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Archive for March, 2012

6th through 12th-graders invited to free Youth Summit about Bullying on March 31 in Pittsburg

A free event aimed at helping teens overcome bullying will be held from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 31 at Los Medanos College, 2700 East Leland Rd., Pittsburg.

Here is more information from a news release:

“WHAT: Annual Contra Costa Youth Summit
WHEN: March 31, 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Los Medanos College, Pittsburg, CA
WHO: Sponsored by Supervisor Federal Glover
INFO: Paul Adler, 925-335-8200

Youth Summit tackles bullying
PITTSBURG — The 2012 Contra Costa Youth Summit will be held March 31 at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg.

The youth summit, sponsored by Supervisor Federal Glover, features workshops, exhibits, entertainment and inspirational speakers. The theme this year is ‘Ways to Stop Bullying and Build Character.’

‘Bullying occurs in our playgrounds, our schools and on the Internet,’ says Supervisor Federal Glover. ‘Bullying can by physical or it can be emotional. It has led to reputations being destroyed and in worst case scenarios – suicide by some of the victims.’

Last year, the summit attracted 700 youth who heard comedian Richard Pritchard talk about surviving teenage traumas in an amusing and touching presentation. This year, the keynote address will be given by Mark Blackshear, a sought-after speaker on youth behavioral issues.

Among the workshop subjects are how to get a job, avoiding gangs, financial literacy, getting to know yourself and planning for college. There will be resources appealing to young people, from 6th grade to 12th grad.

Building on this year’s theme there will be a presentation by the Kaiser Theaterical Troupe entitled ‘Nightmare on Puberty Street’ and a workshop on how to deal witih cyberbullying.

Demonstrations include police dogs, the sheriff’s helicopter, some of the latest dance moves and martial arts. Other attractions include: deejay Lady Ray from KMEL, free airbrush tattoos, manicures and dance lessons. Lunch and a light breakfast will be provided at no cost.

Supervisor Glover has been holding the youth gatherings since he was a Pittsburg City Council member. They became county-wide summits when he was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2001.

‘There’s a lot of useful information for young people, presented in a non-threatening way. Besides, it is a lot of fun, too,’ says Glover, who represents District V.”

Here is more information, submitted by Glover:

“Youth Summit takes on bullying
By Federal Glover

Stefani was an outcast, a frail-looking girl in high school. After meeting up with some friends at a local pizzeria, Stefani, found herself helpless and at the hands of her adolescent bullies.

‘The boys picked me up and threw me in the trash can on the street, on the corner of my block while all the other girls from the school were leaving and could see me in the trash.’ She remembers fighting back tears because she did not want her tormentors get any satisfaction from bullying her.

‘Everybody was laughing and I was even laughing. I had that nervous giggle – heh, heh. I remember even one of the girls looking at me like ‘are you about to cry? You’re pathetic.’ That’s what it felt like, you’re pathetic.’

She was so embarrassed she didn’t tell anyone about the incident, not even her parents.

As she recalls the incident, sitting in a dark studio by herself: ‘It didn’t sink in with me how bullying affected me until later in my life. I knew that it affected me deeply but it wasn’t until a little bit later that I realized how much it affect me and how much it was still very present.’

She finally told her story – through her music. Stefani Germanotta became pop artist Lady Gaga. To hear Lady Gaga tell her story how she was bullied, link to

Bullying really creates two victims. The obvious one is the person being picked on. The other victim is the bully himself, or herself.

‘There’s all this focus on the victims but victims and bullies are on the same playing field,’ Gaga recently told an audience. ‘They both need our help. So how do we not just save the victim but save the bully too?’

Bullying can take the form of physical abuse or taunting. It can also take an emotional toll.

These days, tormenting can also come in the form of social shunning or Internet harassment and the social network is abused by spreading lies and gossip.

Few of us have the talent and fortitude of Lady Gaga. We can’t write the music that turns the despair into inspiration. In the worst-case scenario, victims commit suicide.

How should one react to bullying? How does one recognize a friend or a child is being bullied? Where can you go to get help?

These are some of the topics that will be discussed in this year’s Contra Costa Youth Summit that I am sponsoring. Some will remember last year’s presentation by comedian Richard Pritchard. He had us laughing and crying in his emotional rollercoaster of a speech.

The theme of the summit is ‘Ways to Prevent Bullying and How to Build Character.’ This year’s speaker will be Mark Blackshear, a much sought-after speaker on youth behavior. Kaiser Medical Center’s theatrical troupe will present a skit entitled ‘Nightmare on Puberty Street.’

The summit will be held March 31, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg. Lunch and a light breakfast will be provided at no cost. Students from 6th grade to high school are encouraged to attend the free event.

