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Archive for June, 2012

Why aren’t some high school grads prepared for college?

Matt Krupnick, our higher education reporter, says high-school graduates’ lack of math and English skills is among the most serious problems facing colleges these days.

He wants to look at why this is happening and how it’s affecting colleges, starting in pre-K or kindergarten and trying to find where the breakdowns are occurring.

Here are some questions he asked me to pose to blog readers:

“Are young kids simply not learning to read?

Or does a lack of parental involvement cripple that learning?

Is there something later in their education – junior high or high school – that is causing problems?

And why are these kids graduating in the first place?”

He says that in college, students in remedial classes are far less likely to graduate, especially in the most basic classes. College math teachers report that lack of reading comprehension causes major problems in remedial math classes, where some students can’t work out simple word problems, Krupnick says.

Why do you think some high school grads are not well-prepared for college?

Posted on Thursday, June 7th, 2012
Under: Education | 40 Comments »

MDUSD Parent Advisory Council to discuss budget tonight

Here is the agenda for tonight’s Mt. Diablo district Parent Advisory Council meeting, which I received from the superintendent’s secretary in an email this morning:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012 7:00 p.m.
Board Room, MDUSD Dent Center

I. Welcome and Introductions

II. Budget

III. Other”

The Dent Center is at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord. More information is available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 4000.

It’s unclear whether public comment will be invited. However, special education parents who still have questions after the parent meeting held last week, could try to see if Superintendent Steven Lawrence may be open to discussing upcoming changes, especially in light of recently announced principal retirements.

Parents at Sun Terrace could also attend this meeting, if they still have questions about how their concerns are being resolved on that campus.

Here is a link to the budget materials presented to the board on Monday:

At Monday’s board meeting, trustees discussed eliminating buses for Delta View Elementary and “overflow” students as a way to cut costs:

Parents interested in this issue could also attend tonight’s meeting.

Do you agree with the proposed transportation cuts?

Posted on Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 56 Comments »

MDUSD board meeting June 4, 2012

The Mt. Diablo school board expects to vote on several items at tonight’s meeting, including the appointment of a director of secondary support, third interim budget report, continued use of the KVHS radio station, post-retirement contract renewal for Pete Pedersen, several special education contracts, and a proposed format for public input and informational meetings.

The board also expects to discuss several information items, including the athletic budget, transportation changes next year, leasing space on the closed Holbrook Elementary campus to a special education school, forming an employee unions council and revising two job descriptions.

In addition, the board expects to approve 23 items on the consent calendar (without discussion) including personnel actions, contract awards, two new courses of study, and a “choose civility” initiative promoted by County Schools Superintendent Joe Ovick, which calls for the board to promote the importance of civility.

Other information items include recognition of a regional middle school National History Champion from Sequoia Middle School, a state Energy Quest contest award winner, and a report on a “Teaching American History” grant.

Do you believe MDUSD trustees demonstrates civility in their interactions with each other, staff and the public?

7:40 p.m. UPDATE/LIVE BLOG OF MEETING: The board is now voting on student expulsions.

There was no report regarding the public employee discipline/dismissal/release/complaint

MDEA president Mike Langley told me privately that the union has endorsed Brian Lawrence and Attila Gabor for the November election.

Debbie Hickey said item 9.24 should be a cst job, not a csea job.
Item was pulled and board unanimously approved rest of consent calendar.

9.24 Board had a glitch regarding the EBS voting, but I believe this was unanimously approved after Julie Braun-Martin explained rationale for it being a csea job.

11.0 Recognitions: Supt. Lawrence recognized a Concord HS team for winning a championship, Sequoia MS student David Leynov for qualifying for Middle School National History Bee and Bianca Nunez from Riverview MS, a state Energy Quest contest award winner.

13.1 Dist. Orgs.

1. Mike Langley introduced his successor Guy Moore.

2. Lorrie Davis of CAC thanked district for recent special ed parent meeting.

14.0 Teaching American History grant.
Presenters said board was given a thick packet of materials and Powerpoint doesn’t seem to be working.
No packet or Powerpoint has been attached to the agenda:
Powerpoint has shown up unexpectedly.
Streamed up to this point on
More info is at

15.1 Superintendent’s Report:
Superintendent Steven Lawrence presented a Powerpoint showing where grads are going after they graduate:

Here’s a sampling of the info:

Clayton Valley High School 2012 graduates:
 150 students will be attending a four year college
 38 are going to a UC
 59 are going to a CSU.
 222 students are planning to attend a two year

16.1 Appointment of Director, Secondary Support: Bill Morones
Trustee Cheryl Hansen says she does not support because he’s had such a record of change over past six years, so there is no clear record of achievement.
Passed 4-1 (Hansen against)
Morones thanks board.

