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MDUSD Parent Advisory Council to discuss budget, PE program and strategic planning tonight

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 at 6:42 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The Mt. Diablo school district’s Parent Advisory Council will meet at 7 p.m. tonight in the district office board room at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord.

Here is the agenda:

“I. Welcome and Introductions

II. Budget

III. P.E. Program

IV. Strategic Planning

V. Other”

In addition, I have received copies of the draft minutes from the January and February meetings, which are posted below.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

District Staff
Steven Lawrence, Superintendent
Loreen Joseph, Admin. Asst. to the Supt.

Board Members
Lynne Dennler
Sherry Whitmarsh

Union Representatives
Mike Langley, President, MDEA

Cathy Boer, Ygnacio Valley High
Linda Law, Foothill Middle
Linda Locke, Northgate
Megan Madahar, Mt. Diablo Elem
Faye Mettler, Walnut Acres Elem
Jill Newquist, Sequoia Elem
Sue Noack, Strandwood Elem
John Pamer, Silverwood Elem
John Parker, Mt. Diablo High
Carlee Smith, Monte Gardens & Sequoia Middle
Tricia Tamura-Li – CAC
Dorothy Weisenberger, Valhalla

Superintendent Lawrence gave an update on the budget and provided handouts to the Parent Advisory Committee. He explained why the ending balance is higher than what was projected last year. Some of the reasons include unanticipated funding such as $1.4 million in unfunded mandate funding received from the State. This is because the District has to document hours and cost of State mandates, i.e. bargaining. Firms are hired to submit the report with all the data to the State. The District can’t budget for this because it’s not known what amount we will receive from the State. The District also received $.5 million in Class Size Reduction funding, $200,000 in additional lottery funding, and an additional $1 million added together from multiple State funding sources. An additional $125,000 in Redevelopment Agency (RDA) funds, and lease and rental agreements were received as well. However, the District will no longer be receiving RDA funds.

A significant reduction of actual expenditures occurred as well. Additional State stabilization funds were used to offset certificated salaries. The District received a cap on benefits and had a carryover of School Library Book Grant (SLBG) funds. We were able to reduce consultant budgets and also generated a savings in utilities.

Lawrence explained that the District needs to maintain a ‘healthy’ reserve beyond the required 2 percent because the State continues to defer funding. In the last four years we’ve had significant mid-year reductions which resulted in the layoff of employees. The goal of having a healthy reserve allows mid-year reductions to be avoided.

The governor has come out with a tax proposal which analysts believe would generate $7 billion annually. If it passes it won’t be implemented until April or May of 2013. It would not be budgeted for next year, because the district expends money, but doesn’t receive funds from the state until the following year.

If it’s assumed that there are no more furlough days and the Clayton Valley charter is approved, the district would still be spending down $11 million of the reserve over the next two years. All numbers will change based on the January 10 Governor’s proposal. The superintendent will share in February what the budget will look like in March.

PAC members shared highlights from their schools.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

District Staff
Steven Lawrence, Superintendent
Loreen Joseph, Admin. Asst. to the Supt.
Julie Braun Martin, Asst. Supt.
Rose Lock, Asst. Supt.
Jeanne Duarte Armas, Director English Learner Services

Board Members
Linda Mayo
Sherry Whitmarsh

Union Representatives
Mike Langely, President, MDEA

Cathy Boer, Ygnacio Valley High
Linda Law, Foothill Middle
Linda Locke, Northgate
Megan Madahar, Mt. Diablo Elem
Jill Newquist, Sequoia Middle
John Pamer, Silverwood Elem
John Parker, Mt. Diablo High
Cindy Rubin, College Park High
Joanna Sibley, Valle Verde Elem
Tricia Tamura-Li – CAC

I. English Learner Master Plan
Jeanne Duarte-Armas, Director, English Learner Services, presented a PowerPoint on the draft EL Master Plan. She shared that the Master Plan will define effective programs for English Learners and ensures that they are appropriate. The plan will be unique to the needs of Mt. Diablo Unified School District and will be consistent with board policy, law, and community needs. She gave copies of the fifth draft of the Master Plan to PAC members and asked that they provide feedback to the Task Force by February 10. She explained that she, Rose Lock, and Carmen Garces serve as advisors only and are not members of the Task Force.

