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MDUSD to hold forums regarding proposed property tax increase

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 at 5:13 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

In response to a request from a coalition of community members that the district consider raising property tax rates to accelerate 2010 Measure C bond sales, the district has sent out the following message to the community:

“Mt. Diablo USD News Update
Where Kids Come First
April 10, 2011

As we approach the middle of the spring fundraising season, I want to thank parents, staff, and local businesses for all that you do to enhance our children’s educational program. Your efforts make a real difference in the quality of our children’s education at a time when we must do more with less. We are truly grateful that you choose to invest your time and energy to benefit our children.

Measure C Update
In June 2010, voters in our District approved Measure C, a $348 million bond measure, to renovate and upgrade schools throughout the District. This successful election followed an earlier bond measure approved by voters in 2002. At the time of the 2010 election, voters supported maintaining a combined tax rate of $60 per $100,000 of assessed value between the 2002 and 2010 Measure C bond issuances.

Recently, a district‐wide group of community members requested the Board consider increasing the combined tax rate above the $60 per $100,000 of assessed value in order to avoid issuing more costly Capital Appreciation Bonds and having to prolong the completion of construction projects. Increasing the combined tax rate above $60 would also allow the district to take advantage of current historically low interest rates, more stable construction prices, and to accelerate the completion of projects so our current students would see benefits sooner.

Based on this request, the Board held a study session on April 2nd. The first question was whether the Board has authority to go above a combined rate of $60 per $100,000 of assessed value. Each time a unified school district passes a Prop 39 bond measure, the local School Board has authority to issue bonds that increase the tax rate to $60 per $100,000 of assessed value. Therefore, the Board can legally increase the combined tax rate above $60. From the study session Board members agreed that taking advantage of historically low interest rates, stable construction costs, and selling bonds now allowing the District to get projects done significantly sooner makes financial sense. However, they believe it is important to ensure that the broader community has more information and an opportunity to give input. To view the Power Point that was shared at that meeting, visit

The purpose of this newsletter is to provide you with information in response to five key questions:

1. How has the District been financially responsible over the past two years with bonds that voters have approved?

2. What projects have been started and completed to date?

3. What are the advantages and fiscal impacts of accelerating the bond sales?

4. What are some possible bond issuance options?

5. How can parents and other community members get their input to the Board?

1. How has the District been fiscally responsible over the past two years with voter approved bonds?

Since Measure C passed in June 2010, the District has issued $121 million in bonds. Advance planning by the board and District staff led to MDUSD to become one of only 40 school districts nationwide to receive federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds. These construction bonds provided $59.5 million in federally subsidized bonds for our 12.1 megawatt solar project, creating a greener California and saving local taxpayers over $29 million in interest payments.

As interest rates have declined over the past two years, the District has wisely sought opportunities to refinance bonds from the Election of 2002 authorization. Three series of refunding bonds have been issued saving property taxpayers $13.6 million in interest payments.

The District will continue to seek ways to save taxpayers’ money as well as issue the remaining $227 million Measure C bonds in a fiscally responsible manner.

2. What projects have been started and completed to date?

Due to the state budget crisis, a majority of the initial bond sales have focused on projects that positively impact the School District General Fund. Measure C allowed us to positively protect our bottom line by:

 Retiring General Fund construction debt that cost the district $1.4 million annually

 Implementing a 12.1 megawatt solar project that will:

 Result in annual savings of $3 million on utility costs

 Raise $3 million a year for five years through the California Solar Initiative

Measure C, along with additional facilities funds, has allowed us to begin additional construction projects:


 Computer network upgrades to increase school site and classroom bandwidth and speed

 New Smartboards, LCD projectors, and document cameras for Concord and Ygnacio Valley HS

 Equipment for Project Lead the Way Engineering program at Northgate HS

Site Upgrades

 New heating and air conditioning systems (first phase of 8 sites to be completed by September)

 Window replacement at College Park HS

 Water, sewer, and electrical to football stadium at College Park HS

 Paving at Concord HS

 Stadium Lights at Northgate and Ygnacio Valley HS

New construction

 Science laboratory classrooms for Clayton Valley and Mt. Diablo HS

3. Why accelerate the timeline for bond sales, and what is the financial impact of accelerating the timeline?

As mentioned earlier, a group of community members with ties throughout the District recently requested that the Board consider increasing the combined tax rate above $60 per $100,000 to avoid issuing more costly Capital Appreciation Bonds. This would also allow the district to take advantage of the historically low
interest rates, stable construction prices, and to accelerate the completion of projects so our current students would see benefits sooner. To do so, however, would require an increase to the tax rate that property owners are currently paying.

Increasing the combined rate above $60 per $100,000 of assessed value enables the district to:

1. Avoid more costly bonds known as Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs) and sell Current Interest Bonds (CIBs), which will greatly save property owners on overall interest costs.

2. Take advantage of historically low interest rates. In January 2012, the bond market hit an all‐time low at 3.60%. Interest rates have never been lower for school districts looking to make facility improvements through bond financing. Over time, these low rates will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in interest.

3. Take advantage of current stable construction costs. Since the 2010 low, construction costs have increased a modest 2.75%. When the economy was strong between 2005‐2008, the district regularly saw annual increases above 15.0% on construction projects.

4. Accelerate the completion of school projects to provide our children with new classrooms and facilities upgrades now.

As the Board considers accelerating the issuance of 2010 Measure C Bonds, the Board is weighing several factors:

 The tax rate and length of the bonds

 How soon funds are available to complete bond projects

 The types of bonds being sold (CABs vs. CIBs) and the associated interest costs

4. What are some possible bond issuance options?

Current Interest Bonds vs. Capital Appreciation Bonds – Current Interest Bonds (CIBs) are bonds where investors receive regular interest payments throughout the life of the bond. These might be the type of bond you would invest in during retirement to ensure that you received a specific amount of income on an annual basis. Total debt service, principal plus interest, is lowest with CIBs.

Capital Appreciation Bonds are bonds where regular payments are forgone during the life of the bond and only paid at maturity. In exchange for deferring all of the interest, Capital Appreciation Bonds bear a higher interest rate. An example of this is a home loan where the homeowner only pays interest costs for the first five or ten years of the loan. At the end of the interest only time period, the homeowner would see a significant increase in their monthly mortgage. These types of loans general have higher interest rates than a 30 year fixed interest loan. Capital Appreciation Bonds allow school districts to keep their combined tax rate at a lower level, but still issue bonds based on assessed value growth of their community in the outlying years.

Recently, Acalanes HSD issued $30 million in Capital Appreciation Bonds. Their total debt service on these bonds will be approximately $120 million, but using Capital Appreciation Bonds allowed them to maintain their $30 tax rate since they don’t have to make any current payments. If Acalanes sold Current Interest Bonds, their total debt service would have been below $60 million. Put another way, Acalanes HSD property taxpayers are paying an additional $60 million in interest costs because the District did not want to increase the tax rate above the $30 rate.

This is the question our school Board is grappling with: Increase the annual tax rate above the combined rate of $60 and save more than $400 million in interest payments, or maintain the existing combined tax rate of $60 and pay more than $400 million in higher borrowing costs?

Current Option MDUSD is Following

Currently, our bond program focuses on maintaining a combined tax rate for the 2002 and 2010 Measure C of $60 per $100,000 assess value.

Based on the current path and today’s interest rates, the District could issue approximately $50 million in bonds in 2012 followed by a subsequent bond sale in 2015 for $23 million. The remaining balance of $155 million could be issued in 2026. In order to maintain the estimated $60 tax rate approved by voters in June 2010, the District would issue some combination of CIBs and CABs which would bring the total borrowing costs to an estimated $908 million. This would be similar to the Acalanes example where they issued $30 million in bonds and have a principal and interest payback of $120 million.

It is important to keep in mind that there are several variables that can influence bond sales including assessed value growth, interest rates, bond terms, and types of bonds sold. Any change to these variables can accelerate or postpone the timing by which the District might receive funds as well as determine the final borrowing costs.

