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Archive for January, 2012

Should Mt. Diablo High convert to all academies?

At the Jan. 23 Mt. Diablo school board meeting, Superintendent Steven Lawrence explained the district’s process for responding to a vote of No Confidence in Mt. Diablo High School Principal Kate McClatchy.

First, he said the district could not discuss the job performance of any specific employee. Unfortunately, I was unable to videotape that portion of his comments.

However, I did videotape his comments regarding the process for addressing the concerns raised by teachers who voted No Confidence in McClatchy last month, as well as the other public comments made at the meeting.

Below is a summary of those comments, along with links to the video clips.

Lawrence said that teachers will break into groups on Monday, Jan. 30 to hear plans for dealing with five major concerns that have been brought up. Teachers will be able to respond to the plans and district staff will follow-up in the spring to be sure the plans are being implemented, he said.

Following Lawrence’s remarks, teachers’ union president Mike Langely made the following statement:

“President Whitmarsh, Members of the Board, Superintendent Lawrence,Council, community members:

The layers of difficulties at Mt. Diablo High School must be addressed by the board and the district administration. We acknowledge that bringing this to a public forum is a positive step in meeting the needs of all stakeholders. We understand that this not be done in haste.

The difficulties have not suddenly occurred. The vote by the faculty of Mt Diablo High was not an isolated incident triggered by a single event. Solutions will be best found by a thoughtful review and a meaningful plan to remedy the underlying conflicts and dysfunctions.

We have been told that the board will not rush to judgment simply because the faculty went public with their frustration. We support your caution. However, if the board and administration circle wagons and say they can’t appear to bow to the vocal majority, even if action is warranted, we will withdraw support for the process. Staying the course because a change would admit to past errors is not only foolish but is destructive to the process of education at any school heading toward the shoal waters of conflict.

One last concern; as the discovery process moves forward with deliberation, current site policies and changes that may impair vital programs may continue. It is imperative that site administration be directed to postpone the massive restructuring until all consequences, intended and unintended, are identified and evaluated as to their effect on the most important stakeholders: the students.”

Video of Lawrence and Langley:

District resident Brian Lawrence, who ran for the school board and lost in the last election, calls the potential loss of Quality Education Investment Act funding at Mt. Diablo High an “unmitigated disaster” and a “colossal failure.” He asked several questions about the failure of the school administration to comply with class size requirements in order to keep its grant of about $1.5 million a year, including the responsibility of the board, superintendent and principal.


District resident Willie Mims also spoke about the possible loss of QEIA funds, as well as low morale at Mt. Diablo High. Video:

English teacher Stephanie Sliwinski, who teaches in the ACME academy, talks about concerns teachers have regarding McClatchy’s plan to require every student to enroll in one of four academies. Video:

Mt. Diablo High senior Savannah Ridgley tells board that the all-academy model negatively impacted AP students and the FAME (performing arts) academy. She also complains about locked bathrooms, missing toilet paper and soap, and punishment of the entire student body for the actions of a few. Video:

Staff member Wendy Spencer says employees who ask questions about the plan to become an all-academy model have been told they are “toxic” and shut down. Video:

AP Environmental science teacher Patrick Oliver says McClatchy refused to master schedule for the QEIA grant. Video:

Science teacher Colin Jones says the loss of QEIA funding would be devastating to the school because it would mean about 22 teachers would be laid-off and class sizes would increase. Video:

Woodshop teacher Steve Seaman talks about safety concerns related to the scale-up of academies at MDHS. Video:

Trustee Gary Eberhart said he has high hopes for the process of responding to the vote of No Confidence. He said he did not believe the school’s conversion to an all-charter model had been brought before the board.

“Trying to make a wholesale change like this would be difficult to make if everyone were on the same page,” he said. “A change of this magnitude it would seem to me would be impossible to successfully implement unless you have a staff that is in unity.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t get video of Eberhart’s comments. Next, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh clarified that the plans would be drafts, subject to input from teachers. Video:

JAN. 30 UPDATE: I just spoke to Janet Haun, who oversees ROP classes for the Contra Costa County Office of Education, regarding the MDHS plan to become a wall-to-wall academy. She said she is working with the school to ensure that ROP classes will be integral to the plan.

“Our goal is to have them as the capstones in every academy,” she said. “A capstone is sort of the culminating class for a high school student.”

