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MDUSD approves CVCHS charter waiver, discusses informal meetings and strategic plan

By Theresa Harrington
Sunday, March 4th, 2012 at 1:55 pm in Education.

The Mt. Diablo school district held a Feb. 22nd public hearing regarding a waiver for additional costs associated with the Clayton Valley Charter High School. The meeting also included a study session regarding the possibility of holding less formal meetings in the community and finalizing the draft strategic plan.
Superintendent Steven Lawrence and Board President Sherry Whitmarsh have filled me in on what happened. (I was unable to attend the meeting.)

Here’s what Lawrence wrote in a Feb. 28 e-mail:

“(District residents) Willie Mims and John Ferrante both spoke in support of the waiver during the Public Hearing. The board voted unanimously 5-0 to approve the waiver.

The revised strategic plan will be posted on the website by the end of this week. The next step is to solicit input around prioritization of all of the sub areas under the five main topics. The hope is to identify two or three top prioritize (sic) under each major objective.”

Whitmarsh said the district will submit the waiver directly to the state, instead of going to the county first, based on advice from the California Department of Education. Whitmarsh said that Deb Cooksey told trustees that the state said there’s very little hope that the waiver will be approved. The state Board of Education expects to vote on it in May.

Regarding public input and informational meetings in the community, Whitmarsh said no dates were set because General Counsel Greg Rolen and the general counsel for the California School Boards Association (CSBA) warned that the meetings could be Brown Act violations if trustees discuss items that have not been agendized, such as a future high school in Bay Point.

“We could do meetings much like we do public input, where we listen to people,” she said. “My response is: How is this different from our regular board meeting?”

She said the superintendent and general counsel have been asked to draft a potential way the board could hold these meetings without violating the Brown Act.

Regarding the strategic plan, Whitmarsh said the superintendent was making adjustments to the draft based on board comments. She also said the revised draft would be posted on the district’s website (but didn’t say when). At either the March 12 or March 26 board meeting, trustees will revisit the draft, she said.

Each board member was asked to think about his or her two top items, which they would like to see staff pursue in terms of drafting measurable goals and objectives. She said that the district would not be able to pursue every item raised in the draft plan in 2012 because there were so many.

“That’s unrealistic to have goals in every single one of those,” she said. “So, we as a board would pick the top two for the 2012 year for tactical and measurable goals to put on there.”

Here is the draft plan the board considered Feb. 22: http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/62b5fe3c-3c6f-4721-a771-cc3118f3d104.pdf. Unfortunately, I don’t yet see the revised strategic plan posted on the district’s website, as Lawrence promised it would be by March 3.

The draft plan includes an outline for five strategic initiatives: academic excellence and learning; supportive family and community involvement; high quality, effective staff; respectful, responsive service and communication; and optimal operations and infrastructure. Each topic includes several proposed goals.

Which two items do you think the district should focus on in 2012?

MARCH 9 UPDATE: Here are the minutes, which the board expects to approve on Monday: http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/e9e0df2a-90ea-427c-b544-605d3bb3b7e8.pdf

Also, the board expects to discuss the informational meetings and strategic plan: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5141&mtgId=339

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  • g

    “Stratigic Plan for 2010-2015″? Well, 10 is gone, 11 is gone, 12 is almost gone.

    Let’s just call it what it is. A Stall Plan.

  • Doctor J

    Steven Lawrence is the laughing stock of California Superintendents — maybe nationally. “Toiletgate” going viral nationally until he decided to “order” the MDHS principal he directly supervises to stock the restrooms with toilet paper and hand soap, and open the doors, even after she had received an unprecedented “no confidence vote” in her second high school in two years — some kind of raport with her faculty, eh ? Perhaps more significantly Supt Lawrence’s personal appeal to parents and students of CVHS to “attend one of our schools” instead of the teacher trigger charter — the result of the Supt’s direct and personal appeal ? — only 3 of 1200 students chose to leave CVCHS. How did the CVHS teachers feel about Lawrence ? 78 teacher educators at CVHS and only 9 chose to stay with the district.
    And this week Lawrence has his bi-monthly “performance” review. Lawrence’s new strategy — shift the focus. New high school in Bay Point paid for by Measure C funds when no such high school disclosed on the ballot measure — sounds desperate and likely to bring a legal challenge. Even Gary Eberhart’s campaign strategy, despite his micromanaging of Lawrence, is to distance himself, at least publicly, from Lawrence. The problem is that Lawrence knows enough to sink Eberhart — and Lawrence’s performance has been so poor at his last two districts, he is not a valuable commodity to be able to market to a new district. Lawrence’s recent efforts to get his contract extended are now being resisted in the open by Trustee Cheryl Hansen.