One of the workshops will talk about ‘cyber-bullying.’ Victims may be picked on based on their race, gender, the way they dress, what neighborhood they live in, how they wear their hair, the way they speak or for any number of reasons.

There will also be workshops on how to find a job, how stay out of gangs, learn the latest dance steps, how to handle your finances and other matters faced by young people today.

Demonstrations include airbrush tattoos, manicures, martial arts, weightlifting, Midnight Basketball, the Sheriff’s helicopter will drop in, a demonstration of a police canine unit and firefighters and ambulance emergency medical technicians will be there. Deejay Lady Ray from KMEL will keep the music going and the energy high.

It is day packed with lots of good information that will help the young people get through what could be a difficult time in their lives and plan for their future. What we want them to know is that they don’t have to go on this journey alone, that there is help out there, often at no cost.

The Youth Summit planners want to point out to youth that this is just the beginning of their young lives. If they have the right attitude, the skills and resources – they can improve themselves and the world they live in.

Stefani – aka Lady Gaga – rose above her high school tormenters and created a foundation called the Born This Way Foundation whose mission is to promote tolerance and fight bullying.

The Youth Summit might not have all the answers to bullying and its repercussions, but at least it can point young people in the right direction. It may be a small step … but it is a hopeful step.

Glover represents District V on the Board of Supervisors. For more information about the Youth Summit, link to

What do you think should be done to prevent bullying?

Posted on Friday, March 30th, 2012
Under: Education, Pittsburg | 1 Comment »

30 East Bay elementary schools named “2012 California Distinguished Schools”

Congratulations to the 30 East Bay elementary campuses that were named 2012 California Distinguished Schools!

Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, announced Thursday that 387 schools throughout California earned that honor for innovative education programs that encourage students to learn and help close the achievement gap.

“The schools we are recognizing today demonstrate the incredible commitment of California’s teachers, administrators, and school employees to provide a world-class education to every student, in spite of the financial hardships facing our state and our schools,” Torlakson said in a news release. “Their dedication is inspiring, and I applaud and admire their passion and persistence.”

Here are the East Bay schools that made the list, by county and district:


Alameda City Unified: Amelia Earhart Elementary, Donald D. Lum Elementary

Berkeley Unified: Malcolm X Elementary

Castro Valley Unified: Chabot Elementary, Independent Elementary, Jensen Ranch Elementary, Palomares Elementary, Vannoy Elementary

Dublin Unified: James Dougherty Elementary, John Green Elementary

Fremont Unified: Forest Park Elementary, Glenmoor Elementary, Hirsch Elementary, J. Haley Durham Elementary, Oliveira Elementary, Parkmont Elementary, Warm Springs Elementary

Livermore Valley Joint Unified: Altamont Creek Elementary, Arroyo Seco Elementary

Oakland Unified: Acorn Woodland Elementary, Henry J. Kaiser Jr. Elementary

Pleasanton Unified: Fairlands Elementary


Byron Union Elementary: Discovery Bay Elementary, Timber Point Elementary

Martinez Unified: John Swett Elementary, Morello Park Elementary

Mt. Diablo Unified: Highlands Elementary

Pittsburg Unified: Los Medanos Elementary

West Contra Costa Unified: Hanna Ranch Elementary, Olinda Elementary

The complete list is on the California Department of Education’s website at

Here is more information about the annual recognition program, from the news release:

“The 2012 California Distinguished Schools Program focuses on California’s students and their entitlement to an equitable and rigorous education. The program identifies and honors those schools that have demonstrated educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap.

To be invited to apply for Distinguished School honors, schools must meet a variety of eligibility criteria including designated federal and state accountability measures based on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Academic Performance Index requirements.

Once schools are deemed eligible, the CDE (California Department of Education) invites them to apply to be recognized as a California Distinguished School. The application process consists of a written application, which includes a comprehensive description of two of the school’s signature practices, and a county-led site validation review process, which validates the implementation of those signature practices.

Elementary and secondary schools (middle and high schools) are recognized in alternate years. This year focuses on elementary schools.

Schools earning the Distinguished School title agree to share their signature practices with other schools and serve as mentors to other educators who want to replicate their work. An updated searchable database of these Signature Practices will be available later this spring by the California Department of Education.

Schools selected for recognition will be honored as Distinguished Schools at award ceremonies where Torlakson will present each school with a 2012 Distinguished School plaque and flag. The event and awards are funded by donations from many of California’s most prominent corporations and statewide educational organizations.

To see signature practices shared by the 2009 California Distinguished Elementary Schools, visit

What are your school’s signature practices?

Posted on Friday, March 30th, 2012
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education | No Comments »

A closer look at the Ed Trust-West district report card in the East Bay

Ed Trust-West released a report today that showed most unified school districts in the state are not doing enough to adequately educate low-income and minority students.