Ms. Duarte-Armas introduced Jazmin Llamas-Morales, Hidden Valley Elementary School parent and the District Language Advisory Committee (DLAC) president. Ms. Llamas-Morales shared her experience as a student going through school having trouble understanding what was being taught because she did not speak English at that time. She said the plan will help all non-English speakers, not only those whose primary language is Spanish.

Rose Lock, Assistant Superintendent, said that feedback can be given via Survey Monkey on the website.

PAC members were given copies of the District’s draft strategic plan. The plan shows what the board has agreed to, to date. The next study session on the District’s strategic plan will be held on February 22. The community will have an opportunity to provide input at that meeting. After the plan has been approved by the board, it will become part of the district’s goals and will be filtered to the school sites. PAC members were asked to email their comments to Sherry Whitmarsh.

III. Budget
Superintendent Lawrence presented a PowerPoint on the district’s budget. He explained in detail why last years ending balance was higher than expected. Part of the reason being that the district held off on spending and budgeted for a cut of $300 ADA, which turned out to be $13, plus half of transportation.

He shared that the governor has said he wants to continue to fund schools. However, trigger cuts were created, but limited. Teachers and administrators have to be notified in March of the possibility of layoff, so only classified employees can be laid off mid-year. The reason to keep a cash reserve above the required 2 percent, is that the $6 million reserve would only cover eight days of salaries. If the state were to run out of money, the District wants to be able to continue to pay employees while avoiding taking out a short term loan, which would incur interest.

Lawrence explained that approximately five years ago, the District received notice from the IRS that there were irregularities around retiree benefits and we were required to put $850,000 aside for penalties. Since then, the district’s penalties have been reduced significantly, mainly because of the work of Chief Business Officer Bryan Richards. The penalty is now only $3,750. However, $533,000 will continue to show on the books until the district receives notice from the IRS that it can be removed.

Lawrence encouraged parents to contact state representatives to share their concerns of any further reductions to education.”

Do you believe this council provides a valuable service?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

44 Responses to “MDUSD Parent Advisory Council to discuss budget, PE program and strategic planning tonight”

  1. MoMx3 Says:

    No . Nothing productive is ever done . I thought originally the plan for the PAC was that each school would have a rep. As a rep you would attend to get district level updates, important issues district-wide, budget info, and the ability to share the success/challenges at your school site. THEN you would be able to report back to your PFC/PTA. I think it’s just not that anymore. It’s almost like the district committees use the parents that attend as guinea pigs/sounding boards for new ideas. Like they got a first glimpse of new report cards, got to hear about the homework policy, etc. Not really sure what their focus is. Though when the district doesn’t have a plan of their own, they’re still kind of flying blind as to what these other groups should be doing to support their goals (what goals?)

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Speaking of goals, each member of the PAC was given several green dots to place on goals in the draft strategic plan to indicate the areas they think are the highest priorities.
    The most spirited discussion was around one member’s idea to promote physical fitness through some sort of districtwide contest, possibly starting at grades 4-8, to be coordinated by PE teachers. Rose Lock and some Walnut Creek parents said their schools participated in the city’s Wellness Challenge and saw a lot of enthusiasm from students who ran at lunchtime. Other ideas included jump-roping, basketball throwing and dancing.
    One parent suggested that prizes could include tickets to high school basketball games and dance productions, to strengthen the feeder pattern ties.
    Several parents also brought up the idea of giving high school students PE credit for after-school sports.
    Most surprisingly, Superintendent Steven Lawrence didn’t mention the proposal to increase the property tax rate to accelerate the bond sales during his budget presentation, in which he highlighted the successes of Measure C.
    Afterward, when he asked if anyone had anything else they wanted to bring up, one parent said she had been hearing rumblings that taxes might be increased.
    Then, Lawrence gave an overview of the discussion from Monday night, saying he wanted to get the word out about that. But, if he really wanted to get the word out about it, it’s unclear why he hadn’t planned to present information about it to the group, since it only meets once a month. He said he would send out a newsletter with more details Friday.