Haun said the county currently operates ROP classes in the
biotech, IHTA and biotech academies, but not in the Digital Safari academy.

She said she was not aware of any other neighborhood high school in the county that has converted to an all-academy model. Dozier Libby Medical HS in Antioch is a magnet academy high school, which requires students to apply to attend, she said. It was recently named a California Distinguished School.

Haun said the Antioch district and WCCUSD have multiple academies at each high school, but haven’t gone all-academy.

She said she personally hasn’t heard of any dissatisfaction with the MDHS plan to convert to an all-academy model, but she primarily works with ROP teachers, who are happy to be a part of an academy.

“I don’t know their opinion of wall-to-wall,” she said.

I also asked about ROP classes at the CVHS charter. She said the county would continue to offer those classes on the campus.

“It’s part of the document that the Board of Education approved that the students at Clayton Valley HS are entitled to the same types of services and educational programs as any students in public schools,” Haun said. “So, we plan to maintain the ROP programs that we have there.”

Do you think Mt. Diablo High school should convert to all academies in the fall?

Posted on Sunday, January 29th, 2012
Under: Education | 79 Comments »

President challenges states to cut college costs, support teachers, prevent dropouts and beef up job training

The U. S. Department of Education has released portions of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, which I have excerpted below. The complete address is at

College Affordability: “When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. Extend the college tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars. And, give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years …. Of course, it’s not enough for us to increase student aid. We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part — by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And, colleges and universities have to do their part, by working to keep costs down. Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who’ve done just that. Some schools redesign courses to help students finish more quickly. Some use better technology. The point is, it’s possible. So, let me put colleges and universities on notice: if you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can’t be a luxury — it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

Teachers: “At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced states to layoff thousands of teachers. We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to a child who dreams beyond his circumstances. Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives. Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging in their own pocket for school supplies, just to make a difference. Teachers matter. So, instead of bashing them or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”

Dropouts: “We also know that when students don’t walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So, tonight, I am proposing that every state requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.”

Job Training: “I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity …. Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. My administration has lined up more companies that want to help. Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. Now, you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers — places that teach people skills that businesses are looking for right now. And, I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that, from now on, people have one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help that they need …”

Do you think California should implement Obama’s ideas?

Posted on Friday, January 27th, 2012
Under: Education, United States | 10 Comments »

MDUSD seeks public input on draft English Learner Master Plan

The Mt. Diablo school district is drafting a master plan for English language learners, after a report showed the district was not adequately serving these students.

To help improve its programs, the board recently appointed Jeanne Duarte-Armas as Director of English Learner Services. She presented a PowerPoint about the draft plan at Monday’s board meeting.

According to Duarte’s presentation, the plan will serve as an operations guide for district staff. It is expected to define optimally effective programs and to ensure that they are appropriate for MDUSD students, consistent with board policies and responsive to student, parent and community needs.

So far, a committee has been working on the plan with Duarte. Now, the public gets a chance to weigh in, before the final draft is forwarded to the board for approval in April or May.

The public is invited to attend two public meetings to learn more about the plan:

9:30-11:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 26 or 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1 at the Willow Creek Center, 1026 Mohr Lane in Concord.

More information about the plan is available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 4026 or by visiting

The public can comment on the plan through an online survey by 3 p.m. Feb. 10.

During the board meeting, several community members who have participated on the committee praised the plan and the process for drafting it.

What do you think of the draft plan?

JAN. 27 UPDATE: I just spoke to Duarte-Armas, who told me she will present the same board PowerPoint to the Parent Advisory Council at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the district office, 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord, which is open to the public. She stressed that it is best to give feedback via the online survey, but said she is also able to take some general comments at the meetings.

Posted on Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
Under: Education | 3 Comments »

Live blog of Jan. 23 MDUSD board meeting

Here is a link to the agenda:

Board President Sherry Whitmarsh said the board will continue its closed session after the meeting to evaluate the general counsel.


Adopted except 9.15, 9.17, 9.19 and 9.28 (which were pulled): Passed 5-0

9.19 regarding sale of bonds.
Alicia Minyen, who is a member of the Bond Oversight Committee, said she hopes the district will oversee the risks and make report to the public regarding the yields and make sure the net present value savings is realized over time.

9.17: Willie Mims questioned the new grading system.

9.28 Willie Mims raised questions about contract with Alpha! Innovation through Education to provide supplemental tutorial services to eligible students at nine Title I schools.

