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Mt. Diablo district seeks forgiveness from state for failure to comply with grant requirements

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 at 8:20 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The Mt. Diablo school district is hoping the state Board of Education will forgive it for failing to keep core class sizes below 27 students at Mt. Diablo High, as required to continue receiving about $1.8 million a year in state funding through the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA).

The district submitted a waiver application to the California Department of Education last month, asking to waive the maximum class size requirement retroactively to July 2010 through the end of this school year. Here is a link to the complete 20-page waiver application: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/110173221/MDHS-QEIA-General-Waiver-Packet.

The Mt. Diablo school board plans to hold a public hearing regarding the application on Monday, before trustees vote on it. If the board approves the application, the state Board of Education may decide on the request in March or May.

As of today, the state Department of Education had not decided if it would consider the application complete, since the public hearing was not held before the Dec. 23 application deadline. If it is deemed incomplete, the state board wouldn’t vote on it until May — when the school is likely to be in the midst of master scheduling for next year (and after the March deadline for preliminary layoff notifications).

According to the application, the school stands to lose about $1.8 million a year if the waiver request is denied, starting in the fall. If the waiver is approved, the school could continue receiving the money for three more years, totaling about $5.4 million that pays for approximately 22 teaching positions, 3.5 administrators and clerical staff.

The reasons the district cited for the school’s failure to comply with the request included:

- Staff turnover including teaching staff, three different principals since 2008-09 and new administrators. The application states that the last two principals were spending their first year as principals at a large comprehensive high school with under-served populations. (NOTE: These were board-approved appointments, based on recommendations made by the superintendent.)

When Principal Kate McClatchy arrived, the previous principal and vice-principal had already completed the master schedule, “neither of whom had significant experience nor training preparing the master schedule for a school of comparable size,” according to the application. “In some cases, prior administrators left scheduling responsibilities to staff who had more experience at the site but who were either new administrators and/or lacked sufficient knowledge to do scheduling,” the application states.

- The application also points to turnover and restructuring at the district office among staff responsible for QEIA compliance. “Therefore current district-level staff is also new to QEIA mandates and calculations,” it says.

School and district staff made calculation errors and filled six core AP classes with more than 27 students due to scheduling constraints and a prior practice of “over loading” rigorous courses with the expectation that some students would end up dropping them, the application states.

The school and district promised to try to ensure that they would meet class size requirements in the future through closer compliance monitoring and making needed adjustments at the semester change, according to the application. The school also plans to hire a student services coordinator to fill a vacancy.

It notes that the school is compliant with all other requirements and that the loss of funding would “have a significant negative impact (on) the momentum for positive progress the school has made closing the achievement gap for all, but most specifically for their under-served student populations.”

I just got off the phone with Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support, who further clarified the district’s position regarding the QEIA waiver application.

When I asked about Vice Principal Gary Peterson’s assertion that the school didn’t comply because the district couldn’t afford to hire more teachers, Lock said Peterson is a new vice principal this year and that all staffing requests come through McClatchy.

“When it comes to staffing needs, Kate McClatchy makes a request if she needs additional FTEs (full-time equivalent positions),” Lock said. “I know we have given her additional FTEs this year.”

Lock said that Lorie O’Brien, assistant director of categoricals and school support, presented the waiver application to the site council. O’Brien worked with Julie Parks, the school’s recently appointed vice principal, to prepare the waiver, Lock said.

“So, they were both new,” Lock said, “yet they found mistakes.”

The district did not intentionally violate the grant requirements, she said.

“You try to follow the rules,” Lock said. “It’s not like you break rules and then try to get out of it. We certainly weren’t expecting to be forgiven. We do this in good faith. It’s not like we’re trying to hide anything.”

McClatchy and district administrators didn’t inform the school staff or publicly let the board know sooner about the possible loss of funding because they wanted to be absolutely sure, Lock said.

“This was new to many of us,” Lock said. “There are so many people working on these reports and trying to meet the requirements and there were some things that we didn’t understand.”

The school and district basically did the calculations themselves, she explained.

“We found out we made a mistake on the self-reporting of the data,” Lock said.