  3. Theresa Harrington Says:

    To see science in action, watch baby geese who have just hatched online now:

  4. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Brian Lawrence has just announced that he is running for a seat on the MDUSD board in November:

  5. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Cal State U. will offer advice for getting middle and high school students into college at 4 p.m. today on Twitter:!/calstate

  6. MoMx3 Says:

    So glad they’ll be “helping” in 120 characters. That’s silly. Why not offer a webinar or other Q&A forum?

  7. MoMx3 Says:

    Ok, so it looks like they sent out ONE tweet to a website:

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Although there does appear to be a lot of useful info on the website, I agree the earlier tweet seemed to imply there would be several tweets, not just one.

  9. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Tragic accident this morning: a 17-year-old driver hit and killed a 9-year-old girl and her father, who were bicycling on Treat Blvd. in Concord:

  10. MoMx3 Says:

    Did anyone notice the skeleton in the background of one of the Times photos ? Creepy. So tragic, on all levels. Since this is the site we talk about the district, I hear the Woodside Elem community will have district grief counselors available next week for anyone who wants to talk. This little girl was a third grader at Woodside, and a girl scout. I suspect it will hit them again when they return from spring break and her seat sits empty 🙁

  11. Anon Says:

    We share their sorrow. Sadly this is a reminder why crossing guards are essential and must be a priority on some of the busy streets.

  12. MoMx3 Says:

    No offense is meant here, but a crossing guard would not have helped here. Though I get what you’re saying, not sure if that is a helpful reminder right now.

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Have you heard if any counselors will be at Olympic HS, which the 17-year-old attended?
    Although also not an issue in this incident, the Contra Costa Canal trail crossing on Treat Boulevard just above Oak Grove Road is very dangerous. I often see pedestrians and bicyclists dashing across the street, instead of walking up to the crosswalk at Navaronne Way.

  14. Doctor J Says:

    @TH #2 What happened to Lawrence’s promised newsletter to be sent out on Friday ? Did I miss it ?

  15. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: I have been wondering the same thing. He told the PAC and the board that he would send out a newsletter Friday. I have not seen one yet.

  16. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence’s motto: Vacation first, work last. Promised “newsletter” for last Friday — last thing on the list. Didn’t get done. Standard Operating Procedure for Steven Lawrence.

  17. MoMx3 Says:

    Well beyond the newsletter, I would think it would be prudent to send out an email of condolence and offer of resources related to the Woodside family hit by the speeding SUV on Saturday morning. 2 of our district community died in a tragic accident that could’ve happened to anyone. I heard Woodside will have grief counselors there this week, but would be good to have this available as this has been very unsettling news for our community and should be treated with respect as a tragedy of this magnitude impacts us all. I don’t know, maybe it shouldn’t go out to the whole district, but it’s a thought. Not sure how districts handle these things. I feel like WCSD did something in response to their tragedy of the teens who rafted in the canal.

  18. Anon Says:

    Lawrence was in his office Friday. He arrived at 8:00 as I was walking in and at 12 when I left his car was still there. I would think he had plenty of time to put out a news letter.
    If you ask me I say this is a man that is in way over his head.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The boys who died in the rafting accident attended Las Lomas HS in the Acalanes district.

    Two days after the accident, Principal Matt Campbell sent out the following message to the school community:
    “In light of the tragic news, the Las Lomas community is deeply saddened by the loss of two of our students. Gavin and Matt were well respected by staff members and peers, and will be greatly missed.
    Las Lomas will offer extended counseling services to help students deal with their grief.
    We offer our condolences to the families and friends who are dealing with this extremely difficult time in their lives.”

    Six days later, the superintendent sent a message to the larger community regarding memorial services and memorial funds:

    Has the Woodside principal sent a message to the school community?

  20. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have received very prompt information from Isom advisers regarding the scenarios and the bonds already issued, which I plan to post soon.
    Although Lawrence claims that he wants to let the public know about the proposal, he does not appear to be in a hurry to finalize the dates and times for the community forums and to get the word out about them. Perhaps he is working on the voter poll.

