Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for February, 2012

MDUSD to hold community meeting regarding Bay Point master plan

The Mt. Diablo school district will hold a community meeting Monday to discuss plans for schools in Bay Point.

Here is the meeting notice:

“Community Meeting Agenda


MARCH 5, 2012
7:00 – 9:00 PM

Mt. Diablo Unified School District is hosting a community meeting at 7:00 pm on March 5, 2012 to present and discuss information related to the master planning for all District schools and sites in the Bay Point community. The District is in the process of collecting information for a draft master plan on how to utilize the Bay Point sites to best meet the educational needs of the students in the community. At this meeting the District will share information about the master planning exercise and will solicit ideas and information from parents, caregivers and community members regarding the use of these schools and the educational programs supported at the Bay Point schools. Besides determining optimal use for the various school sites in Bay Point, the community and district will need to collaborate to determine on how to fund the master plan recommendations.

For questions regarding the March 5th meeting please contact Pete Pedersen at 925-682-8000 ext.85610.


5 de MARZO de 2012
7:00 – 9:00 PM

El Distrito Escolar Unificado Mt. Diablo está patrocinando una reunión de la comunidad a las 7:00 pm el 5 de marzo de 2012 para presentar y discutir información relacionada al plan maestro de todas las escuelas y locales del Distrito en la comunidad de Bay Point. El Distrito está en proceso de obtener información para un borrador del plan maestro sobre cómo utilizar las escuelas de Bay Point para que puedan llenar mejor las necesidades educativas de los estudiantes de la comunidad. En esta reunión, el Distrito compartirá información sobre el ejercicio del planeamiento maestro y solicitará ideas e información de parte de los padres, cuidadores, y miembros de la comunidad respecto al uso de estas escuelas y los programas educativos apoyados en las escuelas de Bay Point. Además de determinar el uso óptimo para las distintas escuelas en Bay Point, la comunidad y el Distrito tendrán que colaborar para determinar la forma de financiar las recomendaciones del plan maestro.

Si tienen preguntas respecto a la reunión del 5 de marzo, por favor contacten a Pete Pedersen al 925-682-8000 ext.85610.”

During the school closure discussions, district officials expressed the need to expand schools in Bay Point for the growing population in East County. These discussions included ideas such as building a new high school, converting Riverview MS into a 7-12 school and/or expanding elementary schools to grades K-6.

Although the $348 million 2010 Measure C ballot language did not mention anything about building a new school, it did include school improvements. The board approved a study of Bay Point school facilities using Measure C funds, even though that study was not listed in the ballot measure project list.

Do you think the district should build or expand schools in Bay Point? If so, how should the district fund these projects?

Posted on Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 109 Comments »

MDUSD teachers’ union stands tough on demands

Before the Mt. Diablo school board went into closed session Feb. 27 to discuss union negotiations and other issues, teachers’ union President Mike Langley said he made the following comments to trustees:

“Members of the Board.

With all due respect and sincerity, we ask you to strongly consider our last proposal as the best short term solution in still uncertain times. If accepted and ratified, we can immediately begin to craft a subsequent agreement with the belief that negotiations will mature in November. By then we can agree on a realistic formula for a known economic climate, without unnecessary cuts that do irreparable harm, yet with protection for the fiscal health of this district.

Let me read to you an excerpt for an email sent by our bargaining chair, Connie Gillam

• ‘The MDEA team feels there is room for movement on the District’s part regarding the Salary and Work Year articles as well as the additional articles still on the table.

• Teachers are willing to help the District out to ensure that the District will not face bankruptcy; however we are not willing to take furlough days when they are being used as a revenue source rather than a last option for funding. Teachers believe that furlough days are damaging to our students and the valuable instructional time lost cannot be replaced.

• Teachers believe there is a substantial reserve available to the District this year and that a reasonable share of the reserve should be used to demonstrate the value of teachers and to help alleviate some of the financial burdens that many years of increased medical costs and six years of no increases in salary have caused.

Recent General Meetings have confirmed that an overwhelming majority of our members support the MDEA teams studied and reasoned approach. We feel that the Board has an opportunity to work with teachers to reach a fair and equitable contract that meets the needs of the District and MDEA members. We are willing to work with the District team to do so and are hopeful that the Board is willing to do the same.’

Thank you for your time and consideration of this important message. Let us remember that our energies are best served focusing on our students. No one will stand unbloodied if we move into the more public phase that Impasse entails.”

Here is a link to MDEA’s last bargaining update, which lays out its demands for demands:

Do you think the district should agree to MDEA’s proposal?

MARCH 1 UPDATE: MDEA has declared impasse:

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
Under: Education | 19 Comments »

MDUSD trustee says three items were left off Feb. 27 agenda

[NOTE: This blog post has been revised to include new information from Board President Sherry Whitmarsh.]

Mt. Diablo school board trustee Cheryl Hansen sent me a copy of a Feb. 13 memo she sent to Board President Sherry Whitmarsh and Superintendent Steven Lawrence regarding three items she wanted to add to the Feb. 27 board meeting agenda.

Hansen said the items did not appear, even though she gave the required two weeks’ notice. Although Hansen said neither Whitmarsh nor Lawrence informed her the items would not appear on the agenda, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh told me she called Hansen and left her a message asking her to call and discuss the reasons the items would be left off.

