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Archive for April, 2012

Contra Costa County Board of Education appoints CVCHS governing board representative

At its April 18 meeting, the Contra Costa County Board of Education voted 4-1 to appoint former Pittsburg trustee and retired educator Joseph Arenivar as their representative on the Clayton Valley Charter High School governing board. There were no other candidates.

Here is a description of the board’s discussion from the minutes:

“The Board interviewed Joseph Arenivar, a candidate who applied to serve as the Board’s representative to the Clayton Valley Charter High School (CVCHS) governing Board.

After interviewing and rating the candidate, the Board voted by the following roll call vote to appoint Mr. Arenivar to serve on the CVCHS governing Board: Mirabella, nay; Elster, aye; Gomes, aye; Asadoorian, aye; and Ruehlig, aye (M/S: Asadoorian/Gomes).

Mrs. Sakata then distributed a portion of the CVCHS petition that addresses the role of the Board’s representative to its governing board. Mr. Asadoorian asked where there was language thatCounty Board of Education addressed the description of the position to which the County Board has appointed Mr. Arenivar, and Mrs. Sakata pointed out the pertinent language. Mr. Asadoorian asked who would contact CVCHS to inform it of the Board’s decision with regard to appointing its representative to the CVCHS governing board, and Mrs. Sakata stated that she would do so tomorrow (April 19). Mrs. Mirabella expressed concern that the petition language speaks to Mr. Arenivar’s role in reporting to CCCOE staff rather than to the County Board, since she would like to be apprised of what is going on with regard to the charter schools approved by the Board. She stated her preference for having Mr. Arenivar make a report to the Board at least once a year and that staff should share any reports that Mr. Arenivar provides to them. Mrs. Sakata directed Mrs. Mirabella’s attention to the CVCHS petition and how there is no provision as to how the County Board’s representative is to report to the CCCOE; however, she noted that Mr. Arenivar could be invited to report out at a meeting of the County Board.

Mrs. Mirabella asked if reporting requirements and expectations of the Board could be included in the wording of the Board Policy on charter schools that the Board would be discussing later in the evening, and Mrs. Sakata pointed out that the Board has never had a reporting procedure with regard to its representatives to charter school boards. Mrs. Mirabella agreed that it is a gray area but that the Board has invited the executive director of Making Waves Academy to make annual reports to the Board. Mrs. Sakata agreed that, similarly, CVCHS representatives could be invited annually to make a presentation to the Board.

Mrs. Mirabella expressed concern that the Board has received no updates on the Flex Academy Charter School that it approved more than a year ago, and Mrs. Sakata stated that staff could include such updates in their staff reports and, additionally, the Board could also request presentations from charter schools; and she pointed out that this would be a consistent way to
address reporting requirements and that this is historically how updates have been handled in the past.

Mrs. Elster asked if a CCCOE Cabinet member currently serves as a liaison to the CVCHS, and Dr. Comfort responded that, depending on the specific topic or issue, the Cabinet member with the particular expertise would become involved. She clarified further that usually Dr. Jane Shamieh from Business Services works with the CVCHS and that she or a member of her staff handles the curriculum/educational issues.”

The board also received a copy of a letter sent to Trustee Pamela Mirabella by Walnut Creek resident Annie George, who expressed concerns about the financial impact CVCHS will have on the rest of the district and the makeup of the governing board. In addition, she supported the idea of pulling Walnut Creek schools out of MDUSD and redrawing boundaries for Ygnacio Valley Elementary, Oak Grove Middle School and Ygnacio Valley HS.

Do you support the board’s decision to appoint Arenivar as its CVCHS governing board rep?

Posted on Monday, April 30th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County Board of Education, Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 16 Comments »

Free Asperger’s presentation tonight at Valle Verde Elementary

With permission from the Mt. Diablo school district’s Community Advisory Committee blog, I am reposting information about an Asperger’s presentation tonight at Valle Verde Elementary:

“April-Autism Awareness Month Event at Valle Verde

As part of Autism Awareness Month, Valle Verde will be hosting a special presentation on Thursday, April 26 at 6:30pm in the Multi-Use Room. Dr. Kathryn Stewart, a clinical psychologist and author based in Walnut Creek, will share information on students with Asperger’s Disorder, its effect on social and academic functioning, and implications for intervention. Dr. Stewart, founder of the Orion Academy in Moraga, published a book in 2002 entitled Helping Children with NLD or Asperger’s Syndrome: A Parent’s Guide and is an adjunct professor at The Wright Institute in Berkley. All interested parties are welcome to attend.”

The school is at 3275 Peachwillow Lane in Walnut Creek.

Do you believe the district provides adequate services for students with Asperger’s Disorder?