New Options Under Consideration

Sell the remaining $227 million today – There are two options to consider in regard to selling the remaining $227 million today:

Option 1 would increase the tax rate to $89.53, have a 30‐year term, and use some CABs in order to maintain a lower tax rate. Under Option 1, the total borrowing costs would be an estimated $603.8 million.

Option 2 would have lower borrowing costs totaling $417.8 million in principal and interest (nearly $200 million less than Option 1), but requires an increase to the tax rate to $110.29. The term on Option 2 would be 25 years.

Options 1 and 2 demonstrate the fundamental relationship between tax rates and borrowing costs. If the district increases the tax rate, it will save property taxpayers nearly $200 million in this scenario. If, however, the District wants to keep a lower tax rate (in this case $89.53) and issue bonds, it comes with a higher overall cost of borrowing.

Sell a portion of bonds today with the balance to be sold in the future – Another consideration is to sell bonds in two or more issuances. While these options would delay receiving all bond proceeds by a few years, it could be a less expensive alternative allowing for a more modest tax rate increase but also lowering the overall cost of borrowing.

Under Option 3, the District increases the combined tax rate to $89 in 2012 followed by an additional increase to $95 per $100,000 of assessed value starting in 2015. Option 3 does not use any CABs and has a 25‐year term, so the overall Total Debt Services is low at $385 million.

The following table presents the different options that the District is considering in light of the recent community members’ request to accelerate the bond sales:

Current Path: Bonds with CIBs and CABs
Issue Dates: 2012, 2015, 2026
Bond Structure: CIBs & CABs
Financing Term: 25 years
Bond Issuance Amount: $49 M, $23 M, $155 M
Total Interest: $681 M
Total Debt Service: $908 M
Tax Rate per $100K of assessed value(1): $60.00

Option 1: One Bond sale, some CABs
Issue Date: 2012
Bond Structure: CIBs & CABs
Financing Term: 30 years
Bond Issuance Amount: $227 M
Total Interest: $376 M
Total Debt Service: $603 M
Tax Rate per $100K of assessed value(1): $89.53

Option 2: One Bond sale, no CABs
Issue Date: 2012
Bond Structure: CIBs Only
Financing Term: 25 years
Bond Issuance Amount: $227 M
Total Interest: $190 M
Total Debt Service: $417 M
Tax Rate per $100K of assessed value(1): $110.29

Option 3(2): Bonds sold next 3 years
Issue Dates: 2012, 2015
Bond Structure: CIBs Only
Financing Term: 25 years
Bond Issuance Amount: $150 M, $77 M
Total Interest: $158 M
Total Debt Service: $385 M
Tax Rate per $100K of assessed value(1): $89.00, $95.00

Note: All the above analyses are based on market interest rates and subject to change due to variations in actual interest rates, bond terms, and types of bonds sold at the time of the sale as well as the District’s construction schedule.
(1) Combined 2002 & 2010 Election tax rate
(2) In order to keep a CIBs only structure and access all remaining bond funds in 2015, tax rate would need to be increased to $95.00

5. How can parents and other community members get their input to the Board?

There are significant benefits to accelerating the bond issuances, but there are multiple variables that go into informing that decision and selecting a path. The ‘best path’ will be determined by which variables people believe are most important:

 getting facility improvement projects completed as quickly as possible to maximize lower construction costs

 minimizing overall borrowing costs by increasing the amount above the combined rate of $60 per $100,000 assessed value and utilizing lower interest rates

 maintaining the current combined tax rate of $60 per $100,000 assessed value, but having higher borrowing costs due to higher interest rates and a longer project timeline

If you would like clarification around any one of the many issues addressed in this newsletter or would like to provide your feedback and opinion, please feel free to drop by one of the public forums being held the week after spring break. Below are the dates, times, and locations of the public forums. The forums will be
facilitated by staff and be appropriately publicized so that Board members can attend to listen to the dialogue. The format of the public meetings will be a Power Point presentation followed by a question and answer time. At the end of each public forum, we will pass out and collect a survey similar to the random
phone survey that we will be conducting to gather community input. The results of the survey will be shared with the Board at the April 23 Board meeting.

Date, Location, Time:

Monday, April 16 Riverview MS Multi Use Room 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 17 College Park HS Multi Use Room 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 18 Ygnacio Valley HS Library 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 19 Monte Gardens Multi Use Room 6:30 p.m”

Unfortunately, the options presented in the newsletter differ slightly from those presented to board and are numbered differently.

Most surprisingly, the district has revealed that it would not be able to complete all the projects in seven years, as originally planned, if it continues on its current path. Instead, the district now estimates it would need to delay issuing $155 million until 2026.

If voters had been asked in 2010 whether they would approve a $348 million tax measure that wouldn’t see 45 percent of the projects completed for more than 16 years, do you think Measure C would have passed?

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117 Responses to “MDUSD to hold forums regarding proposed property tax increase”

  1. g Says:

    Surely if the District is even considering changing the current structure they would have to take it to the voters.

    Those who voted yes in 2010, while ignorant enough to fall for the ruse that was “Measure Solar” disguised as smaller classes safer schools, hopefully will not be foolish enough to think that a handful of people speaking up in a forum can dictate the tax rates of the whole electorate.

    I think any attempt to illegally increase the “unified school district $60 per $100,000 of Assessed Value” must be preempted. It took a 55% vote of the entire district to pass the Measure, it should take at least that to even consider altering it.

    First, I don’t think it is legal under Prop 39 to do “anything” to cause the max rate to go over the .06% rate (although they’ve already exceeded it slightly this year). I’m pretty sure Stone and Youngberg would agree.

    If the district did go ahead and oversell now, causing an increase of the tax rate, even if found to be illegal in court, we would still be obligated to pay, and pay, and pay the higher rate. I’m pretty sure Isom would agree on this.

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Apparently, the district can legally raise the tax rate for the COMBINED 2002 and 2010 measures, even though district officials originally promised to keep the combined rate at $60 per $100,000.
    Bond counsel Meredith Johnson said the district can levy $60 per $100,000 per ELECTION.
    Therefore, the district can legally raise the tax rate up to $120 per $100,000 for both measures combined.

  3. g Says:

    Yes I agree, $60/per for each election or $120/per total. Look again at Lawrence/Isom Options and rates. Their changed assumptions leaves 2002 at $60/per, and Raises the remainder of 2010 to $89-110 per.

  4. Linda L Says:

    Prop 39 requires that each separate bond measure not exceed $60/$100,000 of assessed value. I can completely understand why some people may oppose the increase in the tax rate especially when they don’t completely understand bonds.

    I will be the first person to speak out if this District exceeds the $60/100,000 as provided by Prop 39. The sad thing about your commentary is that “this small group” being “played like a fiddle” and “dictating” the tax rate of the whole district is doing no such thing. The Board can make that decision any time they want. We could go away tomorrow and the Board could still do what they want. In fact they will do what they want.

    Our goal is to be a voice of reason and we hope to influence how the remaining bonds are issued. We are very concerned that the options remaining, that don’t include raising the rate, will cost our community hundreds of millions more.

    I think you should be heard too. Tell us what would be best for our community and our kids?

  5. Linda L Says:

    Our posts crossed. 2002 is currently below $60… somewhere near $52. The $89 – 110 is a combined number. My math tells me the $110 put them close to the $60 cap for 2010. And the law does not allow for a combined max. There are two $60 caps. There is no $120 cap.

  6. g Says:

    Linda L, you seem to be on a trajectory with me facing a sharp object at the other end. Please, this discussion is not personal against you or your cause nor are any of my errors intentional. I do not need you to tell me how little I know about bonds, as I have readily admitted to it here.

    Generally, my reading skills are second to none, although occasionally….

    Today, I failed to notice the footnote indicating that the options’ rates are for “combined” election. Ooops and damn and thanks for the correction, now go pee on someone else’s boot!