The report issued grades of A through F to the 146 largest districts in California, based on student test performance, improvement, achievement gaps and college readiness.

Here’s how East Bay districts stacked up against each other overall:

C+: San Ramon Valley

C: Castro Valley

C-: Pleasanton, Livermore Valley, San Lorenzo, San Leandro

D+: Berkeley, Fremont, New Haven

D: Hayward, Oakland, West Contra Costa, Alameda City, Antioch, Mt. Diablo

The San Ramon Valley district’s C+ was the highest grade in the Bay Area, but didn’t change from last year. Three percent of the district’s students are low income, 2 percent African American and 8 percent Latino.

The district scored A’s for performance levels among students of color and among low-income students. But it scored a D for improvement among students of color, a C for improvement among low-income students, a D for the size of the achievement gap between African-American and white students, and a B for the size of achievement gap between Latinos and whites. College readiness among students of color rated a B.

The Mt. Diablo district got the lowest score in the East Bay, retaining its overall “D” rating from 2010. But it slipped from 138th to 144th when compared to other districts that improved since the previous report card.

West Contra Costa surpassed Mt. Diablo in 2011, jumping from last on the list at 146th with an “F” to a D overall at 133rd. It showed dramatic progress in college readiness, soaring from an “F” in 2010 up to a “B.” Mt. Diablo earned a “D’ in college readiness both years.

About 68 percent of students in West Contra Costa are low-income, compared to 40 percent in Mt. Diablo. Nearly half of West Contra Costa’s students are Latino and 15 percent are African-American. In Mt. Diablo, 36 percent of students are Latino and 5 percent are African-American.

West Contra Costa board President Charles Ramsey said the district is working very hard, despite budget challenges.

Mt. Diablo district trustee Linda Mayo said a closer look at the data on the Ed Trust website reveals that the district improved slightly in some categories, although not enough to boost its grades to a higher level.

For example, the district’s rank rose when compared to other districts in four out of seven areas, including improvement among students of color. The district remained the same in performance levels of students of color and college readiness, she said. The district’s rank dropped slightly in the size of its achievement gap between white students and those who are African-American and Latino, she said.
Mayo said the district is already pursuing many of the ideas recommended by Ed Trust.

These include focusing on excellence in instruction and maintaining high expectations for student performance; establishing Professional Learning Communities (which involves collaboration between teachers and administrators on campuses), providing professional development; and analyzing student test data.

“School sites are using that,” she said. “Teachers are meeting in teams to assess student performance.”

She acknowledged that the district needs to invest more in technology, but it plans to use some funds from its $348 million Measure C school construction bond measure approved by voters in 2010.

Mayo said pacing guides, which are recommended in the report, have been controversial in the district. Finally, she said extra supports and investments recommended in the report are difficult right now because of budget constraints. However, Mayo said she is advocating for teacher voice amplifiers, which help hear instruction better.

In addition, Superintendent Steven Lawrence sent me an e-mail, including a list of programs and practices the district has put in place during the past 18 months to address the learning needs of all students.

“The (district’s) Department of Student Achievement and School Support is dedicated to the success of all students within the Mt. Diablo Unified School District,” he wrote. “To that end, the focus of our work has been providing teachers and administrators with the best tools and strategies to meet the needs of their learners.”

Here is the list of actions taken to help close the achievement gap, which includes some of the things mentioned by Mayo:

“• A new student data system has been purchased and teacher leaders/administrators have been trained to utilize the various components of the system, including student achievement data collection and comparison, progress monitoring, intervention grouping, and assessment tools.

• District benchmarks have been administered in both elementary and middle schools and teams of teachers/administrators have received training in effective analysis of data. Student progress is being tracked by grade level and subject area within schools, by class and period, by subgroups of students, and by individual students.

• During each data analysis period, teacher teams examine student progress toward proficiency on essential standards, and select focus standards for the next instructional period. Instructional strategies are selected by teacher teams; many schools have identified methods of regrouping students for daily intervention/acceleration within the school day.

• At both the elementary and secondary levels, teachers have identified essential standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics in order to focus on the critical learnings required for students to be able to move successfully from one grade level to the next.

• Teachers have been trained to identify and understand proficiency levels, and have written performance level descriptors for all essential standards. This work is helping teachers to understand levels of rigor and to raise the level of expectation in the classroom.

• At the elementary level, hundreds of teachers have been trained in two high-leverage strategies, BoardMath and BoardLanguage. These strategies are particularly effective with students who respond to opportunities for oral language review/preview (specifically, African American students and English Learners), but benefit all other learners as well.

• All principals’ meetings include professional development for administrators, with a focus on understanding the use of assessment and performance data, creating Response to Instruction plans, and supporting instructional rigor.