Posted on Thursday, April 26th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Walnut Creek | 2 Comments »

Pleasant Hill Middle School student approached by suspicious man

Pleasant Hill Middle School Principal Terry McCormick sent the following message to families Monday, regarding an incident involving a man approaching a female student:

“Dear Families of Pleasant Hill Middle School,

This is Ms. McCormick, principal. This morning around 7:35 in the location of Patterson and Oak Park, by the Safeway, an 8th grade female student was approached by an older male adult on foot. The adult first asked directions and then proceeded to ask more personal questions of the student including age, name, school, address, and whether she had a boyfriend. The student felt uncomfortable and immediately proceeded to school. The male did not attempt to touch or pursue her.

The suspect is described as a Latino male, possibly 40, with a strong accent. He is approximately 5’6”, average built, brown eyes, a mustache, and kinky short black hair. He was wearing a black hooded zip up sweat shirt, blue jeans, and black shoes.

The police have been notified and are pursuing all leads. Students will be notified through a school wide announcement before dismissal.

Please use this as an opportunity to talk to your child about being safe to and from school. Encourage them to walk in groups and always report any suspicious activity to the nearest adult.”

Are you concerned about such incidents?

Posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Pleasant Hill | No Comments »

Live blog of April 23, 2012 MDUSD board meeting

Board President did not report any votes regarding the litigation out of closed session.

Public Comment:

1. Pete Torney: alt ed foundation art and wine fundraiser 2-5 p.m. May 6 at Lakeview room in Heather Farm Park. Info is at Cost is $35 in advance or $45 at the door.

2. Debbie LaDue: Referred to CC Times story about Walnut Creek School District raises. “I hope this district takes guidance from its neighboring district and values the contributions of its non-management employees.”

3. Stephanie Perry, Mother of Horizon alternative education student: I heard the program is going to be moved to YVHS. It’s better for my daughter to be on a smaller campus where all the teachers are accessible to all the students. It’s a very calm atmosphere. The reason we left Clayton Valley was because she didn’t want to be on a big campus. Please reconsider and leave Horizon where it is.

4. Jo Ann Semas, Grandmother of Prospect alternative high student: I became aware that Prospect is going to be moving to YVHS. I request that the board do further study and reconsider and allow Prospect school to stay where it is. I’ve taken my grandson to YVHS for summer school and the congestion was horrendous. I can imagine that bringing Horzon and Prospect there is going to make it worse.

5. Carolyn Accatino, library media teacher at Meadow Homes Elem. I would like to publicly acknowledge the parents, teachers and students here tonight. We’re here of course to hear of the English learner plan, but also to give the community and board a vision of how much we care about our community. We are poised for success next year. Everything is ready and we have too many beloved students to do this. We ask you to consider boundary changes so we can best serve our students. We look forward to the Wednesday night meeting with the superintendent and Rose Lock. Please don’t shove us under the rug. Please remember us.

6. Odessa LaFrancois: NAACP: Thanks for coming to our banquet. Maybe next year, MDUSD students will be receiving scholarships, not just Brentwood students.

7. Corie Irving: daughter attends Sun Terrace Elem. I have a huge problem with the communication with our principal and what has happened with our first grade class. Since January, our teacher in first grade has been on maternity leave. We’ve had 13 substitute teachers with no communication to the parents. I’m a passionate parent when it comes to my daughter’s education. We’re going over STAR testing. My daughter is not at grade level where she needs to be. I feel this is a major concern. I don’t feel she is being taught appropriately. I got a call from Susan Peterson on April 14. After that, I got a call from the school about four days later to have a meeting. The primary teacher went out in Janaary. Why did it take three months for me to get communication from the principal? What’s the district’s policy on notifying parents when you’re going to have 13 different substitutes? Where’s the protocol? I’m concerned about security at the school. We’re on Port Chicago Highway…

8. Katherine Friedman: Parent at Sun Terrace Elementary. My son is in the same class as Corey’s. When the first substitute left, I expressed my concern to Mrs. Jacobs. I expressed my concern several times and was brushed off. It wasn’t until I submitted a letter to the district that I got a letter from Mrs. Jacobs. My son is no longer progressing. The school year is almost out (tearfully) and my son is struggling and my class is struggling. For me to hear that staff are afraid to speak up, it’s not okay. When I came in here, all these parents are greeting each other. That’s what our school needs, a fun environment back.

9. Yasmine, Pres. of DELAC and mother of kindergartner at Hidden Valley Elem. who is bilingual and also a preschooler. Thanks to the board at the fact we finally have a master plan for English language learners. I remember what it was like to not have an EL plan. I understand how traumatic it can be for a student to not have the support practices in place. By choice my children are bilingual. I want them to be able to function on multiple levels. I want to express how excited I am to have this EL master plan, which is decades overdue. I hope it will be implemented. I’ve been looking for a bilingual program for my children and if the Meadow Homes program is eliminated it would be devastating. I want my son to speak English and Spanish fluently, so I urge you to support the EL master plan.

10. Louis Acevedo: Father of six children, all who have attended Sun Terrace Elem. In this last year or so, since we’ve had the new principal, I feel she covers up a lot of issues. My son was injured and nobody notified me. A week later, he had a bloody nose and nobody notified me. My kids feel like they’re bullied by her. Nobody wants to speak up because they feel like they’re going to be terminated. My son looks like he’s in fear when he’s around her. It seems like there’s a communication problem and there’s a secuirity issue. It’s just a lot of issues. My neighbor who picks up my children has the same concerns as well. (applause from audience).