Lock also said she believed a new rule regarding the noncore class size requirement kicked in this year.

When I asked why the SASS Department didn’t do a better job of training and monitoring Mt. Diablo High staff, Lock said: “This is not exactly supporting principals as far as their leadership. This is about having technicial knowledge around QEIA.”

I also asked why district officials didn’t realize sooner that they could apply for a waiver. Many other districts submitted waiver applications in October — in time for the Jan. 11 state Board of Education meeting. But, Lock said she hadn’t received any information about waivers from the state’s QEIA office.

“It’s not a secret,” she said, “but there was no invitation.”

I pointed out that administrators could have informed the board at its Dec. 13 meeting about the possible QEIA funding loss, since Superintendent Steven Lawrence and CFO Bryan Richards discussed the budget and possible upcoming cuts.

District officials were silent about the possible loss of $1.8 million in QEIA funding, yet the public has been given many updates by the district about the possible loss of $1.8 million a year due to the conversion of Clayton Valley High to a charter, I said.

“I can’t explain to you on that,” Lock said.

When I asked if Mt. Diablo High’s QEIA funding is included in the district’s three-year budget, Lock said: “I can’t tell you that” and suggested that I speak to Richards. I left a message for him today, but did not get a response.

I also pointed out that the loss of 22 teachers if the QEIA funding is revoked would have a greater “bumping” impact than the teacher bumping anticipated due to the Clayton Valley High charter conversion. Lock replied: “That’s true.”

Do you think the state should approve the waiver?

JAN. 4 UPDATE (3:50 p.m.): Although Mt. Diablo High teachers were told by McClatchy that the Vote of No Confidence would be addressed during their faculty meeting today, teacher Dan Reynolds said McClatchy failed to allow teachers to discuss the issue during a meeting that is still going on.

I just spoke to him by cell phone (he stepped out of the meeting to talk to me).

“There was absolutely no discussion,” he said. “Kate would not hear it.”

Instead, Reynolds said McClatchy read a prepared statement and then Doris Avalos and and Lorie O’Brien began discussing the QEIA waiver.

“I attempted to ask for a conversation about the vote of no confidence and Lorie and Julie said, ‘We need to move forward on the agenda,’” Reynolds said. “So, I have still not heard one thing from the district.”

Apparently, Superintendent Steven Lawrence is not attending the faculty meeting.

Do you believe the district should give the MDHS teachers some sort of response to their Vote of No Confidence?

JAN. 4 UPDATE (5:20 p.m): Here is a link to audio of the Dec. 13 board meeting: http://www.mdusd.org/boe/Documents/December%2013%20meeting.mp3

JAN. 4 UPDATE (11:50 p.m.): Teacher Dan Reynolds sent me a copy of the public meeting notice from the Dec. 31 Contra Costa Times. It was written exactly like the notice on the district’s website and did not invite public comment: http://www.mdusd.org/NewsRoom/Pages/news-public-notice-01-04-12.aspx

JAN. 5 UPDATE: Here is a link to a copy of the district’s public notice published Dec. 31 in the Contra Costa Times: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/110325566/MDUSD-Page-4-Dec-31-2011.

JAN. 6 UPDATE: I just returned from a meeting with Peggy Marshburn at the CCCOE. She gave me a copy of a letter sent to Lawrence on Oct. 27, 2010, which said MDHS was failing to meet QEIA requirements and needed to reduce its class sizes.

Although McClatchy told teachers on Wednesday that the district maintained a master schedule to meet QEIA targets, that is clearly not true. The Rule of 27, which kicked in this year, is very clear, Marshburn said. It works just like K-3 class size reduction, which requires no more than 20 students per class. If one class has 21 students under K-3 CSR, the school needs to hire another teacher and divide the classes to retain funding, Marshburn said.

Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh told me that with the Rule of 27, if one class has 28 students or more, the district would need to either hire another teacher and divide the classes or deny the overflow students the chance to take the class.

“From the district’s standpoint,” she told me, “we don’t fund 12 to 14 kids in a class.”