• An English Learner Task Force has developed a draft of a Master Plan for English Learners. This plan establishes instructional programs and best practice that will be followed throughout the district in order to meet the needs of our English Learners.

• The SASS Department, in collaboration with other district departments, is writing a Professional Development Plan that will be followed over the next five years. This Plan focuses on the effective use of assessment and data; standards-based instruction; high-leverage strategies to engage all students; and collaborative professional dialogue.

• Instructional materials for English Language Development have been purchased at the elementary and middle school levels.

• Teacher leaders have been engaged regularly through grade-level symposiums, data analysis days, professional trainings and workshops, instructional committees (i.e. Essential Standards, PLD, and Report Card committees)

• The SASS Department and the Department of Special Education/Student Services have been meeting to identify challenges and intervention strategies currently in place at schools and develop some immediate responses to address the critical needs.

• The Department is currently finalizing a professional development initiative that will embed Response to Instruction ractices in classrooms throughout the district. The plan will include both academic and behavioral response with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention.”

How do you think districts should improve instruction for low-income and minority students?

Posted on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
Under: Education | 90 Comments »

Eighth Annual Young Children’s Issues Forum is Saturday

Parents and other interested members of the community are invited to the free Eighth Annual Young Children’s Issues Forum on Saturday in Concord.

Here’s more information from a news release:

“The public is invited to The Eighth Annual Young Children’s Issues Forum, to be held on Saturday, March 24, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon., at the Willow Pass Community Center, 2748 East Olivera Rd., Concord. This free annual community is event sponsored and organized by the Local Planning Council for Child Care and Development (LPC), and is coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE).

The purpose of the program is to provide a forum for discussion among legislators, local officials, and the community regarding current children’s issues. This year’s event will feature two panel presentations and discussions. Ted Lempert, Executive Director of Children Now will be the guest moderator and will lead discussions of approximately 12 state legislators and local officials who will speak about the current status of young children’s health, education, social and child care services. There will also be time for questions from the audience after each panel. Confirmed presenters include Assembly Members Joan Buchanan, Nancy Skinner and Susan Bonilla; Senators Mark DeSaulnier and Loni Hancock; and County Supervisors Karen Mitchoff and Federal Glover.

Historically, the majority of the event attendees are early childhood educators, preschool teachers, program administrators, community college faculty, and representatives from community agencies. Resources, services, and other information related to child care and education, a benefit to parents, will be available at the event. The LPC hopes to encourage and foster parent participation, as well as participation of all early care and education professionals in the county, including private and state-funded child development centers and family care providers.

For more information about the annual Young Children’s Issues Forum, please contact the Contra Costa Local Planning Council for Child Care and Development Coordinator Ruth Fernández at (925) 942-3413. This is a free event, but attendance registration is required. Please visit the LPC website to register and for more details:”

What young children’s issues do you think should be discussed?

Posted on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa County Board of Education, Education | No Comments »

Two MDUSD campuses plan to spend nearly $12.5 million in School Improvement Grants

The California Department of Education recently awarded nearly $12.5 million in federal School Improvement Grants to Meadow Homes Elementary and Oak Grove Middle School in Concord.

The school board gave district staff approval to submit the applications, without ever publicly reviewing them.

Since they are not available on the district’s website, I am posting a link here:–Meadow-Homes_

Here are the improvement strategies each school has committed to in its application.

Meadow Homes:

1. Refine instruction in ELD, mathematics and language arts.

2. Support for intervention to enrichment structures.

3. Working with a leadership data coach.

4. Parent education and partnerships.

5. Provide increased learning time.

6. Access to enrichment curriculum and electives

Oak Grove:

1. Implementation of interventions for students not at grade level proficiency

2. Increased learning time and creating a community-oriented school that supports academic, social and emotional needs of students.

The complete plans are outlined in the application.

Do you agree with these plans?

Posted on Friday, March 16th, 2012
Under: Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 55 Comments »

MDUSD Bond Oversight Committee meeting is tonight

The Mt. Diablo school district’s 2010 Measure C Bond Oversight Committee will meet tonight. Since the district’s website does not provide a distinct URL link for the agenda, I am posting the agenda below:

2010 Measure C Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee
Thursday, March 15, 2012
1936 Carlotta Drive
Board Room, Dent Education Center
7:00 PM

• Call to order

• Public Comment

• Review/Approval of Minutes of December 15, 2011 (action item)

• Review/Approval of Minutes of February 23, 2012 (action item)

• Annual Report

• Vacant Committee Seat

• Request for volunteers for 2002 Measure C CBOC

• Solar Project: Status Report

• Mechanical (HVAC) Project: Status Report

• Technology Project: Status Report

• High School Enhancements

• Quarterly Report

• Annual Report: Minority Report

• Other Committee Concerns

• Public Comment”

At the last meeting, Chairman John Ferrante pointed out that action items should be clearly identified on the agenda. In the past, they have not been.