11. Karen Gamez, parent of Sun Terrace Elem. students. Three children, two are in sun terrace. When other people ask about ms. Jacobs, they feel they can’t speak to her. They are afraid. I have had numerous conversations with her, I have emailed ms. Lcok regarding safety, I have spoken with ms. Jacobs, brushing it off, goes into other subjects. Latin speaking parents feel inferior to her. Many others feel they will lose their jobs. That is ridiculous that we cannot communicate with our princpal. It has come to the point that I have to email the school board. I feel my children are no longer safe. I have a friend who is thinking of transferring their son. I’m feeling the same way, but I can’t transfer them. She told me she has hired five people (for security). I have yet to see these five people. Those are my main things, safety and communication, like every other parent.

(Note: I ran out of time and was unable to blog the entire meeting. I will post an update with more information as time permits.)

Board agreed to raise tax rate on 2002 and 2010 Measure C bonds and voted 4-1 to extend contracts for superintendent and four top administrators.

APRIL 25 UPDATE: Here are my notes from the rest of the public comments:

12. Dan Roll, student services, Sun Terrace: Listening to parent’s’ concerns tonigtht, I’’m hearing communication, security and wanting to have a feeling of support from Principal Gretchen Jacobs. I wanted to come here tonight to communicate to you guys, that based on conversations I’’ve had with Gretchn Jacobs, I believe she is listening to these concerns and is working on ways to resolve all these. Because of my nature, I spend more time than anyone else watching Gretchen at work and I have watched her working very, very hard at that school. I believe that she cares a great deal about what happens at that school.

13. Mary (didn’t catch last name): Please reconsider your decision to reocate CIS from PHMS to YVHS. This has literally been a lifesaver for him. If you really want to do what’’s best for the kids, keep the program as it is. It’’s working. If you really want to serve all kids, please keep this program as it is. At the very least, please make sure if it is moved that the programs receive the space they need.

14. Willie Mims, regarding concerns raised by parents at Sun Terrace: It would seem to me that there are some laws against harassment, intimidation, and bullying. There are state laws, so actually it’’s a crime for someone not to handle it. I would encourage the parents to file a civil rights complaint against the principal. I have also come to talk about something that maybe you’’ve not heard about: The California Judicial Report card and the UCLA Civil Rights project. In the California dist report card, they graded 500 of the largest districts in California. You got an overall grade for improvement — a D. For performance of students of color, you got a D. Performance of low-income studs, a D. Improvement grade of C. Improvement of low-income students, C. In terms of closing the achievement gap between African Americans and whites, F. Achievement gap between Latinos and whites, F. So, what this report card is saying is that you are failing to educate two specific subgroups. It is a crime, because you are bound by law to educate every student that you have in this district and you already know that yourself, that you have failed to do that. On the Civil Rights project report card, it’’s entitled: “Suspended Education.” There was a huge disproportionate number of African American students who were suspended across this state. Why? (Time buzzer rings.) I’’ll stop, but I’’ll come back and finish my report at the next meeting (wild applause).

15. John Ferrante: I got an email today about an event called “Turn on the Sun,” from the Mt. Diablo school district for an event Thursday, May 1st, 1 p.m. at Northgate High School. Members of CUES, who got Measure C on the ballot, a lot of them work. (Also mentioned the Measure C oversight committee.)– I found out about it Friday in the paper. Not at the bond oversight committee meeting the night before. We’ve have had communication problems in this district since Bob Baum. I have been complaining for year after year to get it fixed. It still isn’’t fixed.

16. Ashtyn Friday: I am a student, obviously, because my notes are on my smart phone. (Opposed Horizons alternative ed move to YVHS.) I’’ve been able to succeed so much more. The main reason that I’’ve heard of that we are going there is to get out of our high schools. We’’re at a middle school. The majority of us are not messing with little kids. (Said the location is convenient.) Our teachers can convene a meeting and fix things like that. You put us in six different rooms. We created a community through our food program, because I want to be a chef. We’’re going to a college. I’’ve made friends through that and if you separate it and get it where it’’s so discombobulated, maybe it (won’t) work. W’e’re like the gem of the district, not something you can throw away. Our building was built for Horizons. What are you going to do with it? We don’t want to be with a bunch of other high schoolers, who are like: ‘Why are you here?’ We want to do our work and get out of there. So I strongly suggest that you rethink this whole thing about moving us. It’’s not like you’’ve gotten a whole bunch of complaints, so please reconsider.

Trustee Gary Eberhart: In light of some of the comments this evening, request that the superintendent get back to the Board of Education with an update of what’’s going on at Sun Terrace.