Here is the memo:

“February 13, 2012

TO: Sherry Whitmarsh and Steven Lawrence
FROM: Cheryl Hansen
RE: Agenda Items for February 27, 2012 Board Meeting

This is to notify you that I am placing on the February 27, 2012 Board meeting agenda the following items:

Type: Information
Subject: Board Bylaw 9324 – Minutes and Recordings

Summary: Board minutes and recordings are important communication and
documentation tools for the public record. Current Board Bylaw 9324 does not adequately and clearly provide direction for the composition of minutes and recordings. Therefore, Board Bylaw 9324 should be revised to read as follows:

Minutes and Recordings

The secretary of the Governing Board shall keep minutes and record all official Board actions.

The minutes of each regular or special meeting shall include an accurate account of individual Board member or staff comments made during discussion of information and/or action agenda items and motions.

The minutes shall also include an accurate summary of the public speakers’ comments made during the course of the Board meeting, including the speaker’s name, title, and key comments.

In the interest of accuracy and context, any Board member, staff, and/or member of the public may submit a written copy of their statements or discussion points which shall be included as an addendum to the Board minutes.

Video or Audio Recording

Recordings made during regular or special Board meetings are public records. They shall be kept for at least 365 days and upon request shall be made available for inspection by members of the public on a district recorder without charge.

Type: Action
Subject: Format of the Public Input and Informational Meetings

Summary: As was stated in my original summary for my agenda item entitled Public Input and Informational Meetings that was approved by the Board on February 6, 2012, the format of these meetings shall include:
1) What’s working
2) What could be improved
3) Input on decisions made
4) Questions and answers
5) Suggestions and ideas – where should we be heading and what should we be doing to provide better service, representation, responsiveness, and accountability to the MDUSD community.

Type: Action
Subject: Televised Board Meetings

Summary: The Board directs the superintendent to investigate and develop a plan of action to televise to the public all regular and special Board meetings, either through videostreaming or through Contra Costa Television (CCTV). This plan will include a working budget that itemizes both start up and ongoing costs. The superintendent will make his report of findings and recommendations to the Board at our March 26, 2012 meeting.”

Whitmarsh told me today that there were good reasons for leaving the items off.

“Either we’ve already talked about them on previous agenda items,” Whitmarsh said, “or they were already proposed to be on future agenda items.”

Whitmarsh said she did not know why Hansen didn’t call her to ask why the items were left off. She also said that items requested by other trustees have also sometimes not appeared on agendas for similar reasons.

Do you think the board should have considered these items at its Feb. 27 meeting, as requested by Hansen?

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 62 Comments »

Live blog of Feb. 27 MDUSD meeting

Here is a link to the agenda and audio:

Unfortunately, I arrived a bit late….during the consent calendar.

Trustee Cheryl Hansen pulled item 9.12 LEA Plan Addendum Update, to ask how the district had solicited input from parents, as required. Administrator Lorie O’Brien said the California Dept. of Ed. decided the district didn’t have to go through this process, since it had already gathered parent input during the School Improvement Grant process. She was unsure how many parents had been consulted regarding the plan.
Trustees unanimously approved the plan.

11.1 Teacher Recognition: Zehra Otus, a German teacher at CPHS, was recognized for being chosen as teacher of the year by the German embassy.

12.0 Student reps reported on activities at their schools.

13.0 Public comment: 19 speaker cards

1. Social worker who works at MDHS praised foster youth program and said students at the school need district support.

2. Jim Rowe, College and Career Advisor at MDHS: Talked about progress being made at the school, especially student achievements, including several being accepted into prestigious colleges. One of the things that concerns me is that the positive news about what goes on at Mount is not getting out there.

3. Sandra Davis: Office manager at MDHS: I would like to voice my support of MDHS. I have never worked with an administrative team like ours. They have been chastised, ridiculed and thrown under the bus in some instances. Are they perfect? No. Some staff members have put their personal agendas first and left the students’ interests last.

15 more staff MDHS staff members spoke in support of McClatchy and the school.

15.1 Supt. Report:
Supt. Steven Lawrence reported that the SBE published its agenda for March 8, which includes the MDHS waiver on the consent agenda. That’s considered routine business. They’re actually considering 10 waivers all together, one of which is MDHS. I would like to thank Lorie O’Brien, Julie Parks and Deb Cooksey and the school site council team for coming in on Friday, Dec. 23 to read and approve the waiver. So, hopefully on March 8th, we’ll have a decision. The CA Dept. of Ed. supports Mt. Diablo school district’s request for the QEIA waiver.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier talked about the governor’s budget proposal and Trustee Gary Eberhart expressed frustrations with midyear cuts. DeSaulnier also said he supports the CVHS waiver.

16.1 Decrease number of certificated employees due to a reduction or elimination of particular kinds of services, resulting in preliminary layoff of about 84 teachers.
Carries 5-0

16.2 Award of Design Services Contract for the Adaptive Design Necessary for the Construction/Installation of New ‘SMART’ Classrooms
Passed 5-0.