9.15: MOU with Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and the Mt. Diablo CARES After School Program. Trustee Linda Mayo pulled this item to highlight the partnership, which Stephanie Roberts described.

Superintendent Lawrence said the bond sales are saving taxpayers money.
Trustees unanimously approved each of the above items.

7:45 p.m.: High school student reps are reporting on activities at their schools.


1.Joseph Partansky: Said citizens can pull items from the consent calendar. He also referenced the “Tax on California Oil and Natural Gas: Revenues to Education” initiative, which is being proposed for the November election.

2. Clayton Councilman David Shuey: Asked the board to create a subcommittee composed of city council members and the superintendent that would meet regularly.

3. Joe Medrano, vice mayor of Clayon: Said the council wants to start the healing process after the charter and asked General Counsel Greg Rolen to call the Clayton attorney regarding the Clayton gym billing.

Board President Sherry Whitmarsh said Rolen has called the attorney back.

4. Janet Fitzpatrick: Asked for CST hours to be restored, so the district can restore employees’ trust.

5. Debbie Roberts: Expressed concerns about transportation budget cuts on behalf of M&O bus drivers. Said Deb Cooksey said dist is looking at replacing door-to-door service with cluster pickup points. Asked the district to use reserves to serve the students.

6. Dawn Bennett: Parent who also works for the district asked the district to expand busing for general ed students.

7. Willie Mims: Asked board to appeal County Board approval of CVHS charter.

8. Alicia Minyen: Said district has illegally used bond premiums to pay for bond issuance costs and asked district to investigate and return $3.4 million to taxpayers.

13.1 Dist orgs

1. Annie Nolen: On behalf of CSEA, complained that the district is trampling on their contract.

2. Debbie Hickey: Asked district to restore cuts to CST union members.

14.0 Superintendent’s Report
Lisa Boje reported on School Improvement Grants.

15.1 Coordinator, SS 6-8: Board unanimously appointed Cheri Scripter

15.2 Coordinator, SS 9-12 for Olympic HS: Board unanimously appointed Cheri Scripter to this too.

15.3: Coord. SS 9-12: MDHS: Jarrod Bordi: Board unanimously approved.

15.4 Extended year summer program admins: Board unanimously approved several administrative appts, as outlined in agenda report.

15.5 Purchase of used buses
Board unanimously agreed to purchase six 42-passenger buses.
General Counsel Greg Rolen promised to bring a transportation plan to the board.

Linda Mayo moved to purchase wheelchair van according to agenda item 15.5.
Trustee Gary Eberhart moved to table the motion. The board approved this motion 4-1.

15.6 Audit
Alicia Minyen urged board to hire an internal auditor, as recommended by Christy White.
Approved unanimously.

15.7 Board accountability report
Alicia Minyen outlined how the district failed to realize savings on previous lease agreements and urged the board to approve an accountability progress report, so the district could update the public on meeting projected goals.
Cheryl Hansen moved approval of the accountability progress report.
There was no second.

15.8 English learner master plan
9:45 p.m.: Jeanie Duarte-Armas is presenting the plan.
Four people spoke in favor of the plan.
Several meetings will be held for input on the plan, including one from 9:30-11:30 a..m. Thursday and one from 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1. The public is invited to both of these meetings.

Trustees praised the plan and the process.

15.9 Budget Update
10:14 p.m. CFO Bryan Richards is presenting the budget.
If the governor’s tax proposal doesn’t pass, the district would lose about $370 per student.
Gary Eberhart said $370 per student is roughly $12 million in MDUSD.
Richards said the Powerpoint is on the ESB website.

Board agreed to extend meeting to 12:30 a.m.

15.10 CVHS attendance area
Felicia Stuckey-Smith recommended creating a gray area and allowing parents to choose preferred schools, which would be assigned based on class seniority and available space. Trustees agreed to vote on this recommendation in February.

15.11 Strategic plan
Board will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22. Comments can be submitted to principals and most recent draft is online.

15.12 Public input and informational meetings for board and supt
Cheryl Hansen urged the board and superintendent to hold three meetings in the next two months: in Bay Point, Concord and Walnut Creek. Trustee Gary Eberhart said he preferred to send a couple of board members and the superintendent to every school in the district over a period of two years. Trustees expect to vote on the idea next month.