Trustee Cheryl Hansen: I would like to speak to the alternative education issue that is happening at Pleasant Hill Middle School. I don’’t recall having any conversation about this, so I’’d like to have some conversation. I don’’t know the genesis. I would like us to give some consideration and have some conversation about the process to inform staff and students who’’ve seemed equally surprised when I talked to them. It sounds like it’’s at the end of the school year.
I think we have time to get the information and give it some time and planning.

Please note that the above notes are not an exact transcript of comments, but are taken from my notes as people were speaking. I was in the lobby during public comment and was unable to videotape the comments.

APRIL 26 UPDATE: Here is a link to the meeting audio:

Do you think the board is responsive to community concerns?

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 219 Comments »

MDUSD contract extensions, bylaws and Points of Order

Mt. Diablo district resident Polly Bradbury forwarded me an email exchange between herself and Trustees Gary Eberhart and Linda Mayo regarding the proposed contract extensions on tonight’s agenda, which she has given me permission to post in my blog.

The first post is Bradbury’s email to the board, followed by responses from Eberhart and Mayo:

From: Polly Bradbury
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 2:36 PM
Subject: vote to extend contracts

“I urge to hold off on the vote to extend the contracts for the administrators whose contracts are not yet expiring. I see no reason for you to do this other than to avoid the possibility that a new board member may not vote the way you want them to. Furthermore, when the time is right to vote on contract extension I strongly feel that NO INCREASE IN SALARY IS APPROPRIATE. In this difficult financial time with teacher layoffs and budget disasters, the absolute worst move you could make is giving administrators who make 140k and more a raise. Consider the wrath that you will bear and remember you were elected by the people.
Polly Bradbury”

Response from Trustee Gary Eberhart, which was forwarded to me by Bradbury:


Thank you for the e-mail. There are no raises contained in the contract extensions which are on the Board agenda this evening. Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents typically look for new positions during the Summer months when they are uncertain of their standing with their district. If we do not extend these contracts, we will instead have to immediately begin work on conducting a Superintendent search and a search for the other Assistant Superintendent positions. So if the rationale for not extending the contracts is to save that decision for a future Board, wouldn’t it be even more drastic for this Board to have to search for and hire a new Superintendent and Assistant Superintendents this Summer? These are challenging times and will not be any easier if this Board begins to abdicate our responsibilities. That would certainly be a dereliction of duty.

Gary Eberhart”

Response from Trustee Linda Mayo, which was forwarded to me by Bradbury:

“Dear Ms. Bradbury:

I’ve read your email regarding this item and understand your position as stated.

A newly elected board member will only have hearsay information regarding the performance of individuals, rather than working with these individuals and informing themselves personally about the entire district operations. Individuals who provide governance training indicate it takes a year even two for trustees to understand the complicated issues. Qualified applicants are not readily available and because of controversies, over the years not attributed to these individuals, few qualified applicants will apply to MDUSD. Based on previous applications we’ll have applicants about ready to retire or applicants who have little experience.

Increased compensation for four individuals is based on a longevity clause as a percentage payable in the fourth year. 2012 is an anniversary year for that clause, these contracts don’t conclude until June 30 so it would be a breach of contract to not fund the longevity. All our labor groups have longevity clauses in order to encourage staff to remain in the district including teachers which is known as step and column. The superintendent’s contract also has a an increase factor which is and has been zero because the administrators have received no increase.

That being said, I am still determining my position. Thank you for writing to me.

Linda Mayo”

I also received an email from Trustee Cheryl Hansen, with a copy of an email she sent to Board President Sherry Whitmarsh regarding three items to be placed on the May 7 agenda, which have not been placed on previous agendas, as she requested.

The items are:
1) Her request to postpone extending contracts for the superintendent and other top administrators;
2) Her request that board appointments be made by the governing board, according to board bylaw 9140; and
3) Her request that the board continue its discussions regarding graduation requirements.

In a previous interview, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh told me she did not put Hansen’s agenda item regarding the contracts on an agenda because she was waiting for a “milestone” — which had been discussed during a closed session regarding the superintendent’s evaluation — to pass.

“When I brought that up (during closed session), she did not say anything,” Whitmarsh said of Hansen. “My undersgtanding was that Dr. Lawrence was talking to her about that. In the closed session — it was all board members in person — and we had talked about how contracts would be handled. It was not meant to go on the agenda until the milestone that I said would be hit.”

Whitmarsh also responded to Hansen’s concerns about the committee assignments, saying they had been done the same way every year (via email).

“Every year I’ve been on the board, they have always been done this way,” she said. “This has always been the way the board assignments have been made. She didn’t make any claim when I was asking for board assignments last year or this year.”

Whitmarsh said bylaws state that the creation of committees is by the board, but not committee assignments. She also said that Trustee Linda Mayo assured her that this was the way assignments had been previously made.

“It says the board creates committees,” Whitmarsh said. “It doesn’t say ‘committee assignments.”

But Hansen disagrees.