In addition, materials already provided to the committee should also be posted with the agenda (such as the draft minutes and annual report). Unfortunately, the district still is not providing this backup material to the public before the meeting.

Do you think the district should post attachments and Powerpoints to be reviewed at the meeting before the meeting begins?

Posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 238 Comments »

Northgate HS crisis counselors address teen suicide attempt

In light of the recent suicide attempt at Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord, crisis counselors from nearby Northgate High in Walnut Creek sent a message to parents addressing the issue of teen suicide. I have received permission to reprint their message in my blog:

“From the office of the Crisis Counselors, Michelle Dooner and Jill Sabotka

Many of you probably know that a student at Ygnacio Valley High School recently attempted suicide in the middle of his 6th period class. Thankfully, some of his peers saw this and intervened. They were able to stop him and he is currently recovering at the hospital. This incident hits us particularly hard because Y.V. is part of our community, it’s our neighboring school, we have friends that go there, we compete against it in sports, etc.

As parents, you may have experienced a wide range of emotions upon hearing the news, from shock to sadness to outrage to horror to dismay to anxiety and much more. Your children are experiencing their own set of feelings regarding this incident. It’s all over Facebook and we can be quite certain that this information might not be entirely accurate.

This would be an excellent opportunity to talk to your child about what they’ve heard, what they believe, and how they feel about what happened. If your child isn’t talking about it, don’t hesitate to bring it up. Most likely, he or she has heard of it. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in adolescents. Talking about what the suicidal student must have been feeling and what his peers must have gone through as witnesses can open the door to a much deeper conversation about suicide in general. Being open to hearing what your child has to say and not responding with shock or disapproval but simply by listening will enable you to have a healthy conversation with your child. Your openness shows that your are taking your child seriously, which in turn will make him or her want to continue to talk. One of the most important aspects of teen suicide prevention is support. Your child needs to know that you support and love him or her unconditionally.

The following information has been taken from and has been included in this article to be used as a guide and reference point.

Causes of teen suicide

There are several different factors that made lead a teenager to take his or her life, but the most common is depression. Feelings of hopelessness and anxiety, along with feelings of being trapped in a life that one can’t handle, are very real contributors to teen suicide. In some cases, teenagers believe that suicide is the only way to solve their problems. The pressures of life seem too much to cope with, and some teenager look at suicide as a welcome escape.

Other factors that may contribute to teen suicide include:

Divorce of parents.
Violence in the home.
Inability to find success at school.
Feelings of worthlessness.
Rejection by friends or peers.
Substance abuse.
Death of someone close to the teenager.
The suicide of a friend or someone he or she “knows” online.
Signs that your teenager may attempt suicide

It is important to be on the look out for signs that your teen may attempt suicide. What is so difficult about some of these warning signs of teen suicide is that some of them are similar to normal adolescent behavior. The teenage years are a trying time, and sometimes normal behavior looks a lot like possibly destructive behavior. But it doesn’t hurt to look into the following warning signs of teen suicide:

Talks about death and/or suicide (maybe even with a joking manner).
Plans ways to kill him or herself.
Expresses worries that nobody cares about him or her.
Has attempted suicide in the past.
Dramatic changes in personality and behavior.
Withdraws from interacting with friends and family.
Shows signs of depression.
Shows signs of a substance abuse problem.
Begins to act recklessly and engage in risk-taking behaviors.
Begins to give away sentimental possessions.
Spends time online interacting with people who glamorize suicide and maybe even form suicide pacts.
Preventing teen suicide

Often, preventing teen suicide means treating teen depression. Since 75 percent of the people who commit suicide are depressed, it is a good start to begin by treating the symptoms of teen depression.

It is possible to get professional help in preventing teen suicide. Indeed, this is a preferred option. If you are concerned about your teenager, talk to your child’s doctor about the available options and therapies for teen depression. You should see someone immediately (and never leave your teen alone) if you suspect that a suicide attempt is imminent. Some things you might try include:

Counseling. This can be done individually or as a family. Techniques allow your teenager to learn to cope with life. Often, when a teen learns how to handle problems (and families learn how to help), the desire to kill him or herself dissipates.

Residential treatment. This is treatment in which a suicidal teen goes elsewhere to live for a time. This can be a special treatment facility, or it can be a therapeutic boarding school. In these settings, the teenager is monitored 24/7 in order to prevent a suicide attempt. Additionally, most residential treatment facilities have trained professional staff that can help a suicidal teen.

Medication. This is often seen as a last resort, or as something complementary to other treatments. It is important to note that in some teenagers, medication can have the opposite effect desired; some studies show that for some teens anti-depressants actually increase the chance of teen suicide. Carefully consider your teen’s needs before medicating.

