Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for April, 2012

Seeking college-bound seniors and their parents for upcoming story

Sharon Noguchi, our San Jose Mercury News education reporter, is working on a story about families making decisions about how to afford sending their kids to college next year.

She’s looking for seniors, or parents of seniors, who are making financial calculations, or even refinancing homes and pleading with financial aid offices to boost their assistance. She’s especially interested in speaking with someone from the East Bay, to round out her regional story.

If you are are a high school senior, or a high school counselor or teacher adviser who knows families who might be willing to participate in the story, please contact Noguchi at 408-271-3773 or

She’s trying to finish the piece by early next week, before the May 1 college decision day.

Also, if anyone wants to comment on the issue of paying for college, please feel free to post here!

Posted on Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
Under: Education | No Comments »

MDUSD superintendent warns community about suspicious man who reportedly tried to lure girl into his car

Mt. Diablo schools Superintendent Steven Lawrence has issued a message to the community warning that an El Dorado Middle School student reported that a man tried to lure her into his car while she was walking to school this morning.

Here is the message:

Lawrence advised parents to remind their children not to talk to people in cars.

Are you concerned about this incident?

APRIL 17 UPDATE: Here is more information:

Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2012
Under: Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district | No Comments »

MDUSD to hold forums regarding proposed property tax increase

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?

Posted on Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 117 Comments »

A closer look at proposal to increase bond tax rates in MDUSD

Whether you call it “accelerating bond sales” or “increasing the tax rate,” the Mt. Diablo school board’s decision to consider issuing $227 million in construction bonds as soon as June could mean property owners will see their taxes for district construction bonds rise this year, while also seeing faster progress on construction projects.

The board is reviewing options for raising the tax rate on the district’s combined $348 Measure C bond passed in 2010 and its $250 million Measure C bond approved by voters in 2002. Trustees told property owners they would extend the rate of $60 per $100,000 for both measures, meaning tax rates wouldn’t increase.

Now, they are considering breaking that promise and raising the combined tax rate as high as $110 per $100,000. This means taxes on property valued at $300,000 could jump from $180 to $330 per year.

One parent told Superintendent Steven Lawrence on Wednesday that people in the community are starting to chatter about this, with bits and pieces of information filtering out. Lawrence told the Parent Advisory Council the increased rate — a direct consequence of the district selling its remaining bonds sooner — would speed up construction so that projects could be completed in four or five years instead of eight to ten. Previously, the district had estimated projects would be completed in seven years.

The new proposal was first raised March 26 by a coalition of 18 parents who submitted the following information to Lawrence and the board:

“Who are we?

We the undersigned have come together as an unlikely coalition. We are from all areas of the district, having various district experiences, and from both sides of the Measure C issue. What we do have in common is our interest in doing what is best for our students, schools and community.

Why are we here?

We are urging the district to reconsider the proposed financing structure of the 2010 Measure C bond.

We understand that MDUSD has issued low interest CREBs (Clean Renewable Energy Bonds), QSCBs (Qualified School Construction Bonds), current interest bonds, and capital appreciation bonds as part of the Measure C 2010 issuance. Our concerns lie with the issuance of any additional capital appreciation bonds (CABs). Capital appreciation bonds have been banned in other states because of the exorbitant cost and undue financial burden they place on the next generation of families and property owners.

The funds from Measure C 2010 can provide our children with facilities that will enhance their educational experience. However, right now, due to the $60 cap, you are faced with waiting several years for Measure C 2002 bonds to mature before issuing additional 2010 bonds or issue expensive capital appreciation bonds, both of which will not best serve our children.

What is our proposal?

Rather than being faced with the decision to delay projects or issue costly bonds, we propose a third option that would take advantage of the current low interest rates, allow our school sites immediate access to upgraded facilities, and save our community hundreds of millions of dollars in compounded interest.

We request that you include on the next board agenda (April 23) an action item providing issuance of the remaining $228 million (actually $227 million) of bonds, as needed, with conventional bond financing, without deferment of principal and interest and with terms no greater than 25 years. In addition, the action item would call for, and be conditioned upon, the development of school site lists that reflect a current and comprehensive project list that is school site driven and Proposition 39 compliant.

How much money will the community save?

We estimate that selling the bonds today with conventional financing and a 25-year term will cost the community approximately $400 million over the life of the bond and will cause the tax rate to increase in the range of $20-$30 per $100,000 in assessed value. However, if the bonds are sold with a 25-year term and 25 years of deferred interest, similar to the CABS sold last year, we estimate it will cost the community over $800 million.