So, it looks like Vice Principal Gary Peterson may have been right all along. The school did not hire enough teachers to be able to accommodate students’ schedules and to also meet the maximum class size requirement of 27 students.

The only question that now remains is: Did McClatchy fail to request the teachers or did the district tell her she couldn’t have them? Either way, both McClatchy and the district have known for more than a year that the school was failing to meet QEIA requirements.

JAN. 6 UPDATE, 7:21 p.m.: I have just spoken to Lorie O’Brien, who said the school’s failure to meet the Rule of 27 class size requirement had nothing to do with an unwillingness to hire more teachers. It was because the school staff thought Advanced Placement courses didn’t count as “core classes,” she said. She said she did not know why staff was under that impression.

“People are trying to do this as honestly and above-board as possible,” she said.

In looking more closely at the waiver application and speaking to O’Brien about it, it appears that she and Julie Parks completely recreated the 2010-11 compliance report from scratch, instead of merely tweaking the previous one. O’Brien and Parks found that some classes originally considered “core” did not really fit into that category, while others that the school staff considered “non-core” actually were “core. Also, some classes had not been counted at all in the first report, O’Brien said.

The original report shows 309 core classes/sections and 101 noncore classes, for a total of 410 classes. The revised report shows 306 core classes/sections and 250 noncore classes for a total of 556 classes. It’s unclear why there is such a huge discrepancy in these totals.

In trying to retrace the work that McClatchy and her staff did last June, O’Brien said she and Parks were unable to figure out which 11 classes were designated as over 27. The original report showed six 10th-grade classes and five 11th grade classes over 27.

The new report shows the six AP classes O’Brien said weren’t originally counted as core, including four 11th grade classes and two 12th grade classes. It’s unknown why the 11 classes originally designated as “core” no longer show up on the report.

“We don’t know what those other classes were,” O’Brien said. “There’s no paper trail that helps us understand where those classes are.”

When I pointed out that the County Office of Education has a thick binder that shows every class in the master schedule as backup for the summary report, O’Brien said she didn’t think it would be cost-effective to pore over that data to try to find out what the originally listed classes were.

“If we recrunch last year’s paperwork, where is the benefit in that?” she said. “What are we trying to accomplish? Are we wanting to punish somebody for a mistake — and you’re taking limited man hours to do that? I think we’ve identified the big things that went wrong. There could have been a myriad of tiny other things that went wrong. We’ve got the big picture. The most important thing we know from this is we’ve got to do really, really robust training and really, really careful monitoring of all these pieces as we move forward.”

Whitmarsh told me the superintendent is looking at creating a “Lessons Learned” type of document so this doesn’t happen again. It is especially important, Whitmarsh said, to be sure that more than one person is trained in QEIA compliance.

I have also learned that the $1.8 million listed in MDUSD’s waiver application does not correspond to the amount awarded to the district this year. The school is anticipated to receive $1,529,000 this year, according to this chart: http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/fo/r14/documents/qeia11apptsch1.xls.

When I asked O’Brien about this, she said the number in the waiver application was from the district’s fiscal department.

“It could have included carryover or a soft number,” she said.

JAN. 9 UPDATE: Mt. Diablo High is one of eight schools in Contra Costa County in danger of losing QEIA funding. As previously noted, the Pittsburg school board approved a waiver application in December for Rancho Medanos Junior High, on which the state Board of Education expects to rule in March.

Other campuses in danger of losing the funding are Antioch Middle School in the Antioch district and Kennedy High, Nystrom Elementary, Stege Elementary, Helms Middle School and Richmond alternative high school in the West Contra Costa district.

Nia Rashidchi, assistant superintendent of the West Contra Costa district, said the school board plans to hold a public hearing Jan. 18 regarding a waiver application for Helms Middle School, which didn’t meet its class size requirement for noncore classes. The district met all of its other goals and simply couldn’t afford to hire enough teachers to meet the noncore requirement, she said.

“State funding has not been what it had been when QEIA was first implemented,” she said. “Districts are working to make the targets, but a dollar goes so far. It comes down to money.”