15.13 MDHS update
Superintendent Lawrence reported on the process and several teachers spoke out against Principal Kate McClatchy’s leadership. Trustee Gary Eberhart said he wanted the board to be kept informed about the process.

15.14 Involuntary transfer to Olympic Continuation High School
Mike Langley cautioned the board to think about the consequences on the existing students at Olympic and Willie Mims agreed with him.

JAN. 25 UPDATE: Here is a link to audio of the meeting:

Posted on Monday, January 23rd, 2012
Under: Education | 85 Comments »

Pleasant Hill Education/Schools Advisory Commission to discuss CVHS charter and Northgate High on Wednesday

The Pleasant Hill Education/Schools Advisory Commission plans to discuss the Clayton Valley Charter High School in Concord, as well as Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, on Wednesday. Most students who live in Pleasant Hill, however, attend either College Park High in Pleasant Hill or Ygnacio Valley High in Concord.

Here is the agenda for the Wednesday meeting, which is open to the public:

To improve the quality of K-12 education in the city of Pleasant Hill by:
Acting as an advocate for issues and concerns of Pleasant Hill public schools with regard to the Mt. Diablo Unified School District.
Facilitating communication, cooperation, and partnership among Pleasant Hill schools, including providing a forum for discussing common issues, concerns, and activities.
Involving and informing the general Pleasant Hill community & the City Council about the activities and needs of Pleasant Hill’s schools, including acting as a clearinghouse for information and when appropriate, acting as a liaison with businesses, groups, and youth activities.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
7:00 p.m.
Large Community Room, 100 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

Chair: Jenny Reik Vice Chair: Kelly St. Germain
Members: Barbara Anderson, Vivian Boyd, Tracy Ervin-Lowery, Mary Gray, Ian Greensides, Joann Jacobs, Jennifer Ortega, Carol Sprecher, Lesley Stiles, Linda Waters, Peter Wilson




The public is welcome to address the Commission on any item that is not on the agenda. Speakers have three (3) minutes to address the Commission.







 MDUSD Board Meetings
 Measure C Oversight Committee

11. COMMISSIONER SCHOOL ASSIGNMENTS AND SCHOOL REPORTS by Principals/Commissioners: (3 minutes per report)
 Gregory Gardens Elementary –
 Fair Oaks – Vivian Boyd
 Hidden Valley Elementary – Linda Waters
 Pleasant Hill Elementary – Mary Gray
 Sequoia Elementary – Carol Sprecher
 Strandwood Elementary – Barbara Anderson
 Valhalla Elementary – Peter Wilson
 Pleasant Hill Middle School –
 Sequoia Middle School – Tracy Ervin-Lowery
 Valley View Middle School – Jennifer Ortega
 College Park High School – Kelly St. Germain & Joann Jacobs




The Commission adjourns to a regular meeting of the Education/Schools Advisory Commission on February 22, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. in the Large Community Room, 100 Gregory Lane. For information, call Martin Nelis at 671-5229 or email”

Do you think other cities should form education/schools advisory commissions?

JAN. 24 UPDATE: I just received a call from Martin Nelis, the city of Pleasant Hill’s public information officer. He clarified that the commission has been following the charter issue routinely during its meetings and said the Northgate item has nothing to do with the charter.

He pointed out that the commission released a statement about the charter in December:

The commission has invited a Northgate rep to speak about quarterly feeder pattern meetings, he said.

Posted on Monday, January 23rd, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Pleasant Hill | No Comments »

Northgate HS hosts jazz festival today and Saturday

High school jazz musicians will converge at Northgate High in Walnut Creek today and Saturday for a jazz festival hosted by the school. Here are the details, which I’m reposting from the Times:

“Walnut Creek’s Northgate hosts jazz festival starting Friday

By Elisabeth Nardi
Contra Costa Times

School bands from all around Contra Costa County will gather at Northgate High School over the next two days for the California Association for Music Education Jazz East Festival 2012.

The two-day school jazz band festival starts at 3 p.m. Friday with a performance from Acalanes High School’s Jazz Band. Following them, bands from various schools around the county play for about 25 minutes each, the day ends with Albany High School Jazz Band at 9:25 p.m.

Then on Saturday the day kicks off at 8 a.m. with Rancho Medanos Junior High Jazz Ensemble. Saturday ends with the Pittsburg High Jazz Ensemble at 4:25 p.m.