By exceeding the $60 cap and issuing the bonds with fiscally responsible conventional financing our community saves approximately $400 million.

We believe our proposed action will be met with community support and will ensure that our children’s educational experience is improved by meeting their most pressing facility needs today. We realize this will require courage on the part of the board. It is the right thing to do for our kids, our schools, and our community. This is a unique opportunity to come together with a common goal as evidenced by those who have signed below.

Linda Loza, Northgate parent, former CUES committee, Measure D site captain
John Ferrante, Concord resident, 2002/2010 Bond Oversight Committee, Measure A Advisory Committee, CUES committee
Alicia Minyen, Pleasant Hill parent, 2010 Bond Oversight Committee
Tammy Nelson, Ygnacio Valley parent, MDMEF board member
John Parker, Mt. Diablo parent, 2002/2010 Bond Oversight Committee, CUES committee
AJ Fardella, Bay Point parent, 2002 Bond Oversight Committee
Ralph Austin, Northgate parent, Northgate Pride President, 2010 Bond Oversight Committee
Jack Weir, Pleasant Hill Taxpayers Association, former 2010 Bond Oversight Committee
Monica Fitzgerald, Northgate parent, Northgate PFC President
Shel Perham, Walnut Creek parent, former CUES committee treasurer
Diana Corkran, Concord High parent, Concord High School PFC President
Carla Ludwig, Walnut Creek parent, former CUES committee, PACE Foundation co-founder, Measure D site captain
Kevin Hennessy, College Park parent, UMDAF vice president
Jim McClelland, Walnut Creek resident, Northgate Pride board member
Paul Kitchell, Ygnacio Valley parent, UMDAF board member
Don Wildes, College Park parent
Kent Caldwell, Northgate parent, UMDAF board member
Karen Barta, Pleasant Hill parent, former CUES committee.”

Do you support the proposed tax increase and accelerated bond sales?

Posted on Friday, April 6th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 16 Comments »

Brian Lawrence jumps into MDUSD board race in November election

Mt. Diablo school district parent Brian Lawrence 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):

“Dear friends,

I wanted you to be the first to know that I’m running for the Mt. Diablo School Board in the November election. As the father of one current student and three future ones (we’ve done our part- student population growth will now have to come from other people), I’m passionate about making sure that we provide an outstanding education for our kids.

There are brilliant students, amazing teachers and dedicated staff in this district, but we face some challenging problems. The district continues to decline in enrollment- at one time it was above 50,000 students but now it is on pace to soon drop below 30,000 students. Two schools were closed last year and more school closures may follow. The dropout rate is 50% higher than in the rest of the county. Families are fleeing the district because they are concerned that it will not provide a quality education for their children. We can do better.

We have the opportunity to create a vibrant district that has people clamoring to get in. The Board needs to lay out a clear road map of how we get there. A comprehensive strategic plan involves all of the stakeholders in the district and guides every decision that the Board makes.

Here are my top priorities:

– Close the Achievement Gap. Too many students at too many of our schools are absolutely being left behind. Every student in the District should graduate and be prepared to enter college or obtain a high wage job.

– Strict Financial Accountability. Taxpayer money must be spent wisely to make sure it provides the best educational opportunities for our children. Let’s utilize technology to increase collaboration at the same time we decrease travel costs.

– Transparent Decision Making. Too many decisions are made behind closed doors and the public is not privy to the reasons why these decisions are being made. The residents of Mt. Diablo deserve to know what decisions are being made and why.

– Recognize, Reward and Retain our top employees. Outstanding employees are vital to improving the District- we have to keep them. Employees who don’t meet our high standards need to be identified and coached. If performance does not improve, we need to replace them.

I would greatly appreciate your help in this campaign. Good news- I’m not asking you for money (today)! But I will later on- campaigns are expensive…

Ways you could help today:

– Join my Facebook page
– Follow me on Twitter
– Tell your friends
– Drop me a note and let me know your thoughts

Thank you!

Copyright © 2012 Brian Lawrence for MDUSD Board, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because I thought you’d be interested in my campaign for the Mt. Diablo School Board.
Our mailing address is:

Brian Lawrence for MDUSD Board
3163 Cafeto Dr
Walnut Creek, CA 94598″

Please note that I am posting this to inform the community about Lawrence’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 far as I know, Lawrence is the first candidate to announce his intention to run. 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 considering running, but she has not yet made an official announcement. Mt. Diablo teachers’ union President Mike Langley told me that he also knows of one other person who is considering running.