16.3 Award of Design Services Contract for the Adaptive Design Necessary for the Construction/Installation of New ‘SMART’ General Science Classrooms at Middle Schools
Passed 5-0

16.4 Approve Increase to Contract/PO with Independent Service Contractor, Phoenix Education Specialists
Passed 5-0

16.5 Approve Non-Public School Contract/Purchase Order Adjustments for 2011/12 School Year
Passed 5-0

16.6 Agreement between Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) and Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE)
Passed 5-0

16.7 Award of Design Services Contract for the Remodel/Renovation of the Home Economics Lab at Mt. Diablo High School
Passed 5-0

16.8 Award of Design Services Contract for Interim Housing Installation at Mt. Diablo High School
Passed 5-0

16.9 Approve contract with Resource Development Associates, Inc. (RDA) for evaluation services for the School Improvement Grant (SIG). Passed 5-0

16.10 Contra Costa County Mental Health Memorandum of Understanding
Passed 5-0

16.11 Approve Adjustments to Contracts/PO in Residential Non-Public School Placements for 2011/12 School Year
Passed 5-0

16.12 Appointment to California School Board’s Association (CSBA)
Gary Eberhart was nominated.
Cheryl Hansen said she would only support if the board receives report. Eberhart agreed.
Passed 5-0

16.13 2012 California School Board’s Association (CSBA) Delegate Assembly Election
Eberhart nominated: Kathi McLaughlin (Martinez USD), Antonio Medrano (West Contra Costa USD) and Jerrold “Jerry” Parsons (John Swett USD).
Hansen said she didn’t support this slate.
Passed 4-1, Hansen no.

16.14 Draft MDUSD Board Action Progress Report
Motion by Eberhart to approve as presented, seconded by Dennler.
Hansen moved to amend to include all board actions without exclusion that exceed $25,000 would be maintained on the progress accountability report. No second
Dennler suggested it might be nice to revisit in the future.
Mayo moved to amend as a pilot through Dec. 31, 2012.
Amendment passed 5-0, then back to main motion as amended.
Mayo: I want to acknowledge that Mr. Eberhart has brought forward a compromise. I find it interesting that we have only had two or three speakers, so there is not a big demand fromn public. Will not support becauseI believe it’s over-reporting.

Passed 4-1, Mayo no.

16.15 Waive Board Policy 3290 due to Conversion Charter
Passed 5-0.

16.16 Budget Presentation Update
CFO Bryan Richards said the district’s budget would likely remain flat if the governor’s proposed tax extensions pass, but the district could face midyear cuts of $370/ADA plus possible transportation or other cuts if the taxes don’t pass.

16.17 Meeting Extension: None

17.0 Board Reports (I shot some video and will post links later)

Hansen asked staff to report on district schools up for CA Distinguished Schools award.
Rose Lock reported that Highlands Elem. is being considered for the award.

Dennler talked about legislative meeting.

Eberhart asked staff to put committees with board members on the district’s home page, along with links to meeting agendas and minutes.

Mayo said Pleasant Hill mayor wants to hold a Youth Summit.

Whitmarsh expressed gratitude to the Northgate HS sports medicine program for coming to the aid of her daughter.

She adjourned the meeting in honor of a school custodian who died recently.

FEB. 28 UPDATE: Here is a link to my story about the meeting:

Posted on Monday, February 27th, 2012
Under: Education | 52 Comments »

Questions raised about MDUSD bond expenditures

Alicia Minyen, the taxpayer representative on the Mt. Diablo school district’s 2010 Measure C Bond Oversight Committee, has been raising questions about bond expenditures since she joined the committee.

Most recently, she is questioning two items that appear in the district’s first audit of money spent from the $348 million measure. The audit was completed by Christy White.

Here are the items questioned, as noted in the audit, which has not yet been posted on the district’s website:

Lease and general obligation bond payoff

On page 20, under “Tests of Expenditures”
“…In addition, the bond proceeds were used to prepay outstanding lease and general obligation bonds for a total of $14,288,580. We were unable to verify specifically in the bond ballot language the allowability of bond proceeds for debt service. Upon further inquiry, the district’s legal counsel advised us that these redemptions were permissible uses of the bonds and we relied on their expert legal opinion.”

Based on this, White concluded: “We found all expenditures tested to be in compliance with the terms of the Measure C 2010 Bond ballot measure and applicable State laws and regulations, without exception.”

Here is what the ballot measure said:

“To support quality education and safety for local students, and reduce impacts of State budget cuts by improving science, career and technical education facilities; upgrading classroom instructional technology; repairing leaky roofs; improving safety; maximizing energy efficiency including adding solar panels and modern air conditioning; and repairing, replacing, equipping or modernizing other school facilities; shall Mt. Diablo Unified School District issue $348,000,000 of bonds at legal interest rates, with independent citizen oversight, audits, and no money for administrator salaries?”

Issuance costs paid with bond premiums

On page 20, under “Deposit of Bond Proceeds”

“…The issuance costs were paid for with bond proceeds in the case of the Series C and D bonds, which appear proper. However, $1,781,511 in issuance costs was paid out of bond premiums for the Series A and B bonds. While this is an industry standard practice, there is a private letter to Poway Unified School District’s bond counsel from the State Attorney General’s office which expresses concern about the industry practice of artificially inflating the bond yield to generate a premium for cash out for construction and/or payment of issuance costs. The district did not receive any cash out for the construction purposes, which was the main concern of the Attorney General’s Office in citing the Superior Court decision. But, the district did use some of the premium for issuance cost payments, again a common practice. We found that the district did properly deposit these premium in a debt service fund pursuant to Education Code 15146(f) and then transferred the funds to the bond fund for payment of the issuance costs. Therefore, the district appears to have complied with the law.”

