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Archive for May, 2012

MDUSD board meeting and budget study session tonight

The Mt. Diablo school board will hold a short meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the district office to approve layoffs and other personnel actions, along with a resolution honoring Classified Employees Week.

Here is a link to the agenda:

Following that meeting at around 6:45 p.m., the board expects to begin a budget study session.

Here is the link to that agenda:

The public will be given the opportunity to comment on any item not on the agenda at each meeting.

One item that may interest Sun Terrace Elementary parents is the elimination of a half-time librarian and part-time ESL teacher at the site: The agenda item says the positions are no longer necessary and the monies are needed elsewhere.

However, Sun Terrace parent Katherine Friedman told me that the PTA has repeatedly said it wanted to keep the librarian, even though Principal Gretchen Jacobs has suggested the position was no longer needed. Often, similar decisions have been accompanied by a copy of site council minutes showing a vote regarding the elimination of positions. No minutes are attached to this agenda item, however.

The board also expects to approve layoffs for several positions at elementary, middle and high schools due to lack of funds:

Here is a link to the budget presentation, which includes cuts suggested in the past but not yet approved:

Do you think the board should approved the recommended personnel changes?


Public Comment: Sun Terrace parent Jean-Pierre Muzac praised Principal Gretchen Jacobs for bringing grants to the school.
Here are video links to his comments (sorry, ran out of space on my Flip cam, so it’s in three chunks):

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

Board unanimously approved all consent calendar items.

Trustee Lynne Dennler pulled item 10.3 and Trustee Cheryl Hansen pulled items 10.7 and 10.8 for discussion.

Dennler asked Julie Braun-Martin to explain the layoff process. Braun-Martin said some people who receive preliminary layoff notices may not receive final notices, in part due to the district’s receipt of the MDHS QEIA funding.
The board unanimously approved item 10.3.

Hansen asked about the funding source for positions to receive layoff notices in item 10.7. Braun-Martin said these were positions that were site-funded.
The board unanimously approved item 10.7.

Hansen also asked about the layoffs related to the conversion of CVHS to a charter. Braun-Martin said those who resigned have opted to work at the charter. The others want to remain in the district and may be able to bump people at other sites, if they have more seniority.
The board unanimously approved item 10.8.

The board also unanimously approved the resolution proclaiming May 20-26 Classified Employees Week. Hansen apologized to classified employees for agreeing to lay them off, then thanking them for their hard work.


Public Comment: Sun Terrace parent Elizabeth Borgen said her son fractured his wrist during first recess today and she wasn’t told about it until 3 p.m. when he went to the after-school program. She was very angry.

Here is a link to video of her comments:

Superintendent Lawrence went over the budget presentation, including projections, past budget cuts and previously suggested budget cuts that haven’t yet been approved. He asked the board for direction.

Trustee Linda Mayo said she thinks the board needs to factor in the deficit and look at furlough days.

Trustee Gary Eberhart said he wants to be sure money is expended in the best way possible to educate the students. He said he wants to establish spending criteria to make sure that each expense is critical “and something we can’t live without and more important than what we’re looking at cutting.”

“I want to be able to report out to the community that these dollars are being spent in the best way to educate students,” he said.

In addition, he said he wanted to give more flexibility to sites and to give them incentives to save money by cutting costs, then keep the savings for their own use. He also wants the Budget Advisory Committee to advise the council regarding budget cut recommendations.

Board President Sherry Whitmarsh said she would like more information about site-based spending decisions.

“I do believe we need to work hard to stop deficit-spending,” she said.

She supported the idea of cutting transportation costs and said she preferred furloughs over program reductions.

“We have to make some tough decisions on overflow and home-to-school (transportation),” she said, adding that she leaned toward eliminating the Delta View busing, but keeping busing for MDHS students from Bay Point.

Trustee Cheryl Hansen said the district should take on more transportation itself and consider selling Willow Creek Center.

I don’t recall Trustee Lynne Dennler stating any recommendations.

Do you agree with the recommendations made by the other four trustees?

MAY 8 UPDATE: Here is audio from the meeting:

Posted on Monday, May 7th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 231 Comments »

Third campus in MDUSD rises up, voicing concerns about school leadership and slow district response

Unrest in the Sun Terrace Elementary community of north Concord marks third time in a year the Mt. Diablo school district appears to have failed to respond promptly to repeated complaints.

