells Fargo plans to present $200,000 in education grants to 15 Contra Costa County districts and foundations on Monday.

Bob Ceglio, president of the bank’s “Mt. Diablo market,” plans to present the grants to district and foundation reps from 12:30-2 p.m. at the Contra Costa County Office of Education, 77 Santa Barbara Road in Pleasant Hill.

Here is a list of the awards and recipients:

Antioch Schools Education Foundation: $20,000 (to benefit Antioch Unified School District)

Brentwood Union School District Foundation: $10,000 (to benefit Brentwood Union School District)

Education Foundation of Orinda: $5,000 (to benefit Orinda Union School District)

John Swett Education Foundation: $5,000 (to benefit John Swett Unified School District)

Lafayette Arts & Science Foundation: $5,000 (to benefit Lafayette School District)

Liberty Union High School District Education Foundation: $5,000 (to benefit Liberty Union High School District)

Martinez Education Foundation: $10,000 (to benefit Martinez Unified School District)

Moraga Education Foundation: $5,000 (to benefit Moraga School District)

Mt. Diablo Unified School District: $40,000 (to benefit Mt. Diablo Unified School District)

Oakley Union Elementary School District: $5,000 (to benefit Oakley Union Elementary School District)

Pittsburg Unified School District: $10,000 (to benefit Pittsburg Unified School District)

San Ramon Valley Education Foundation: $30,000 (to benefit San Ramon Valley Unified School District)

SEED Foundation: $5,000 (to benefit Byron Union School District)

Walnut Creek Education Fund: $10,000 (to benefit Acalanes/Walnut Creek School District)

West Contra Costa Education Fund: $35,000 (to benefit West Contra Costa Unified School District)

Here is more information about the grants, from a news release:

“Wells Fargo has a long-standing commitment to local education. In Nov. 2011, Wells Fargo announced that the company is donating $1 million to benefit education throughout the Bay Area. Including the $1 million dollars, Wells Fargo has donated more than $13.3 million to schools and nonprofit organizations for educational purposes in the Bay Area, since 2009.

‘I am glad that Wells Fargo continues to support the local communities where our customers and team members raise their children,’ said Bob Ceglio, president of Wells Fargo’s Mount Diablo market. ‘By funding our local schools, we can help provide more resources for our students to be better prepared for the future.’

The grants presented at this event are designated to benefit select school districts with significant enrollment from students coming from low-to-moderate income families.”

More information is available at

How do you think the districts should spend the money?

Posted on Friday, December 9th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa County, Education | 9 Comments »

Clayton Valley High charter appeal hearing is Wednesday at Pleasant Hill Elementary

Parents, teachers, students, administrators and members of the public on both sides of the Clayton Valley High School charter conversion issue are gearing up for the public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Pleasant Hill Elementary School, 2097 Oak Park Blvd. in Pleasant Hill.

The Contra Costa County Board of Education, which is hearing the petitioners’ appeal of the Mt. Diablo school board’s denial, is meeting in the school’s multiuse room to accommodate an anticipated large crowd. After the public hearing, the board will recess and reconvene in the Contra Costa County Office of Education board room, according to the agenda.

The county has posted the entire petition and board packet online at

The board packet also included two letters that were not posted online. Although these are part of the public record, it has come to my attention that the authors may not have realized that their letters were available for public review. Therefore, I have removed the letters that were previously posted.

The county board expects to hear a lot of public comment and intends to limit speakers to 2-minutes each. However, anyone is free to email comments to the board ahead of the meeting or to submit written comments after making their public comments. Board email contact information is at

According to the agenda, Bill Clark, county associate superintendent of business services, will introduce the petition. Then, petitioners and district officials speak.

Although the agenda states that Clark’s comments would include “analyzing the petition,” county spokeswoman Peggy Marshburn told me that he will not offer any analysis or recommendation. Staff expects to recommend that the board approve or deny the appeal at its Jan. 11 meeting.

MDUSD attorney Deb Cooksey and CFO Bryan Richards expect to speak on behalf of the district.

In an email, Superintendent Steven Lawrence wrote: “We will focus on the reasons for the board’s denial of the petition.”