“Per Board Bylaw 9140, the Governing Board appoints members to serve as its representatives on district or advisory committees,” she wrote in an email. “Board Bylaw 9140 also states that, ‘when making such appointments, the Board shall clearly specify, on a case-bycase basis, what authority and responsibilities are involved. Board representatives shall not grant district support or endorsement for any activity without prior Board approval.’ The Governing Board has not appointed members to serve as committee representatives nor specified authority and responsibilities involved as required by Board Bylaws.”

Despite claims by Whitmarsh and Mayo that committee assignments have always been made by email, Hansen found several agendas and minutes from previous meetings that showed committee assignments were made at public meetings and were agendized.

Hansen also said she was surprised that Whitmarsh was claiming she couldn’t put the contracts on an agenda until a milestone had been reached, since that was never reported out of closed session.

Here are two video clips regarding Hansens’ Points of Order raised March 27:

First clip:

Here is the second clip, in which Whitmarsh refuses to rule on the Point of Order, saying it would be a Brown Act violation:

Although Superintendent Steven Lawrence said he would meet with Hansen and General Counsel Greg Rolen regarding her Points of Order, Hansen’s email to me today indicates that she is still unclear about why her items have not been placed on the agenda.

Whitmarsh said the Point of Order was “out of order” and Eberhart said it would be a misdemeanor to discuss the items, since they weren’t on the agenda. Hansen, on the other hand, says a Point of Order is not an agendized item. She requested that the items be placed on the April 23rd agenda.

Despite her request, her items do not appear on tonight’s agenda.

Do you think Hansen’s items should have appeared on tonight’s agenda?

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 51 Comments »

Ernie DeTrinidad announces his candidacy for MDUSD board

Mt. Diablo school district parent Ernie DeTrinidad has announced his intention to run for a seat on the school board in November.

Here is the message he has just sent out to the community (which I am reposting with his permission). Please note that the message is in both English and Spanish. I have italicized the Spanish translation:

“Family and Friends, Parents, Students and Residents of MDUSD,
Familiares, Amigos, Padres, Estudiantes y Residentes de MDUSD,

It is with humble pride that I announce to you all that I am a candidate for the Board of Education of Mount Diablo Unified School District in this election year 2012.
Es con mucho orgullo que les anuncio mi candidatura para ser miembro de la Mesa Directiva de la Escuela Unificada de el Distrito Monte Diablo (MSUSD) en la eleccion de Noviembre 2012.

Although we have shining stars throughout our District, they are few and far between. They are heavily outnumbered by our schools that are struggling and are below state standards. This District is in fact in the Program Improvement status with the State Board of Education for its low performances. It is for this reason that our District needs to allow and be open to change. Its attitude and lack of positive connection with our communities is a major reason of our low performance.
Aunque tenemos algunas excelentes escuelas en nuestro distrito, estas no son suficientes y se necesitan muchas mas. Hay demasiadas escuelas que estan bajo los standards establecidos por el Estado de California, y como consecuencia, el Distrito de Monte Diablo ha sido incluido en la lista de ‘Programa de Mejoramiento’ por falta de rendimiento. La falta de comunicacion con nuestras comunidades es uno de los motivos de esta desmejoria. Nuestro distrito necesita abrirze y permitir cambios positivos.

I am standing up to hear and voice your concerns, ideas and promote the tremendous need to do better for our students and schools. All residents of our District need to be represented and allowed access to the Board and District.
Me ofrezco a ustedes para escuchar y transmitir sus preguntas e ideas y promover la tremenda necesidad de ayudar a nuestros estudiantes y mejorar las escuelas de el Distrito. Todos los residentes de el Distrito necesitan ser mejor representados y tener acceso a la Mesa Directiva y el Distrito de una manera mas efectiva.

Support me in raising our District pride by voting for me, Ernie DeTrinidad, for a seat on the Board of Education for the MDUSD this upcoming November Election 2012. As a way of supporting my campaign, please forward this message to all your family and friends. Feel free to contact me with ideas, comments and/or concerns.
Apoyen mi candidatura para ser miembro de la Mesa Directiva de la Escuela Unificada del Distrito Monte Diablo (MSUSD) en la eleccion de Noviembre 2012. Por favor envien este mensaje a sus familiares y amistades como manera de apoyo a mi candidatura. Si tienen preguntas, ideas y comentarios me pueden contactar.


Ernie DeTrinidad”

Here is an information sheet that Trinidad forwarded, which I am also posting with his permission:

“Ernie DeTrinidad

 Clayton Resident for over 11 years
 Born and raised in San Francisco
 57 years old
 Hispanic, bilingual in Spanish and English
 Married for 21 years
 SF Giants Fan
 Father to six kids, youngest goes to a MDUSD elementary school
 Retired with 28 years in Construction Industry as a Crane Operator

 Volunteer in:
o School Classroom- 3 years
o Safety Committee- 1 year
o Parent Patrol- 2 years
o School Site Council- 2 years
o Rep for school at District English Learners Advisory Council (DELAC)- 2 years
o Member of Master Plan for English Learning (EL) Task Force- 8 months
o Manager/Coach for Junior Optimist Baseball League (JOBL), Concord -3 years
o American Cancer Society-Relay For Life 2012 – 6 months

 My goals, developed from my involvement and interaction with MDUSD, are:
o To make the District Board to be representative of the District population it serves: schools, students and parents.
o Promote leadership and involvement with staff and faculties.
o Bring student performance and achievement to state standards and higher.
o Negotiate fairly, and with concern for well being, with our respective unions.
o Provide transparency in all District matters.
o Change for the positive should be our new direction; my desire is to be a part of that change.