Please know that if you have concerns that you want to discuss, you may call us at 925-938-3921. We are here to talk to you.

There is a great deal of information about teen suicide on the internet. Here are a few websites:

The Contra Costa Crisis Center is also a great resource:

1-800- SUICIDE

The National Suicide Hotline:


The California Youth Crisis Hotline:


Thanks to Northgate High for this information. Northgate is fortunate to have crisis counselors on campus, through funding from the city of Walnut Creek and the school’s Parent Faculty Club.

Do you have any other suggestions for helping teens in crisis?

MARCH 16 UPDATE: I spoke to Ygnacio Valley High Principal Bill Morones today, who told me the student’s outlook has improved since the suicide attempt March 2, although he has not yet returned to school.

“The student is in a much better state of mind than he was at the time of the incident,” Morones said.

The school’s student services coordinators and psychologist, along with district crisis counselors, helped the campus community deal with the emotional impact in the days afterward.

Morones said he was extremely proud of the students who intervened and of the entire student body’s reaction.

“Our students are extremely resilient,” he said. “The feedback that I got from our crisis counselors was they were just overwhelmed by our students’ compassion and the caring they exhibited toward the student and his family.”

Posted on Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 13 Comments »

War of words begins in MDUSD impasse with teachers’ union

The gloves are off and both sides are coming out swinging.

In response to the district’s News Update about its impasse with the MDEA teachers’ union, the union has released the following “Fact Check:”

“ District’s comparison of cost is misleading. They project worst case scenario over two years when we are proposing a one year contract. The 2012-2013 costs have not been negotiated.

 District says if there is no drop in BRL, then they will not require reductions, yet in the next breath they say they will count cuts in transportation as if it were a cut in BRL. This negates the 2013 1.36% off schedule payment and makes furlough days likely.

 District complains that MDEA’s refusal to take conditional onetime payments hurts all other employees. They fail to mention that taking furlough days threatens the pay of the units who have closed contracts to a greater extent. Did not the district take money for over six months in 2011-2012 before refunding it without interest?

 MDEA demonstrated in 2010-2011 that they would take reductions if the district really needed them. Even if the cuts to ALL employees resulted in record

Shortly after MDEA sent out this Fact Check, Deb Cooksey and Julie Braun-Martin called me to clarify the district’s position. Cooksey immediately followed up with the email below, which outlines the points she wanted to stress:

“…Here is a follow up of our conversation. Like SFUSD, Elk Grove, Pittsburg, Sac City, Alameda and 2 districts in San Diego County, our District is at impasse with one of our unions. As discussed, the District would like to be able to give all employees a substantial ongoing raise but that is not the fiscal reality in which we are operating. Therefore, the District proposed a solution that would allow all employee groups, even those with closed contracts, the chance to reopen to receive the same increase of up to 3% that teachers would receive.

Last, Best and Final Offers (‘LBFO’)

The financial terms of the District’s LBFO are:

· Guaranteed one-time off-schedule 1.64% payment in 2011/12 which represents reimbursement for the 3 furlough days taken last year;

· No furlough days in 2011/12. In fact, the District has already refunded the money to employee groups who were anticipating furlough days this year and wanted to spread the fiscal impact over as many months as possible;

· Strictly as a precaution, the District would designate “Make No Plans Days” for 2012/13 on which teachers would not plan tests or outings. In the event of a mid-year budget cut requiring furlough days in 2012/13, the “Make No Plans Days” would be the dates on which employees would be furloughed. The idea of designating “Make No Plans Days” in advance is to avoid the repercussions we encountered last year when teachers had to cancel or reschedule long-planned events, sometimes at significant expense;

· One-time off-schedule payment of 1.36% in 12/13 if the budget remains flat or increases; and

· Increases in certain hourly rates for teachers.

The financial terms MDEA’s LBFO is for a one-time guaranteed 3% one-time increase irrespective of what happens with the state budget next year; and increases in certain hourly rates for teachers. Since this is a one year deal no furlough days would be negotiated for next year. They would have to be negotiated after the November election.

Unappropriated Ending Balance (‘UEB’)

The monetary differences in the UEB between the two offers is slight if the taxes pass and there are not mid-year cuts. However, if the taxes fail and cuts are required, the difference in the UEB between the parties’ offers is -$13.1M. Specifically, the UEB at the end of 12/13 under the District’s LBFO would be -$20.4M and -$33.3M under MDEA’s LBFO.

District Budget Status

Equally important, under either party’s LBFO, if taxes pass the District’s budget would be ‘Qualified’ as of June 30, 2014, requiring the immediate identification of -$4.8 in cuts making up for the shortfall. If the taxes fail and trigger cuts are implemented, under the District’s LBFO, its budget would be ‘Qualified’ as of June 30, 2014. If the District had accepted MDEA’s LBFO, its budget would be ‘Negative’ in the amount of -$8M by June 30, 2013 and -$33.3M as of June 30, 2014.”