The letter says: “The law is clear that any premium, even if legitimate, must be deposited into a special fund, applied to pay debt service, and therefore cannot be diverted to pay costs of issuance.” It cites Gov. Code Sec. 29303 and Ed. Code Sec. 15146(f).

Gov. Code Sec. 29303 says: “…Whenever any bonds issued by any county or by any school, drainage, or other district in any county, whose accounts are required by law to be kept by the county auditor and treasurer, are sold at a premium or with accrued interest, or both, the amounts received for the premiums and accrued interest shall be deposited in the debt service fund of the county or district unless it is expressly provided by law that they be deposited in some other fund.”

Ed Code 15146(f) states: “The proceeds of the sale of the bonds, exclusive of any premium received, shall be deposited in the county treasury to the credit of the building fund of the school district, or community college district as designated by the California Community Colleges Budget and Accounting Manual. The proceeds deposited shall be drawn out as other school moneys are drawn out. The bond proceeds withdrawn shall not be applied to any other purposes than those for which the bonds were issued. Any premium or accrued interest received from the sale of the bonds shall be deposited in the interest and sinking fund of the district.”

Minyen questions whether the district’s bond counsel from the law office of Matt Juhl-Darlington can be considered to be truly independent. The firm contributed $10,000 to the Measure C campaign, including $5,000 donated May 10, 2010 (less than a month after the board approved a contract with the firm if the bond measure passed) and another $5,000 contributed so late that it didn’t get reported to the public until the election was over.

At the meeting, Committee Chairman John Ferrante initially told the group it couldn’t vote on the audit, since it hadn’t been publicly noticed as an action item on the agenda. Pete Pedersen, the Measure C program manager, said he didn’t realize he was supposed to do that. He said he had been expecting the group to accept the audit.

Since no one else raised any concerns about the agenda, the committee voted 7-0-1 to accept the audit as presented, with Minyen abstaining. Two of the members who voted to accept the audit had arrived late and missed a portion of the presentation and discussion, Minyen said.

Now, she’s wondering if the vote was legal due to the lack of public notice and lack of a quorum when the presentation and discussion began.

The audit covers expenditures through June 30, 2011. One committee member said she wants to be sure the next audit includes objections some members have to the district’s plan to install solar panels at Holbrook Elementary in Concord, which the board decided to close.

Pedersen has defended the idea of putting solar on the school, saying it could reopen in the future. But some committee members say it wouldn’t be cost effective to spend about $800,000 on a project that may not return the investment.

Do you agree with Christy White’s audit conclusions?

Posted on Friday, February 17th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 105 Comments »

MDUSD seeks input on draft CVCHS waivers

The Mt. Diablo school board will hold a public hearing Thursday regarding waivers it intends to submit to the California Department of Education seeking to avoid an anticipated negative financial impact when Clayton Valley High converts to a charter next year.

Under current law, the district anticipates it would have to pay about $980 per student more than it receives from the state to the charter, costing about $1.7 million. The proposed waivers would shift this additional cost to the County Office of Education or the state, if approved.

Although the district has posted an agenda for this public hearing, it has not yet posted the actual waivers for the public to review.

However, I have learned that portions of the waiver application have been distributed to the Budget Advisory Committee. I’m posting the information sent to the committee below.

Memo from CFO Bryan Richards:

“Budget Advisory Committee Members

Attached are preliminary attachments A and B for the District’s application for a waiver regarding the financial effects to the revenue limit regarding the Clayton Valley conversion to an independent charter. Part of the CDE’s waiver process is that such requests be shared with one of the advisory committees to the Board. Since this most directly affects the District’s budget, we are sharing it with you. Please review the information and let us know if you agree or disagree with the District’s application for the waiver. Also, if you have questions about the information, please feel free to ask them and we will get you answers. According to our legal counsel, we do not need a formal meeting of the committee to meet the requirements of the statute, just to get your input. I will put this on the agenda for our next meeting in March to update you on the status and to have an opportunity for any additional questions that may come up to be asked. Please note that this item goes before the Board of Education at a special meeting on February 22nd so please respond before then if possible.

Thank you for your assistance.

Bryan Richards
Chief Financial Officer”

Proposed waiver language (language to be stricken is bracketed):



(1) Waive the stricken through provisions of Ed Code Section 47632(j)
(2) which provides that:

“If a charter granted by a county office of education after having been previously denied by a school district, the sponsoring local educational agency means [the school district that initially denied the charter petition.]”and substitute the following language: “the approving County Office of Education that granted the charter.”


(2) Waive the stricken through provisions of Ed Code Section 47660 which provides that:

“(a) For purposes of computing eligibility for, and entitlements to, general purpose funding and operational funding for categorical programs, the enrollment and average daily attendance of a sponsoring local educational agency shall exclude the enrollment and attendance of pupils in its charter schools funded pursuant to this chapter.