  21. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon#18 — Steven Lawrence regularly makes promises he doesn’t keep — the newsletter for “last Friday” just the most recent example. Remember when he came in on Dec 30 from vacation because he had promised Eberhart to get one out before the end of the year. Lawrence promised “twice a month” newsletters two years ago — what is his record ? Just last week he promised both the PAC and the Board he would get a newsletter out last Friday — he didn’t. Well, there was Saturday, and today and all this week. What is he getting paid nearly $300,000 in salary and perks for ?

  22. Theresa Harrington Says:

    During the PAC, some parents said they hadn’t received his newsletters.
    He replied: “Well, I haven’t put one out since about December.”

  23. Mdusd Employee Says:

    One of the people in fiscal was saying she heard that the major reason for pushing this new bond increase was that the district had over spent on some of the the Measure C projects, especially solar, and they need money fast.
    Anyone know anything more about that.

  24. g Says:

    MDUSD Employee: Hold onto your hat. It will probably only be released in bits and pieces, but is all available on the Emma Site that Alicia provided. MDUSD has already sold 10 issues of this Measure C–(not just the 4 they used to play with the public in response to the group that proposed changing the rules).

    I, for one, think a couple of people on that “coalition” were played like a fiddle to get them to stand with the “insiders” and ask for those quick-sale-tax-increase changes.

    The 2002 Measure C purpose wasn’t to fix the schools. It was to make payments on old debts and keep the district from bankruptcy. A huge percentage of the 2002 bond was used to pay off OLD- some +10 years OLD- debt, not for the so-called projects on the ballot. One issue in 2006 was then used to make the payments due on the 2002 issue, just prolonging the pain.

    Now, with solar eating almost a third of it, 2010 is busy paying off 2002,04,06 bonds that themselves were refunding bonds–old leases, real estate loans, equipment leases, or, in other words, the OLD debts from the early 1990s have rolled and rolled and are now being pushed out into payments not due until 2024,25,32— A pittance will actually be seen as true (and completed) improvements within the schools.

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    They definitely are running out of money, which Pete Pedersen reported to the BOC.
    But, he and Superintendent Lawrence reported what appeared to be an inflated original estimate for solar to the board, saying they had budgeted $111.8 million, but it was only costing $80.5 million. So, they said they were saving more than $30 million on solar.
    However, I do not ever recall seeing an estimated cost of $111.8 million. The highest estimate I recall was about $95 million.

  26. Doctor J Says:

    The financial shell game — SSDD — they have told so many lies they can’t keep track of them — they are dizzy from so much spin on the numbers. Whenever they use a number like, $111.8 M, one has to ask them to show the document that backs that up — they never exist.

  27. Linda L Says:


    I am going to assume that I am one of those being “played like a fiddle” since I have never been called an “insider”. Please enlighten me and tell me just how I am being played?

    Let’s see, I have put together a group of people, from all parts of the District, to go before the School Board and ask that they change the financial structure of the 2010 Measure C bond. While the District has been able to use low interest alternatives like CREBs for a large portion of the issuances to date, and have been able to backfill the 2002 $60 cap, their options for bond financing are growing quite small and perhaps smaller than we may know. They have $227 mil left to issue. I do not want to see our community faced with footing a bill that could be as high as a billion dollars because our leadership chooses to issue more CABs rather than increase the tax rate.

    For over two years I have complained, written, spoken, and been interviewed about my position on this bond. So right now, I don’t yet see it as being played as much as I see it as taking advantage of an opportunity to get what I have wanted for our community since March of 2010. I like to think of this as an opportunity to right what I believe was an ill-conceived financing plan for a bond whose primary purpose was to build the largest school solar project in the country (another project I oppose).

    The fact is, that the remaining bond proceeds are the most likely to make their way into our children’s schools in ways that will enrich their school experience. Part of the proposal we made to the School Board included site driven project lists.
    So perhaps, in the end, I will find I was “played like a fiddle” or perhaps the advantage is ours. We won’t know unless we try.

    So tell me, what is your plan with respect to Measure C?

  28. g Says:

    Linda, the players have not all chosen their game pieces yet, so if you want to make it personal, you can play whatever part you choose.