    Now, as to what do I think would be best for our community and our kids. First I acknowledge that ALL kids belong to ALL of us, although technically we need to be aware and acknowledge that, with the exception of Bay Point, less-than-1-out-of-every-3-taxpaying-households in the district have minor children living in them! So one of our first concerns maybe should be to “keep taxes fair” cause it ain’t all about “the kids”. If the District thought it was all about “the kids”, we wouldn’t even need to have this conversation.

    I now qualify to have Mello Roos exemption, but have chosen not to because, since two of my wonderful kids chose to be school teachers, (and are marvelous at it–thank you) I realize the value of that buck in the school.

    Having said all that, you can still expect me to raise my voice when I believe the unions are being greedy, or heavy handed and in the wrong.

    As for the possible Bond Options–I think I was the first to comment here that we did need to choose whatever combination saved the taxpayer the most AND got the work done the soonest. The last thing we want is to hold back $155K for another 15 years just so the district at that time can conjure it like magic on some unsuspecting new generation of taxpayers.

    Although, I must say, given the opportunity, I would kiss off what has already been spent as a bad dream, only finish what has already seen a hammer or shovel, and find the means to just stop the whole rest of the scheme in it’s tracks.

  7. Linda L Says:

    Help me understand. It sounds like we agree? Don’t we? That is a sincere question.

    Keep taxes fair: Absolutely! Lets talk about fair. If the remaining bonds are sold as CABs we will be taking the remaining $227mil and using it for our collective generation of students today. However we will be asking a future community to foot the bill. Not only will we obligate them to pay the bill but we will obligate them to years of compounded interest.

    Raising Your Voice: Of course! Raise your voice about how to make this right. Especially since you were the first to comment here saying that we need the Board to choose what will save the taxpayer the most AND get the work done the soonest.

    G, We are in agreement. Join us, we want the same thing, but in addition to what you said above, we want site specific lists driven by the needs of the school sites. If the school sites own their own lists we have increased the numbers of those holding the District accountable.

    I must say, given the opportunity, I would wish for many things to be very different.

  8. Alicia Says:

    As Linda was saying…CABs finance projects today that will be paid for by a future community, which is entirely unfair. Further, when the CABs explosive balloon payment comes due at maturity, the technology equipment and projects financed today with CABs (at a price between 2 to 6 times more than conventional financing) will be in the trash, obsolete or in need of repair. The district will no doubt have to seek another bond measure to make needed repairs in the future for our aging schools, and they will risk the passing of any future parcel taxes and bond measures as voters will remember harmful CAB issuances.

  9. anon Says:


    It’s hard to say if the 2010 Measure C would have passed if voters had known that projects would not be completed for 16 years. It is surprising that the 2010 Measure C passed, and conclude that most voters do not read the ballot when it comes to school bond measures.

  10. Doctor J Says:

    This conversation is worthless without a specific project list, including specific sites, dates, and est. costs. Meas C was passed without such a list, even though required, and Lawrence, Eberhart and Pedersen just keep shooting from the hip as they spend millions without a site specific project list to keep them on course. Lawrence, show us the “Specific Project List” with bond amounts allocated for each project on how the $227 million [and prior amounts] will be spent. No surprises, no secrets. It would be so refreshing.

  11. Linda L Says:

    Dr. J,
    The lists ARE important but the conversation is not worthless, it is worth up to $500,000,000 in savings to our community. Half a billion with a “B”. :)

  12. Alicia Says:

    Dr. J….I want the revised projects to be provided and determined based on new site evaluations determined by teachers and parents from across our community. Assuming conventional financing is feasible, I think it is worth discussing the financing options and allowing for community input. I personally prefer Option 3 or not issuing bonds until 2026 as long as conventional financing is sought. Also, the district should provide the cost of the 2010 Measure C on a stand alone basis. The district should explain how tax rates for each option was calculated, explain all assumptions, and provide enough data so we can recalculate the projections used to calculate tax rates. Also, the district should perform stress tests showing the public what could happen to the tax rate if there is a decline in property values in the next 5 years. The elections code requires disclosure of the highest best estimate in the tax rate and the year it is estimated to occur. This allows a taxpayer to see a worst and best case scenerio. I think it would be in the district’s best interest to provide such data so that there are no surprises that could upset community supporters.

  13. g Says:

    Theresa, is the District reporting yet about what and how much was stolen/damaged during the Holbrook Elementary break-in this past weekend?

  14. Doctor J Says:

    About two years ago I suggested that a “Ballot by Mail” campaign for a parcel tax should be considered as they have been very successful in meeting the 2/3 of voter requirements for parcel taxes in several areas in the state. On this blog, Gary said he would look into it. Never heard back from him. I see Moraga is seeking a new parcel tax on a “ballot by mail” as reported in the Times today: “to pay a $225 annual parcel tax to fund Moraga schools. Residents already pay a $325 parcel tax that generates $1.8 million per year.”

  15. Michael Langley Says:

    Speaking as a Clayton homeowner, not in the capacity of a representative of any group, I look forward to a revised Measure C project list from the district with community input. The option 2 rate puts the money to work today on projects that are not hamstrung by dribbled increments of issuance. Make the major improvements now and at a lower overall cost than using CABS. Although option 3 appears more cost effective, there is no guarantee that interest rates will be as favorable in three years. Under option 2 my tax rate will rise. I have no children in school. As a June 2012 retiree, I will not directly benefit from any of the construction. Still, it is best for our community as fully funded projects will improve and update the infrastructure of the Mt. Diablo District Schools.
    MDUSD made a political decision to keep the levy at $60 per $100,000 assessed value. If they change their mind, the governing board will be making positive educational and economic decisions, a welcome relief. I will not lambast them for this change. If we truly want a board that will make a positive difference to the welfare and education of our students, we must support change when it is good and resist change that is harmful.

  16. 2busymom Says:

    Mr. Langley,
    Forgive me if I misunderstood you, but it sounds like you just spouted one of my biggest pet peeves.

    “I have no children in school. As a June 2012 retiree, I will not directly benefit from any of the construction. Still, it is best for our community as fully funded projects will improve and update the infrastructure of the Mt. Diablo District Schools.”

    Are you implying that simply because you have no students or are no longer employed by MDUSD, you have nothing to gain by the district’s making wise decisions?

    Everyone in the MDUSD community directly benefits from a well run district.

    Please choose your words carefully.

  17. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: I was not aware of the Holbrook breakin, but will ask.
    I believe the district was storing light fixtures there for Measure C work, but I don’t think the BOC ever visited to see what was there.

  18. A Says:

    That seems a bit unfair. Mr Langley is actually doing exactly what you are accusing him of not doing

  19. Anon Says:


    I think you may be being a bit unfair to Mr. Langley. Read the last sentence of this paragraph you highlighted:

    “I have no children in school. As a June 2012 retiree, I will not directly benefit from any of the construction. Still, it is best for our community as fully funded projects will improve and update the infrastructure of the Mt. Diablo District Schools.”

    This comment and the overall intent of his post says to me that he is one of those who shows he cares even when he no longer directly benefits. It seems like he completely understands the greater good and is an example of exactly the kind of community member you want to see more of. Right?

  20. Anon Says:

    I appreciate Mike Langley, but on this I agree with 2busymom. Everyone in the community directly benefits from a better school district. That is why for example the entire community should have supported the school parcel tax measure.

  21. Seriously... Says:

    2busymom…you misunderstood Mr. Langley, and your logic was inappropriate. He clearly indicated that the proposed Measure C financing is for the greater good of the Community.

    I also do not have children in the district, but pay taxes for the district’s Measure C and Measure A bonds. I consider myself to benefit indirectly, since I have no children of my own directly enjoying and experiencing the technology, science labs, etc., that the bond money will pay for. There are varying degrees of benefits here, and you should recognize that those with children in the district receive more benefits that those who pay taxes and don’t have children enrolled.

    Nevertheless, I support the district in seeking the lowest cost of financing while also making funds available to improve our school buildings and classrooms since everyone will realize some degree of benefit.