The present Board is not meeting the needs of today’s issues. The Board is not providing leadership and partnership between the District and its staff, site administrators, faculties, unions, business community, residents and our students are on the receiving end of this dysfunction.

With the tremendous budget cuts from the State and the disarray the State shows in its policies, it is up to the Board to provide stabilizing platform for the District and the residents it serves.

While some of our schools are performing well, the District as a whole is below state standards and this needs to change. Our site administrators and faculties, district staff are some of the most talented, dedicated and capable. The Board needs to find a direction that takes advantage of these valuable resources. It must also reflect the population it serves.

It must Open the Door to better dialogue and understanding the community in its entirety. Let’s Open the Door to give our students the advantages they need to deal with today’s world. Open the Door to better communication practices to allow the community to voice their opinions and concerns. Open the Door to better understanding between the District and staff, union
representatives, site administrators. The Board must go to the community not just the community come to the Board.

I am running for a seat on the Board and would appreciate your support!”

Please note that I am posting this to inform the community about DeTrinidad’s candidacy and this blog post is not an endorsement. If any other candidate wishes to submit a similar statement, I will post it as well (as I did for Brian Lawrence).

Board President Sherry Whitmarsh and Trustee Gary Eberhart will be up for re-election, but neither has said so far whether they intend to run.

Bay Point resident Debra Mason told me she is also running, but I have not received any official announcements from her. Mt. Diablo teachers’ union President Mike Langley told me that he also knows of one other person who is considering running.

Like Brian Lawrence, DeTrinidad said he is willing to respond to questions posed to him in comments on this blog post.

Do you support DeTrinidad’s candidacy?

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 17 Comments »

A closer look at top MDUSD administrator contracts and trustee benefits

Although the Mt. Diablo school district has posted the contracts for administrators being suggested Monday for extensions, these documents do not show the total cost of employment to taxpayers.

Based on information received by the Times from the district for 2011, here is a breakdown that shows base salary and “other” compensation, along with gross salary, Medical Dental Vision, “ER” (I’m not sure what ER stands for, but this equals the Total Pension costs), Misc. Benefits, Total Cost of Employment, then Total Pension.

Superintendent Steven Lawrence
Contract amount: $249,500 (with option to have portions paid to supplementary retirement or tax sheltered annuity)
Base Pay: $245,982.18
Other: $2,629.92
Gross: $248,612.10
MDV: $19,617.86
ER: $20,510.41
Misc. Benefits: $3,583.23
Total Cost of Employment: $292,323.60
Total Pension: $20,510.41

General Counsel Greg Rolen
Contract amount: $166,219.44 Dec. 1, 2009-June 30, 2010. As of July 1, 2010: $190,000 (with longevity increases in each of the fourth, eighth and 12th years of employment)
Base Pay: $186,857.06
Other: $3,499.92
Gross: $190,356.98
MDV: $19,617.86
ER: $24,589.22
Misc. Benefits: $9,235.77
Total Cost of Employment: $243,799.83
Total Pension: $24,589.22

Bryan Richards, Chief Financial Officer
Contract amount: $140,000 as of July 1, 2010 (with longevity increases in each of the fourth, eighth and 12th years of employment)
Base Pay: $139,184.70
Other: $1,080.00
Gross: $140,264.70
MDV: $15,783.38
ER: $18,121.82
Misc. Benefits: $8,607.57
Total Cost of Employment: $182,777.47
Total Pension: $18,121.82

Rose Lock, Assistant Superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support
Contract amount: $140,000 as of July 1, 2010 (not including longevity increases and stipends for advanced degrees; with longevity increases in each of the fourth, eighth and 12th years of employment)
Base Pay: $142,529.80
Other: $9,680.64
Gross: $152,210.44
MDV: $15,648.87
ER: $11,964.91
Misc. Benefits: $2,135.58
Total Cost of Employment: $181,959.80
Total Pension: $11,964.91

Julie Braun-Martin, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Services
Contract amount: $140,000 as of July 1, 2010 (not including longevity increases and stipends for advanced degrees; with longevity increases in each of the fourth, eighth and 12th years of employment)
Base Pay: $139,097.87
Other: $8,854.20
Gross: $147,952.07
MDV: $19,483.35
ER: $11,647.10
Misc. Benefits: $2,071.95
Total Cost of Employment: $181,154.47
Total Pension: $11,647.10

The total cost of employment for these five administrators is over $1 million, at $1,082,015.17.