(b)(1) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), and commencing with the 2005-06 fiscal year, for purposes of computing eligibility for, and entitlements to, revenue limit funding, the average daily attendance of a unified school district, other than a unified school district that has converted all of its schools to charter status pursuant to 47606, shall include all attendance of pupils who reside in the unified school district and who would otherwise have been eligible to attend a noncharter school of the school district, if the school district was a basic aid school district in the prior fiscal year, [or if the pupils reside in the unified district and attended a charter school of that school district that converted to charter status o or after July 1, 2005]. Only the attendance of pupils described by this paragraph shall be included in the calculation made pursuant to paragraph (7) of subdivision (h) of Section 42238.”

Practical Effect of Waiver

Either of the above-reference waived provisions would have a neutral fiscal impact on our district.

• Under the first scenario, the Contra Costa County Office of Education, would be deemed the sponsoring local educational agency of the conversion.

• Under the second scenario, the Clayton Valley Charter High School, a conversion charter, would be treated the same as a start-up charter and the funding difference between the District’s unified rate and the high school rate, would not be borne by the remaining students and families of the district.”

Rationale for the waiver:




On January 11, 2012, Contra Costa County Office of Education approved the conversion of Clayton Valley High School to an independent charter school. CVHS is the District’s second largest high school and houses approximately 5.47% of the District’s pupils. Mt. Diablo USD is a low wealth unified district funded below the statewide average. The inclusion of the school’s students in the District’s revenue limit and then having the District pay out to the charter general purpose block grant based on the statewide average high school district rate causes the District to lose $979.84 per unit of ADA at the school. This creates a loss of approximately $1.74M annually at a time when school funding has already been cut, and is proposed to be further reduced in the 2012-13 budget. This creates a significant hardship upon the remaining students in the District.

Funding a comprehensive high school conversion charter in a unified district at the high school district rate ignores the reason the high school district rate is higher than the elementary rate. It is higher to help cover the costs of students who are more expensive to serve: continuation; community day; and other students at risk of dropping out of school. Comprehensive high school students are not that much more expensive to serve than elementary or middle school students due to the fact that State law mandates a single salary schedule for unified districts. However, under current scenario, the District will retain all of the expensive to serve students and will lose the funding with which to serve them.

If the effect is spread across the entire District, it results in a loss of $56.68 per unit of ADA (a 1.09% decrease) for all other schools in the District. However, many parents in the other communities in the District feel strongly that other feeder patterns should remain unaffected and the impact of this cut should be borne solely by the Clayton Valley feeder pattern. There are currently 3,504.68 units of ADA in the other schools that are part of the Clayton Valley feeder pattern. A small portion of two of the schools feeds into another high school attendance area, but their ADA is included in this calculation. Spreading the loss of revenue among these four elementary schools and two middle schools would create a loss of funding of $496.81 per unit of ADA (a 9.53% decrease) on these campuses, and would put their funding at $4,711.35/ADA, well below the statewide average for elementary school districts.

Maintaining this disparity also works against the State’s intended objective of district unification and consolidation as it creates a penalty should any high school in the consolidation ever decide to convert to charter status.

Until now, conversion charter high schools have been predominantly limited to the Los Angeles Unified School District. If a school in LAUSD of 1,777 converts out of a district of 571,225, it comprises only 0.31% of that district’s students. The conversion of the school in LAUSD creates a loss to the other LAUSD schools of $3.05 per ADA. In our District the loss is nearly 20 times that amount.

Through this waiver, the District seeks to neutralize the financial impact to the other students of the District. This can be accomplished by having the County Office of Education deemed the Local Educational Agency responsible for the charter school for the purposes of Education Code Section 47632, and by not requiring the District to include the charter students into the District’s revenue limit calculation for the purposes of Education Code Section 47660.”

Do you think the district should call a special meeting of the BAC, so members could publicly discuss the waivers and hear each others’ comments and questions?

3 P.M. UPDATE: Here is a link to the letter originally provided to the district by the charter’s attorney, suggesting a waiver:

FEB. 23 UPDATE: Here is a link to the waiver application and attachments:

FEB. 27 UPDATE: Tonight, the school board expects to accept resignations from 64 CVHS teachers and to approve retirements for eight more: This means 72 teachers have chosen not to continue working in MDUSD next year.

Posted on Thursday, February 16th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 66 Comments »

MDUSD Bond Oversight Committee to meet Thursday

The Mt. Diablo school district’s 2010 Measure C Bond Oversight Committee will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in the district office.

Since the agenda is difficult to find on the Measure C website (and the meeting is not listed under “Upcoming Events” on the district’s website, I am posting the agenda below, along with a link to the audit.

“2010 Measure C Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee Special Meeting

Thursday, February 16, 2012
1936 Carlotta Drive
Board Room, Dent Education Center

7:00 PM

 Call to order

 Public Comment

 Audit Report

 Annual Report

 Other Committee Concerns”

Here is the audit:

Also, I have received a copy of an Oct. 10, 2011 memo sent by taxpayer representative Alicia Minyen to the rest of the committee regarding “Questionable expenses paid for using 2010 Measure C bond proceeds.” According to Minyen, the district was supposed to post this on its website, since it was discussed as an agenda item at the last Bond Oversight Committee meeting.

Since this has not been done, I am posting a link to the memo here:

It is possible that some of these issues will be brought up again during discussions regarding the audit and annual report. Minyen had previously requested that the committee consider issuing a minority report, if all committee members do not agree on the annual report.

