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: http://qik.com/video/47936180
“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: http://qik.com/video/47936252
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 http://www.mdusd.org/boe/Documents/audio/2012/February%206%202012%20-%20amplified.mp3.
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: http://qik.com/video/47936301
“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: http://qik.com/video/47936460
“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: http://qik.com/video/47936528
“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.
“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: http://qik.com/video/47936630
(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.
“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: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/fa/sf/toiletrequire.asp
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: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/cr/documents/ucpchecklist1112.pdf#search=restroom%20toilet%20paper&view=FitH&pagemode=none
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: http://qik.com/video/48038264
Here is a link to comments made by a woman supporting the students and teachers: http://qik.com/video/48036090
Here is Eberhart’s question to the superintendent: http://qik.com/video/48041718
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.