    You should be grateful for community members in Mr. Langley’s position who share his thought process, since they are likely to support school measures and parcel taxes in the future.

  22. 2busymom Says:

    I stand corrected, perhaps jumped the gun.
    I have spoken to Mr. Langley on numerous occassions and find him to be friendly and professional.

    I do get tired of hearing people with no kids, or not directly connected to the district complain of having to pay for something they are not directly using. I should have read his statement more carefully, got blinded by the first two sentences.

    My sincerest apologies.

    I only hope the next MDEA President is as personable and down to earth as Mr. Langley.

  23. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Looks like Gary E. kicked off his campaign today. He is on commenting like crazy.

    He keeps dodging the question of the Bay Point school though.


  24. Doctor J Says:

    @MD-BW#23 Trustee Eberhart has a lot of questions he needs to dodge, not just whether Meas C money will be spent on a “new School” that was NOT LISTED on the project list as required by Prop 39. 17 years of his “leadership” he doesn’t have a lot to brag about — he isn’t going to brag about how SIX schools became “Persistently Low Achieving” — the worst 5% in the State of California, and more than any other East Bay school district. Nor will he brag about how MDUSD was named this year as a “Program Improvement” District.

  25. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence published different versions of his newsletter posted by Theresa and the one at Claycord: both say there are five key questions, but Claycord lists six questions, and the Times lists 5. Very interesting. I have not compared the rest of the newsletter.

  26. Theresa Harrington Says:

    My version of the newsletter is the one published on the district’s website, with five questions:
    I also received a different version of the newsletter via email that erroneously repeated the first question twice, which made it appear that the sixth question was different. Actually the first and sixth questions were virtually identical:
    “1. How has the District been financially responsible over the past two years with bonds that voters have approved?
    2. What projects have been started and completed to date?
    3. What are the advantages and fiscal impacts of accelerating the bond sales?
    4. What are some possible bond issuance options?
    5. How can parents and other community members get their input to the Board?
    6. How has the District been fiscally responsible over the past two years with voter approved bonds?”

    MDUSD Board Watcher: I read the comments on Claycord and did not see any in which Eberhart announced he will seek re-election. I did, however, notice that he criticized the CC Times for publishing what he called “exaggerated” estimates for how much the current Measure C bond financing structure would cost. He failed to mention, however, that the Times got those numbers from the district’s financial adviser. And now, the “current path” estimates show that it would cost more than $900 million to issue the remaining bonds. This doesn’t include the bonds already issued. So, in fact, the “current path” would cost taxpayers more than $1 billion, as the Times reported. When I asked Eberhart for new numbers after he disputed the numbers given to the Times by Isom, he failed to produce any alternative estimates. The district can’t have it both ways. If it now wants to abandon the “current path,” it may be forced to admit that the current path may not have been the best plan in the first place (as Linda L. and others who opposed the bond measure have argued all along).

  27. MoMx3 Says:

    Oh, please someone tell me Gary is not running again. Has he declared? I really thought he’d be done and had heard those rumors too from reliable sources, but now? Now that he’s making an appearance at Claycord, has got me wondering.

  28. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The last time I asked Trustee Gary Eberhart about this, he said he had not yet decided if he would seek re-election. As far as I know, he has not yet declared. To my knowledge, the only candidate who has unofficially declared so far is Brian Lawrence. The Contra Costa County Elections office doesn’t have information on its website yet about the deadline to officially declare for the November election. However, I believe incumbents must let the public know first whether they intend to seek re-election. If not, the deadline to declare candidacy is extended.

  29. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Hi Theresa,

    I was simply making the observation that Gary had re-emerged on the blogs after “taking his ball and going home” over a year ago.

    We don’t hear a peep from him for over a year and all of the sudden he was posting like a mad man. Seemed to me it might coincide with an election campaign.

  30. g Says:

    Measure C website has been altered, yet again, and the Annual Report Power Point that had been posted is now gone. Weren’t minutes from Dec and February meetings also there before this latest alteration?

    The Agenda for the 4/14 meeting is posted, and the only thing on it is the Annual Report.

    Does anyone know why the earlier Power Point that Ferrante released (and minutes?) has been pulled?

  31. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:


    Not sure why it was pulled. But I have a copy of the whole thing. Hopefully the Grand Jury will look into this.

    Be assured Ferrante is s crooked as the rest of the MDUSD power structure.

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The March 2012 agenda, PowerPoint and Quarterly Report are also missing.
    I noted that the Superintendent’s newsletter did not mention the MDHS Pool Replacement as one of the district’s Measure C accomplishments. Yet, that was listed as a project to be paid for with the QSCBs and was added to the quarterly report, with no project timeline (possibly because the project was already completed with Prop. 55 funds).
    As the district seeks to reassure the public that it has spent its first bond issues wisely, it should produce detailed timelines and project reports for the QSCB expenditures.

  33. Doctor J Says:

    Isn’t Pete Pedersen the keeper of the Meas C Website ? If not who ? Who is pulling these shennangians ? Gary said on Claycord, that if anyone knows anything illegal, let him or a Board member know. Here it is Gary, Sherry, Linda, Lynne, and Cheryl. Now act on it with a full public report.

  34. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Trustee Cheryl Hansen is still trying to get her agenda items on the April 23 agenda and trying to get answers to her Points of Order raised at the last meeting. One of those points was related to board members’ committee assignments, which were made by email instead of during a public meeting. She was bumped from the Measure C Oversight Committee by Trustee Gary Eberhart.
    Another of Hansen’s concerns has to do with the lack of detailed meeting minutes and lack of televised board meetings. She contends that audio recordings may not always be available and it is more time-consuming to have to listen to recordings than to read a short synopsis of what transpired.
    The fact that official recordings and documents can disappear from the district’s website with no explanation shows that the district’s system of archiving public records is not adequate or sufficiently transparent.
    If the public wants to scrutinize reports of Measure C spending before the April 23rd board vote on increasing the tax rate, it won’t be able to — unless the missing documents reappear on the Measure C website.

  35. Doctor J Says:

    @TH #34 More importantly, the Meas C spending reports will not be available to the public to ask questions in the public meetings this week about the increased tax rate.

  36. g Says:

    Dr. J: I think you just answered our question of “why” these items were removed (even if just temporarily) from the site. Take all possible ammunition out of the hands of the people who might question the past to help ascertain answers for the future.

  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Yes, that’s what I meant. The public won’t be able to scrutinize the reports this week, leading up to the April 23rd vote.
    Yet, the BOC is supposed to meet Thursday. The district should definitely repost the reports before that meeting, especially the annual report, since that is on the agenda.
    I note that the Superintendent’s message states: “Advance planning by the Board and District staff led to MDUSD to become one of only 40 school districts nationwide to receive federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds.”
    It doesn’t mention, however, that this “advance planning” happened behind closed doors, with CREB applications signed by Chevron, which were never presented to the board.

  38. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#37 I sure don’t remember the Chevron statements on their relationship with MDUSD when they withdrew ever acknowledging that they gratuitiously applied for the CREB money, even without authorization from the MDUSD Board. That might be a worthy question to Chevron as to who authorized them to make such an application on behalf of MDUSD. Perhaps Chevrongate has another life.

  39. g Says:

    Maybe with what now seems was probably 3/5 of the Board in on the Chevron gig, they figured they did not need to bring it back to the board for discussion or approval.

  40. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Chevron apparently donated the engineering services and signed the application regarding the engineering portion. Interim Superintendent Dick Nicoll also signed the applications. The question is: who authorized Nicoll to sign the applications, since they were never brought to the board for approval?

  41. Wait a Minute Says:

    I think the evidence is pretty clear that “Chevron Sherry” Whitmarsh was going to steer the Solar Contract to Chevron until Stevie Lawrence was busted by the CC Times taking for gratuities from Chevron.

