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Archive for June, 2012

A closer look at graduation and dropout rates in Contra Costa County school districts

Earlier this week, the California Department of Education released improved data for high school graduation and dropout rates, which followed specific groups of students by grade level to track if they graduated in four years.

This was the second year in a row the state used this more sophisticated way of collecting data, making this the first year it could be compared from 2010 to 2011 to get a clearer picture of whether or not districts are improving.

Here’s how districts in Contra Costa County stacked up against each other, with 2010 graduation rates followed by 2011 rates and the change, then 2010 dropout rates followed by 2011 rates, along with the change. The graduation and dropout rates do not add up to 100 percent because some students had not graduated or dropped out by the end of four years.

District 2010, 2011 (change) 2010, 2011 (change)
Acalanes 95.4, 96.3 (+0.9) 3.3, 1.8 (-1.5)
Antioch 74.0, 73.1 (-0.9) 16.8, 17.2 (+0.4)
John Swett 75.3, 88.2 (+12.9) 16.7, 8.8 (-7.9)
Liberty 83.9, 85.1 (+1.2) 5.5, 5.5 (no change)
Martinez 84.9, 88.6 (+3.7) 8.1, 5.5 (-2.6)
Mt. Diablo 74.8, 81.8 (+7.0) 18.8, 11.4 (-7.4)
Pittsburg 64.3, 66.3 (+2.0) 30.9, 25.5 (-5.4)
San Ramon 96.4, 96.8 (+0.4) 2.2, 1.6 (-0.6)
West Contra Costa 72.6, 74.0 (+1.4) 22.0, 20.5 (-1.5)
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY 79.9, 82.2 (+2.3) 13.8, 11.0 (-2.8)
STATE 74.8, 76.3 (+1.5) 16.6, 14.4 (-2.2)
To see complete results, including school data, visit t http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest and select “graduates” on level 2.

Acalanes and San Ramon Valley had the best results, with more than 96 percent of students graduating and less than 2 percent dropping out. The John Swett, Liberty, Martinez and Mt. Diablo districts posted respectable results, with more than 80 percent of students graduating and less than 10 percent dropping out in all but Mt. Diablo.

These results included impressive one-year improvement in the John Swett and Mt. Diablo districts, with John Swett’s graduation rate soaring nearly 13 percentage points and its dropout rate falling about 8 percentage points. Mt. Diablo’s graduation rate jumped about 7 percentage points, while its dropout rate fell by about 7.4 percentage points.

But Rose Lock, assistant superintendent of Student Achievement and School Support in Mt. Diablo, said the district wasn’t completely sure the data was accurate. She said districts have the opportunity to correct their data in July, if there are discrepancies.

The Mt. Diablo school board reduced graduation requirements in 2011, dropping required math courses from three years to two years and the total number of credits from 230 to 200. But Lock said she did not think there was a correlation between the lowered requirements and the higher graduation rate.

Here is a comparison of graduation requirements in Contra Costa County districts: http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/54123307-1df4-46e9-83bd-967138c02bd5.pdf

Contra Costa County districts with the lowest graduation rates and highest dropout rates were Antioch, Pittsburg and West Contra Costa, with all three faring worse that the state average of 76.3 percent graduating and 14.4 percent dropping out.

Here’s more information about the statewide results, from a California Department of Education press release:

“Graduation rates among California’s public school students are climbing and dropout rates are falling, with the biggest gains being made among English learners and the state’s largest minority groups, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced (Wednesday).

More than three quarters, or 76.3 percent, of students who started high school in 2007 graduated with their class in 2011. That is up 1.5 percentage points from the 2010 graduation rate. Larger gains were seen among Hispanic and African American students at 2.2 and 2.3 percentage points respectively, with the biggest increase being among English learners at 3.8 percentage points. The graduation rate for socioeconomically disadvantaged students climbed nearly 2 percentage points, from 68.1 to 70 percent.

‘Every graduate represents a success story in one of the most effective job and anti-poverty programs ever conceived, our public schools,’ Torlakson said. ‘These numbers are a testament to the hard work of teachers and administrators, of parents and, most of all, of the students themselves. While they are a great illustration of all that is going right in California schools, they should also remind us that schools need our support to continue to improve so that every student graduates prepared for college, a career, and to contribute to our state’s future.’

Beyond the 76.3 percent graduation rate and the 14.4 percent dropout rate, the remaining 9.3 percent are students who are neither graduates nor dropouts. Some are still enrolled in school (8.6 percent). Others are non-diploma special education students (0.4 percent), and some elected to pass a high school equivalency exam.

Graduation and dropout rates for counties, districts, and schools across California were calculated based on four-year cohort—referring to this particular group of students—information using the state’s California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). This is the second time this four-year cohort information was collected, making this the first time that it can be compared year to year. With two years of data, the cohort rates will now be used to determine whether schools have met their targets for increasing the graduation rate for the Adequate Yearly Progress reporting under the federal school accountability system. The 2009-10 rates were also adjusted as a part of this data release (marked “A” in the tables below) to include only those students who were first-time ninth graders in the 2006-07 school year.

The new cohort dropout rate is calculated for high school students, grades nine through twelve. However, there are also significant numbers of students who drop out of school during the middle school years.

‘Our research shows that chronic absence from school, even as early as kindergarten, is a strong indicator of whether a child will drop out of school later,’ Torlakson said. ‘The dropout rate shows there’s still much work to be done, particularly to address the needs of disadvantaged and minority students. We must build on our work with parents and communities in the earliest years to pave the way for kids to succeed in school.

CALPADS has made great strides since an independent oversight consultant was critical of the initial release of the system in 2009. In its latest report, the same independent oversight consultant concluded, ‘The CALPADS project is presently in the healthiest state of its history.’

To view and download state, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates, please visit the CDE DataQuest Web site at DataQuest. Reporters are encouraged to use caution when comparing education rates among individual schools and districts; some, such as county office schools, alternative schools or dropout recovery high schools, serve only those students who are already at the greatest risk of dropping out, compared with the broader population at traditional high schools.”

Education Trust-West, an advocacy group, released a statement that was more harsh in its assessment of the data released, but found a few bright spots throughout the state:

“For the second year in a row, the California Department of Education (CDE) has released accurate and transparent graduation and dropout rate data thanks to the state’s use of CALPADS, the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System. The data once again reveal that California’s schools are graduating Latino, African-American, and low-income students at alarmingly low rates.

The data show that three out of four (76%) of our state’s students are graduating from high school in four years.

Sadly, the news is far worse for the state’s African-American, Latino, and low-income students, who graduate from high school at abysmally low rates—63% and 70%, respectively.