Committee members, however, decided it was premature to discuss a minority report until they saw the annual report. Some also suggested that a minority view could be included in the annual report.

What is your reaction to the audit and to Minyen’s concerns?

Posted on Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 38 Comments »

WCCUSD board to consider parcel tax tonight

The West Contra Costa school board will consider approving ballot language for a new parcel tax tonight.

Here is more information, from the agenda:
“F.2 Parcel Tax Renewal / Extension Resolution No. 90-1112

In 2004, the voters approved a parcel tax that has helped to fund reduced class sizes, counselors, librarians, custodial services, and athletics. This parcel tax, which annually brings $9.6 million into the district, was renewed in 2008 with 79% of voters supporting it. Over the past four years, the District has spent the parcel revenue prudently and in alignment with the measure with fully accountability through annual audits and review by the Community Budget Advisory Committee.

Since the approval in 2008, the State of California has dramatically reduced funding for K-12 education. By statute the per pupil revenue limit for 2012-13 should be $6,742 but due to the financial crisis and the Legislature’s inability to fund public education in California, West Contra Costa Unified School District will receive only $4,911. The total loss of revenue to WCCUSD is more than $40 million. The Board has demonstrated financial stewardship in making expenditure reductions including closing schools, capping employee health benefits, requiring employees to take furlough days, raising class sizes, and reducing or eliminating many programs that had served the students of the District. In adopting a budget for 2011-12,
the Board used several one-time funding sources such as the Federal Stimulus money to keep essential programs and services. Yet, the District faces a deficit of $4.7 million for 2012-13 as well as the loss of one-time federal stimulus funds.WCCUSD Board of Education

At the November 16, 2011 meeting, Bryan Godbe from Godbe Research presented the results of a survey that the Board had authorized in September 2011. The survey results show the voters are willing to
support a renewal of the current parcel tax and small increase that would help the District continue to fund key programs and services to get through the current financial hardship.

That the Board approve ballot language and Resolution No. 90-1112 authorizing a parcel tax renewal/extension on the June 5, 2012 ballot.

Fiscal Impact:
Provide $13.6 million each year for 5 years for programs and services to students.”

Do you think the board should place a parcel tax on the June ballot?

Posted on Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
Under: Education, West Contra Costa school district | 6 Comments »

View from inside Mt. Diablo High

William Maldonado, who is a senior at Mt. Diablo High, sent me the three photos above to illustrate problems with locked restrooms and others that are not sufficiently stocked with supplies at the school.

Here’s what he said about the photos in an email:

“These are the pictures I took. One is of the bathroom with no soap or paper towel fixtures even on the wall. That is of the shop building bathroom, the only bathroom usually available to students. The other pictures are pictures of the stair well in the Academic building where students often urinate because they cannot find a bathroom open or because they are too disgusted by the condition of the bathrooms to actually use them.”

Maldonado was one of several students who spoke to the school board last Monday, complaining about the lack of restrooms, lack of supplies in the few restrooms that are open, and the punishment that Principal Kate McClatchy requires when students are late to class — even if the reason they’re late is that they had to wait for a chance to use a restroom. They must get a tardy pass and pick up trash, which ends up making them even later, Maldonado told the board.

During a phone interview, Maldonado also expressed concerns about McClatchy’s plan to convert the school to an all-academy model. Maldonado has reached the highest rank in the school’s JROTC program. He and other members of JROTC fear that the program might not survive if the school converts to all academies, because students would not have enough options to take JROTC courses. He also said students would not be able to take courses from two different academies — such as woodshop and biotech. This is unfair because it limits their choices, he said.

During previous budget cuts, the school board considered cutting a JROTC program from MDHS or Olympic High. But students from both programs came to the board meetings dressed in their uniforms and talked about how it changed their lives. Teachers and parents also talked about how beneficial JROTC is on both campuses. So far, I have not heard this brought up at a board meeting. But, if the all-academy model would jeopardize the JROTC program, the public and the board should be made aware of that.

Do you think students should have to pick up trash if they are late to class because they were waiting to use the restroom?

FEB. 13 UPDATE: Toilet in the boy's restroom in the shop building at MDHS

Maldonado just sent me this additional photo, which he said was taken by his friend. Here’s what he wrote about it in an email:

“I found this picture on my friends phone and had him Bluetooth it to me. This is the only toilet available in the shop building bathroom.”

When I asked when it was taken, he responded: “This one was taken a couple weeks ago. The photo was time stamped as being taken on 1/17/12/”

Posted on Monday, February 13th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 55 Comments »

Complaints mount at Mt. Diablo High

MDHS student Charles Campos posts sign on locked restroom.

Since a majority of teachers voted No Confidence in Mt. Diablo High Principal Kate McClatchy in December, some students and a parent have joined in a chorus of complaints about her leadership.

At Monday’s school board meeting, three current students, one former student, a parent and four teachers outlined their concerns. I am posting links to video clips of their comments below, along with excerpts.