    This incestuous relationship went much deeper then just this. The Gary Eberhart was playing this game with his recent paid-for-by-the-taxpayers Solar Class Certificate which he used along with his status as Board President of the district with the largest solar project to leverage a job with the Schreder Family Empire as a “VP of Solar”!

    Stevie Lawrence is known to be good friends with Jack Schreder and I’m sure he was hired by Eberhart and Co to be the (bad) Superintendent in return for using his relationship with Schreder to get The Gary his job, who desperatly needed a job since The Gary had his contractors license suspended by the Contractor’s Board.

    Peterson and friends also made out as they get to double dip as project managers even though they are mot licensed contractors and of course good old Rolen was able to hire his buddy from Chico to be Bond Counsel even though they had no experience as such and sub-contracted out that job to an LA attorney after taking a fat-cut for themselves.

    Nice! “Where failed administrators and sleazy unethical leaches come first”!!!

  42. g Says:

    Under the circumstances, and after the fact, I’m sure Chevron had little choice but to cal their services a “donation” (that they could brag about and write off of the corporate taxes as charity anyway) and just cut and run.

    With what I believe was probably three board members already at the table, Nicoll also may have felt it best to just go ahead and sign the application and be done with the pressure.

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Nicoll always told me he worked at the behest of the board.
    Of course, only three trustees remain who were on the board when the CREBs applications were signed: Eberhart, Whitmarsh and Mayo. Are they the board members being praised by Lawrence for the “advance planning” that left the public in the dark?

  44. g Says:

    I doubt if Mayo had any idea what was going on at that time. I think she has chosen the three monkey’s approach to leadership for the last several years.

  45. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It appeared that Eberhart and Strange defended their actions based on their assertion that discussions were held during facilities subcommittee meetings. However, no agendas or minutes for these meetings are ever posted online, even now.

  46. Alicia M. Says:

    @40 – I always wondered the same thing. Just like corporations, the Board should vote to approve and maintain an approved list of persons who are authorized signors to sign on behalf of the district, e.g., to place the district into indebtedness or to apply for grants. Is there a list of authorized signors and what are their powers? Further, since the CREB applications never went to the board for approval when it was required to do so (like grant application), I would say no one was officially authorized to execute the CREB applications. Does anyone know if the district board approved the application for Quality School Construction Bonds?

  47. Seriously... Says:

    @42 G – Bid Rigging comes to mind when I think of the district’s solar project. This takes many forms, including bid suppression.

  48. Dr. J. Says:

    #38 – Chevron did not apply for the CREBs…the MDUSD applied and Peterson signed most of them as an authorized person. Chevron’s site certifications were attached to the application.

  49. Alicia M. Says:

    Sorry Dr. J…I wrote #48, not Dr. J.

  50. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, the board approved the QSCB application Oct. 265, 2010:
    However, this application did not state what the money would be used for.

  51. Alicia M. Says:

    #38 – Dr. J. Have you seen a copy of the CREB application? You can see that Chevron only signed the site certifications and not the application itself.

  52. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Alicia, Thanks for that clarification. Yes, Chevron signed the engineering portion, but district officials including Pedersen and Nicoll signed the actual application. There was no board approval.

    Regarding the QSCBs, the board-approved resolution states: “SECTION. 8 Reimbursement of Qualified Project Expenditures. The District hereby declares it intent to use proceeds of the QSCBs to reimburse itself for expenditures made on Qualified Projects prior to the issuance of the QSCBs (the ‘Reimbursable Expenditures’).”

    So, the district did disclose that it had already virtually completed the projects for which it was applying for the QSCBs (with Prop. 55 funds). Perhaps this was a loophole the district was able to take advantage of, instead of actually identifying new projects to fund with the money.

  53. Alicia M. Says:

    Theresa, It is interest that QSCB was a state program, so the application had to be submitted to the CDE. Click on “application” at

    I wonder what project was designated on the QSCB application, and whether the completed application was subsequently reviewed by the Board.

    CREB applications had to be submitted to the IRS, not the CDE.

  54. Alicia M. Says:


    I just noticed Section . 8 regarding using QSCB for reimbursement of qualified projections. This is really interesting. In reading the QSCB application, it appears these bonds are to be used for a new and future needed project, and asks for estimated costs. I’d really like to see this application to see if the district really disclosed to the CDE that QSCBs would be used for project already completed. I wonder which project QSCB paid for and why the district didn’t use this money for a new future project.

  55. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The district disclosed the project list when it requested to sell the bonds in February, 2011:
    The district stated that it would reimburse itself for expenses already paid: “SECTION 12. Reimbursement of Qualified Project Expenditures. The District hereby
    declares it official intent to use proceeds of the QSCBs to reimburse itself for expenditures made on Qualified Projects prior to the issuance of the QSCBs (the ‘Reimbursable Expenditures’). All of the Reimbursable Expenditures covered by this Resolution were paid not earlier than 60 days prior to the date of this Resolution and reimbursement of such Reimbursable Expenditures will occur not later than 18 months after the date such Reimbursable Expenditure was made.”
    Here is what the district said it planned to do with the money:
    “Projects to be Financed with the Proceeds of the Bonds
    The District intends to apply the net proceeds of the Bonds to construct new classrooms at College Park High School and Concord High School, to renovate the swimming pools at College Park High School and Mt. Diablo High School and to undertake repairs to the multi-use facilities at certain District elementary schools.
    [In addition, the District intends to deposit a portion of the proceeds of the Series D Bonds into
    the Debt Service Fund to pay a portion of the interest on the Bonds through _______, 2011.]”
    All of the projects listed were already underway before Measure C was approved — paid for with Prop. 55 funds.

  56. Alicia M. Says:

    Theresa, does “reimburse itself” mean that QCSB money was or will ultimately be deposited into the general fund? I’ll have to inquire. Thanks!

  57. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Alicia, My impression was that the district was reimbursing itself for Prop. 55 money.

  58. Alicia M. Says:

    Perhaps because I’m sleepy, it’s not making any sense to use QCSB money to reimburse Prop. 55. I’ll have to look at my financial records from the County Treasurer to identify any transfers of QSCB money.

  59. Alicia M. Says:

    Theresa, Just another thought…Prop. 55 is State matching funds for 2002 Measure C, and according to DSA, the Prop. 55 money should be used on projects listed for 2002 Measure C since they are connected. So a 2010 Measure C QSCB bond should not be used to reimburse a 2002 Measure C project, and I simply do not understand the rational. I’ll have to do some research to determine if there is a problem.

  60. g Says:

    Good Mornin’ Pete; I see the “C” website has had the two missing sections and the dozen or so missing items replaced. Problem is the links are dead, so we can’t open the files to see if they’ve been changed in any way.

  61. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Alicia, Even though the QSCB projects appear to have been underway before the 2010 Measure C was approved, the district claimed they were on the 2010 Measure C projects list (since the list was so general).

  62. g Says:

    The ‘C’ site seems to be fixed now.

  63. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yet, based on past experience, the public has no assurance that documents won’t disappear again.
    Perhaps the Electronic School Board site could be expanded to include the BOC.

  64. Theresa Harrington Says:

    A reliable source tells me another person may soon announce a run for the MDUSD board, in part, based on a desire for more transparency in the district.

  65. g Says:

    Give me a couple of candidates that will follow the letter of the law(s)–all of them, both internal and external, even when it is very-very hard to do! And please, someone who is volunteering to do the job because it’s the right thing to do, not someone who is in it for the mdv “in lieu” cash and retirement plan—please!

  66. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    TH @ #64,

    Wow. That news is not going to sit very well with Gary and Sherry.

  67. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence did not get the Sacramento Supt job. What was important to the 47,000 student district in suburban Sacramento [compare with MDUSD at 34,000 students] ?? Quote from the Board President: “Throughout the search process we heard students, teachers, parents, principals and community members tell us that the number one priority in selecting a superintendent was to ensure that the work of our community-developed strategic plan continued,” said Board President Richard Launey.
    “Mr. Thompson has been a leader in implementing our strategic plan and we need his strong voice to provide leadership as we build upon the work underway in our schools to close achievement gaps and educate and inspire each student to contribute to our radically evolving world.”