    I’m making the first move by saying that I believe there is not $227 million left in the game bucket, and by my estimate there is actually only about half of that amount left to actually do something that could fall under the category of “smaller classes-safer schools-learning 21st century skills”. So yes, by my calculations, the first tune being played is that there is $227million left.

    The C money that isn’t already in Solar or soft-cost pockets, is out there paying off something from the past 25 years that is already wasted, ruined, warn out, or torn down.

  29. Doctor J Says:

    @LL & G; While I understand but disagree with Linda’s thinking, the bottom line is that I do not trust the District’s numbers — they have refused to open the books to see every expense and check written, every deposit made, and are not current on their financial reporting. In addition, there are gaps in the audits, and accounting assumptions that are made on “verbal legal opinions” given by conflicted lawyers. Just remember what happened to Pleasanton. Its not pretty. More important is the lack of integrity of the Meas C Committee — they made promises, including the $60 cap and other promises including a very general list of projects that did not include “new schools” when the law requires “specific projects” to be listed, apparently with the intention of breaking their promises and representations. I call that fraud and deceit. The retirees were willing to vote for a bond that capped at $60 but not one at $120. If you want to raise the cap or if you want to build a new school, have another election, and bear that enormous cost from the General Fund to find out how the voters feel. Show me the numbers AND the backup and VOTE on it.

  30. g Says:

    Ideally, I would have the courts step in and tell them to cease any further sales of Measure C. There has been so much deception and slimy maneuvering I honestly believed the courts would have done that by now.

    No one ever said they have to sell the full $348million. Since the early 90s we have been simply robbing Peter to pay Paul, year after year after year. Living on borrowed funds and spending the next generations paycheck before many of them are even born.

    Let the district get their act together, get rid of the dirty players, and then come back to the people for a good clean Parcel tax.

  31. Doctor J Says:

    @G, Frankly, I too am surprised that one of the public interest law firms or taxpayer groups has not filed a lawsuit asking the courts to intervene. But I guess, its never too late. And there is always the federal and state securities investigators. Your point about not selling all the bonds is a good one. However, it seems the rush to sell the bonds is based on the assumption that it is inevitable that a government entity will always spend whatever money it has in its hands — you know the old excuse — its categorical money so it doesn’t count in the General Fund.

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As I have previously pointed out, the Measure C campaign poll asked voters if they would approve a $300 million bond. Then, at the last minute, another $48 million was tacked on.
    The entire list of projects is about $227 million and the rest is soft costs, escalation and contingencies.

  33. Doctor J Says:

    The promises made to the voters AND the “specific project list”.

  34. g Says:

    Of course every homeowner will foot the ad valorem tax bill whether they have kids or not, but if we stopped selling bonds today, and turned the bills over to the current students, every kid in the system today would owe a tax bill of $17,111.53 just in principal and interest. I’d add in the amount of ‘soft costs’, but no one will tell us just how much that actually is.

    But not to worry–we are going to let the kids have until 2035 to pay their K-12 education bill off.

  35. Doctor J Says:

    @G#34 That’s almost as big as the National Debt per person ! The insanity must stop !

  36. g Says:

    $547,569,056.22 is the “current balance” in principal and interest just on outstanding bonds of the district. If they do still have $227,000,000.00 of principal to sell, adding normal interest will bring the total to nearly a $Billion.

    That’s really sad, considering, based on SARC reports probably 1 in 10 average high school students can’t write a proper sentence, fill out a simple application form or make change for a $20 without a calculator, so they won’t even qualify to get one of our construction jobs.

  37. Alicia M. Says:

    @24 G – At this point, I do not believe there is a perfect solution, and my support of issuing the remaining bonds using conventional financing is all about damage control.

    You should note that the district currently has the right to sell the remaining bonds as capital appreciation bonds with or without the coalition. As you know, this can cost the Community at least $1 billion or more, and I think it’s worth approaching the Board to avoid such a situation that may lead to a future financial crisis of unknown proportions.

    I’m not particularly concerned as to the timing that the bonds are sold…only that conventional financing is sought.

    While I understand that the consequence is our taxes going up, I believe in the long run, it is better for our Community and the district.