I pointed out that the district’s agenda report for Nov. 8 shows that the MDUSD board voted 4-1 to approve the following motion: “Deny Clayton Valley HS charter proposal.” The motion did not mention anything about adopting staff’s resolution to deny, or adopting staff’s factual findings.

Yet, Cooksey said she believes that the board did adopt the resolution, as well as staff’s factual findings. The charter supporters also appear to believe that the board adopted the resolution and factual findings, according to their appeal letter.

Here is the appeal letter:

“NOVEMBER 15, 2011

Joseph A. Ovick, Superintendent VIA HAND DELIVERY
Contra Costa County Office of Education
77 Santa Barbara Road
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

Re: Clayton Valley Charter High School Charter Petition Appeal to the Contra Costa County Board of Education

Dear Superintendent Ovick:

This letter is to inform you that Clayton Valley Charter High School (the “Charter School” or “CVCHS”) hereby submits an appeal of the denial of its charter petition by the governing board of the Mount Diablo Unified School District (the “District”) to the Contra Costa County Board of Education (the “County”), as provided for in Education Code Section 47605(j)(1) and the California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 11967(a).

As you may know, on November 8, 2011, the District governing board voted 4-1 to deny the Charter School’s petition. Following is a timeline of pertinent events:

 June 8, 2011: The Charter School petitioners submit the charter petition to the District.

 August 9, 2011: The District holds a public hearing on the charter petition, where an overwhelming number of teachers, staff, parents, and community members express their support for the Charter School.

 September 13, 2011: The District board unanimously approves the Charter School’s petition, subject to the Charter School’s satisfaction of 56 conditions by February 2012. While CVCHS did not agree to a conditional approval, CVCHS immediately begins work on addressing the 56 conditions.

 September 22, 2011: CVCHS outlines a detailed plan to submit proof of meeting all of the 56 conditions no later than October 12, 2011, so that the MDUSD Board could consider the matter at its meeting on October 25, 2011. From September 14 through October 12, 2011, the Charter School submits responses and supporting information and documentation to satisfy each of the District’s 56 conditions.

 October 18, 2011: During a meeting with the MDUSD staff the CVCHS petitioners received word that they have met or negotiated a resolution of each of the 56 conditions, but that staff is waiting for an analysis of the fiscal documents.

 October 21, 2011: CVCHS receives word that it will not be on the MDUSD Board agenda for the meeting of October 25, 2011. During the October 25, 2011 meeting, MDUSD Board member Cheryl Hansen requests that the matter be placed on the agenda for November 8, 2011.

 November 8, 2011: An initial motion to approve the Charter School’s petition without conditions fails by a vote of 2-3. A second motion to deny the Charter School’s petition and adopt Resolution 11/12-25, including the District’s factual findings to deny the petition, passes by a vote of 4-1 (footnote: One of the Board members that supported the approval without condition voted for the denial so the petitioners could move on with the appeal to the County Board of Education). The District finds the Charter School did not meet four fiscal conditions out of the 56 original conditions placed on the District’s approval of the charter petition.

We note that the Charter School has garnered extraordinary support from teachers, staff, parents, community members, and political leaders throughout Contra Costa County. The Charter School’s petition was signed by over 80 percent of the permanent status teachers at Clayton Valley High School and is supported by more than 1200 signatures gathered from local community and business members. The Charter School is also supported by the City of Clayton, the City of Concord, the California Charter Schools Association, and respected political leaders including Congressman George Miller, State Senator Mark DeSaulnier, and State Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla.

Enclosed herein and described below are the required documents for an appeal of the denial of the Charter School’s petition by the District. The California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 11967(b) and County Board Policy requires that a charter school whose petition has been denied and that wishes to appeal its petition to the County Board of Education must send the following information within 180 days after the denial action:

(1) A complete copy of the charter petition as denied by the District, including the signatures required by Education Code Section 47605. In this matter the charter petition that was denied by MDUSD is the original petition and appendices (conditionally approved by MDUSD), attached under Binder Tab 1. All of the additional information and documentation submitted to MDUSD in response to the conditions, as well as all related correspondence, is attached under Binder Tabs 1(a)-1(ff). (Please see enclosed Table of Contents for detailed list of enclosures.)