    Significantly, the new Supt took a pay cut [$225,000] from the prior Supt [$261,000].

    Here is the search they performed as cited in their Closed Session Minutes of Nov 15 [yes, unlike MDUSD, they follow the law and publish minutes on the closed sessions — reporting the action taken in the closed sessions and detailing a summary of public comments]: Barry Reed from the executive search firm Dave Long and Associates. Mr. Reed led the Board in a discussion regarding the parameters, process, and timeline for the superintendent search. The Board discussed their desired qualifications, experience, and contract terms, as well as the extent of the stakeholders’ input. Mr. Reed emphasized that, in order to attract a successful pool of candidates, confidentiality is of utmost importance. He urged the Board to consider limiting the number of stakeholders on the Superintendent Search Advisory Committee to ten. After much discussion, the majority of the Board agreed that the committee would include five employee group representatives – one from CSEA, SJTA, Teamsters, SJAA/SJPEC (combined), and Confidential/Supervisors (combined), one representative from the Curriculum and Standards Committee, one representative from the Facilities, Transportation, and Finance Committee, and one “at-large” representative from each board member – for a committee total of twelve. Mr. Reed will distribute a revised timeline based on the Board’s feedback.

    So much different from MSUSD’s “board driven” search . . . and disasterous result. An important lesson for new board members. It starts with T R A N S P A R E N C Y !!!!

  68. MoMx3 Says:

    Dr. J, are you saying Lawrence is right now, actively looking for a new job? Is this recent then?

  69. Theresa Harrington Says:

    An El Dorado MS student reported this morning that a man tried to lure her into his car:

  70. Doctor J Says:

    @#68 Final selection interviews took place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Board decision was announced today. See my link above and you might want to look at their Board agendas, minutes, etc. to see what quality agendas and minutes look like in a School District. Here is the minutes agenda — notice they do minutes for “Closed Sessions” as required by law.,%202012%20Minutes.pdf

  71. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a blog post about the message sent out by Superintendent Steven Lawrence:

  72. MoMx3 Says:

    Dr. J, doesn’t anyone think that is strange? The “LEADER” of the district is looking for a job? In the corporate world doesn’t that raise huge red flags? What is going on ? Must be hard trying to find a job after running this district into the ground. Unbelievable!

  73. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J has not presented any proof that Lawrence was looking for a job. Is this speculation on your part, Dr. J?

  74. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    I don’t know if he is or isn’t looking for a job, but he should be. When Gary and Sherry are successfully voted out of office this Nov. he will shortly be needing one.

    You know what they say Steve, “the early bird gets the worm”. If I were you I’d get that resume out in your network now.

  75. Doctor J Says:

    @#72&73 I don’t think its strange at all and very common in the business world — and the education world — that executives “jump ship” frequently to improve their status. The average tenure of a school Supt in the last 10 years is only about 2-3 years. He has 9 1/2 months left on his contract, in just over 6 1/2 months there will be an election which may swing the Board majority which could jeopardize a renewal of his contract. Trustee Hansen’s attempts to place a motion on the Agenda to postpone consideration of renewal of Lawrence’s contract until after the new board has been seated after the election has been thwarted by Eberhart and Whitmarsh, and Rolen, all “partners” with Lawrence. In addition, that suburban District in Sacramento was just a few miles from Lawrence’s home in Roseville where he lived until February 2010, is a larger district [47,000 compared to MDUSD’s 33,000], and the prior Supt made more money than Lawrence. Plus Lawrence was able to wrangle support from State Supt. Torlakson ostensibly vis-a-vis Eberhart. My source is telling me that Lawrence scored high on the Meas C bond passage, but scored low on public communication, a pathetic “strategic plan” he didn’t really support, failure to implement an academic turnaround plan with results [one point API gain], and ironically the issue of “toiletgate” actually surfaced and raised red flags about his leadership over high schools he directly supervised. There was also concern about his performance in West Sac, and jumping from a very small district to a large district without much experience. Let’s remember that Lawrence is a relatively young by age Supt with many years left in Education circles. But he needs a few more “bright spot” accomplishments on his resume to be marketable. These executive search firms do a thorough review of all potential candidates and keep it on file. All you have to do is compare Agendas, Minutes, Community Committees like PAC, Strategic Plans, etc to see the difference between quality leadership at the helm of a school district. I invite everyone to do the comparison. We ought to be demanding better performance. Oh, and when you read their Board minutes, you actually know what went on in the meeting, unlike MDUSD’s chicken scratch minutes. Has Lawrence denied being considered for the San Juan USD job ?

  76. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence is stuck in neutral on a hill and his brakes are failing him. Example: Teacher Evaluations. This Ed Week article highlights innovative steps being taken by San Juan USD. The teacher’s union is full partners with them to promote better teaching. MDUSD is light years behind as a result of poor relationships with the MDEA and lack of leadership. It takes leadership to accomplish this.
    Wouldn’t such a program be beneficial to MDUSD ? Ever hear any discussion about it at a Board meeting ?

  77. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The district is piloting new teacher and principal evaluations at SIG schools as part of the grant requirement. But, to my knowledge, this has not been discussed at a board meeting.

  78. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#77 That was in the MOU nearly a year ago, but has any real “ACTION” been taken to implement it ? Are those “new evaluations” taking place “this spring” in the SIG Cohort 1 schools ? Verify for yourself, but I think you will find the answer to both questions is a capital NO. Certainly the Board has not approved it or even discussed it. Just another ruse in the Cohort 1 “Corrective Active Plan” to “get the money”.

  79. Doctor J Says:

    Has MDUSD met its MOU commitments which cover school years 2011/12 and 12/13 for the three SIG Schools under Cohort 1, Bel Air, Shore Acres and Rio Vista ? Lets take a look a few of the MOU provisions required to be implemented in 2011/12:

    “1. The SIG requires districts to utilize a teacher evaluation tool that ties the results of student learning to the performance evaluation of the teacher. Teacher performance evaluation at SIG sites will include a formula which considers student progress as a significant element in the existing evaluation tool. ” “The District will utilize the Formative Assessment for California Teachers (FACT model) as a formative assessment tool.”


    “The SIG will provide each site with a trained (in FACT) Instructional Coach (TSA) during the first year of implementation to guide teachers through the inquiry process. ”

    Question: HAS MDUSD MET THIS REQUIREMENT AT BEL AIR, SHORE ACRES AND RIO VISTA ? Who are they ? When were they hired ?

    “All teachers at SIG sites will be evaluated annually.”


    “Teachers will meet with the site administrator for an initial conference, an interim conference and a final conference to review the multiple measures of data collected in 1. (a) iii above, and assess growth in the teacher’s professional practice towards meeting the selected evaluation goals.”


    For you doubting Thomases, here is the MOU

  80. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On another note, our San Jose Mercury News education reporter would like to talk to East Bay high school seniors or their parents for an upcoming story:

  81. Anon Says:

    So what ever happened to Special Ed. Bussing? I hear they are still messed up. Has anyone followed up on the story? is Rolan still responsible? Shouldn’t Mildred Brown the Super. of Special Ed be held accountable? Is she accountable for anything? Does she have a contract with an end date so we can get rid of her or does she just get to stay and keep the status quo?
    Has anyone heard if Mildred is going to leave our district?
    I so hope she leaves with Stevie Lawrence!

  82. Doctor J Says:

    @#23 MD-BW Gary only has one campaign available to him this year — MDUSD Board, which could put him over 20 years ! County Supervisor & Co. School Board are not open to him this year. He must keep himself in public office in order to have a chance to leap to a new office — despite his dismal past efforts. He probably expects a building to be named after him — I would vote for a fire hydrant next to the public sidewalk.