16.2 Third Interim Report: CFO Bryan Richards present Powerpoint:

Here are highlights:

 The mid-year trigger cuts have been consolidated into one additional cut of $441/ADA to the revenue limit (raising deficit factor to approximately 28.853%)

 The mid-year trigger cut comes into play if Governor Brown’s tax measure does not pass in November

We are still declining in enrollment
We declined 113.92 ADA in 2011/12 from 2010/11
We project we will decline 270.50 ADA in 2012/13
This does not include effect of Clayton Valley charter school conversion
 An additional decline of 1,777 ADA

 3% one time off-schedule payment
 Formula to address mid-year cuts:
 For each $38 drop in the funded Base Revenue Limit per unit of ADA from the current Governor’s projection of $5,208.57 in 2012-13, one furlough day will be implemented (up to 11 days)
 For each $38 gain in the funded Base Revenue Limit per unit of ADA from $5,208.57 in 2012-13, an
ongoing salary increase of 0.54% will be implemented.
 Changes to teacher hourly rates:
 Non Standards based instruction from $20 to $25
 Standards based instruction from $25 to $31

Although MDEA hasn’t yet voted on this agreement, it has been built into the Third Interim Budget Report.

 Net Available Revenue $ 157,031,702
 Net Expenditures 166,758,321
 Net (decrease) fund bal. ( 9,726,618)
 Beginning Balance, July 1 45,543,431
 Projected Ending Balance $ 35,816,813

 Revolving Cash $ 300,000
 Stores Inventory 419,478
 Economic Uncertainties (2%) 5,978,577
 IRS Assessment Resolution 533,500
 Tier 3 Balances & Site carryovers 4,870,743
 Undesignated 23,714,515
 Ending Balance $ 35,816,813

 Total Revenue $ 131,557,650
 Total Expenditures 137,149,595
 Net (decrease) in fund bal. ( 5,591,945)
 Beginning Balance (Carryover)
as of July 1, 2011 13,180,548
 Projected Ending Balance $ 7,588,603

 Form AI: Average Daily Attendance decrease of (113.92) in 11/12 will decrease funding for 12/13.
 Form CASH: Cash Flow – Ending GF cash will be positive but projecting a decline of $16.9M
 Form RLI: Revenue Limit Calculations

 Revenue Limit decrease $ (10,996,076)
 Rent on CVHS property 450,649
 Certificated Salary decrease 4,591,659
 Classified Salary decrease 510,091
 Benefits decrease 1,525,846
 Books & supplies decrease 71,152
 Services & operating decrease 307,349
 Tier 3 pass through ($127/ADA) (225,679)
 Net effect annually $ ( 3,765,009)
 Based on 1,777 units of ADA

Taxes Pass TA with MDEA
Unappropriated Ending Balance @ 6/12 23,714,512
Operating Deficit 2012/13 -11,878,320
Adjust reserves 2,148,016
Unappropriated Ending Balance @ 6/13 13,984,208
Operating Deficit 2013/14 -10,477,160
Adjust reserves 1,838,042
Unappropriated Ending Balance @ 6/14 5,345,090

Taxes Pass TA with MDEA
Unappropriated Ending Balance @ 6/12 23,714,512
Operating Deficit 2012/13 -11,878,320
Adjust reserves 2,148,016
Unappropriated Ending Balance @ 6/13 13,984,208
Operating Deficit 2013/14 -10,477,160
Adjust reserves 1,838,042
Unappropriated Ending Balance @ 6/14 5,345,090

Taxes Pass Certification* UEB 6/30/13 UEB 6/30/14
TA with MDEA Positive 13,984,208 5,345,090
Taxes Fail
TA with MDEA Qualified 10,226,355 -2,962,486

*Note: There is no certification on third interim, this is what the certifications would be if we were at second interim.

 The Legislative Analyst agrees with Governor’s office that the budget problem over 2011-12 and 2012-13 has grown to $15.7 billion.
 There are concerns about the estimations of Redevelopment Agency Funds being overestimated.
 The budget relies on enactment of the Governor’s tax initiative in November.