(2) Evidence of the District governing board’s action to deny the petition (e.g. meeting minutes) and the governing board’s written factual findings specific to the particular petition, when available, setting forth specific facts to support one or more of the grounds for denial set forth in Education Code Section 47605(b). (A copy of the District governing board’s agenda for November 8, 2011, indicating the final vote for denial of the charter petition, is attached under Binder Tab 2. The District governing board’s Resolution 11/12-25 and written findings of fact for denial of the charter petition are also attached under Binder Tab 2(a). Finally, the Charter School’s response to the District governing board’s findings for denial is attached under Binder Tab 2(b).)

(3) A signed certification stating that petitioners will comply with all applicable law. (Attached under Binder Tab 3.)

(4) A description of any changes to the petition necessary to reflect the County as the chartering entity as applicable. (A detailed list of changes to reflect the County as the Charter School’s authorizer is attached under Binder Tab 4.)

The District Board voted to deny the Charter School’s petition on November 8, 2011. This appeal is therefore well within the 180 day limit for submission of an appeal of a charter petition.

According to Education Code Section 47605(b) and California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 11967(d), no later than 60 days after receiving a complete petition package, the Contra Costa County Board of Education shall grant or deny the charter petition. Because of the short time remaining to appeal to the State Board of Education we would respectfully request that the County adhere to this timeline during its consideration of the charter petition. Further, we respectfully request that the County Board hold an initial public hearing on the charter petition at its regularly scheduled meeting on December 7, 2011.

We look forward to working with your office and the County Board of Education as it considers the charter petition. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Neil McChesney and Pat Middendorf, (Co-Lead Petitioners)”

Middendorf told me she plans to present a Powerpoint that will go into greater detail about why the charter organizers want to separate from the district than the presentation they made to the MDSUD board.

“Now,” she said, “we feel a little bit more free to say more things.”

Do you think the public comments to the county board will be different from those to the district board?

4:53 P.M. UPDATE: As noted above, I have deleted two letters that were included in the board packet. Therefore, I have also edited the first comment below to delete references to those letters.

Posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
Under: Education | 139 Comments »

Lafayette Town Hall on Education Finance tonight

East Bay parents and educators interested in discussing the state budget are invited to attend a Town Hall meeting in Lafayette tonight.

Here are more details, from an online announcement:

“Lafayette for Education presents a Town Hall Meeting: Education Finance Challenges in California, December 6, 2011 @ 6:30 p.m. Stanley Middle School (Multi-purpose room), 3455 School Street  Lafayette, California 94549.

Are you frustrated by the ongoing threat of school budget cuts in California?

Do you want to our legislators to secure stable funding for our schools?

Do you wonder how the schools budget when their budget keeps changing?

Do you want to help but don’t know where to start?

Take this opportunity to ask questions, share ideas, and get involved!

Featured speakers*:

Dr. Fred Brill, Lafayette School District Superintendent

Crystal Brown, Founder of Educate Our State

Craig Cheslog, Principal Advisor to State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Mark DeSaulnier, California State Senator

Dr. John Nickerson, Acalanes Union High School District Superintendent

Nancy Skinner, California State Assemblymember

Phil Ting, Founder of Close the Loophole, Assessor/Recorder San Francisco

Together we can improve the state of education in California

*speakers confirmed as of Nov. 19 – subject to change”

More information is at

What do you think the public can do to improve the state of education in California?

Posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
Under: Education, Lafayette | No Comments »

MDUSD seeks donations for foster youth and homeless students

The Mt. Diablo school district is seeking donations for its foster youth and homeless students. Here is more information, which is also posted on the district’s website:

Here are several ways to help out families in Mt. Diablo Unified School District (‘District’). We have hundreds of Foster Youth and homeless students in our District. If you are interested in helping you may:

1. Donate a Hooded Sweatshirt (with a zipper) in black, gray or navy
blue. Elementary student sizes: 6-8, 10-12, 14-16; or high school
student sizes: S, M, L or XL. Sweatshirts may be dropped off at
the district office in the lobby at 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord
94519. Black, gray or navy blue are the preferred colors so students
may wear them as part of their school uniform and they are popular
color choices.