Education outcomes for students of color, students with disabilities, low-income students, and English learners, whose needs and potential are often overlooked, are particularly disturbing when compared with the graduation rates of their more advantaged peers. For example, California’s white students graduate at a rate of 86% and Asian students at a rate of 90%.

‘Even though these rates are improving, at the rate California is going, it will take us 13 years to close the graduation gap between Latino and African-American students and their white peers,’ said Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust—West, a statewide education civil rights organization. ‘Every high school dropout is an individual tragedy. Tens of thousands of dropouts represent a large scale-tragedy for the California economy and our state’s future prosperity. It’s time we stopped talking about this problem and invested in the strategies that top districts and schools are using to fix it.’

In spite of these overall statewide trends, the data reveal districts with better results for Latino and African-American students.

In 2010-11, Castro Valley Unified (Alameda County) graduated 94% of their Latino students, while in Sanger Unified (Fresno County) and West Covina Unified (Los Angeles County), 95% of their Latino students graduated in four years.

In ABC Unified (Los Angeles County), 90% of their African-American students graduated in four years. Corona-Norco Unified (Riverside County) posted similarly high graduation rates for their African-American students (88%), and Clovis Unified (Fresno County) graduated 93% of their African-American students.

The data also reveal high schools throughout California with similar strong results for African-American and Latino students, a few of which were recently highlighted in The Education Trust—West report, Repairing the Pipeline: A Look at the Gaps in California’s High School to College Transition. There are a number of high schools serving high proportions of Latino students (more than 65%) with high graduation rates in 2010-11.

At Calipatria High School in Calipatria Unified School District 91% of Latino students graduated in four years.

Imperial High in Imperial Unified School District graduated 98% of their Latino graduates.

At Southwest High in Central Union High School District, 89% of Latino students graduated in four years.

Our analysis also found high schools serving high proportions of African-American students (more than 15%) with high graduation rates in 2010-11.

Rancho Cucamonga High School and Etiwanda High School, both in Chaffey Joint Union High School District had high African-American graduation rates of 88% and 91% respectively.

Kearny Digital Media and Design School, a Linked Learning model in San Diego Unified, graduated 89% of their low-income students, and 83% of their African-American students.

Arthur Benjamin Health Professions High School, a Linked Learning model in Sacramento City Unified, with an African-American student population of nearly 30%, graduated 92% of their African-American students.

‘These districts and schools reveal that our statewide results are not inevitable. We know that approaches such as Linked Learning that tie college rigor to career relevancy; investments in credit recovery; and strong counseling supports are critical to fixing this crisis. Yet, these are the very supports that many districts have cut over the past several years. Our high school accountability system must include graduation rates, dropout rates, and college and career readiness metrics for low-income students and students of color core. This would incentivize schools and districts to ensure that all of their students graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college and career.’

About The Education Trust—West
The Education Trust—West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-k through college. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.”

Are you satisfied with your district’s results?

JULY 12 UPDATE: We have just added a searchable database to our website, where you can look up 2011 graduation and dropout rates by county, district and schools: http://www.contracostatimes.com/twitter/ci_21060223?appSession=5493428234174

Posted on Friday, June 29th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, Education | 16 Comments »

MDUSD board to discuss budget, school safety, bullying and other issues tonight

The Mt. Diablo school board meeting tonight is likely to last much longer than the last meeting, which was over in about half-an-hour.

Here are highlights from the first part of the agenda (which is normally not discussed):

CLOSED SESSION:

Item 4.5: Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Complaint related to six certificated employees (info only): http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5579&mtgId=345

CONSENT CALENDAR:

Item 9.3 Certificated personnel actions: Includes some teachers having workloads reduced, along with temporary teachers being rehired, including two at Oak Grove MS: http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/04af1852-a7df-4eca-9eb9-71da746f1a3e.pdf

Item 9.12 North Coast reps for MDUSD schools does not include CVCHS (since it will be a charter) and lists Steven Brady as the Northgate vp rep:
http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/a7f12994-b270-4012-98f3-eeb84f2ba481.pdf

Brady was appointed as a vp of YVHS, where he worked this year: http://yvhs-mdusd-ca.schoolloop.com/cms/page_view?d=x&piid=&vpid=1309422182233

It looks like he may be another superintendent “reassignment,” but it’s unclear who he’s replacing: http://northgatehighschool.net/Staff/Administration/tabid/119/Default.aspx

Item 9.31 authorizes the superintendent to enter into contracts over the summer without board approval: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5544&mtgId=345
Interestingly, one attachment has been clearly updated since the agenda was posted, with the original attachment still available for comparison. It looks like the district may be implementing a new policy to make revisions transparent! :)

Item 9.33 Disposal of library books from closed schools: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5561&mtgId=345

9.36 New board policy and administrative regulation prohibiting use of cell phones: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5568&mtgId=345
(The BOC may be interested in this, since it was specifically discussing at its meeting, wondering if such a policy existed.)

9.38 Measure C high school projects lists for MDHS and alternative schools: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5594&mtgId=345

9.39 Cost of issuance for Measure C bonds: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/com/print_item.aspx?itemId=5608

Do you think the board should authorize the superintendent to approve contracts without its approval over the summer?

8:40 pm UPDATE: LIVE BLOG OF MEETING:

I arrived a bit late, during discussion of items pulled from consent calendar for discussion. They were:

10.1 (item #16): Food and nutrition

10.2 (item #30): Approval of contract with Lincoln Pools

10.3 (item #31): Authorization to award summer contracts
(I arrived during this discussion): passed 5-0

10.4 (item #38): Measure C High School Project Plan: MDHS and alt. ed.
Passed 5-0.

10.5 (item 39): Confirming costs of sale respecting issuance of MDUSD GO bonds, 2010 election, 2012 Series E
Hansen asked about use of bond premium to pay costs of issuance.
Superintendent Lawrence said staff had given the board a thorough analysis of the Poway letter (sent by Attorney General’s office to Poway Dist.) He said it’s a common practice.
Hansen said she pulled this from consent because there continues to be that question.
Eberhart said the board received “extremely definitive assessments of the process we’re using.” He said it’s an important issue and it’s important for the public to know that the district is operating appropriately.
Passed 4-1; Hansen against.

After the meeting, I asked Greg Rolen for a copy of the letter referenced by Lawrence and Eberhart. He said he wasn’t sure he needed to give it to me because it could be attorney-client privilege. I pointed out to him that the district is assuring the public that it’s perfectly fine to use bond premium to pay issuance costs, without actually telling the public the basis for that decision. Furthermore, the board specifically relied on this legal analysis in making its decision to approve the expenditure. I’ll be speaking to our company attorney about this. When the bond counsel spoke to the BOC, she said she and other attorneys didn’t know what the Poway letter meant. If they now have a better understanding of it, the public deserves to know what it is.