  83. Jim Says:

    Re #75 — I agree with Dr. J that it is not at all unusual for Superintendents to move quite often from district to district. This is especially true for supes from larger districts, where public dissatisfaction is widespread. Most of the Supes I have met over the years were always in “job search” mode, and I am sure that Lawrence is smart enough to know that he should be too. Since there is little or no accountability at any level in so many public school districts, performance seldom drives the superintendent recruitment or evaluation process. Once they are hired, superintendents must often react to the whims of boards of education that have very little understanding of how students learn and are preoccupied with political considerations. There is little reliable knowledge among administrators or boards of ed on what actually “works” in education, so supes and districts tend to chase one fad after another. You see this in the near-random curriculum changes, the organizational deck chair shuffling, and in teacher training trends — throughout the entire system, really. Being a superintendent is much more of a political position than an executive one. Fortunately for the people in that profession, even when a superintendent is judged “unsuccessful” in one position, it really doesn’t impede that person from finding a new job, often at a higher salary. Even the ones who get driven out of town with pitchforks still seem to have little difficulty finding their next gig before the severence in their prior contract runs out.

    Being a superintendent can be a miserable job — trying to get an incompetent board, intransigent unions, discouraged staffs, and frustrated parents to pull together for students’ benefit. But there are some definite positives to being a supe: 1) it pays well; 2) the required educational preparation (PhD in Ed) is time-consuming but not particularly rigorous; and 3) best of all, job performance doesn’t relate to career outcomes. A lot of people would hate that kind of work life, but enough people prefer it to keep the creaky machine sputtering along.

  84. Theresa Harrington Says:

    For the first time ever, I have just been told by a school employee that she wouldn’t take a message for the campus administrator and that I had to send an email.
    Perhaps district employees should read the draft strategic plan, specifically Goal 4, which states:
    “4 Respectful, Responsive Service and Communication
    MDUSD district and site staff will be responsive and respectful while providing outstanding service to co-workers, students, parents, and community members.
    District and site staff will proactively seek opportunities to improve communication and customer service. Every person who interacts with MDUSD should be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, and cultural sensitivity.
    4.1 Proactively assess, adopt, and improve practices that encourage respectful, responsive customer service, both internally and externally.
    4.2 Strengthen communication systems to ensure that community members, parents, students, and employees receive information, responses to inquiries, and services in an open, courteous, and timely manner.
    4.3 Clarify and expand methods of and access to communication systems for staff, parents, and community/business groups.
    4.4 Celebrate and consistently communicate successes and innovations to community and staff.
    4.5 Diligently monitor and report progress on strategic plan initiatives.”
    I was calling to try to help the district achieve goal 4.4, but have been hitting a brick wall in my attempts to get access to a school to write about a positive behavior program. I have sent an email, as requested, but may end up having to go to a different district if I don’t hear back in time to do the story at an MDUSD school.

  85. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    After the recent debacle by Gary Eberhart on the Claycord blog, he probably made the edict that all media is verbotten.

    How about that for transparency? The whole lot of them in Dent need to be fired. They have forgotten that they work for us.

  86. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I attended a meeting at a high school yesterday, after being invited by some participants, and was instructed not to record the meeting since it wasn’t a public meeting.
    Later, when one community representative was saying a lot of really positive, exciting things about the program, one person said: “Too bad no one is recording this!”

  87. Doctor J Says:

    School sites are under tremendous “spend before the end” pressure from Bryan Richards’ edict to have all purchase orders turned in tomorrow [more than 60 days prior to end of fiscal year], and some even have to call emergency site council meetings to authorize the spending.

  88. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Northgate HS will host a “Turn on the Sun” event May 1:

  89. Doctor J Says:

    Which costume will Gary wear on May Day at Northgate ? VP Solar for Schreder ? Board Member ? Candidate for re-election ? Despite not being Board President, you can bet he will be there struting like a banty rooster.

  90. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is another federal program the district could pursue to help improve low-performing schools:

  91. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Contra Costa Board of Ed. to appoint rep to CVCHS governing board tonight:

  92. Doctor J Says:

    @#90 MDUSD can’t spend all of the SIG money now — they don’t know what to do with the low performing schools. One of these days Theresa will publish the SIG spending reports.

  93. g Says:

    Dr. J: I admit I have not kept up with the Sig performance. Wasn’t there a commitment for extra hours of instruction time and to put a 4hr x 4 week “early in” (or something like that) in place. Did they do all of that at the three schools this year? If so, and if it was voluntary attendance, did enough kids show up to justify the cost of paying for extra coaches teacher training and giving Sig teachers the increases in pay?

    Are there student performance assessments tied directly to teacher performance assessments?

  94. Doctor J Says:

    @G — The SIG funding to MDUSD and others was suspended after the first year because of non-compliance, including the increased learning time. The Feds required a Corrective Action Plan to be proposed and the increased learning time to be in place by day one of this year, 11-12, even though the CAP’s were not approved until November. The increased learning time caused MDEA to negotiate a 14% pay increase for the daily extra time of the students. More SIG money is being spent this year, but as I reported earlier as an example, Bel Air with about 400 children has about $2 Million of SIG money to spend this year. Do the math — they could have hired a daily tutor for each individual child in the school.
    The performance assessments negotiated with MDEA require tutors for the teachers — I don’t think those were hired. It doesn’t appear those performance assessments tied to student performance are in place as called for by the SIG. I am not sure all three schools have their early return programs in place. When you read their plans and what they have done, there are large gaps. Its unclear if their SASS coaches understand what each school is supposed to be doing.

  95. g Says:

    Dr. J: Thanks. I do remember this all going on earlier this year, and then later that the MDHS QEIA seemed so reminiscent of the SIG problems–get the money, promise them anything, ignore the rules, when you get caught just go back and plead ignorance, say you’re sorry, and then promise to do better next time if they’ll just give you one more chance. But here we are, with this year nearly over.

    But then, saying all that, it seems like everything the district does. Get the money…promise them anything…ignore the rules…oops.

  96. Doctor J Says:

    @G#95 I think the Feds are using telephone SIG audit teams again. It will depend if they go beyond the increased learning time requirement, as to their effectiveness. The irony of the SIG is that it was “competative” so when MDUSD doesn’t use all of its grant money, that is grant money that another district could have used, but was denied.

  97. Doctor J Says:

    Three nights of “forums” by Lawrence to discuss property tax increases, and not a single comment. That uneventful ? I know it was horribly poorly publicized, but nothing to report ?

  98. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I attended the first meeting in Bay Point, which was very poorly attended. I have been meaning to do a blog post. I also shot some video of the presentation.
    The survey does not give an apples-to-apples comparison showing how much a typical homeowner would pay under each scenario, so I intend to provide that.
    The biggest point from the audience Monday was Linda Loza’s comment that she has received emails from several of the people who signed the original proposal who adamantly oppose the option that would include Capital Appreciation Bonds.
    Also, it was noted by John Parker that none of the estimates provided by the district include the bond debt that has already been issued (in terms of total debt service and total interest). I intend to include that in my upcoming blog post as well.

  99. Doctor J Says:

    Slam on Lawrence, Brothers and MDUSD: Only 33 Current CVHS students chose to move to different high schools and not go with the CVHS charter. How embarassing.

  100. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Do you know if any of them were special ed students (since Lawrence claimed that would cost the district more)?
    Also, do you know how many students outside the CVHS boundaries have opted to transfer out of the district and into CVCHS?

  101. Doctor J Says:

    Only 32 current 8th graders who are in the CVHS feeder pattern are going to high schools other than CVCHS. 28 to Northgate and 4 to Concord.

    This is a major slam on Lawrence and Eberhart. Gary, you bet on the wrong horse.