    Also, my position on this is separate from the fact that the district, in my opinion, has not spent all Measure C funds in accordance with the law. Nevertheless, I’m in support of the remaining bonds being issued using conventional financing conditioned upon compliance with Proposition 39. Yes, you all may think that the remaining bond proceeds may be misspent…however…the district can sell, right now, the remaining bonds as CABs with or without the public’s approval.

    Furthermore, my position of conventional financing is under the assumption that it is feasible. I’m assuming the Board will seek independent legal counsel as to whether it may deviate from ballot language. I’m assuming that legal counsel will give such an opinion on the record and in a public forum. I’m assuming that the County Controller will also ascertain feasibility of this impending sale. I’m assuming that the County Treasurer together with the Controller will review projections supporting the estimated tax increases for reasonableness. I’m assuming that projections are more accurate that those used to determine the highest best estimate disclosed in the June 2010 ballot.

    Furthermore, assuming it is legal for the district to sell conventional bonds, it may do so only up to a tax rate of $60 per $100k (therefore, the district should not present combined 2002/2010 figures in its financing options). The 2002 Measure C tax rate levy is irrelevant in this scenerio as the law allows, PER MEASURE, a district to sell bonds up to an amount that results in a $60 per $100k levy. Therefore, I would only be in support of conventional financing up to an amount not to exceed $60 per $100k. Would this be $227 million? I don’t know, and the amount left to issue is dependent upon current assessed valuations and projections made in good faith.

    Further, please see the Christy White audit report that discloses total bond proceeds raised and subtract that amount from the voter approved $348 million. Ms. White’s numbers tie out to the official bond statements found at I believe you are looking at both 2002 and 2010. However, for the tax rate for 2010 Measure C, you should only refer to the 2010 election Series A, B, C & D.

  38. Alicia M. Says:

    @36 G – The reason for the $500 million plus amount to retire the 2002 debt is because the voters approved $250 million. Generally, more conventional financing like current interest bonds will cost at least 1 x the amount of the bond to pay off. So this is expected. At least the 2002 bonds were not CABs. I found one example, where Poway Unified School District located in San Diego issued $105 million on August 2011 in Capital Apprecation Bonds to mature in 2051. Poway residents will pay $1 billion to pay this bond off. I really doubt that paying just $60 per $100k will be enough to pay this bond off.

  39. Alicia M. Says:

    @35 G & J – Just think what each parcel owner will pay if capital appreciation bonds (CABs)
    are sold. The $60 cap (with CABs) can increase substantially if property values do not increase at the same yield rate of the bonds. So the way I see it, the $60 cap is more at risk of being exceeded and more costly down the road than the immediate tax rate increase using conventional financing.

  40. Alicia Says:

    @25 Theresa… Since I’ve served on the bond oversight committee I have never been presented with a solar cost if $111.8. Sunpower’s contract is for $65 million, and this cost has been exceeded. I have seen no evidence of any “savings”. Someone has been misinformed.

  41. g Says:

    Alicia, you are correct in the numbers. I was thinking that this last “Refunding” bond was depleting the $227M. I did not realize that it was simply another refinance of 2002 bonds being sold without voter approval.

    My comment about being played like a fiddle meant that what you proposed (accelerated sale) is, I believe, what Pedersen/Lawrence wanted, and would have suggested very soon anyway. The coalitions “idea” to accelerate was not novel, and was already being discussed behind closed doors at Dent.

    Getting them to only do CIBs is going to be the hard part. The big “soft cost” talking heads have a lot of influence.

  42. g Says:

    Alicia, Sometimes they talk apples, sometimes oranges, but usually they talk fruit salad, thinking no one will know the difference.

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Alicia, the alleged misinformation about the solar savings was presented to the board in the April 2 Powerpoint and no one questioned it. Perhaps someone on the BOC will question it.

  44. Doctor J Says:

    Wonder how many administrators are at the Sacramento seminar today on Common Core Standards, and if they spent a night or two at the Hilton on your tax dollars for a one day seminar ? Or did they car pool to save money ? Or are they waiting for one of the out of town/state seminars ?
    BTW, when you see any of the SASS administrators, check out their new Ipads — your tax money bought them.

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