Like Mt. Diablo, West Contra Costa expects that the loss of QEIA funding will prompt layoffs, but Rashidchi said the district hasn’t yet determined how many teachers or other staff members would be affected.

“We are working on that — the educational side of the house, H.R. (human resources) and fiscal — to really calculate to make sure that as many positions we can save, we will do so,” she said. “But without the funding, it will be difficult to do that.”

Rashidchi said she will be watching other waiver applications closely, to see if anyone seeks a waiver for not meeting API growth, which was the goal not met by Antioch Middle School, as well as Nystrom Elementary.

Rashidchi said she believed the state board should take into consideration the progress that Helms Middle School has made with the funding. She appeared to be suggesting that the West Contra Costa district deemed meeting noncore class size requirements as being less important than meeting core class size requirements, teacher experience, counselor ratios and academic progress requirements.

Do you think the state Board of Education should consider some requirements to be more important than others?

JAN. 10 UPDATE: Although O’Brien claimed there was “no paper trail” to show what 11 core classes were originally listed as over 27, the district actually submitted a thick binder of backup materials to the County Office of Education that contained that information.

Peggy Marshburn sent me the following information in an email this morning, based on those backup materials:

“Here are the core classes over 27 from the initial data sent by Mt. Diablo High School in June 2011:
English II 30.61
English II 29.26
English II 29.33
English III 27.95
English III 29.88
English III 27.36
English III H 27.35
English IV 27.07
World His (10th grade) 29.78
World His (10th grade) 27.22
US His (11th grade) 27.24

Here are the core classes (that) are (over) 27 from the revised data submitted December 23, 2011.
AP Calculus 27.99 (12th grade)
AP Env. Sci. 29.58 (11th grade)
Eng III Honors 27.51 (11th grade)
Pre-Calc Honors 34.15 (11th grade)
Pre-Calc Honors 34.74 (11th grade)
Pre-Calc Honors 27.3 (12th grade)

Again, what the core classes are over 27 is not the key point. The key point is that the requirement for 2010-2011 is that no core classes had more than 27 students.

Another point is that the original data for CSR (Class Size Reduction) was determined using Method A, which had data pulled through April 15. The new data used Method B which encompassed the entire school year. Either method is approved.”

So, it appears that it was not as hard to figure out what was included in the original data as O’Brien had suggested. Also, based on Marshburn’s information, it appears that approximately 22 students dropped out of the 11 courses orginally listed in the last two months of school.

JAN. 10 UPDATE, 2:30 p.m.: Peggy Marshburn has just sent me another email saying the county is unable to determine if the district included the QEIA funding for MDHS in its first interim budget multi-year projections.

“The interim reports do not include enough detail to determine the MDHS QEIA assumptions used in the multi-year projection,” she wrote. “You need to get the information directly from the district.”

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  • g

    Theresa; Teachers who come to Mount, and choose to stay, do it out of true dedication to their profession, and sheer determination to win for their students “despite” the district!

    “The question is: why didn’t that happen at MDHS”?

    Because, deny it as they might try, it has been obvious for years that anything north of Willow Pass Rd is considered “the wrong side of the tracks” in this district, and short of State/Fed mandated requirements, will get only minimal attention or assistance from this elitist board.

    Only Mount D. and Sun Terrace are left of the 6 schools we had on “that side” in 1985. Soon virtually every school north of WP will be Special, remedial, disciplinary, or basic vocational. Not a neighborhood school in sight.

  • Theresa Harrington

    g: it is surprising that the district still offers parent-subsidized busing for students at Delta View Elementary who live about 1.5 miles away, but does not offer it to the former Holbrook elementary students who must now walk to Wren Avenue Elementary, as you described in another blog thread.
    Do you think MDUSD trustees should be elected based on their geographic regions, like Contra Costa County Board of Education trustees?

  • g

    Actually, Theresa this is two pronged.

    The Districts own written busing regulations, if followed, would provide proper minimal cost transportation for both Holbrook and Glenbrook to their ‘new’ schools. If a “rights” group like the ACLU were to get involved, the majority of the students would be transported for free.