  102. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Since Northgate is higher-achieving than CVHS currently, this is no big surprise. If no special ed students transfer out of CVCHS, the district may need to lower its estimates for how much the charter is costing.
    At last night’s COE Board meeting, I was struck by the difference between the county’s strong recommendation against the proposed WCCUSD charter, in contrast to its strong support for the CVHS charter. Clearly, the COE staff was impressed by the CVCHS application and is willing to reject applications that don’t measure up.
    The county expects to vote on updates to its charter policies, to bring them in line with state Ed. Code. Although the draft policy is not posted online, it is available by request. Some trustees suggested approving the changes last night, but others wanted to wait for a second reading to give the public a chance to weigh in.
    Also, the county staff strongly urged districts to prepare to implement TK, instead of waiting for the May revision, since it is in the law now and funding is available for it.

  103. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#102 Who from MDUSD was there to hear the recommendations of county staff ? I suspect no one.

  104. Theresa Harrington Says:

    No one was there from MDUSD, since there was nothing on the agenda specifically related to the district. The assistant supt. made the TK comments as part of her staff report, but said she has been making the same recommendations during meetings with district reps. She didn’t say which districts have been sending reps to the TK meetings.

  105. Anon Says:

    Dr J 99-Does your 28 number include the students in CVHS feeder pattern who can attend North Gate because they live in Crystal Ranch? A number of students from those middle schools attend North Gate every year because of the old developer agreement. Is Crystal Ranch considered part of CVHS feeder pattern so they can choose CVCHS, or not?

  106. Anon Says:

    I heard yesterday that CVCHS numbers are up more than 100 students over the current enrollment with more on a waiting list. I would say that was telling.

  107. Doctor J Says:

    Why are all of the boy’s basketball coach positions vacant at Northgate High ?

  108. Another Parent Says:

    Theresa, I’m sure the County would not have had a favorable reaction to CVCHS’s original charter petition. I read it, page by page, and it was one hot mess. The version submitted to the county was the one that resulted from MDUSD staff working with the petitioners and telling them point by point what had to be changed. I hope the CV teachers sent MDUSD staff big bouquets of flowers in thanks. They wouldn’t have gotten approval from the County without all the help from MDUSD staff.

    I remember reading that one of the large school districts in SoCal was toying with the idea of refusing to have district staff work with charter petitioners on their petitions before they were brought to the board for a final vote. Their theory was that if the charter petitioners couldn’t even manage to write a decent petition, there wasn’t much chance they’d actually be able to run a school.

    Did CVCHS get accepted into the El Dorado County SELPA?

    I understand that CVCHS has adopted a half-in/half-out approach with UMDAF. They will be a member for fundraising purposes only, participating in the annual 5K run, but they won’t co-mingle their fees with UMDAF or the District. Do you know what effect this will have on financing sports in the remaining MDUSD high schools?

    You mentioned changes to the ed. code regarding charters. What are the changes?


  109. Anon Says:

    Did y’all see agenda item 16.7 to extend contracts to June 2015

  110. Jim Says:

    #106 “Another Parent” — “Bouquets” for MDUSD? Are you joking?!? How can you be so “sure” that the County BoE would have had an unfavorable reaction to the CVCHS petition without the “help” from MDUSD? Please. Many of us who follow this blog read the petition for ourselves and saw it as a better example of planning and concern for student achievement than ANYTHING that MDUSD has produced in years. The months spent “working with” MDUSD may have dotted some i’s and changed some formatting, but looking at the before and after versions, it is hard to justify the district’s input in light of the delay it caused.

    If people want to see a genuine “hot mess”, just follow Theresa’s blog covering the corruption, dysfunction, and almost comic incompetence of the MDUSD leadership, which they insist on making so evident almost every week of the year. You can make insinuations about the charter, and apologize for this shrinking district, but the growing waiting list at CVCHS will tell the tale. No wonder that MDUSD dreads school choice. When parents have an opportunity to escape this laughing stock monopoly, they will do so.

  111. Another Parent Says:

    Jim, I read the original petition cover to cover and listened to the teachers and was very disappointed by what I read and heard. I wanted to see some innovative and well thought out ideas for improving student performance and a financial plan to show they could implement their ideas. What I saw and heard from the teachers was a belly full of complaints about how the teachers were treated. They wanted to be paid more. They didn’t want their pay and benefits reduced by furlough days. They wanted to spend more time in training classes. They wanted additional non-teaching time each day. They didn’t want to take direction from administrators. They wanted more respect from students. They didn’t like the way the students dressed…. On and on about how unhappy they were and what changes they would make to improve the workplace for the teachers.

    What I did not find was a well thought out educational plan for the students or a detailed financial plan for implementing anything. What was the educational philosophy behind the charter? How would it be different educationally from the current school? What research had they done to come up with a better way to educate the students? What detailed plans did they have and how did they tie to a financial plan? As a parent I could read the charter petition and see exactly what was new educationally and what was just a rehash of what was already being done. Believe me, there weren’t many new ideas.

    I was also disappointed in how little research the teachers did in how to write a charter document and what had to be included. It wouldn’t have been hard to do. There was a lot of information online that detailed what other districts (ones that have a lot of experience evaluationg charter petitions) require. It was the same detailed info that MDUSD would require. The teachers could have saved themselves and the community a lot of aggravation if they had simply done their research.

    In fact, it was quite clear that beyond discovering they could get more money by converting to a charter, they hadn’t done much research at all. What does it say about their research when one of the charter schools they named as one for us to emulate was recently involved in a huge scandel involving multiple teachers molesting students and very nearly had its charter revoked for poor management? If the teachers had done even the slightest research, they would have known that and not advertized them as a school for us to emulate. I really expected better of them.

    One of the allowable reasons for a teacher trigger conversion is to provide a better work environment for teachers. I have no doubt CVCHS will succeed on that level – they’ve put themselves in charge. I’m more doubtful it will provide a better education for students. It was quite disappointing to see that the County Board of Ed warned CVCHS that the math plan they were proposing had already been proven to lower student achievement. Is that the best the CV teachers could do? It doesn’t bode well for the future.

    I wish them well, I really do, for the students’ sake. But I am very worried.

  112. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Another Parent,

    I am sure you are allowed to enroll your child elsewhere. For those of us in CVCHS don’t you worry your little heart one bit, this is the best thing that could ever happen to us.

  113. Flippin' Tired Says:

    “Doctor” J, where did you get the numbers you quote in #99 and #101?

  114. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a blog post about the contract extensions and other items on Monday’s agenda:

  115. Jim Says:

    “I wish them well, I really do, for the students’ sake. But I am very worried.”

    Another Parent, if I were you, I would re-direct your worries to the irresponsible shananigans brewing in the Dent Center (silencing thoughtful critics on the board, extending sweeheart contracts before the next election, etc, etc.) If you’re so concerned about “the students’ sake”, take note of how much damage this sort of mismanagement has already done to our district.

    Like so many critics of charters and school choice, you leave out one small detail about the CVCHS conversion — the existing school and how well it is doing as a monopoly provider of public education to the students in its attendcance area. Did you subject the district’s educational “plans” to the same sort of scrutiny that you paid to the charter’s? Of course not, because the district doesn’t have such plans. In fact, it has never bothered to plan for the future to the extent that the charter organizers were asked to do. (Remember all of the granular questions asked about the CVCHS teacher schedule for 2012-13 — when NO school in MDUSD had such a plan itself?)

    The point of a charter is not to achieve some ideal educational environment and program. That would be nice, but that is not the point. The point is to provide a BETTER publicly funded education ALTERNATIVE to the sorry schools being operated by by so many of our large district monopolies. It’s about CHOICE — you know, the kind of choice that you exercise in almost every other area of your life.

    Clearly, the parents and teachers saw that CVHS was in trouble. We’ll see whether the parents and teachers who operate CVCHS — the adults with the most to gain or lose — end up providing a better education for those students. But one thing is indisputable: those families now have a CHOICE, where they didn’t before. We may soon see why the district (and their apologists) were so afraid to see that choice arrive.

  116. Flippin' Tired Says:

    “Doctor” J, where did you get the numbers you quote in #99 and #101?

  117. Flippin' Tired Says:

    “Doctor” J, are you ever going to tell us where you got the numbers you quote in #99 and #101? Or did you make them up?

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