10.6 (item #41): Joint use lease agreement between MDUSD and Anova Center for Ed:
Hansen questioned the plan and pointed out that the revenues were minimal.
Lawrence said the district would receive about $84,000-$94,000 in rent, plus would reap solar benefits and Pawar Transportation savings.
Rolen said Anova pays 95-cents a square foot now and the district got them up to $1.50.
Lawrence said Anova approached the district. He said Measure C staff will be on the Holbrook site for 5-6 years, but after that, the district could see if anyone wants to rent the whole site. He also said the district is holding onto the property for when Concord develops the Naval Weapons Station property.
Eberhart said the deal is better for district students and makes better use of the facilities.
“To say that there has been no planning is void of reality,” he said, “so I would encourage people to look at the planning that has been done.”
Hansen asked: “Where is that plan?”
Passed 5-0.

JUNE 26 UPDATE: Here is the link to video of the bond cost of issuance discussion: http://qik.com/video/52274799

Here is my story about the meeting: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_20942427/mt-diablo-school-board-approves-2012-13-budget

Since I didn’t finish the live blog, here is a synopsis of the rest of the meeting (please note that video clips are posted at http://qik.com/tharrington and will be posted later at http://www.youtube.com/tunedtotheresa):

PUBLIC COMMENT:

Three people spoke about a composting program at Sequoia Elementary in Pleasant Hill, which they would like to serve as a model for other schools. One said Pleasant Hill Middle School’s Earth Club is “disenfranchised” because the school has resisted composting and sustainability efforts there. It spends more money on waste disposal than any other Pleasant Hill school. Superintendent Steven Lawrence promised to bring this back as an agenda item.

No district communications.

CAC Annual Report: Dorothy Weissenberger delivered the annual report, including references to disproportionality and the FCMAT reports. She said the CAC is very concerned about cuts to special ed and reminded the board of its legal obligation to provide a free and appropriate education. She said the group would hold a planning meeting in August.

Superintendent’s Report: Lawrence invited Jeff Adams of UMDAF to speak. Adams presented the district with a check for $250,000 as a contribution toward athletics.

Lawrence also praised SASS for offering several courses to teachers and said more will be offered in August.

Board unanimously appointed Lisa Caswell as program specialist, categorical programs, to work at Oak Grove MS.

Board unanimously apppointed Ann Tirrell as program specialist, ed tech.

Board unanimously agreed to reinstate database admin. position.

Board unanimously adopted 2012-13 budget, but Mayo said she regretted the reductions to Delta View bus service.

Board unanimously adopted resolution regarding maintenance of fiscal solvency.

Board voted 4-1 to approve school site safety plans. Eberhart opposed, saying there didn’t seem to be any consistency from school to school.

Board unanimously approved items 15.8 through 15.11.

Board voted 3-2 to approve 21012-13 nonpublic school and agency master contract. Mayo and Hansen voted against. Mayo was concerned about abandoning collaborative in contract language. She also mentioned school class size discrepancy.

Board unanimously approved items 15.13 through 15.20.

Board voted 3-2 to authorize superintendent to enter into new administrator contracts over summer without board approval. Eberhart and Hansen voted against, saying they didn’t want to relinquish the board’s authority to approve appointments.

The remaining items were presented for information only. There were no board reports, due to lack of time.

Posted on Monday, June 25th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 132 Comments »

Clayton Valley HS teacher addresses MDUSD board regarding discipline

Disrespectful behavior by middle school students toward adults has been making headlines recently, including a You Tube video in which seventh-grade boys berated a school bus monitor and a Times story that focused on abusive treatment of teachers by students at Oak Grove Middle School in Concord.

The Mt. Diablo school district and others around the state are beefing up their anti-bullying policies in response to AB 9, which goes into effect July 1. The law requires districts to adopt a policy prohibiting harassment based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or certain other characteristics.

Kipp Penovich, a Clayton Valley High teacher, addressed the Mt. Diablo board June 18 regarding the need to improve overall discipline policies, citing his own personal experience with a disrespectful student.

Here are his excerpted comments:

“I’m here to address this district’s need to improve their discipline policies at school sites. I have been a teacher at Clayton Valley High School for the last 20 years, and before that went through 1st-12th grades at district schools. So I have been associated with this district for over 30 of the last 40 years. In that time I have seen a deterioration of discipline that has lead to an increase in poor student behavior. I am primarily referring to personal behaviors, but I believe this has also impacted academic behaviors as well. I would probably be OK saying that a large majority of students attending our schools are good, decent people, but there is a growing number of students who are not displaying good behaviors (both personal and academic) that are negatively impacting the environment of our schools and which infringes on those students who deserve a safe and ethical environment. I’m here to pass along my recent experience with this. Just over a month ago I became involved in a situation where there were two students in the hallway (who turned out to be boyfriend and girlfriend) who were having an animated discussion when they should have been in class. And, it appeared the young man was preventing the female student from getting to her class. So I became involved and asked what was going on. I was told “None of your F***ing business”. I decided to become a little more involved and asked for the young man’s name, and was met with the same type of profane response. The interruption allowed the young lady to move on to class, so it was just he and I. He continued to refuse to give me his name, so I just walked around behind him as he wandered around campus (I came to find out he regularly does this during class time) regularly throwing out “F***ing” this or “MotherF***ing” that, and telling me I looked “F***ing stupid” (which I would agree, but I think I didn’t have much other recourse available to me). After about 5 minutes he did finally give me his name, and I went and talked to an administrator up in the office. I was told to fill out an Incident report. Now as far as I understand in following up on this, the only thing that was done is that there was a meeting at a later date (which I haven’t really been able to confirm) with the student and his parents to discuss his bad behavior. I was never contacted or given confirmation of this meeting. There was never any real discipline levied on this young man. And I understand that this student has a long list of disciplinary issues. Do you think this really is impactful? How do you expect teachers to get involved when this weak response is all that will come out of it? At the very least, the student and his parents (accompanied by an administrator) should have come down to me and had the young man apologize out loud to me for the manner in which he addressed me.

If there was anything that I would suggest doing, it would be to develop a system of consequences that is meaningful that would help deter students from poor behavior. Additionally, I would suggest empowering teachers and backing them in their attempts to instill discipline in their classrooms, and on campus in general. I think many teachers are unmotivated to get involved if they feel nothing will really be done about anything, or if they do, they will be criticized because of some technical issue that an administrator doesn’t agree with (which presently happens). You need more manpower in dealing with this overall issue, and if you won’t be bringing in more people, you ought to make better use of the people that are already there.”

How do you think districts could improve discipline policies?

Posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 109 Comments »

MDUSD Bond Oversight Committee meeting Thursday

Here is the agenda for the Mt. Diablo school district’s Bond Oversight Committee meeting on Thursday:

“AGENDA
2010 Measure C Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee
Thursday, June 21, 2012
1936 Carlotta Drive
Board Room, Dent Education Center
7:00 PM

• Call to order

• Public Comment

• Review/approval of minutes of March 15, and April 19, 2012 meetings

• Introduction of new member: Jim Walsh

• Organizational Meeting: Election of Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson

• Review of member terms

• Committee Vacancy

• Solar Project: status report

• Mechanical (HVAC): status report

• Technology Infrastructure: status report

• High School Projects/Accelerated Implementation Schedule

• Quarterly Report: Financials

• Other Committee concerns/topics

• Adjournment”

It will be interesting to see if anyone asks about the $150 million bond issuance in the works or the IHTA kitchen and Prop. 55 funding priority changes.

Do you think the district should post attachments or PowerPoints to be presented, before the meeting begins?

Posted on Tuesday, June 19th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 46 Comments »

MDUSD board appoints administrators, approves union contracts

In one of the shortest Mt. Diablo school board meetings in recent history, trustees on Monday appointed four administrators, approved union contracts and other personnel changes.

The meeting ended so quickly that I missed it entirely, showing up just as Superintendent Steven Lawrence was leaving. Luckily, “citizen” Mike Langley and MDEA President Guy Moore were still lingering in the board room, so they filled me on what happened, along with Rose Lock and Julie Braun-Martin.

There were at least two speakers during public comment, including Langley and Clayton Valley High teacher Kipp Penovich.

Here are Langley’s comments, which he provided to me in writing:

“Madam President, members of the Board, Superintendent Lawrence, Staff, members of the Public, my name is Michael Langley and I appear this evening as a concerned citizen. The decision to ratify the contracts before you is a good first step. It is understood by most that subsequent actions may need to be held in abeyance until the results of the November ballot initiatives are certain. If the governor’s initiative passes there will be a temptation by MDUSD to continue a path that I believe damages the real education of our students. I speak out against the concepts that more layers of consultants, the proliferation of coaches and the tyranny of technocrats are needed to make incremental gains in test scores. If you look forward, you will see the disintegration of the myth that data testing is a reliable tool that brings benefits in proportion to cost in resources: monetary, lost instructional time and the human interaction that are the real engines of learning.

When it is time to rebuild and re-budget, consider the human resources that actually have the greatest impact on our students. Return classroom time to the educational assistants so they can help individualize student support. Return hours to the site clerical staff, so that they can function. Return administrative support to the sites that struggle with a single administrator. Release the teachers from the straitjacket of top down directives and embrace the art of good teaching.

How can you afford this? Remove any layer that does not support classroom instruction in a clean, safe and modern environment. For almost ten years the district has been chasing the mirage of improvementby edict. Yet, the measures of improvement you have embraced are flawed and it was inevitable that the district become Program Improvement. Quality people will stay, and you will attract more, if you respect the human resources that are slipping away from you.”

I will try to contact Penovich to see if he would be willing to provide me with his comments, or to paraphrase them for me. Langley said that Penovich asked for a districtwide discipline policy. Penovich has resigned from the district and will continue working at the charter.

I believe the union contracts were approved as presented, but I’ll double-check that tomorrow.

Here are the appointments:

Administrator, School Support: Marie Schirmer, current principal of Cambridge Elementary

Elementary principals:

Charla Hernandez, of Brentwood
Jon Pierce, of Oakland
David Ramirez, current El Dorado MS vice principal

No school assignments were made, said Braun-Martin, because the district is still matching people with schools.

The board also approved the creation of a new vice principal position at Oak Grove Middle School, to be funded with a School Improvement Grant.

So, here is a rundown of the elementary principals appointed so far:

Lianne Cismowski (former MDHS vp)
Kristin Martin-Meyer from Hayward as an Elementary
Charla Hernandez, of Brentwood
Jon Pierce, of Oakland
David Ramirez, (former El Dorado MS vice principal)

Here are elementary openings due to retirements, resignations or reassignments:

Ayers
Cambridge
Delta View
Pleasant Hill
Shadelands special education
Valle Verde
Woodside

So, the district still needs to recruit some more. In addition, it now needs to fill vice principal positions at El Dorado and Oak Grove middle schools and a principal position at Ygnacio Valley High.

Are you satisfied with the appointments thus far?

Posted on Monday, June 18th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 112 Comments »

Two Oak Grove Middle School teachers dismayed by lack of discipline on campus

Substitute teacher Rebecca Richter collects her belongings from Oak Grove MS classroom, after principal terminated her long-term assignment.
After I wrote a story about an Oak Grove Middle School student being choked by a classmate last month, English teacher Bethany Monk and substitute teacher Rebecca Richter contacted me to blow the whistle on what they considered an unsafe environment at the school, where learning is often disrupted and discipline is scarce. Here is a link to my story about what they said: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_20852103/two-oak-grove-middle-school-teachers-blow-whistle

“The main reason I came forward with this story was to shine light on the school’s bullying and harassment issues, which are not taken very seriously at this school, in many cases,” Monk wrote in an e-mail following publication of the Times story about her concerns. “A few weeks ago, a child was choked at our school. Next time, it could be a stabbing or a bullet. Someone had to say something. It’s my hope that a new and better discipline policy is implemented, and that teachers and students can always feel safe, valued and empowered at school. That was my goal with sharing my experience.”

Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and School Support in the Mt. Diablo district, said sometimes teachers with poor classroom management skills have more difficulties with student behavior than others. But both Monk and Richter insist they have not had problems managing students at other schools, where they say the “support call” system was implemented effectively by removing disruptive students and getting them the help they needed.

In fact, Monk said she was certified in crisis intervention in the San Ramon Valley school district, when she took a class aimed at helping teachers deal with troubled special education students. Monk also said she went through Navy boot camp, but even that didn’t prepare her for what she encountered at Oak Grove.

She said she thinks teachers at all Title 1 (low-income) schools should receive this type of training.

“It covered how to use body language, word choice, etc., to help to diffuse a potential crisis situation with a student,” she wrote in an e-mail. “We did group work, including presenting scenarios to the class. We also learned how to do restraints, etc. There was a written test at the end.

I also worked as a counselor for Families First in a group home for severely emotionally disturbed youth ages 6 to 18 back in (around 2000/01), where I also confronted dangerous situations. This training and the San Ramon training really helped prepare me for Oak Grove. Also, my military training helped as well. But none of these things was enough. It’s a different story when you are the only adult in the room full of children, and a crisis is happening or about to happen. That’s a different ball game. We need training on how to deal with crisis in the classroom setting.”

She is concerned about students whose needs may not be met on campus.