Board President Sherry Whitmarsh is not recommending extending the contract of Mildred Browne, assistant superintendent of special education and student services, who earns $164,431.88 gross and has a total cost of employment of $189,299.75, including benefits.

For comparison purposes, the only other administrator who earns as much as these top cabinet-level administrators is Deb Cooksey, associate general counsel, who earned $150,640.99 gross and has a total cost of employment of $196,657.78, including benefits.

The board will also consider capping trustee benefits at the employee-only rate. Some trustees opt out of benefits coverage, if they receive it through their other employment.

Here is a look at Medical Dental and Vision benefits paid to trustees in 2011, along with salary and total cost of employment:

Trustee Gary Eberhart
Base Pay: $8,630.57
MDV: $14,661.06
Misc. Benefits: $425.84
Total Cost of Employment: $23,717.47

Trustee Linda Mayo
Base Pay: $8,664.00
MDV: $14,341.52
Misc. Benefits: $407.43
Total Cost of Employment: $23,412.95

Trustee (now Board President) Sherry Whitmarsh
Base Pay: $8,630.57
MDV: $1,560.08
Misc. Benefits: $660.22
Total Cost of Employment: $10,850.87

Trustee Cheryl Hansen
Base Pay: $8,664.00
MDV: $0
Misc. Benefits: $662.77
Total Cost of Employment: $9,326.77

Trustee Lynne Dennler
Base Pay: $8,630.57
MDV: $174.46
Misc. Benefits: $125.61
Total Cost of Employment: $8,930.64

The total cost of employment for the five trustees is $76,238.70. Trustees Gary Eberhart and Linda Mayo appear to be paid benefits in excess of the single employee rate.

In an effort to cut costs, the board previously eliminated benefits for employees who work less than four hours a day.

Do you believe taxpayers should pay more in benefits for trustees than they pay to part-time employees working less than four hours a day?

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 59 Comments »

Mt. Diablo school board may extend top administrator contracts Monday

Mt. Diablo school board President Sherry Whitmarsh is pushing on Monday to renew contracts through June, 2015 for Superintendent Steven Lawrence; Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support; Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent of Personnel Services; Bryan Richards, Chief Financial Officer; and General Counsel Greg Rolen.

Each of their contracts is set to expire in June 2013. Trustee Cheryl Hansen has repeatedly asked to place an item on the agenda that would delay contract extensions for the superintendent and other top officials until after the November election, so new trustees could play a role in selecting district leaders.

Whitmarsh said she did not place Hansen’s item on the agenda previously because she told board members in closed session that she was waiting for a “milestone” to pass. Hansen was so frustrated by Whitmarsh’s failure to place her item on the agenda that she called for a Point of Order on the matter earlier this month.

At the same meeting, Hansen called for another Point of Order protesting Whitmarsh’s decision to appoint trustees to committees via email, instead of during a public board meeting, which she said violated board bylaws.

Hansen has also often butted heads with Trustee Gary Eberhart, who has accused her of failing to follow board protocol. Hansen, on the other hand, has said Eberhart and Whitmarsh aren’t playing by the rules.

Since Hansen was elected along with Trustee Lynne Dennler two years ago, trustees have held two facilitated retreats to try to get along better. On Monday, a new bylaw is being introduced that would allow the board to censure trustees who fail to serve according to high ethical standards.

“In order to be able to enforce conformance to its ethical policies,” the draft bylaw states, “the Board of Education must have a procedure by which it can censure its own members for violations of its policies or bylaws of the Board of Education.”

In addition, the board will consider holding six “public input and informational meetings” focused on the strategic plan, Bay Point school planning, and Measure C bond construction projects, planning and concerns. Originally, Hansen suggested less structured meetings where the public could give feedback to the superintendent and board about their job performance.

Hansen has also suggested reducing benefits for trustees to the employee-only rate, instead of having the district foot the bill for trustees’ families. District staff is recommending against this budget-cutting measure.

Mike Langley, president of the Mt. Diablo district teachers’ union, said he is shocked by Whitmarsh’ proposal to renew the contracts 14 months before they are set to expire. Usually, such proposals are presented for information first, before coming back at a later meeting for a vote.

In this case, however, Whitmarsh is springing the contract extensions on the public just days before seeking a final vote that could have a major impact on the direction of the district for the next three years. Langley said the November statewide election could also greatly affect district budgets and might force some to shorten the school year.

“Do we really want a locked-in remuneration for the leadership to be set at a quarter of a million dollars a year?” he said.

Three potential candidates have already stepped forward to challenge the incumbents in November: Brian Lawrence, Debra Mason and Ernesto DeTrinidad. Brian Lawrence said the new board should decide whether to extend current contracts.

Do you think the current board should extend the contracts Monday?

Posted on Friday, April 20th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 45 Comments »

MDUSD and SunPower to strut their stuff at Northgate event

The Mt. Diablo school district and SunPower plan to highlight the district’s mammoth solar project during a “Turn on the Sun” dedication event at 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 1.