Cooksey said CFO Bryan Richards planned to present six different budget scenarios tonight, showing what would happen if the governor’s proposed taxes fail or pass, and what would happen if the district’s or MDEA’s LBFO were adopted.

The staff report posted Thursday with the agenda for tonight’s board meeting states: “Approval of the District’s Positive Certification is recommended.”

This is based on the first version of the Second Interim Report, which was online this morning:
Since then, Richards has prepared a second version, which projects a Qualified budget:

As usual, the district did not clearly identify the fact that attachments have been added since the original agenda was posted. I told Cooksey and Braun-Martin that it would be really helpful to the public if Richards would post his PowerPoint presentation before the meeting, so the public could see it. But, Cooksey said she thought Richards was still working on it.

Since I began typing this, the Powerpoint was posted:

Earlier this afternoon, MDEA President Mike Langley called and said the district still hasn’t submitted its declaration of impasse (despite the fact that the district’s March 9 News Update said it would likely be submitted by March 7). Both sides are still trying to hammer out mutually agreeable language so they can submit it jointly.

How do you think the district and teachers’ union should resolve this impasse?

MARCH 13 UPDATE: Here is a link to video of Cooksey’s comments about the impasse:

Posted on Monday, March 12th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 155 Comments »

MDUSD and teachers’ union at impasse

The Mt. Diablo school district has sent out the following news update regarding its declaration of impasse with the Mt. Diablo Education Association teachers’ union:

“Mt. Diablo USD News Update
Where Kids Come First



March 9, 2012


After twelve (12) bargaining sessions which took place over seven (7) months and 64.5 hours, we are disappointed to report that MDEA and the District are at impasse. It is unfortunate, especially in light of the hard work and collaborative spirit of both teams.

As you may know, impasse occurs when negotiations are so hopelessly deadlocked that future bargaining would be pointless without the assistance of an independent mediator. The District requested and MDEA agreed to join us in filing a Joint Request of Impasse Determination. The District anticipates filing the Request for Impasse Determination on March 7. The duration of the mediation process depends on the mediator’s schedule.

There are several language articles outstanding. However, the chief differences are the financial articles on Work Year and Salary. The District would like to be in a position to offer all employees ongoing raises, but the fiscal realities of education funding make that impossible. Therefore, what we offered was a good-faith compromise that would allow all employees, even those with closed contracts, to receive up to three percent in one-time payments spread over two (2) years in return for possible furlough days in 2012/13 if the state budget deficit worsens.

The main difference between the financial offers is that the teachers proposed a three percent (3%) one-time payment 2011/12 regardless of any negative changes in next year’s state budget. The District offered a three percent (3%) one-time off-schedule payment over two (2) years. Specifically, 1.64% in the current year (which fully restores the three (3) furlough days teachers took in 2010/11) and 1.36% in 2012/13 so long as there are no State budget cuts that negatively affect the District’s budget.

While the difference in positions may look minor, it is not. In the best case scenario, the two proposals are within $43,000 of each other. However, the District must plan for the possibility that its revenues decrease even further. The District’s proposal includes a formula to reduce the work year only if state funding is reduced. MDEA’s proposal includes no reduction in the work year even if state funding is reduced. The difference between the two proposals is $13,134,000 by June 2013 under the Governor’s worst case scenario in the January budget.

Conclusion: While we regret being at impasse, the District remains committed to maintaining the collaborative working relationship with MDEA that continues to exist between the bargaining teams. We are also committed to working in good faith with MDEA and the mediator in hope of reaching a mutually acceptable agreement as quickly as possible.

Each party’s Last, Best & Final Offer relative to salary is included on the back of this sheet.

District’s Last, Best & Final Offer of March 1, 2012:

Term: 2 years: July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2013

Work Year:

· See adopted calendar for 2012/13

· No furlough days for 2011/12

· Strictly as a precautionary measure in the event of mid-year State budget cuts, the District would designate certain dates in the 2012/13 school year as “Make No Plan Days” which could then be used as furlough days, but only if mid-year cuts are required


· Step increases for remaining years of contract

· 2011/12: 1.64% one-time off-schedule increase (equal to restoration of 3 furlough days taken in 2010/11) (If agreement had been reached with the teachers, the Board would have extended the potential restoration to all employees in return for the formula listed below.)

· 2012/13: 1.36% one-time off-schedule increase if funded base revenue limit (“BRL”) is equal to or greater than 2011/12 funded BRL. (Again, all employee groups would take a proportionate number of furlough days relative to teachers.)