The schools compete against one another to win awards at the festival, which will be held at Northgate High, 425 Castle Rock Road in Walnut Creek.

For more information go to

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at”

Here is a link to the complete schedule:

Posted on Friday, January 20th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Music, Walnut Creek | 5 Comments »

The state of education in California, according to governor

Gov. Jerry Brown devoted a substantial amount of his State of the State address on Wednesday to education. He introduced a new funding plan and threw out ideas for overhauling tests and pensions.

Here are his (prepared, excerpted) comments regarding education:

“…Next, I want to say something about our schools. They consume more tax dollars than any other government activity and rightly so as they have a profound effect on our future. Since everyone goes to school, everyone thinks they know something about education and in a sense they do. But that doesn’t stop experts and academics and foundation consultants from offering their ideas — usually labeled reform and regularly changing at ten year intervals — on how to get kids learning more and better. It is salutary and even edifying that so much interest is shown in the next generation. Nevertheless, in a state with six million students, 300,000 teachers, deep economic divisions and a hundred different languages, some humility is called for.

In that spirit, I offer these thoughts. First, responsibility must be clearly delineated between the various levels of power that have a stake in our educational system. What most needs to be avoided is concentrating more and more decision-making at the federal or state level. For better or worse, we depend on elected school boards and the principals and the teachers they hire. To me that means, we should set broad goals and have a good accountability system, leaving the real work to those closest to the students. Yes, we should demand continuous improvement in meeting our state standards but we should not impose excessive or detailed mandates.

My budget proposes to replace categorical programs with a new weighted student formula that provides a basic level of funding with additional money for disadvantaged students and those struggling to learn English. This will give more authority to local school districts to fashion the kind of programs they see their students need. It will also create transparency, reduce bureaucracy and simplify complex funding streams.

Given the cutbacks to education in recent years, it is imperative that California devote more tax dollars to this most basic of public services. If we are successful in passing the temporary taxes I have proposed and the economy continues to expand, schools will be in a much stronger position.

No system, however, works without accountability. In California we have detailed state standards and lots of tests. Unfortunately, the resulting data is not provided until after the school year is over. Even today, the ranking of schools based on tests taken in April and May of 2011 is not available. I believe it is time to reduce the number of tests and get the results to teachers, principals and superintendents in weeks, not months. With timely data, principals and superintendents can better mentor and guide teachers as well as make sound evaluations of their performance. I also believe we need a qualitative system of assessments, such as a site visitation program where each classroom is visited, observed and evaluated. I will work with the State Board of Education to develop this proposal.

The house of education is divided by powerful forces and strong emotions. My role as governor is not to choose sides but to listen, to engage and to lead. I will do that. I embrace both reform and tradition—not complacency. My hunch is that principals and teachers know the most, but I’ll take good ideas from wherever they come.

As for pensions, I have put forth my 12 point proposal. Examine it. Improve it. But please take up the issue and do something real. I am committed to pension reform because I believe there is a real problem. Three times as many people are retiring as are entering the workforce. That arithmetic doesn’t add up. In addition, benefits, contributions and the age of retirement all have to balance. I don’t believe they do today. So we have to take action. And we should do it this year…”

Although Brown released his proposed 2012-13 budget earlier this month, administrators at school districts throughout the state are still trying to find out more details about how it affects them. More than 100 school officials attended a School Services of California conference in Sacramento on Wednesday, which laid out an overview of the state budget, then got into nitty-gritty education funding details.

School Services staff advised districts to set aside $370 per student (or Average Daily Attendance) in case voters don’t approve the proposed taxes. Statewide, cuts would equal roughly three weeks of school, but it’s unclear whether that’s where reductions would be made, since unions (and parents) would likely object to shrinking the school year from 180 to 165 days.

Brown’s proposed “weighted” student funding formula was first dreamed up by Michael Kirst, who is now President of the State Board of Education, according to Robert Miyashiro, School Services vice president. Brown proposes phasing in the program over five years, with 20 percent of 2012-13 funding according to the new model and 80 percent doled out the old way (with revenue limits based on elementary, unified and high school districts — along with lots of restricted “categorical” funding for specific programs, such as class size reduction).

“Right now,” Miyashiro said, “there’s nothing in writing that we can tell you specifically.”

Essentially, he said, the governor wants to take all the money and put it into a big pot, then distribute it according to a formula based on the number of students, with extra weight given to English language learners and poor students who are eligible for free and reduced price lunches.