    Developers (Seeno)in Pittsburg’s Bay Point area have been allowed to build what are essentially “stranded” enclaves, with little if any contribution to school (or public transportation) needs. To go to school, students (A.J.’s for instance) would have to climb mountains, forge streams, and dodge major, out of control traffic! Neither the City or District should have permitted it. If someone wanted to check old records, I think you would find that the 1950-60′s builders of Sun Terrace, Holbrook, Meadow Homes, Dana Estates areas, contributed very, very heavily to the building of the corresponding neighborhood schools.

    Now, a generation later, whether they take thought of it or not, the families of the entire District, from Clayton/Walnut Creek/Pleasant Hill/Concord, are paying the full financial burden of that inbred, incestuous Builder/Pittsburg/Bay Point relationship.

    The more of your tax dollars poured into building and expanding Pittsburg’s growth and Seeno’s pockets, the less there is for your town and your schools.

  • g

    So, Yes, a school board elected by something like zip code might cut down on their ability to pad certain committees and outcomes to benefit their own back yards.

  • Anon

    The County Board denied MDUSD trustee districts in 2003. Dan Borsuk who represented that area said: “Prior to the vote being taken, Mr. Borsuk stated that he wished to make a statement. He informed the Board and public that a number of months ago he had had an opportunity to attend one of the community meetings that the Mt. Diablo Unified School District had conducted in the Bay Point area. He stated that he was very impressed with the number of representatives from the Mt. Diablo Unified School District who had attended the meeting and with the amount of energy the district put into it. Additionally, he stated that there is no question in his mind that the Mt. Diablo Unified School District is putting the spotlight on Bay Point and that he could see no reason for changing how the school board members are elected because the district is making a valiant effort to meet the Bay Point community’s needs (e.g., maintaining schools well, putting plans in place for a new high school, etc.). He urged Bay Point to encourage more candidates to run for election from their community.” http://www.cccoe.k12.ca.us/supe/03mtgs/ccm5_7_03.pdf

    Fast forward 9 years and where are the Bay Point candidates?

  • Theresa Harrington

    FYI, I have just posted an update regarding WCCUSD, which is seeking a waiver for Helms Middle School, which didn’t meet its noncore class size goal.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have just posted an update, which shows the 11 core classes originally listed as over 27 students by MDHS, compared to the six newly identified core courses over 27. According to Peggy Marshburn, the difference could be due to when the data was collected.

    Also, Marshburn told me in an email that the February notification that O’Brien told the board about “was from the CDE, Torlakson’s office referring to the notification from the CCCOE the previous October 27, 2010 that you have a copy of. We have to notify the CDE when a school does not meet its goals as well as the district superintendent. Then the CDE notifies the district of any action.”

    When O’Brien told the board that Jen Sachs and Denise Rugani “sprang into action” as soon as they got this notification, she failed to mention that they had known about this noncompliance since receiving the letter from the county the previous October.

  • Doctor J

    The Updated Timeline, #117, shows both the Oct 27, 2010 County letter and the Feb 16, 2011 CDE letter. Lets not forget that in between those letters, in early December the County began calling for a meeting with Rose Lock, Denise Rugani, Jen Sachs, Kate McClatchy and all the QEIA principals in MDUSD — that meeting occurred in Mid January 2011 and MDHS’s non-compliance was discussed. “Sprang into action” ??? Jen Sachs own words only reveals “discussions” not action: “The regular monitoring of the Mt. Diablo High School QEIA program did reveal challenges and these challenges were discussed.” NEVER WAS ANY CORRECTIVE ACTION TAKEN. There was plenty of time to “fix it” after the Oct 27 letter and before the start of the Second Semester in late Jan 2011.

  • Doctor J

    The O’Brien data “makeover” is simply comical. What LO didn’t count on was that the County had a copy of the whole data to back up the original count. Under the O’Brien Makeover, as Theresa points out 22 students in the last two months of school would have had to drop out of core classes. Simply amazing.

  • Theresa Harrington

    O’Brien told the board that Sachs and Rugani recalculated the class size reduction numbers. However, there was no mention of addressing the 11 core classes that were known to include more than 27 students as of April 15 — and were originally reported to have included more than 27 students at the end of the school year.