  • Wait a minute

    So true Dr J and G,

    Calling this a 2010-2015, “5 Year Strategic Plan” is another lame attempt to invent something that didn’t happen since it is not done and with Stevie Lawrence making “adjustments” to it it is likely to include only EberMarsh’s revisionist history and ideas with Cheryls’s edited out. Remember, the former failed Soviet Union used “5 Year Plans” too!

    I do agree Dr J that Eberhart and Lawrence are locked together so tight that if The Gary doesn’t support a contract extension for Stevie then Stevie could blow the whistle on Eberharts many unethical moves.

    I do believe their strategy revolves around trying to build a new HS at Baypoint to literally “buy’ votes there and show the greater community that they are “building for the future” or some other nonsense.

    Its going to get interesting in the land of “Where Failed Administrators and Board Members Come First”!

  • MoMx3

    My guess too Dr J is that of the 9 staying with the district most were math teachers which is where there has always been an issue with CV. The good math teachers are staying, the “bad” ones are either on the retirement list or going to get reassigned. My guess is too is that at least a couple teachers are staying with district for other issues not related to their desire to stay with the charter.

  • Parent

    Dr.J, are you saying of the current students at CV only 3 chose to apply to a MDUSD high school for next year?

  • Doctor J
  • Anon

    Looks like we ended up with goals and objectives. Surprise surprise! What a complete missed opportunity!

  • Theresa Harrington

    When I was writing my East Bay iPad story, San Ramon Valley district spokesman Terry Koehne told me that district has created a “Framework for Excellence” and “Guiding Questions” which appear on the district’s Home Page: http://www.srvusd.k12.ca.us/cms/page_view?d=x&piid=&vpid=1218730286179.
    These effectively act as the district’s strategic plan, which guide decisions such as the district’s emphasis on technology.
    So far, I don’t see MDUSD’s updated Strategic Plan draft on its website. At the board retreat, Trustee Lynne Dennler said her greatest wish is for the district to embrace new technology. Many districts are using general obligation bond funding to purchase iPads and other technology. But in MDUSD, there is no districtwide plan to integrate iPads into schools, despite passage of the $348 Measure C bond: http://www.contracostatimes.com/education/ci_20097538

  • **anon

    @ Dr J (#2): you bring up a VERY astute observation of Lawrence: “shift the focus”! After reading your input, it finally dawned on me that this is his strategy—-seriously. And, perhaps that’s why Lawrence’s and Rolen’s evaluations keep being put off. because “there’s just so much that can be put on an agenda” (time to push the “shift the focus” button…). Since Lawence’s arrival, he’s “so there” in responding to absolutely everything and has accomplished absolutely nothing except make employees and community members feel frazzled, disrespected, and disengaged. Most of the best administrators at the Dent have left or will be leaving this year; not to mention my children’s very dedicated teachers. Lawrence’s “shift the focus” strategy is the only sign of intelligence that he has exhibited to date. In addition to losing dedicated teachers, this district has also lost the talented administrators at the Dent who actually responded to the rare times I had questions throughout my children’s education…and THEN, Lawrence and the Board brought in far less qualified administrators to fill these positions. The fact that only 3 students’ families opted out of the CV charter speaks volumes: this community and MDUSD employees are done-they’ve had it-because they care about the education of their children/students and Lawrence, Rolen, and their Board Member cronies have become an absolute bunch of untrustworthy and self-serving group where students come last. And go Cheryl Hansen; I’m unable to attend Board Meetings, but I try from time to time to stay on top of what’s happening. And no, I’m not an employee; I’m “only a mom”. Due to the economy, we don’t have the monies for private school. But the other “only moms” in my community are growing in numbers and in their distrust of the Lawrence crew, and growing in our support for Hansen because she asks the questions we would ask if we were able to attend the Board Mtgs. And although she is bullied and actually ignored (we’ve listened to the audios of the Board Meetings), we “only moms” appreciate that she’s actually representing us as constituents. Thanks, Dr J for your insight—”shift the focus” will be the “only moms’” new mantra.