“Based on what I have seen at this school, there are some students whose behavior leads me to believe that they need immediate, and possibly intensive and ongoing counseling, beyond what the school is able to provide,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I have seen instances where administrators do help parents find counseling resources, which is great. But is it working? I know students who are struggling so much that it affects their education, and sometimes the education of those around them. In addition, there are students who I firmly believe belong in an entirely different learning environment.”

In a recent school teacher survey, many people described the campus as “chaotic,” she said. After reading an article about the difference between being burned out and demoralized, Monk said she realized she is demoralized.

“It’s like you’re so broken down and so exhausted,” she said. “I have a lot of great students, but it only takes a handful. It just gets to the point where I just feel like I’m so broken down that I can’t even teach.”

Monk said she has taught classes at Ygnacio Valley High in Concord and as a substitute at Riverview Middle School in Bay Point with no problems.

“The kids are so different because they have consequences,” she said of Riverview students. “It is like they’re scared to get in trouble and that’s what we need.”

Monk asked to resign in April, after feeling overwhelmed by unruly students and unsupported by the administration. But she was told that if she left before a replacement could be found, the district would report her to California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which might revoke her credential for breaking her contract. Out of fear of losing her credential, she decided to stay.

Mike Langley, president of the teachers’ union, said he has suggested that Oak Grove teachers form a staff senate to communicate their concerns to the school administration. He said the “support call” system implemented at Riverview required an administrator to pull a student aside and find out what was going on.

“Then, they would go back in the classroom and observe that the child was behaving,” he said. “Well, that takes time.”

If there are a lot of misbehaving students and few administrators, sometimes students can get returned to class without any true investigation into what is causing them to act out, he said.

“So,” he said, “the kids say, ‘Hey, this is pretty good, I can do whatever I want.”

Langley said sometimes a good “model” system can become diluted if it is not replicated properly.

“If they haven’t had any experience in doing it properly,” he said, “then each replication becomes a paler copy of the original.”

He also warned that this problem may exist on other campuses.

“If you focus on one school, you may be missing the big picture,” he said. “This is something that (Trustee) Lynne Dennler taught us: ‘If you see it one place, is it happening somewhere else, but just not bubbling up?’ There are other places that may be just below the surface. And there are some places that are doing fine.”

Langley said support calls and Coordinated Care Teams are a way to try to fill the gap created by the district’s decision 20 years ago to eliminate counselors. But Student Services Coordinators, who replaced counselors, often act as vice principals instead, he said.

The board expects to approve a new vice principal position for Oak Grove effective July 1, funded through the new School Improvement Grant: http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/93d484f5-4ee0-4656-be24-db8ec3616912.pdf

Lock told me that she was informed by Oak Grove Principal Lisa Murphy Oates that the school had launched an anti-bullying campaign in February through a “wildcat” school culture or school climate committee. But Monk said she had never heard of this.

“It seems that at most meetings, a teacher will ask the principal if and when Oak Grove will implement an anti-bullying program,” Monk wrote in an e-mail. “And yet, there is nothing in place. Teachers want our kids to be safe at school, and yet their requests for such things go overlooked. (And I would like to add: There are several AMAZING teachers at this school who endure harsh conditions every day and keep coming back full force. They are inspiring).”

Lock also said Murphy Oates has tried to instill pride on campus through clean-up and beautification. In addition, she said the school is revising its “parent compact,” to try to encourage more parent involvement. It also plans to begin “parent patrols” at lunchtime next year.

District administrators Lisa Boje, Jonathan Roselin and Carolyn Patton have been meeting with Murpy Oates monthly as the school’s behavior support team, Lock said. They did a campus walk-through at lunchtime to find out where the “hot spots” are and have hired extra staff for supervision, she added.

The school is trying to communicate more with parents via school messenger calls, such as one for a recent lock-down, Lock said. Murphy Oates, she said, is also working with police to keep the school safe.

Lock said Oak Grove has contracted with an organization that plans to present anti-bullying and cyber-bullying assemblies and parent workshops in the fall. The school will also distribute folders to students with information about anti-bullying and cyberbullying.

“Another thing they are doing is working with the school leadership team and the school culture committee around a progressive discipline chart to bring some consistency in responding to misbehaviors,” Lock said. “Probably, I would admit, there is some inconsistency. That’s why they see a need to formalize this.”

But Monk and Richter said they were not aware of any discipline chart.

Lock also said the school faces many challenges because it has so many new teachers. The district is trying to train teachers in cultural competence so they can communicate well with students from diverse backgrounds, she said.

The district, Lock said, is trying to answer the question: “How do we gain the confidence of staff, parents and the community so that students feel the support?”

How do you think the school and district can accomplish this goal?

Posted on Friday, June 15th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 31 Comments »

MDUSD Hometown Hero James Wogan thanks staff and teachers for their work with students

James Wogan (right) with staff member at Olympic High in Concord.

After a Hometown Hero story about James Wogan was published in the Times on Tuesday, he sent out an e-mail to let the community know about it and thank those who work directly with students in the Mt. Diablo school district, where he oversees programs for foster youth, homeless students and those who are struggling.

Here is his messsage:

“I’ve been nominated as a ‘Hometown Hero.’ This is a great honor, but it’s truly a team effort. I’m grateful to the staff with Mt. Diablo School Linked Services who work tirelessly to support vulnerable students. I appreciate our teachers, our amazing teachers, and all of the district staff and community partners who are dedicated to seeing all children feel well, and do well in school. The ‘heroes’ in my book are the children who face incredible struggles yet get up every day and come to school to learn.

I’m hopeful that this article will help to raise awareness of the struggles that many children and families face and maybe even lead to cash, gift card, or check donations c/o Mt. Diablo HOPE.’

www.mdusd.org/hope

Yours truly,

James

James C. Wogan, MFT, LCSW
Administrator, School Linked Services
Mt. Diablo Unified School District
Foster Youth Services, Homeless Outreach Program for Education (HOPE)
2730 Salvio St. Concord, CA 94519
Office: (925)682-8000; ext. 3054″

Wogan told me that every district employee who is not a teacher is there to support the relationship between students and teachers.

I mentioned this to Mike Langley, who agreed. Here’s what Langley said:

“He’s a sweetheart — a nice guy. And he’s correct, because it’s to support the student and right now, the primary relationship of the student is with the teacher. It’s unfortuante that we don’t have experienced counselors to meet the needs of the students in areas other than academics, so we evolved into having the teachers being counselor-teachers and that’s not necessarily what a lot of teachers are trained for, but they try to fill the need.”

Here’s another story I wrote recently about the increase of homeless students in California, in which Wogan is also quoted: http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_20714274/most-students-eagerly-count-days-until-summer-vacation

This includes Clayton Valley High student Matthew Fiore and his Dad Michael Fiore, who became homeless after they were evicted when Michael Fiore could no longer work, due to illness.