This latest uprising bears strong similarities to the frustration that swelled to epic proportions when Clayton Valley High teachers and parents pulled the plug from the district and converted to a charter that will open in the fall, with oversight by the Contra Costa County Office of Education.

The dissatisfaction and outrage being expressed by the Sun Terrace community also resembles the exasperation voiced by teachers at Mt. Diablo High in December when a majority voted no confidence in Principal Kate McClatchy. In response to that, the district sent administrators to meet with teachers to develop a plan to address concerns. Some teachers and staff members later praised McClatchy’s leadership at a board meeting, but many of those who first spoke out say several issues remain unresolved.

Like the teachers at Clayton Valley and Mt. Diablo high schools, some parents and staff members at Sun Terrace say they have individually spoken to the principal, district administrators and union leaders to try to get their issues resolved. When they felt that no action was being taken, they made the dramatic decision to publicly air their concerns at the April 23 school board meeting.

Although only four people spoke, parent Katherine Friedman told me that many more were prepared to speak, but backed down after seeing Principal Gretchen Jacobs in the room. Those who did speak said Jacobs has turned what was once a happy, warm and welcoming campus into a school where children and adults work in fear.

Some parents expressed concerns about a first grade class that has been taught by a string of 13 substititutes since the regular teacher went on maternity leave in January, as well as lack of communication from the principal about children’s injuries and other safety concerns. Friedman broke down in tears as she described her son’s classroom, where she said students weren’t getting the instruction they needed to progress at grade level.

But staff member Dan Roll, who oversees student services at the school, defended Jacobs, saying she appeared to be taking the criticisms to heart and was trying to make amends. Yet, many of the parents and former staff members to whom I’ve spoken since the board meeting say this is too little, too late.

Some said they miss the way things used to be before Jacobs arrived a few months after school started in 2010. She replaced former Principal Felicia Stuckey-Smith, who was promoted to Director of Student Services at the district office.

Friedman said she was touched when Sun Terrace parents and children hugged Stuckey-Smith, after seeing her at the board meeting. The entire mood on campus appears to have changed, she said.

Since the board meeting, district officials have met with parents regarding the first grade class and have agreed to provide extra staff to try to bring students up to grade level, Friedman said. In addition, she said Jacobs has reached out to parents to meet with them individually and try to reassure them about her desire to improve.

But Friedman said she and others worry that the district may not address concerns regarding Jacobs’ leadership style. About 60 parents and staff members have signed a petition regarding their issues, she said.

When Friedman met with Jacobs, she said she told the principal: “Your interaction with the kids is ‘No. Stop. Don’t. It’s always discipline. If everytime they see you, someone’s in trouble, then you’re not going to have a good relationship with them.’”

Former noontime supervisor and after-school program worker Christina Mares said she and many adults felt the same way. Mares said she left her job in February after experiencing anxiety attacks and depression because she feared she would be fired after Jacobs fired her mother, who was also a noontime supervisor.

Trustee Gary Eberhart asked Superintendent Steven Lawrence to report back to the board about the issues raised, but there is no report scheduled on Monday’s meeting agenda. In the absence of a plan to address all their concerns, some parents said they may again speak up.

Do you believe the superintendent should publicly report back to the board about Sun Terrace?

Posted on Saturday, May 5th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 43 Comments »

Contra Costa County 7th and 8th graders invited to explore college and careers during Friday ‘COOL Nite’

There is still space available for walk-ins at the 4th Annual free “COOL Nite” on Friday aimed at showing seventh-and eighth-graders and their parents in Contra Costa County that College Offers Opportunities for Life.

Here’s more information from a news advisory:

“WHAT: More than 200 Contra Costa County current seventh- and eighth-grade students, as well as their parents/guardians, will be attending a dynamic evening to learn more about their future opportunities in education and career, at the 4th Annual COOL Nite (College Offers Opportunities for Life), this coming Friday evening, at California State University, East Bay, Concord Campus. Presented by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) and the Contra Costa Community College District (CCCCD), this FREE informational program will offer useful workshops on how to be successful in high school, prepare for college, and explore exciting careers.