Senior Savannah Ridgley: Video:

“Two weeks ago, I voiced some of my personal concerns. However, I’m not the only student at the high school. Nor am I the only student with concerns due to Ms. McClatchy’s actions and decisions. Over the course of the past month, we the students have compiled our major concerns. Tonight, we bring them to you with the hope of some action being taken. On Jan. 5th, 2012, we held a student-only meeting to acquire a better understanding of some of the concerns of the student body. The issues raised were: building and bathroom accessibility, or rather, lack of; poor bathroom sanitation; the intended layout of the all-academy structure; the lack of accessibility to AP classes; that student input isn’t valued and is even ignored; the lack of QEIA (Quality Education Investment Act) funding and resulting schedule changes; the method of punishing tardy students; the idea that actions are only taken by Ms. McClatchy under bad publicity; the fact that educational minorities are ignored; the fact that sports aren’t given adequate notice when they have forms to turn in; and the fact that students are no longer permitted to wear Rosaries.

We, the students of Mt. Diablo High School have needs, rights and concerns. And now, we the students of Mt. Diablo High School are using our voices. Several students are going to expand on a few of these issues. I hope that you take all of these problems into consideration. Thank you.”

Senior William Maldonado: Video:

Unfortunately, the first part of the video has a glitch in it, so it doesn’t start at the beginning of his comments. Complete audio of the meeting is at

Maldonado said he was speaking about the district’s failed punishment policy, as well as the fact that only one restroom was open (until this week) and it was not near his classes. He said McClatchy requires students who are tardy to retrieve a tardy pass from an administrator, even if they are tardy because they had to wait to go to the restroom. When students obtain tardy passes, they are given a glove and instructed to pick up trash for about five minutes, he said. By the time they get to class, they are 10-15 minutes late, he said. They miss warm-up activities or the chance to go over homework, he said.

From video: “..When you miss the beginning of class, you no longer have the opportunity to participate in classroom activities, which I feel, at the beginning of the class period, is the most important. It sets it up for everyting that will be done the rest of the period. When you come in 15 minutes late to class because your principal wants to punish your tardiness, I feel it is unacceptable and is a waste of time. Why it makes sense to use taxpayer-funded school time to have students pick up trash is beyond me. This policy has not lowered substantially the rate of tardiness and it appears to cause a concern among many students and teachers. Many students take advantage of this policy simply to come more late to class. This policy punishes the students who wish to pursue their education further and provide the school with higher test scores and rewards the students who don’t want to go to class. We are the students of Mt. Diablo High School, but we are motivated.”

Vanessa Lopez: Video:

“I am a graduate of Mt. Diablo High School, class of 2011. I was enrolled in the ACME (Architecture, Construction, Manufacturing and Engineering) academy for three years. In all my years at Mt. Diablo, I never received referral or had any problems or any disciplinary actions taken against me. In January, 2011, my boyfriend Kevin Rojas was shot and killed in Bay Point. At the time of his tragic death, he was enrolled at Gateway (continuation) high school, but had spent freshman through the beginning of senior year at Mt. Diablo High. When he died, our principal, Ms. McClatchy, called me into the office and told me that I could no longer attend Mt. Diablo High, (Unfortunately, the video was cut short at this point.)

Lopez also said that her academy was not allowed to have a memorial service and that McClatchy accused her of being a gang member and tried to involunarily transfer her to Crossroads High. Lopez said she was not a gang member and that she and her family complained to the district. District officials allowed to return to Mt. Diablo High, she said.

“Ms. McClatchy disrespects students,” Lopez said. “She is the wrong principal for any school.”

Teacher Wendy Spencer: Video:

“I was here two weeks ago to express my concerns over what’s happening at Mt. Diablo High School. At that time, I used the analogy of a bus on the autobahn, filled with students and staff. From where we are, at the back of the bus, the road ahead is obscured by thick fog. We ask the driver, Ms. McClatchy, to slow down, to be careful. But she just says: ‘If there’s no speed limit on the autobahn, I can go as fast as I want!’ We’re trying to say: ‘We don’t think as fast as you’re going is warranted.’ This is the cycle I feel we’re in. Ms. McClatchy wants an all-academy school with only her approved academies. And 9 to 12th grades by the year after next at the latest. Many teachers and three of four academies have asked, ‘Why?’ and have not gotten an answser in the year we have been asking. I personally voted No Confidence because I thought she would be forced to explain her reasoning, at least. But, that has not happened. And I am afraid for the future of the students who do not fit the mold. Thank you for your time.”

English teacher Stephanie Sliwinski, who teaches in the Architecture, Construction, Manufacturing and Engineering (ACME) academy and is a district parent. Video:

“I’m here tonight not only to speak to you as someone who has taught in an academy at Mount, but has also taught in the general population and literally built the successful academy ACME from the ground up.” (Unfortunately, clip was cut off before she finished her comments.)

She said ACME is a California Partnership academy.

“When life gave me lemons at Mt. Diablo High School,” she said, “I made lemonade.”

She said the academy raised test scores and that McClatchy wanted to scale it up. She compared the academy to a pitcher of magic lemonade. But, when the academy gets larger, she said it would be like a baby pool and students would no longer be able to taste the lemonade.

AP Environmental Science teacher Patrick Oliver.
(Unfortunately, I only captured a portion of his comments on video.)

He said he gets along well with McClatchy personally, but that he and many other teachers object to her plan to scale up the four existing academies to create an all-academy school.