    It is unclear how O’Brien’s new calculations could have reduced the number of students in all those classes below 27. She told the board:

    “We felt that because we didn’t know how the original numbers were ran, that we needed to completely rerun the numbers…In talking with staff that ran the numbers last year, we came to understand that they misunderstood what courses were supposed to counted as core.”

    If she was able to talk to staff about their understanding of core classes, it’s unclear why she wasn’t also able to talk to them about how they ran the original numbers.

    O’Brien also told the board that county staff turned over, that there was little written QEIA guidance and that the district had been told in October that it couldn’t apply for a waiver. However, Marshburn, the QEIA technical advisors, CDE and CTA all have websites with comprehensive details about QEIA compliance. Also, Marshburn and the Northern California QEIA advisor told me that they don’t advise districts regarding waivers. The CDE QEIA staff person I spoke to said that it is well-known that all QEIA compliance items are waiverable. So far, no one at the district office has been able to tell me who specifically told them in October that they couldn’t apply for a waiver — when many other districts throughout the state began preparing QEIA waivers.

  • g

    Sudden 22 core class student difference? What are the chances the District is going to (again) be caught padding ADA?

  • Theresa Harrington

    One secretary said that the district may actually be losing out on ADA now that clerical staff has been cut, because many teachers don’t change absences to tardies when students are late.
    In the past, she said clerical staff corrected these errors. But now, they have less time to do that.
    She said she kept track of all the corrections she made in one year and they added up to more than $8,000. If these same errors are being made at each school in the district, a lot of money could be being lost, she said.
    Reinstating the hours of clerical staff could help catch these errors and recover money that would otherwise be lost, she said.

  • g

    Let’s see, I’ve already chosen accurate over honest, so would I rather; a) ignore the equivalent of one student a year/school with the “lost” ADA funds, or b) pay wages and benefits for more clerical staff at those same schools, or c) just take an easy-balance count and pad the attendance numbers enough to cover any possible clerical errors, and maybe boost the bottom line while I’m at it, and hope I’ve paid Christy White enough to make her blink? Hmmmmm.

  • g

    And by the way—did Christy White blink? she was paid for a completed audit a couple of months ago. Did I miss seeing that audit? How about the 2002 Measure C audit?

  • Theresa Harrington

    No word on the audit.

  • Theresa Harrington

    FYI, I have just posted another update with more information from Peggy Marshburn. She said the county is unable to determine whether MDUSD included the QEIA funding for MDHS in its three-year first interim budget projections.

  • Linda L

    I would also like to see that audit. I am surprised it is not yet available.

  • Wait a minute

    So now (at least) Lori O’Brien is (somewhat) blaming CCCOE’s unclear guidance for the MDUSD’s QEIA mistakes?

    That’s good timing right before the CCCBOE votes on the CCVCHS petition!

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s what she said: “It’s been a challenge because there’s been no nonregulatory guidance from the state. Counties used to have QEIA technical assistance staff, but that was eliminated at the end of the year last year. There are QEIA newsletters that go out, but there’s no listserve. There is a website, but it’s not readily broadcast, so you have to search a little bit. The Southern CA and Northern CA assistance centers have been wonderful, but they’re going away at the end of March.”

    It appears that she is saying district staff did not take the initiative to seek out guidance that was available. As I have pointed out, reps from the county, QEIA assistance centers and state all say there is ample information available, including webinars.

    Marshburn told me that when O’Brien asked if she could count TA classes, she was told that she could. Apparently, no one had ever asked that question before. In addition, no one seems to have asked if AP classes were considered “core” under QEIA.

  • Doctor J

    Even without Board Math: Way overdue audits on Measure C + Sneaking in Bond Repurchase report at Board Meeting + Putting above report on the Board Agenda the day after the meeting to give the appearance the attachment was on the agenda = Trouble with a capital T.

  • Doctor J

    Audio is posted under the agenda. Very timely.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, I hope the district posts audio this quickly every week!