Do you support Lawrence’s candidacy?

Posted on Thursday, April 5th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 11 Comments »

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

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

Here is the agenda:

“I. Welcome and Introductions

II. Budget

III. P.E. Program

IV. Strategic Planning

V. Other”

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

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

Board Members
Lynne Dennler
Sherry Whitmarsh

Union Representatives
Mike Langley, President, MDEA

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAC members shared highlights from their schools.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

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

Board Members
Linda Mayo
Sherry Whitmarsh

Union Representatives
Mike Langely, President, MDEA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you believe this council provides a valuable service?

Posted on Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 44 Comments »

Mt. Diablo special education Community Advisory Committee to discuss bullying, harassment

The Mt. Diablo school district’s special education Community Advisory Committee will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday to discuss bullying, harassment, and other issues.

Here is the agenda:

DATE: April 3, 2012
TIME: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
PLACE: Dent Center – Board Room

1. Call to Order 7:00

2. Introductions (7:02 – 7:05)

Please notify the audience during introductions if you are recording the meeting. Please let us know if this is your first time attending a CAC meeting.

3. Adoption of Minutes – March 6, 2012 (7:05 – 7:10)

4. Presentations – Intervention Strategies to Support Students (Bullying, Harassment) – James Wogan, Felicia Stuckey-Smith (7:10 – 7:35)

5. Chairperson’s Report – Lorrie Davis (7:35 – 7:45)

5.1 Nominating Committee for 2012-13 Officers

6. You Make A Difference Awards – Lorrie Davis (7:45 – 7:50)

7. Old Business (7:50 – 8:15)

7.1 Assistant Superintendent’s Report – Dr. Mildred D. Browne

7.2 Board of Education Report – Lynne Dennler/Gary Eberhart

7.3 Board of Education Comments – Tricia Tamura-Li/Autumn Green

7.4 Parent Advisory Committee Report – Tricia Tamura-Li

7.5 Budget Advisory Committee Report – Tricia Tamura-Li

7.6 Equity Advisory Team Report – Dorothy Weisenberger

7.7 EL Master Plan Task Force – Morena Grimaldi


8. New Business (8:25 – 8:45)

8.1 QIAT Committee – Christian Patz

8.2 Nurses’ Report – Nancy Dobra

8.3 Extended School Year – Carolyn Patton

8.4 Parent Liaison – Hilary Shen

8.5 Sub-Committee Updates
Parent & Community Education Committee – Julie Nibblett
Membership & Publicity Committee – Vi Ibarra
Legislative Committee – Denise Lambert
Blog Committee – Autumn Green

9. Public Comment (8:45 – 8:55)

Public comment is an opportunity to share concerns and comments with the CAC. In the interest of time, speakers are limited to three (3) minutes each with a total of fifteen (15) minutes for all speakers.

Please respect student and personnel privacy. CAC members and district staff might not be able to respond to individual concerns in this forum, but will take your contact information and follow-up with you.

10. Information Items/Announcements/Adjournment (8:55 – 9:00)


As you may know, a new documentary called “Bully” will open in San Francisco on April 13. Here is a story we recently published, which looks at what to do if your child is the bully, not the victim: It also includes links to additional resources at the end.

In addition, Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover hosted a Youth Summit on Saturday focused on bullying: In a press release he wrote himself, Glover referred to Lady Gaga’s experience as the victim of bullying.

Last year, Northgate High’s crisis counselors sent a message to parents to help them deal with the issue of bullying:

In January, the Pleasant Hill Education Commission also discussed the possibility of helping to sponsor a cyber-bullying forum at Sequoia Middle School by an organization called “Adina’s Deck”

According to a recent survey, 63 percent of young people with autism in the in the U.S. have been bullied:

Today is Global Autism Awareness Day and the local CAC has advice for nine things to do for your child everyday to build self-esteem and take care of yourself as well:

I have also heard that Monte Gardens Elementary is offering a “Kid Power Anti-Bullying” workshop. Here are eight tips from that organization:

Finally, here is a list of resources from the CDE:

Do you think the Mt. Diablo district is doing enough to combat bullying?

Posted on Monday, April 2nd, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 3 Comments »