Wogan’s comments at the beginning of the Hometown Hero story reveal that there is always more that can be done to help needy students:

“I struggle between feeling grateful for what we have done for them,” he said, “and knowing that we’re still not meeting the needs of all the kids.”

What else could the district do to help its most vulnerable students?

JULY 25 UPDATE: After my story ran, CBS featured Wogan in a “High Five” segment: http://cbsloc.al/MmE0qR

Here’s a note about it from Wogan: “Frank Mallicoat from CBS KPIX came out to feature our successful programs. ‘High Five’ to the hundreds of our homeless students and foster youth who have overcome so much to do well in school! It’s truly a team effort.”

Posted on Thursday, June 14th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 5 Comments »

MDUSD trustee calls Brown Act inquiry ‘thinly-veiled attempt to threaten and intimidate a board member’

Mt. Diablo school district Trustee Cheryl Hansen said at the June 4 board meeting that she had been interviewed by a deputy District Attorney regarding a possible Brown Act violation, which she characterized as a “thinly-veiled attempt to threaten and intimidate a board member.”

She said the complaint was anonymous and did not come through the usual channels, which she said was highly unusual. The complaint, she said, was based on a comment by an anonymous blogger.

Hansen asked General Counsel Greg Rolen to contact District Attorney and get to the bottom of it. But, Trustee Gary Eberhart said an individual board member cannot direct the general counsel. He suggested that it be placed on a closed session agenda.

Here is a link to video of Hansen’s remarks: http://qik.com/video/51680064

Closed session agenda items, however, can only deal with personnel issues, litigation and other confidential matters.

Here is an e-mail that Hansen sent me, which further details the Brown Act inquiry:

“1. The deputy District Attorney told me that he was investigating an anonymous complaint that had not been submitted through their usual process, which is that all complaints must be submitted in writing and signed by the complainant.

2. During the interview, the only document that the deputy District Attorney produced was a copy of an April 17, 2012 post written by an anonymous blogger on your blog. He did not claim that this anonymous blogger was the complainant.

3. Since this single posting from an anonymous blogger was all the deputy District Attorney presented, I found this interview lacked substance and was a waste of time.

4. During the course of the conversation, I felt that this was simply an attempt to use the Brown Act as a tool to intimidate a board member.

Frankly, the focus of this whole issue seems to stem more from a political agenda than a legal issue which raises further questions as to why the district attorney would even be involved.”

Hansen has confirmed that blog comment resposted below is the one about which she was questioned:

“Doctor J Says:
April 17th, 2012 at 7:04 am e
@#72&73 I don’t think its strange at all and very common in the business world — and the education world — that executives ‘jump ship’ frequently to improve their status. The average tenure of a school Supt in the last 10 years is only about 2-3 years. He has 9 1/2 months left on his contract, in just over 6 1/2 months there will be an election which may swing the Board majority which could jeopardize a renewal of his contract. Trustee Hansen’s attempts to place a motion on the Agenda to postpone consideration of renewal of Lawrence’s contract until after the new board has been seated after the election has been thwarted by Eberhart and Whitmarsh, and Rolen, all ‘partners’ with Lawrence. In addition, that suburban District in Sacramento was just a few miles from Lawrence’s home in Roseville where he lived until February 2010, is a larger district [47,000 compared to MDUSD's 33,000], and the prior Supt made more money than Lawrence. Plus Lawrence was able to wrangle support from State Supt. Torlakson ostensibly vis-a-vis Eberhart. My source is telling me that Lawrence scored high on the Meas C bond passage, but scored low on public communication, a pathetic ‘strategic plan’ he didn’t really support, failure to implement an academic turnaround plan with results [one point API gain], and ironically the issue of ‘toiletgate’ actually surfaced and raised red flags about his leadership over high schools he directly supervised. There was also concern about his performance in West Sac, and jumping from a very small district to a large district without much experience. Let’s remember that Lawrence is a relatively young by age Supt with many years left in Education circles. But he needs a few more ‘bright spot’ accomplishments on his resume to be marketable. These executive search firms do a thorough review of all potential candidates and keep it on file. All you have to do is compare Agendas, Minutes, Community Committees like PAC, Strategic Plans, etc to see the difference between quality leadership at the helm of a school district. I invite everyone to do the comparison. We ought to be demanding better performance. Oh, and when you read their Board minutes, you actually know what went on in the meeting, unlike MDUSD’s chicken scratch minutes. Has Lawrence denied being considered for the San Juan USD job ?”

In a phone interview Monday, Hansen said she did not recall this information being discussed during any closed session. Dr. J. (whose identity is not known to me) has also said in an e-mail that he or she has not sought any closed session information.

“That was what was so odd was that he pulls out this blog post,” Hansen said. “I haven’t leaked any information from a closed session. Absolutley not. What I think is happening here is trying to create smoke when there is no fire.”

Last week, DA Mark Peterson told me the complaint was not anonymous, but he declined to divulge who filed it. He said he would not characterize it as an “investigation.”

“We’re conducting an inquiry into a possible Brown Act violation,” he said. “We don’t disclose how we came about the information, but we were informed of the possible Brown Act violation, so we’re making an inquiry.”

He would not confirm whether or not the inquiry was related to a blog post comment. However, he said the inquiry was related to disclosing an item or items that occurred during a closed session.

“People are supposed to know that you’re not supposed to do that,” he said.

After hearing that the DA said the complaint was not anonymous, Hansen expressed surprise. Here’s what she said in a follow-up email:

“During my interview, I explicitly asked the deputy District Attorney ‘Who filed this complaint?’ and he specifically told me that the complaint was anonymous and not submitted in the usual manner. At least twice I expressed to him my surprise that the District Attorney’s office would even investigate an anonymous complaint since their process requires a written complaint. Mark Peterson’s statement to you that the complaint was not anonymous was the first time that I heard this since that was not what I was told during the interview when I directly asked the question.”

Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, said it is very rare for someone to actually be prosecuted for violating the Brown Act. He said it’s possible information about a superintendent’s job search could have been discussed as part of a performance evaluation and that if it were, trustees should keep it confidential.

But, it would be tricky to prove that mentioning it to someone else was a Brown Act violation, he said. First of all, he said there has to be no ambiguity about whether it was protected information under the Brown Act.

Secondly, the DA would have to be able to prove that the trustee or other person who attended the closed session intentionally leaked the information, knowing that it was wrong.

“So, if you thought it was okay to say, it is probably not something you can prosecute,” he said. “But if it was in fact something that should have been kept confidential and you leaked it under circumstances (showing) that you knew it was wrong to do it — like you told somebody it was on deep background, off the record — that would be suggestive of the idea that would support the theory that the leak was inapproproiate and potentially not permitted by the Brown Act.”

Practically speaking, however, he said it wasn’t very likely that a prosecutor would pursue it.