ACTION: Along with the workshops, there will be an exhibit hall featuring local businesses and college representatives for attendees to meet with and gather information. (See COOL Nite’s program for scheduled events.)

WHEN: Friday, May 4, 6:30-9:00 p.m.

WHERE: California State University, East Bay, Concord Campus, 4700 Ygnacio Road, Concord.

ADDITIONAL INFO: For additional event information, contact Hilary Dito, CCCOE, at (925) 942-3396.”

The exhibit Hall opens at 5:30 p.m. and the program begins at 6:30 p.m. Food will be available for purchase.

Do you think it’s important for students to start thinking about college and careers in middle school?

Posted on Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
Under: Contra Costa Community College District, Contra Costa County Office of Education, Education | No Comments »

Free summer camp for children of military parents

Children whose parents are in the military are invited to attend a free summer camp provided through the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco.

Children are being accepted on a first-come, first-served basis and free transportation will be provided between San Francisco and the summer camp.

Here is more information, from a news release:

“Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco Offers Project Noyo:
Free Summer Camp for Military Youth

Who: Children of active duty military personnel, ages 8-18

What: This year, Camp Mendocino, owned and operated by Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, is offering Project Noyo – a 10-day session open exclusively to children of active duty military personnel. The Project Noyo session (June 18-27) was developed in response to the need for increased support for military children and will provide a safe, fun and therapeutic experience where youth can maintain healthy and connected relationships with other military youth and build new communities.

Members will participate in activities specifically designed for military youth, as well as outdoors education, swimming & boating, archery, ropes course and so much more. To learn more or download the Project Noyo Application, visit

Where: Camp Mendocino, located in a 2,000-acre beautiful redwood forest three and half hours north of San Francisco.

When: June 18 – June 27, 2012

Why: Within the past 10 years, the recent military activities in Afghanistan and Iraq have impacted millions of families around the United States. Since 2001, over 2 million military personnel have been called to action, and almost 40 percent have been deployed more than once. The unpredictable active military lifestyle strongly impacts the family unit, causing discomfort, stress, and even severe trauma. Research shows that young children are the most susceptible to stress, especially during and after the deployment of a family member, and often times develop behavioral health issues. Anxiety is a common issue among military youth, and often children have a hard time relating their anxiety amongst their peers.

Thanks to Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco’s dedication to serving military families, Project Noyo has been designed to offset some of those challengesmilitary youth face, and will provide them with a safe space to relieve stress, build friendships, and have fun with other youth of similar military background.”

Do you think schools should offer special services to children whose parents are in the military?

Posted on Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
Under: Education | No Comments »

MDUSD and SunPower celebrate completion of 40 solar power projects

In just over 30 minutes, Mt. Diablo school district officials will join SunPower executives and invited guests to celebrate the installation of what is being touted as the largest K-12 solar project in the country.

Here is the news release sent about the project by SunPower this morning:

“Mount Diablo Unified School District Installs SunPower Solar Systems at 51 Schools, Saving $220 Million Over 30 Years

Largest Commitment to Solar by a School District in the US

CONCORD and SAN JOSE, Calif., May 1, 2012 – Today, Mount Diablo Unified School District and SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR) are celebrating the completion of 40 SunPower solar power systems planned for district schools and facilities. When the total number of 51 systems is complete later this year, the systems are expected to reduce the district’s electricity costs by more than $3 million per year, and save $220 million over the next 30 years. With a cumulative capacity of 12.1 megawatts, the project is creating more than 140 jobs during construction and injecting almost $24 million into the regional economy through the use of local subcontractors and suppliers.

‘With this project, we will eliminate 92 percent of electrical cost from our general fund in the first year alone and generate additional financial resources from the California Solar Initiative. This will help preserve desperately needed financial resources for our schools and classrooms,’ says School Board Member Gary Eberhart. ‘Saving our schools’ money while reducing emissions is the right thing to do for our students and the environment. We are very excited to team with SunPower to bring the largest K-12 solar project in the country to fruition.’

SunPower is installing the system on rooftops and shade structures in parking lots and hard court areas. The systems use high efficiency SunPower solar panels, the most efficient panels on the market today, which are manufactured locally in Milpitas, California. All systems are expected to be complete and operational before the end of the year.