From video:
“And then, she said to the school faculty: ‘We are going to vote on whether the faculty thinks we should accept an all-academy model with freshmen this year or next year,’ which seemed kind of curious, because of the fact it’s a liege of these academies…(audio obscured). And in fact, a lot of people didn’t want to actually vote on that. They wanted to vote on: Should we have more academies? Or, should we look at other options? Whereas, many of us refrained from voting on that because it seemed to me like a transparent political move so that she could go to the board and public and say: ‘See, the faculty voted and they support my plan.’ When, in fact, a for a large number or a vast majority of the faculty, that was not the plan we were interested in. So, many of us didn’t vote. And I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out, because we haven’t been given that information.

I am excited about some of the changes that are happening. And, Friday, I had a meeting with the principal and a bunch of other people in regards to a new interest in a sustainability pathway through the IHTA (International Hospitality and Tourism Academy). And, I’m super excited to develop an agriculture class and a horticulture class and continue my environmental science in the context of the academy without the AP label. I do have an Ag degree and five years of horticulture experience. However, however, I’m being told we need to develop this as soon as possible, ie. basically next week, next month. Which means piloting new courses, new textbooks. No extra staff time. No staff development time. No money from the county, district, school. And so as a professional grant writer in years past and developing a nonprofit, I’m working with enough nonprofits to develop resources to bring to the school and I would love to develop that on the side. But, I have been basically told: ‘Good luck, you’re on your own, kid.’ So, I’m going to do whatever it takes and from what I understand, I would love to increase the support from the district to accomplish these goals. And I don’t feel like I can count on any.”

English teacher Dan Reynolds: Video:
(Unfortunately, I missed the beginning of his comments on video.)

He said he felt like the “listening process” developed by the district to respond to the vote of No Confidence was not working and that teachers need some intervention from the board. The district held listening meetings, in which administrators wrote down concerns expressed by teachers at the school, along with recommendations for improvement, he said.

“From video:
“We felt listened to. But, one of the problems is that when we finally saw the compiled list of what went on in those listening sessions, there was a glaring omission. When we were presented the list of our recommendations for improvement, one of the recommendations that came up time and time again was – as I am told and as I witnessed at the one session that I visited – was that one of the items was: replace Kate McClatchy. Each teacher in those sessions was given two green dots to put on the recommendation they felt was important. You could put it on two different recommendations or if something was so important, you could both your stickers on one. I put one of my stickers on: Replace Kate McClatchy, as did three of my other colleagues in that listening session. In the other listening sessions that reported to me from colleagues who were at them, nine stickers on “replace Kate McClatchy,” five stickers on “replace Kate McClatchy,” six stickers. When we got the list that was a report of those listening sessions, the item “replace Kate McClatchy” was left off. From the six listening sessions, we have no idea how many green dots were placed next to that because we’ve never been shown that information. However, things continue to move forward. Jan. 30th – Monday of last week – there was an opportunity for the administration to present to us the plan that they had written after reading that list. They didn’t include us in a conversation. They took those items on the list and made a new plan. And then they presented us with the plan….” (Video got cut short.)

He said the administrators are listening, “but what we get back is shallow.”

After hearing all these complaints, four trustees said nothing. Trustee Gary Eberhart said he had submitted a list of questions to Superintendent Steven Lawrence about the district’s reponse to the vote of No Confidence. He asked Lawrence to add to the list the question: How many restrooms are at the school and how many are available to students?

Later in the meeting, district resident Brian Lawrence addressed the board about a proposal to hold less formal community meetings where the public could ask questions and give feedback to the superintendent and community. Lawrence (who is no relation to the superintendent) said he supported the idea, adding that trustees sometimes resemble a Soviet Politburo — “stone-faced and nonresponsive,” even when faced with an issue involving basic human dignity.


To bring attention to the restroom issue, Amnesty International students have launched a “Pissing is a Human Right” campaign highlighting the school’s failure to provide adequate facilities. Here is a link to restrooms requirements on the California Department of Education’s website:

Based on these requirements, anyone in the community could file a Williams Act complaint, alleging the school is violating items p and q on this form:

How do you think the district should respond to the teachers’ vote of No confidence and students’ concerns about locked restrooms and other issues?

FEB. 11 UPDATE: Due to technical difficulties, I have just recovered additional videos I shot at the meeting — one from an adult (whose name I didn’t get) supporting the teachers and students, one from a parent and one showing Trustee Gary Eberhart requesting more information.

Here is a link to parent Diane Ridgley’s comments:

Here is a link to comments made by a woman supporting the students and teachers:

Here is Eberhart’s question to the superintendent:

FEB. 13 UPDATE: Teacher Dan Reynolds told me that of 94 teachers, only 23 cast ballots when McClatchy asked them to vote on converting to an all-academy school next year or the following year.

“The fact that only 23 voted tells you right there what people want,” he said.

FEB. 14 UPDATE: The Mt. Diablo school district has given students at Mt. Diablo High a sweet Valentine’s Day gift — all the restrooms are open.

Teacher Dan Reynolds said Trustee Gary Eberhart walked the campus this morning, visiting every restroom to make sure it was open and stocked with toilet paper, soap and paper towels. Those that weren’t are being replenished this morning, Reynolds said.

Eberhart also met with the Amnesty International club to talk about what students need to do to keep the restrooms open, Reynolds said. Members of the club plan to reach out to the rest of the student body to stress the importance of keeping the restrooms clean.

Posted on Saturday, February 11th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 141 Comments »