  • Doctor J

    iPads for SASS administrators but not for students — go figure. That’s how they like to spend grant money on themselves — not on students.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Regarding CVHS, I heard that no reps from CVHS or Northgate attended the Sequoia MS high school information day, despite the fact that students from all over the district attend that campus.
    Instead, eighth-graders planning to attend those two schools were told to look up information about them on the Internet, while eighth-graders planning to attend other district high schools were treated to personal presentations.
    Does this practice of limiting access to information about some high schools to district eighth-graders “put students first?”
    Regarding iPads, Sequoia MS parents have funded some for students, as well as donorschoose.org.

  • g

    Theresa @11; What are the chances that CVCHS and Northgate would have had to read minds to know to go to Sequoia’s home page to even see the High School Articulation Meeting date and time?

    The District certainly did not publish that info.

  • Doctor J

    Has Bel Air ever decided how it is going to spend $4500 per student from the SIG grant ? Have we seen any spending reports for year 2011-12 for any of the SIG grant schools ?

  • Anon

    TH#11-It should be incumbent on Sequoia Middle students to check with their high school and attend its 8th Grade information session just as private school students would do. We have too few administrators at the high school handling discipline and other management and would be surprised if they had time to go to all the middle schools. The cost to our high schools outweighs the benefit in that situation . . .

  • MoMx3

    I think it is more important to know if CVCHS and Northgate were invited? Did the Sequoia people reach out, or was this a district led event and these schools weren’t even invited. Now CV just became a charter and will be having some open houses and other public events, so there will still be opportunities… but very curious. I don’t doubt that there are some kids in the Northgate or CV area going to Sequoia, my guess is the much bigger bulk are pulled from YV, Concord and MDHS areas.

  • g

    Regarding the CVCHS Waiver, if Cooksey advised going straight to the State for May, bypassing the County, knowing that chances of approval were slim—she should have also advised that they take a bit extra time to really cross those Ts and dot those Is and for pete’s sake, clean up the grammar and try to remember verb tense rules in proper sentence structure.

    I would have also suggested leaving out the gossip column bit about how ‘many parents want us to just financially punish other people’s kids’! Shameful!

  • Doctor J

    @G — Only the State BE can waive state statutes; the County can’t. The real issue I think is that the County is the charter issuing authority, not the District, and I don’t think the district can ask for the waiver. So the district may have a second shot at it. But not until it convinces the country to process the waiver as the issuing authority.

  • Parent

    Great article ! TKS, for the reference Dr. J. Must say a bit surprised there were only 3 students that opted out of CVCHS. Now it will be interesting to see how many students that currently attend a MDUSD high school apply to CVCHS for the 2012-2013 school year. I look forward to seeing the numbers of students leaving MDUSD high schools to attend CVCHS. This will say a lot about the district & the other H.S’s if in the coming years they lose students to CVCHS.

  • Doctor J

    An exodus of students from other high schools to CVCHS could leave the district in a real pickle as to layoff notices which are due March 15 == there is no real way to predict that. JBM is really upset that Lawrence and Eberhart have caused so much uncertainity. Its really goofing up her vacation plans. Sorry Julie.

  • g

    …and if I understand correctly, those students could apply to CVCH without notifying their home school of their plans until they find out if they’ve been accepted at CV. Now that would be a pickle!

  • Doctor J

    @G, all of a sudden Julie wants to play nice now that it affects her vacation. Julie, Julie, Julie, you should have played nice all the time. What goes around, comes around. So sorry. So sad. Too bad.