2. Donate a gift card(s) of any denomination. Suggested gift card
donations are: Kohl’s, Target, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, or any other gift cards. Please send contributions or requests for information to: James Wogan, District Foster Youth and Homeless liaison, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, 2730 Salvio Street, Concord 94519.

You may also drop off gift cards to Lori Amenta at the District Office, 1936 Carlotta Drive, Room 1, Concord, CA 94519. For your convenience, Lori has purchased $10 gift cards for Target and will be happy to give you a receipt if you would like to purchase a $10 gift card from her. We try to make it very easy to donate!

3. Donate food (all year long) to our food pantry which supplies families in need with boxes of food. We have a bin in the lobby at the district office where you can place donations or contact me if you would like to hold a food drive some time during the year and we may be able to arrange for pick-up. We are always in need of peanut butter, cereal, canned fruit and pasta sauce. Any non-perishable items are appreciated. Boxes the same size as a case of copy paper
are always needed especially with lids. Empty boxes can be dropped off at the District Office, 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord 94519.

Thank you for your time and donations! Happy Holidays!”

Here is more information about the district’s services for foster youth and homeless students:

Do you have other ideas for ways the public could help homeless students and foster youth?

UPDATE: After this blog post was published in the Sunday Contra Costa Times, I heard that some people contacted the district to find out how they should make out donation checks. Wogan says you can make checks payable to “MDUSD HOPE.” One hundred percent of donations will go to help homeless children, he said.

Posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 1 Comment »

MDUSD special education Community Advisory Committee to discuss behavior intervention and charter tonight

Here is the agenda for tonight’s special education Community Advisory Committee meeting (which is not posted on the district’s website):


DATE: December 5, 2011
TIME: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
PLACE: Dent Center – Board Room

1. Holiday Cheer Potluck (7:00 – 7:15)

2. Call to Order 7:15

3. Introductions (7:15 – 7:18)
Please notify the audience during introductions if you are recording the meeting

4. Adoption of Minutes – November 7, 2011 (7:18 – 7:20)

5.Presentations – B.E.S.T. (Building Effective Schools Together) and Other BehaviorInterventions for Schools – Lorien Quirk and Jonathan Roselin (7:20 – 7:45)

6. Chairperson’s Report – Lorrie Davis (7:45 – 8:00)

6.1 Charter School Discussion – Dorothy Weisenberger & Denise Lambert

7. Old Business (8:00 – 8:20)

7.1 Assistant Superintendent’s Report – Dr. Mildred D. Browne

7.2 Board of Education Report

7.3 Board of Education Comments – Autumn Green

7.4 Parent Advisory Committee Report – Tricia Tamura-Li

7.5 Budget Advisory Committee Report – Tricia Tamura-Li

7.6 Equity Advisory Team Report – Dorothy Weisenberger


8. New Business (8:30 – 8:45)

8.1 Nurses’ Report – Lili Lum

8.2 Extended School Year – Carolyn Patton

8.3 Parent Liaison – Hilary Shen

8.4 Sub-Committee Updates

9. Public Comment (8:45 – 8:55)
Public comment is an opportunity to share concerns and comments with the CAC. In the interest of time, speakers are limited to three (3) minutes each with a total of fifteen (15) minutes for all speakers. Please respect student and personnel privacy. CAC members and district staff may not be able to respond to individual concerns in this forum, but will take your contact information and follow-up with you.

10. Information Items/Announcements/Adjournment (8:55 – 9:00)


Pat Middendorf, one of the teachers spearheading the Clayton Valley Charter petition, just told me that she had no idea the CAC would be discussing the charter tonight. In fact, she said Weisenberger and Lambert were in her classroom today (Middendorf teaches special education).

Middendorf said she had already committed to attending a United Mt. Diablo Athletic Foundation (UMDAF) meeting tonight, but she might try to swing by the CAC meeting to answer any questions that might arise. She was surprised that no one invited her.

The entire charter petition and appeal packet is posted on the Contra Costa County Board of Education’s website at
Information about the proposed special education MOU begins on page 767.

Do you think the CAC should have invited the charter committee to answer questions regarding charter plans for special education?

Posted on Monday, December 5th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 12 Comments »