“To do that in this instance,” he said, “it would be the first time a DA has ever thought seriously about using this as the basis of a prosecution.”

He said it would be ironic to use a law that’s primarily designed to push information from the back rooms into the open and into public hearings — and is almost never invoked in court in a prosecution — instead to do just the reverse by clamping down in order to seal up information and to deter future leaks of information.

“I would also guess that the prospect of such prosecution is very small,” he said.

Do you think the DA should continue to investigate this Brown Act complaint?

Posted on Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 56 Comments »

A look back at 2008 MDUSD board Brown Act accusation

Now that the Mt. Diablo schools superintendent and some board members have asserted that they did not need to publicly present bond documents to the board at the April 23 meeting where trustees approved those documents, it is instructive to take a look back at another time the Brown Act was a hot topic of conversation on the board.

On Oct. 18, 2008, Trustees Gary Eberhart and Paul Strange (who is an attorney) accused the rest of the board of violating the Brown Act by failing to present backup documentation for a vote during the meeting.

Here’s my story about that meeting, from our archives:

“MT. DIABLO TRUSTEES CLAIM VIOLATION OF BROWN ACT

Published Friday, 10/24/2008
Section: News
Page Number: 4
Section Letter: A

By Theresa Harrington

CONCORD — Mt. Diablo school board members Gary Eberhart and Paul Strange accused fellow board members of violating the state’s open meeting law after a contentious Saturday morning vote about school air conditioning.

‘I abstain because I believe the board is committing a misdemeanor and violating the Brown Act, and I can’t be a part of that,’ Eberhart said. The board majority voted to spend $10.2 million to air condition four schools.

Strange also abstained, saying that the superintendent should have included an engineer’s report – which compared different air conditioning systems – in the meeting agenda packet, since trustees relied on that information for their deliberations. The Brown Act requires public agencies to provide materials distributed to board members to the public, unless the information is confidential.

Board members received the engineer’s four-page report and an attached table of estimated construction costs, along with a memo from the district’s director of maintenance and operations, in a packet of materials distributed to them by Superintendent Gary McHenry. But when the board discussed different air conditioning options Oct. 14, the agenda packet did not include the report.

At that time, Strange said that the board should delay voting until Oct. 18, so the report could be provided to the public. He and Eberhart were stunned to find that the report was not included in the Saturday packet.

Dick Nicoll, assistant superintendent for administrative services, said the report was provided to the Times and was available to anyone who requested it. However, Strange and Eberhart said the public should not have to call the district to ask if anything was left out of the packet.

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, agrees.

‘There’s no excuse for not including it,’ he said.

To correct the mistake, Scheer said, the board should vote again, including the report in its agenda packet. If it does not, a contractor or anyone else could sue the district, alleging the vote was invalid, he said.”

Here is a link to the official minutes of that meeting: http://www.mdusd.k12.ca.us/mdusd/board_of_education/minutes/0809/10-18-08.pdf
The Brown Act discussion is under Item 4.1.

Similarly, Alicia Minyen says she thinks the board should vote over on the April 23 bond resolution. But, since it appears the bonds may have already been sold, it may be a moot point.

Eberhart’s insistence at the April 23 meeting that it wasn’t necessary to publicly present the bond documents is in stark contrast to his view of the Brown Act in 2008.

Do you believe the district has violated the Brown Act by failing to publicly present the bond documents at its April 23 meeting?

Posted on Monday, June 11th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 72 Comments »

MDUSD superintendent responds to questions about false and misleading bond resolution

I sent the following e-mail to Mt. Diablo schools Superintendent Steven Lawrence on Wednesday, asking him to explain misleading statements in the bond resolution approved by the board in a 4-1 on vote April 23rd (Hansen against).

I received his response this afternoon, which I am posting below my original e-mail. After reading his response, which did not include the bond documents I requested, I sent a follow-up e-mail, which I have posted after his response.

INITIAL EMAIL TO SUPERINTENDENT STEVEN LAWRENCE:

“Subject: April 23 Bond Resolution

Dear Steven,

I have some questions about the April 23rd bond resolution, which was changed after the board saw it, then submitted to the County Board of Supervisors on May 8:
http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=5270&mtgId=
341

According to the minutes, the board authorized you to make the following changes to the original resolution (which has been removed from the district’s online agenda):

“Eberhart moved, Mayo seconded and the Board voted 4-1-0 (Hansen – no) to approve 16.5 to modify the resolution so the changes reflect the will of the Board around option 3 and real property/land acquisition.”

Although the resolution was changed to reflect the will of the board regarding Current Interest Bonds, I do not see any language added to reflect the will of the board regarding real property/land acquisition.

However, I see that an entire new section was added (13), indemnifying the county. As you know, the board never authorized or discussed that addition.

I also noticed that both versions of the resolution include the same false information, which was not changed. Both resolutions specifically state that both the Preliminary Official Statement and the Purchase Agreement were “presented to this meeting of the District Board.” Further, both resolutions state: “The foregoing recitals are true and correct.”

Yet, those two documents were not presented to the board.

After the board meeting, the resolution was changed and the original resolution was removed from the district’s website and replaced with the new resolution, which was never presented to the board. That revised resolution (signed by you) was submitted to the County Board of Supervisors on May 8, as backup for the Supervisors’ resolution authorizing the sale of the bonds:

http://64.166.146.155/docs/2012/BOS/20120508_204/11101_Mt.%20Diablo%20USD%20Resolution.pdf

Based on all of this, I am requesting that you provide me with copies of the Preliminary Official Statement and Purchase Agreement, which the board reportedly approved.

Section 3 states that the Purchase Agreement is “on file with the District Board and is hereby approved….” Section 4 states: “The District Board hereby approves the form of Preliminary Official Statement relating to the Bonds on file with the Clerk of the District Board…”

I also have the following questions:

1. Why did you not present the Preliminary Official Statement and Purchase Agreement to the board at the April 23 meeting, as stated in the resolution?

2. Why did you sign the resolution, including the statement, “The foregoing is true and correct,” when it wasn’t true and correct?

3. Why was Section 13 added, indemnifying the county?

4. Who requested the indemnification clause?

5. Who authorized the indemnification clause?

6. Why is there no restriction on the acquisition of property or land in the revised resolution, even though the board directed you to add language reflecting “the will of the board” regarding that?”

SUPERINTENDENT’S RESPONSE:

“Theresa,

The District’s bond program includes a team of legal and financial professionals who advise us as to the legal, financial and other requirements in authorizing and issuing our bonds. The District makes every effort possible to meet those requirements. The following responses are provided to your questions of June 5th:

1. On April 23, 2012, the Board of Education (the “Board”) of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District (the “District”) considered a resolution requesting the issuance by the County of Contra Costa of certain general obligation bonds (the “Bonds”) of the District (the “Resolution”). Prior to the April 23, 2012 meeting, the Board was provided with the Resolution for review in preparation for that meeting. In addition, as stated in the Resolution, the Board, through its Clerk, was provided with certain supporting documentation, including a preliminary official statement and a Bond Purchase Agreement. The supporting documentation was not presented at the meeting because it had already been provided prior to the meeting thus allowing for review prior to action being taken.