“Overall, there will be winners and losers if it is implemented in 2012-13,” Miyashiro said. “This is a big problem for your planning. This is a huge problem.”

He predicted the governor might present a trailer bill in February with more details and reminded district officials that the Legislature would have to approve the idea before it would become law.

The budget would provide more money for charter schools, boosting the general purpose block grant amount to about $6,188 per student for grades 9-12, plus $410 from a categorical block grant, for a total of approximately $6,598 per student. The governor aims to level the playing field for charters by providing more borrowing options, mandate reimbursements and more flexibility related to facilities costs.

Although most categorical program funding would be eliminated, money would still be available through QEIA (Quality Education Investment Act) and ASES (after-school programs).

Another major change in the governor’s budget is the elimination of funding for Transitional Kindergarten, which was originally expected to begin in the fall.

The Legislature has changed the date by which traditional kindergarten students must turn 5 — from Dec. 2 to Nov. 1 — under the assumption that those who turned 5 from Nov. 2 to Dec. 2 would enter a new transitional kindergarten.

Under the governor’s proposal, approximately 40,000 students statewide would be denied that option. Instead, the $223.7 million originally planned for Transitional Kindergarten will be used to fund existing programs.

Districts should evaluate staffing to see if they need to notify more teachers of possible layoffs in March, based on this. But, under state law, any school can admit students who will turn 5 anytime during the year on a case-by-case basis.

School districts should also watch their cash flow very carefully, due to deferred funding.

It is wise to retain large “ending fund balances” to plan for possible budget cuts, said John Gray, executive director of School Services. Still, he acknowledged that many unions are eyeing that money and asking for a piece of it.

“If you give away your ending fund balance,” Gray said, “your third year (in multi-year projections) could be very problematic.”

He suggested that union contracts include contingency language, based on different budget scenarios. New laws regarding collective bargaining have extended the right of representation to part-time and substitute employees, but management and confidential employees are still excluded.

And as of Jan. 1, school boards cannot raise contracts for local education executives such as superintendents that exceed the California Consumer Price Index. Also, boards cannot approve these raises at special meetings, said Sheila Vickers, vice president of School Services.

She also cautioned that lawsuits regarding special education, child molestation and student injuries and harassment are on the rise.

In closing, Gray said he is seeing more district administrators, superintendents and boards paying attention to the economy because they realize that what happens in world, national and state economies affects schools.

Do you support the governor’s education proposals?

Posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2012
Under: California, Education | 16 Comments »

West Contra Costa district to hold community budget meetings

Like many school districts throughout the state, the West Contra district wants to prepare for possible budget cuts that may be necessary if voters don’t approve the governor’s proposed tax measure.

To involve the entire community in budget discussions, the district has set up several meetings, according to the following news release, which I received Friday:

“West Contra Costa Unified School District
6:30PM – 8:00PM

The January Governor’s Budget proposal includes the potential for “mid-year trigger” budget cuts to our schools during 2012-13 if a tax initiative is not successful in November of 2012. Schools in our community are another year of uncertainty and reductions to services for our students and schools.

Parents, community members and local business leaders are invited to learn about what the Governor’s Budget proposal means to our schools and what we can do about it.

Wednesday, January 25 2012
Hercules High School
1900 Refugio Valley Road, Hercules

Thursday, January 26, 2012
Murphy Elementary
4350 Valley View Road, Richmond

Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Helms Middle School
2500 Road 20, San Pablo

Thursday, February 2, 2012
King Elementary School
4022 Florida Avenue, Richmond

Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Harding Elementary School
7230 Fairmont Avenue, El Cerrito

Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Pinole Middle School
1575 Mann Drive, Pinole”

Do you think the Mt. Diablo district should hold similar community meetings to discuss possible budget cuts?

Posted on Saturday, January 14th, 2012
Under: Education, West Contra Costa school district | 16 Comments »

MDUSD trustees differ on approach to county charter vote

The Contra Costa County Office of Education staff is recommending that its Board of Education approve the Clayton Valley High charter tomorrow.

But Mt. Diablo district board president Sherry Whitmarsh and Trustee Gary Eberhart — who both voted to deny the charter in November — are taking different approaches to the county vote.

Whitmarsh said she plans to oppose the charter, while Eberhart said he’s willing to concede that the county board will likely approve it.

