By Theresa Harrington
Sunday, January 29th, 2012 at 8:14 pm in Education.
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: http://youtu.be/EGrmLstwmLY
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: http://youtu.be/uDLVG4J1bbg
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: http://youtu.be/CF5EFjxymFA
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: http://youtu.be/WFi6PcXwK4g
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: http://youtu.be/uswn6b0BmqY
AP Environmental science teacher Patrick Oliver says McClatchy refused to master schedule for the QEIA grant. Video: http://youtu.be/iY9gXw4MZuI
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: http://youtu.be/VSkydMgvXuM
Woodshop teacher Steve Seaman talks about safety concerns related to the scale-up of academies at MDHS. Video: http://youtu.be/427Jz9DXXfs
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: http://youtu.be/Y5nEsR7lg8k
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?