2. The recitals in the Resolution are true and correct. I signed the Resolution with that understanding and belief.

3. Section 13 of the Resolution was added after a request was received by Bond Counsel to include such language. The County of Contra Costa requires the language in Section 13 of the Resolution for all bond issuances for which the County issues on behalf of a school district.

4. The County of Contra Costa through the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s office requested the indemnification clause in Section 13.

5. The indemnification clause in Section 13 was authorized by General Counsel to the District after discussion with Bond Counsel. The addition was made prior to the April 23 meeting. The revised resolution was provided to the Board for review prior to the April 23 meeting.

6. The Board authorization prohibited the expenditure of bond proceeds for the acquisition of new school sites but rather provided that bond proceeds were to be used to improve existing school sites. The authorization granted with respect to the issuance of the Bonds is accurately memorialized in full in the Resolution and the minutes of the April 23, 2012 meeting.”

FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL TO SUPERINTENDENT:

“Steven,

Thank you for these responses. I am again requesting that you provide me with the preliminary official statement and bond purchase agreement that were provided to the board for review. As you know, since they were distributed to the board, they should be public record, available for immediate review by anyone who asks for them.

Also, I am requesting a copy of the revised resolution, which you said was provided to the board prior to the April 23 meeting.

I also have the following follow-up questions:

1. Why did you not make the bond documents available to the public as part of the agenda docket?

2. Since you didn’t present the bond documents during the meeting, why didn’t you change the language in the recitals to reflect the fact that they were distributed to the board prior to the meeting?

3. The language in Section 2 of the resolution states that proceeds are to be “used for the acquisition and improvement of certain real property.” How does this prohibit the acquisition of new school sites?

4. Why did you not announce to the board and the public that the resolution had been revised prior to the meeting?

5. Why are the first two versions of the resolution no longer available for public review on the district’s agenda?”

Lawrence appears to be arguing that the resolution’s statements that the bond documents were “presented to this meeting” really meant: were provided secretly to the board without public disclosure. Based on his belief that these two are interchangeable, he is asserting that the recitals were “true and correct.”

He also appears to believe that it is not necessary to announce to the public that a resolution has been revised after it was published with the agenda, or to make the bond documents being approved at the meeting available for public review before they are approved.

Are you satisfied with Lawrence’s responses?

JUNE 20 UPDATE:

When I spoke to Superintendent Steven Lawrence on Monday regarding the bond resolution and supporting documents, he said the district was following the same procedures it had in the past and he wondered why there were so many questions this time around.

In response, I sent the email posted below. I am also posting his response, along with my follow-up questions:

“Tuesday, June 19, 2012 12:32 PM

“Steven, In response to your assertion last night that you did everything the same this year as you did in the past regarding bond sales, please refer to this agenda docket item from Aug. 10, 2010: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/com/print_item.aspx?itemId=2849

As you can see, the 2010 resolution was substantially different and did not include the ‘whereas’ clauses I questioned in the April 23, 2012 resolution. The 2010 resolution also did not include the statement: ‘The foregoing recitals are true and correct.’ But, it DID include forms of the purchase agreement and preliminary official statement as attachments.

I continue to question why you failed to present the bond preliminary official statement and purchase agreements to the public in April, yet claimed in the resolution that they were presented. Also, when Alicia Minyen asked to see them, you did not tell her that they were available for inspection upon request. Your rationale that they were “made available” to the board does not change the fact that they were not, in fact, ‘presented’ as you attested in the resolution. Also, you did not make a public statement that they were ‘available’ to the board upon request.

Do you believe your failure to publicly present the preliminary official statement and bond purchase agreement, as stated in the resolution, violated the Brown Act?”

“Wed 6/20/2012 6:10 PM

Theresa,

Please find the following response to questions that you have raised regarding the Resolution authorizing the bond sale and specifically the Bond Purchase Agreement (‘BPA’) at the April 23rd Board meeting. Also, per your request I asked Loreen to send you both the Draft BPA and Final BPA.

The Resolution that was adopted is different from earlier resolutions adopted by the Board. The most obvious difference is that earlier resolutions provided for the issuance of bonds under the Government Code while this latest resolution provided for the issuance of bonds under the Education Code. Thus, there will be a number of different provisions due to the different code. That is to be expected. There are also similarities. Both forms of resolution approve both a Preliminary Official Statement (“POS”) and a BPA and provide direction to staff to complete those documents.

The Resolution does not claim that the POS and the BPA were presented to the public. The Resolution states that forms of those documents were presented to the meeting of the Board and further states that they were held on file with the Clerk of the Board. That language was intended to mean that the documents were provided to the Board for consideration at the meeting and available for review if needed.

Our financial advisor Jon Isom personally hand delivered the BPA to Loreen with Lori Amenta’s assistance at the start of the Board meeting on the 23rd. This explains why Loreen didn’t have an electronic copy to share with you. In fact, he sent an email to Deborah Cooksey (referenced below at 7:31 pm on April 23rd) from his iPhone with the BPA attached to be printed and available at the meeting. I have since confirmed with Loreen that she does have the original hard copy from that meeting.

‘From: Jon Isom [mailto:jon@isomadvisors.com]
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 7:31 PM
To: Jon Isom; cookseyd@mdusd.org
Subject: Fwd: Mt. Diablo BPA

Sent from my iPhone’

I hope this background helps to clarify the questions surrounding the resolution, what it does and doesn’t do, and the source of the BPA.

Thanks,

Steven Lawrence”

(Note: Isom’s email appeared in the body of Lawrence’s email exactly as shown above, without the attachment mentioned.)

“Wed 6/20/2012 6:27 PM

Steven, Thanks for this explanation. I have received the first version from Loreen and she said she’ll send the final one soon.

Regarding the email from Jon Isom: I don’t see the attachment you referenced.

Regarding the language in the resolution, I am still unclear about whether the documents were actually distributed to board members. Did board members receive the preliminary official statement and bond purchase agreement at that meeting? Or, by “provided to the board,” do you actually mean that you had them and they were available for review, but not distributed to trustees? If this is the case, why was there no public announcement about this? Also, why did you not provide them to Alicia Minyen for review, when she specifically asked to see them? Also, why didn’t Deb forward the electronic version to Loreen?

Thanks,
Theresa Harrington”

Are you satisfied with Lawrence’s latest responses?

Posted on Friday, June 8th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 135 Comments »