“I am going to speak against the staff recommendation,” Whitmarsh told me.

She said there are three points she wants to make: (1) regarding the financial viability of the charter, (2) special education, and (3) the Mt. Diablo school district’s potential loss of funding.

“Even though this year the governor has not done the trigger cuts as bad as we thought they would be, next year it could be up to $350 per student,” she said.

In addition, she said the legislative analyst said today that the governor may have overstated the amount of income that could be raised through taxes, which could impact next year’s budget.

Secondly, Whitmarsh said she would like the charter to take responsibility for all special education students in the school’s attendance area, to reduce the district’s costs.

Third, Whitmarsh said the charter could cost the district more than $3 million.

“So 6 percent (of students) will be getting the money versus 94 percent (that wouldn’t),” she said.

Eberhart, on the other hand, said he does not plan to speak against the charter.

“I would be shocked it the county board didn’t approve the recommendation of staff,” he said. “I just think that they probably rely on their staff to provide them the information necessary and their staff has come to the conclusion that — based on some financial forecasts and the like — that they feel the charter should be granted. I just don’t know on what basis someone on the board would stand up and say their staff didn’t do the analysis correctly.”

Instead of fighting the charter, Eberhart said he wants to help the students affected.

“The time for me to talk about whether or not the charter should be approved or denied is kind of passed,” he said. “It’s time to talk now about how students are going to be supported.”

Do you think the county board will approve the charter?

FEB. 1 UPDATE: Here is a link to the minutes of the meeting, in which the county board unanimously approved the CVHS charter petition with conditions:

Posted on Tuesday, January 10th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County Board of Education, Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 260 Comments »

Live blog of MDUSD Jan. 9, 2012 meeting

Trustee Cheryl Hansen pulled item 8.14 to clarify who is responsible for supervising and evaluating principals.
Rose Lock said the directors normally do not evaluate principals. Lock is responsible for elementary and middle school principals and Supt. Lawrence supervises and evaluates high school principals. Lock said Susan Petersen is evaluating three principals.

Consent calendar and SASS job descriptions were all unanimously approved.

During public comment, one man said the school district should employ a full-time translator instead of hiring consultants.

Also, an office manager, school secretary and IMA complained that they were misled into believing that the district was facing a financial crisis when the CST union agreed to pay and hours cuts. Now that the district is negotiating with the teachers’ union for no furlough days and pay raises, they want their hours reinstated, they said.

AJ Fardella criticized the district’s decision to appeal his family’s small claims lawsuit, in which a judge found the district negligent for dropping off his daughter at the wrong stop. He said that General Counsel Greg Rolen admitted to the judge that the district was negligent.

Because I videotape during meetings, it is very difficult for me to do a live blog, despite my good intentions.

Here is the online story I just sent to my editor:

The Mt. Diablo school board on Monday unanimously approved a waiver application asking the state to forgive it for failing to meet class size requirements so that it can continue receiving more than $!.5 million a year through the Quality Education Investment Act. The state Board of Education expects to vote on the application in March or May.
Trustee Cheryl Hansen said the district should make a greater effort to inform trustees and the public when grant funding is in jeopardy. Although school and district staff have known for about a year that the school was not keeping class sizes below 27 as required, Principal Kate McClatchy didn’t inform teachers until Dec. 7.
The application says school and district administrators made errors in their calculations and misunderstood grant requirements. Still, Trustee Linda Mayo praised the school’s staff for raising test scores.
Trustee Gary Eberhart urged administrators to bring parents to the state Board of Education meeting to speak on behalf of the application, which the school site council approved Dec. 23.
Earlier in the meeting, school clerical workers complained that they were misled last year when they agreed to cut their hours and work days because district administrators said they were facing a financial crisis. Now that the midyear cuts are not as drastic as they were led to believe, they said they want their hours and days reinstated.
The district has reported it has about $38 million in reserves. This has prompted the district to rescind its original plan for seven furlough days this year, which would have cut the school year by five days.
In addition, the teachers’ union is asking for raises. Clerical workers, who said they haven’t received raises in 10 years, urged trustees to reinstate their hours before raises are given to teachers.

No one mentioned the vote of no confidence in the principal.

Do you think the state Board of Education should approve the waiver?

JAN. 10 UPDATE: Here is a link to audio of the meeting:

Posted on Monday, January 9th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 10 Comments »