· If funded BRL decreases below $5,207.18, then one (1) furlough day for each $35 decrease. Under the Governor’s current proposal, the BRL will not reduce if his tax proposal passes; therefore, if the tax passes, furlough days will not be necessary. Reductions in transportation funding will be treated the same as a cut to funded BRL for purposes of calculating furlough days

· Increase from $20 to $25 per hour in certificated hourly rate

· Increase from $25 to $31 per hour in Summer School Pay

· Increase from $25 to $31 per hour for Standards-Based Intervention Pay

MDEA’s Last, Best & Final Official Offer of Salary March 1, 2012:

Term: 1 year: July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012

Work Year: No mandatory meetings scheduled on 3rd pre-service day


· Three percent (3%) one-time off-schedule increase for unit members. Those who work less than 1 FTE shall receive a proportional increase relative to their salary

· Increase from $20 to $26 per hour in certificated hourly rate

· Increase from $25 to $33 per hour in Summer School Pay

· Increase from $25 to $33 per hour for Standards-Based Intervention Pay

Presented by the Mt. Diablo Unified Bargaining Team”

Although the News Update is dated March 9, it says the district expected to submit its Request for Impasse Determination on March 7.

I spoke to Mike Langley, president of MDEA tonight. He said he hadn’t seen the News Update.

However, he said the union was asking for a one-year contract, instead of a two-year contract. The district, however, insisted on a two-year contract that included the potential for the maximum number of furlough days next year, he said.

To show their displeasure with the impasse, Langley said a couple hundred teachers are planning to gather at 6 p.m. Monday outside the district office, wearing colorful t-shirts.

The turnout is to show support for the MDEA bargaining team, Langley said.

“They want a one-year contract,” he said. “They don’t want a two-year contract with unlimited furlough days.”

Langley said there were several other areas of the contract that teachers wanted to continue to discuss, such as the amount of time teachers are expected to stay after school for meetings. But, he said the district did not want to continue those discussions, when agreement couldn’t be reached on the salary items.

“It’s much simpler for them to take a stand when they’re selective about what they’re talking about,” he said. “They want to have unlimited free hours, basically, of teachers’ time after our work day. We’re trying to set a reasonable limit to how many hours we donate beyond our paid workday. Most teachers put in a good number of hours on their own to get things done.”

Langley said the union did not agree to the language the district initially proposed in its Request for Impasse Determination because its bargaining team did not think it accurately reflected the negotiations. Langley was unsure whether the district agreed to the bargaining team’s changes.

“I have no idea what they’ve done,” he said. “I doubt they did it on March 7, unless they just went ahead and ignored us and sent it in.”

If no agreement could be reached on a joint Request for Determination of Impasse, each side could submit its own, Langley said.

What kind of agreement would you support?

Posted on Friday, March 9th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 50 Comments »

WCCUSD 4th annual Getting Ready for College & Career conference is March 17

The West Contra Costa school district will hold its fourth annual “Getting Ready for College and Career Conference” from 9 a.m. to 2 pm. March 17 at Lovonya DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave. in Richmond.

Here are more details, from a letter sent to the WCCUSD community:

“Dear WCCUSD Family and Community Partners,

WCCUSD will be hosting the 4th Annual Getting Ready for College & Career Conference on Saturday, March 17th, 2012. This conference is designed to prepare students and their parents/guardians for their futures after high school.

Please help us spread the word and encourage all 6th to 12th grades students and their parents to participate.

Reserve your space for this great event by registering online. You may also RSVP by calling the Community Engagement Department at 510-307-4526 to RSVP!


Grand raffle prize this year:

· Kindle Fire!

This year’s conference is made possible due the support of The Ed. Fund’s West County College Access Network (WCCAN).

What: 4th Getting Ready for College & Career Conference

Who: 6th to 12th grade students AND parents/guardians

When: Saturday, March 17th, 2012 from 9am to 2pm

Where: Lovonya DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave., Richmond

Morning snacks and lunch will be provided”

Here is some more information from a WCCUSD flyer about the event:

“Join us at this FREE Conference for 6-12th grade students and Parents and learn the steps you need to take to get ready for college!

Concurrent workshops will be offered for 6-12th grade students and their parents on (but not limited to):

Middle School
 Discover your destination
 Preparing for your future
 Are you ready for High School
 Adventures into testing

9th & 10th Grade
 Holy Names University Early Admit Program!
 Writing Personal Statements
 High School- Linked Learning Academies

11th & 12th Grade
 Transcript Analysis
 Concurrent enrollment: WCCUSD & Contra Costa Community College
 Applying for Scholarships & Financial Aid

Workshops for Parents
 Preparing Your Child for College
 Paying for College
 Holy Names University Early Admit Program!”

Do you think other districts should offer similar conferences for secondary students and their parents?

Posted on Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
Under: Education, West Contra Costa school district | No Comments »