  • g

    Yes, I also appreciate finally having clear audio—but the galloping keyboard drowning out the audience speaker could be “fixed” in the future if the transcriber will move the recording device away from the keyboard—please….

  • Theresa Harrington

    After initially appearing to hide the Measure C bond presentation under the Superintendent’s Report on the agenda, the district is now highlighting it on it’s home page: http://www.mdusd.org/Pages/default.aspx

    Regarding the audio, it sounds like the microphone is on at the secretary’s table. Perhaps she can turn it off in the future, after the roll call.

  • Doctor J

    But, the PP is still listed as an attachment to the Agenda item, giving the false impression that the Measure C presentation was properly noticed on the agenda so the public would be aware it was being disucssed 72 hours before the meeting. Its ok to attach it to the minutes, but not to the agenda.

  • Theresa Harrington

    The district routinely posts powerpoints after the meeting. However, usually they are attached to noticed agenda items.

  • Theresa Harrington

    FYI, I have just posted a blog item about the CVHS charter appeal vote tomorrow: http://bit.ly/y4CMUL

  • Doctor J

    Why won’t Lorie O’Brien announce a “fix” to MDHS to be ‘in compliance’ by the start of the second semester with ALL QEIA requirements ? That at least would show some good faith. Otherwise, there are zero efforts being made to correct.

  • Doctor J

    At today’s SBE meeting, here is a common rationale used by SBE to DENY Class Size Reduction Waivers: “The California Department of Education recommends denial of this request based on three factors: (1) QEIA program requirements were known to the district prior to its decision to apply for program participation; (2) QEIA funding is expected to be used to hire teachers resulting in significantly reduced class sizes for students at QEIA schools; and (3) QEIA legislation requires an average classroom size of 25 students or lower for core subjects, with no more than 27 students per classroom regardless of the average classroom size.”
    I have yet to hear the District’s rationale as to why these QEIA principles don’t apply to Mount Diablo ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    The district isn’t saying those principles don’t apply to it. Instead, it is claiming ignorance based on staff turnover, poor training and an alleged lack of written guidance.

    It’s unclear whether the CDE or SBE would accept these arguments. Districts are supposed to train staff and to appoint people who are qualified to do their jobs. The written guidance was available, but district administrators apparently didn’t ask for it and were waiting for an invitation to apply for a waiver.

    Regarding a fix, the district admits it hasn’t been monitoring for compliance closely this year because it thought it was going to lose the funding anyway. The application appears to be asking the state not only to forgive the district’s past sloppiness, but continue allowing it through the end of the year.

  • Doctor J

    If Mount wants to stand a chance of the waiver being granted, it would go a long way to be in compliance for the second semester this school year in order to show its good faith. Afterall, it is still being paid to be in compliance ! What possible excuse can there be now to not be in compliance ? Adjust the schedule and if needs be, get more teachers.

  • Anon

    This is another MDUSD exercise in futility which is spelled CYA. The Times today reported that Las Lomas High in Walnut Creek is using a $200,000 technology grant to buy iPads for teaching “how to use new technology to find and analyze the material.” What a difference between the two grants and how they’re administered!

  • Theresa Harrington

    It’s true the district is still being paid to be in compliance and should be able to fix schedules to ensure compliance.
    However, it appears that O’Brien may not have even looked at this year’s data. Instead, she focused on what happened last year.
    Now that she knows the rules, she could look at this year’s schedule and make the necessary changes. But, administrators could claim that such mid-year changes would be too disruptive to students’ schedules and/or the academies.

  • Doctor J

    Lowering class sizes too disruptive ? Think what will happen next year with 22 less teachers and 3.5 less administrators — that will be disruptive ! I think its a fair question to Lawrence, Lock, McClatchy, O’Brien, and Reynolds — what steps are being taken to insure that Mount is QEIA compliant at the start of the second semester ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    O’Brien did mention that there would be more monitoring meetings, so perhaps steps will be taken.

  • Wait a minute

    Maybe they should hire another consultant to do their jobs for them like when Stevie Lawrence hired his mommy on a fat consulting contract like he did in West Sac?