‘The completion of the largest solar school project in the U.S., delivering electric bill savings of more than 90 percent at 51 schools, represents a major milestone in our industry. The Mount Diablo Unified School District selected SunPower to deliver the world’s highest performing solar systems for its schools, in partnership with great local firms,’ said Howard Wenger, president, regions for SunPower. ‘The district has established a high standard for clean energy investments on school facilities. As a California company, with roots firmly in California education, it is extremely rewarding to deliver needed savings to our public schools.’

According to estimates provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mount Diablo Unified’s solar power systems will avoid production of almost 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 30 years, the equivalent of removing 70,450 cars from California’s highways.

In addition to the financial and environmental benefits, the partnership between Mount Diablo Unified School District and SunPower is directly benefiting the district’s high school students through resources SunPower is providing to enhance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curriculum beginning in the 2012-2013 academic year.

The school district’s systems were financed through Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) secured under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, paid through a local, voter approved general obligation bond.

About Mount Diablo Unified School District

Nestled at the base of Mount Diablo in the suburban East San Francisco Bay Area, the Mount Diablo Unified School District can be characterized as a representative California microcosm. Mount Diablo is one of the largest school districts in the state of California, with over 56 school sites and programs. The district’s statistics for ethnic/racial diversity, average class size, test scores, numbers of Limited English Proficient (LEP) students and the primary languages they represent, mirror those for the State of California as a whole.

About SunPower Corp.

SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR) designs, manufactures and delivers the highest efficiency, highest reliability solar panels and systems available today. Residential, business, government and utility customers rely on the company’s quarter century of experience and guaranteed performance to provide maximum return on investment throughout the life of the solar system. Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., SunPower has offices in North America, Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia. For more information, visit

SunPower is a registered trademark of SunPower Corp. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.”

I have contacted SunPower to try to find out specifically what resources will be offered to MDUSD teachers and students to enhance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curriculum beginning in the 2012-2013 academic year.

SunPower offered summer internships to San Ramon Valley district students as part of its solar installation there. It’s unclear whether it will offer similar opportunities to MDUSD students.

What kind of resources do you think would benefit MDUSD students to help them learn about the solar installations at their schools?

Posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 24 Comments »

Martinez school board appoints MDUSD principal as special education director

The Martinez school board has appointed Janelle Eyet, principal of the Sunrise special education school in the Mt. Diablo district, as its director of special education.

Here is the announcement from CJ Cammack, director of Student Services in the Martinez school district.

“I am happy to report the Martinez Unified School Board has approved the appointment of Janelle Eyet as the Director of Special Education. We narrowed the very talented field to three outstanding finalists and ultimately selected Janelle Eyet to be recommended for the position.

Janelle has over 10 years experience in positions of progressive leadership supporting students with diverse learning profiles. Mrs. Eyet worked as a school psychologist for two years before being promoted to a manager position within Mt. Diablo Unified. During a four year span where she served as the Manager of the Behaviorist Program Janelle was responsible for coordinating and designing behavior services for students in Mt. Diablo Unified with outside vendors as well as professionals from within the District.

Based on her great work as a Behaviorist Program Manager Janelle was promoted to the position of Site Principal for Sunrise Elementary School. Over the last four years Janelle has served as the Principal at Sunrise, a special education school serving students with special needs. Sunrise Elementary is also a mental health collaborative program which allows the school to work in conjunction with County Mental Health to support the needs of students.

Mrs. Eyet holds credentials in the areas of Administrative Services and Pupil Personnel Services (School Psychology). She has earned her Masters of Science in Counseling from Sacramento State and a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Psychology from University of Southern California. Janelle is a state licensed Educational Psychologist and has experience in many important areas, such as being a certified “SEIS” trainer and a certified Building Effective Schools Together (BEST) trainer. Mrs. Eyet is also certified in Professional Assault Crisis Training (Pro-ACT) and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS).

We are confident that Janelle will bring her many outstanding qualities to this position and to the administrative team in Martinez Unified. Our students, staff, special education programs and community will benefit greatly from her work as the Director of Special Education.”

As of today, Eyet is still working at Sunrise, overseeing STAR testing. She will assume her new position July 1, according to Cammack.

What qualities do you think the Mt. Diablo school district should look for in candidates to fill Eyet’s position at Sunrise?

Posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Under: Education, Martinez school district, Mt. Diablo school district | 3 Comments »