  • Doctor J

    I have submitted this to several publications as a guest editorial. How wisely is our tax money being spent on Education ? Perhaps the greatest question of the decade. Too often the response from school officials is: Don’t worry, its not General Fund money, its “categorical money” — code for grant money, either Federal or State, that must be spent or lost. I have been watching the process — thanks to federal requirements clamping down on actually spending School Improvement Grants for what the schools promised to spend it on. My focus has been on just one school district but it might as well have been on thousands — they pretty much are all in the same boat.
    Mt. Diablo USD in the East Bay of the San Francisco region had six schools tagged as Title I Program Improvement and more significantly “Persistently Low Achieving” — the worst 5% of the schools — as defined in No Child Left Behind. In the East Bay, Mt. Diablo had more schools that any other district including Oakland and other very troubled districts.
    The Federal Government came to the rescue under Education Secretary Arnie Duncan — School Improvement Grants [SIG in education parlance]. Mt. Diablo applied for four school SIG grants plus one for the district and got them making certain promises of what to do with the money. The Feds charged the states with making sure the schools spent the money as promised.
    Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the bank. The Feds sprang an audit on the states — California failed miserably which led to an expanded audit, and the Feds halted the SIG money until the schools provided “Corrective Action Plans” for Year 2, and were required to implement the SIG plan before the money even was approved — actual implementation really required ! Mt. Diablo surprisingly closed one of its SIG grant schools — losing the grant money for that school — but the three remaining schools and district met the challenge and wrote CAP’s and new budgets, the funding restored, and now the second quarter spending reports, year two of the SIG grants are out. Some surprises.
    As a taxpayer, I am always happy when the government spends less than it said it would — oh, when was that ? But is that true when it deals with helping improve education for sociallyeconomic deprived children who need a bootstrap to improve their educational opportunities ? That causes one to think.
    Let’s take a look at Mt. Diablo’s SIG Grant history for the three remaining schools and district. Year 1 (2010-11) the total grant for the 3 schools and district was $4.453 million but $1.041 million was not spent and “carried over” to Year 2 giving the three schools and the district nearly $5.5 million. Of that amount, the district is allocated $1,377 million leaving over $4.1 million to bootstrap 1,360 children.
    Most farmers are fond of asking, did the water get to the end of the row ? Second quarter spending reports submitted by Mt. Diablo show only $1.215 has been spent by the three schools, and $209 thousand by the district of a total of $5.5 million. Will Mt. Diablo really spend $4 million on 1,360 children in the last half of the year — that’s over $3,000 per child in the second half of the school year ? Let’s look at the budgets.
    The district has budgeted extra salaries and benefits in Year 2 at $850 thousand, and only spent in the first two quarters $172 thousand — Year 1 total year spending was $246 thousand. Computers, iPads, conferences, travel and consultants are Year 2 budgeted at $199 thousand and only spent half way through the year less than $29 thousand.
    Pretty much the same story for the three schools.
    Please, this article is not a plea for the school district to spend unwisely or foolishly “just to spend it”.
    But it seems to me there are lots of school districts that didn’t get awarded SIG money that would greatly benefit by the money being reallocated according to revisiting the spending projections so that MORE CHILDREN benefit.
    My plea to Secretary Arnie Duncan and the California Board of Education — take back the unspent money and redistribute it so more children can benefit. Lets budget and spend both wisely and prudently.

  • Theresa Harrington

    The WCCUSD board will vote Wednesday on a charter middle school proposed in Richmond: http://bit.ly/GFgch7

  • Theresa Harrington

    The board has finalized its Prop. 39 offer to CVCHS: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5197&mtgId=340

  • Theresa Harrington

    The Contra Costa County Board of Ed. expects to discuss its process for appointing a rep to the CVCHS governing board tomorrow: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_20269134/contra-costa-county-board-education-vote-clean-water
    Board may also reject the Clean Water Initiative, based on staff recommendation, which cites the cost as the reason.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Oakland USD has rejected an elementary charter conversion, stating budget reasons, but also falling back on legally allowed criteria: http://www.contracostatimes.com/education/ci_20486037/after-seeing-fiscal-impact-oakland-school-board-rejects