Here are details, distributed to the press by the Ogilvy PR firm:

“California’s schools are expected to achieve $1.5 billion in savings on electricity costs over the next 30 years through the use of on-site solar power systems. At a time when schools are being forced to make very tough budgeting decisions, that equates to a lot of pencils, laptops and teachers’ salaries.

Are you interested in joining SunPower, a leading California-based solar technology company, and the Mount Diablo Unified School District on Tuesday, May 1st to celebrate the largest solar school district installation in the country?

You’ll have to opportunity to speak with an executive from SunPower, who can discuss Sunpower’s role in making solar power systems more affordable for California’s schools, and see the newly installed system at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek.

A few details on SunPower’s partnership with the California School Board Association and the Mount Diablo Installation:

– 12.1 megawatts of solar power will be installed at 51 Mount Diable Unified School District (MDUSD) campuses by fall of 2012

– This project will offset 92% of MDUSD’s electricity costs, which will save more than $220 million over the next 30 years

– These savings will help the district sustain and enhance crucial educational programs for students”

The event will take place at Northgate High School, 425 Castle Rock Road, in Walnut Creek.

According to a PowerPoint presentation to the district’s Parent Advisory Council by Superintendent Steven Lawrence on April 4, the solar projects are resulting in the following savings:

“- Beginning in the 2012-13 school year reduce our PG&E bill from $3.5 million to under $500,000

– Also, we do not have to include an annual increase of 4 percent annual to our PG&E bill or estimate increased PG&E costs when HVAC upgrades are completed

– Generate California Solar Initiative funds of $3 million each year for the next five years.”

Do you support the board’s decision to complete the solar projects with the $348 million Measure C bond first, before working on HVAC, technology and modernization at school sites?

3:10 PM UPDATE: This event is invitation-only.

Posted on Friday, April 20th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 22 Comments »

MDUSD Bond Oversight Committee to discuss annual report tonight

The Mt. Diablo school district’s Bond Oversight Committee will hold a special meeting tonight to discuss its annual report to the board.

Since there is no direct link to the agenda on the district’s website and it doesn’t appear on the district’s home page, I am posting the agenda below:

“Mt. Diablo Unified School District
2010 Measure C Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee Special Meeting
Thursday, April 19, 2012
1936 Carlotta Drive
Board Room, Dent Center

7:00 p.m.

 Call to order

 Public Comment

 Annual Report to the Board of Education”

Since it is impossible to link to the draft annual report, I am posting the content below, which appears in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. Please note that it covers the year 2010-11, so it refers to things that have already happened (as of now) in the future tense.

“2010 Measure C
Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee
Annual Report to the Board of Education
October 11, 2011

Education Code Section 15280(b) requires that the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee must issue an annual report of the result of its activities.

2010 Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee
• CBOC membership approved by the Board of Education on August 10, 2010
• All seven (7) mandated chairs filled
• Three (3) resignations since formation but all have been filled through recruitment and subsequent Board action
• CBOC has met six(6) times since formation. All meetings posted per Ralph M. Brown Act.
• Financial/Performance Audit conducted

Bond Sales
• August 2010:
Series A: $50,456,475
Series B: $59,540,000
• April 2011
Series C: $3,517,200.40
Series D: $7,252,552.71

• Program has encumbered $92.2 million in contracts and administration costs as well as $5.06 million in change orders and
$3.78 in additional Board approved projects.
• As of July 31, 2011 we have expended approximately $26.4 million on construction and design services
• Projects tracking on budget

• All Increment 1 and 2 sites have erected structures
• All comprehensive HS’s, Cambridge, Monte Gardens, and Dent Center have PV
• Interconnections in progress
• Increment 3 sites in design
• Commissioning of completed sites to begin this fall
• All Increment 1 and 2 sites are on schedule to have PV installed by 1/1/12

• Phase 1 sites have been submitted to DSA (LVAC, Mt. Diablo ES, Valley View MS, Sequoia ES, Ayers ES, Foothill MS, Sun Terrace ES)
• Equipment Pre-Purchase RFP to be issued in October
• Phase 2 site engineering/deign to commence in November, 2011

• Assessments complete
• Engineering/Design has started

• RFP for Architectural services for Increment 1 sites tentatively planned for issuance by December 2011

Irrigation Program
• The Irrigation Program has been scoped and will be scheduled to go to construction pending completion of additional pre-design assessment”

Please note that this meeting will likely begin before the meeting regarding the proposed property tax increase has concluded at Monte Gardens Elementary, next door. That meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the multi-use room at 3841 Larkspur Drive in Concord.

Although Superintendent Steven Lawrence has claimed that the district originally estimated the solar budget to be $111.8 million, there is no evidence of this or any other project budget in the annual report. The district has, however, commonly estimated the total solar project cost at $93 million.

The annual report also does not specify the projects that were ostensibly paid for with the Series C Qualified School Construction Bonds. According to the bond documents:

“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.]”

Are you satisfied with the level of detail in the draft annual report?

Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 40 Comments »