  • Doctor J

    Was that “our” Sue Berg that got kudos from Supt. Torlakson in this mornings SBE meeting ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    I didn’t see that. The SBE is on a break until 11 a.m., when they will take up item 2: http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/sbelivestream.asp
    SIG grant approval is expected later.
    The board just unanimously approved the Rocketship charter application in San Francisco, but noted that the process for reviewing financial plans needs to be improved.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#188; Interestingly there was a huge conflict of opinion between the CDE Staff [opposing the Charter] and the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools [a CDE Commission] [supporting the charter]. CDE staff took a rigid opinion that additional information to clarify statements in the nearly 400 page Rocketship petition were “material revisions” whereas the ACCS said they were just clarifications. The Board voted unanimously to approve the charter with the clarifications as conditions of approval. Clearly the SBE is in favor of approving charters with sound educational programs and sound financial backing — and mostly saw the additional information as “clarification” rather than “material revisions”. Same issue they tackled two months ago with the Synergy Charter from Pittsburg. Rocketship has some impressive results from San Francisco to Santa Clara.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, I wonder if Rocketship will set its sights on the East Bay next….

  • Doctor J

    Yesterday, the State BOE showed zero tolerance for waivers in QEIA based on ignorance, staff turnover, or other non-emergency issues. Interestingly the CTA took a strong position against QEIA waivers not based on emergency situations. The McClatchy/O’Brien waiver seems doomed before it even gets sent to CDE.

  • Doctor J

    Claycord has posted pics of the meeting and victory party at Morisey’s. Nice. Although on a personal level, I thought it was such a Grand Slam, that the Mudville Grill might have been more appropriate ! :-)

  • Theresa Harrington

    Although I wasn’t able to watch the SBE meeting discussion of waivers, I would guess that CTA took a strong stand because the money was supposed to be spent meeting the requirements. Instead, MDHS apparently had a large amount of its grant unspent at the end of the school year — money that could have been spent hiring more teachers to comply with the grant. It remains unclear why school and district staff — who knew their class sizes were not compliant — failed to spend the money they had to hire more teachers.

    WCCUSD on the other hand, plans to file a waiver stating that it didn’t have enough money to meet all the requirements, so it was noncompliant in noncore class size reduction, which it appears to believe is less important than core class size, teacher experience, Williams compliance and meeting the counselor ratio. It will be interesting to see if the CDE approves their waiver. They are not pleading ignorance, staff turnover or lack of training.

  • Doctor J

    @Th#193 Giving it the old college try, and not making it due to underestimation, is way different that MDUSD’s failure to take corrective action with lots of money available. Lawrence, Lock, Rugani, Sachs, McClatchy all had knowledge and failed to take any corrective action. Please show me one iota of corrective action they took since Oct 27, 2010.

  • Theresa Harrington

    As O’Brien noted, Sachs and Rugani “sprang into action” when they got the letter from the CDE in February (confirming the COE letter from October 2010). Apparently, they made some sort of correction to the Class Size Reduction calculations for 2009-10.

    However, they and McClatchy do not appear to have addressed the school’s continued failure to comply in 2010-11. So, the action taken was not sufficient to remedy the problem.

  • Theresa Harrington

    On a completely separate note, the County BOE also reviewed its 2010-11 Single Audit Annual Financial Report for the County School Service Fund on Wednesday.
    It was prepared by the Christy White Accountancy firm (which is the same firm MDUSD hired). Perhaps this means MDUSD’s audit will be available soon.

  • g

    My (borrowed) thoughts about the Gang at Dent:

    “An important job had to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”

  • Theresa Harrington

    Perhaps if the SASS job descriptions were approved by the board at the time the positions were created, everybody would have known what somebody was supposed to do and nobody would be to blame for anybody else’s failure to do their jobs.

  • Doctor J

    Its about time we as taxpayer just called Christy White directly and asked when our audit reports that we paid for months ago were delivered to MDUSD. I will be surprised at the answer. (619) 270-8222

  • Doctor J

    The audit reports were signed for on Dec 22, 2011 and shipped to Bryan Richards.