 Third interim does not require a certification. However, we are happy to report that after implementing the proposed settlement with MDEA, the district is positive through June 2014 if the taxes pass.
 We have a significant gap between revenues and expenditures that must be addressed going forward as we will not be positive through June 2015 at budget adoption if we keep on our current trajectory, even if the taxes pass

Passed unanimously.

Moved up item 16.20: Transportation Changes for 2012-13
Superintendent Lawrence explains that transportation would be cut for Delta View Elem. students and overflow students within a five-mile radius.

Public comment:
1. A mother says she relies on the transportation for her children since she works in San Francisco and drops her children off at another person’s house.
2. Willie Mims says public should be able to see FCMAT report on which recommendation is based. He says the decision to cut transportation for Delta View could be viewed as hurting minorities.
3. Another Delta View Elem. mother urges board to maintain busing, since she also works in San Francisco.
4. Another mother pleads with board to retain Delta View busing, saying many parents are waiting for such good news.
Lawrence says FCMAT report may not be ready until August.
Whitmarsh asks Lawrence to proceed and bring back to next meeting. She says parents can come and speak again.
This was an information item and will be brought back as a vote as part of proposed budget reductions.

16.3 Public hearing utilizing flexibility authorized by SBX3 4 and SB70:
CFO Bryan Richards says public hearing is required.
No speakers.

16.4 Resolution #11/12-48 on Utilizing Flexibility Authorized by SBX3 4 and SB70
Mayo reads off list of affected programs and says: “I don’t like it.”
Passes unanimously.

Pulled item 16.5 and did not discuss or vote on it.

16.6 Declaration of need for fully qualified educators: Passed unanimously.

16.7 Food and nutrition services purchases 2012-13: Passed unanimously

16.8 Post Retirement Contract Renewal for Peder Pedersen:
Eberhart says his knowledge of construction, etc. in the district is “second to none.” Says he was not happy at the prospect of Pedersen retiring. “When we pay Mr. Pedersen half-time, I’m sure that we are getting more than half-time.”
Hansen also praised Pedersen for his integrity and hard work.
Passed unanimously.

16.9 Resolution #11/12-50 Specification of Election Order
Carries unanimously.

16.10 Revise 2012-13 School Calendar
Lawrence says revision would allow a furlough day at end of school year if governor’s proposed taxes fail.
Guy Moore supports and says it would give maximum flexibility and preserve a school day.
Passed unanimously.

16.11 Public hearing to adopt the Mt. Diablo school district Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) annual budget plan, etc.
Passed unanimously.

16.12 Approve Independent Service Contracts for Cherri Duffy and Deiredre Ryan Booth
Passed unanimously.

16.13 Approve NPA Behavioral Service Contract – PLAY
Passed unanimously.

16.14 PULLED at request of staff, according to Mildred Browne

16.15 Approve adjustments to non-public school purchase order/contracts
Unanimously passed.

16.16 Approve adjustments to independent service contracts/purchase orders
Passed unanimously.

16.17 Approve adjustments to non-public school contracts/purchase orders for residential/mental health for 2011/12
Passed unanimously.

16.18 Public input and informational meetings.
Hansen moves approval as presented and Dennler seconds.
Whitmarsh amends to have first two input meetings for strategic plan and not address the other four. Eberhart seconds.
Whitmarsh says could take place at next regular board meeting.
Passes 5-0.

Eberhart asks if it would be appropriate to move to eliminate the other four meetings. Rolen says he would not be comfortable with that. Eberhart says he wants to bring that back on the next board agenda.

16.19 Athletic Budget
Eberhart says the board should consider contributing more money to help low-income students participate.
Whitmarsh asserts that Clayton Valley Charter High would no longer be part of UMDAF, but Lawrence says he believes CVCHS would continue to participate in UMDAF for at least one more year.
This is for information only and will be brought back as part of the budget at the next meeting.

16.21 Joint Use Lease Agreement Between Mt. Diablo Unified School District and Anova Center for Education:
Rolen says school would serve high-functioning autistic students.
Director says school is limited to 14 students per class and would look at about three or four classrooms.
Mayo says school serves six district students.
Hansen says district should come up with long-term plans for the closed schools.
Lawrence says district realized savings by bringing in special ed program to Glenbrook and placing Measure C team to Holbrook, which helped reduce number of schools closed from two to three.
Eberhart says it will help the six families by bringing program closer and will give district additional oversight.
Hansen asks for continued dialogue with public regarding how programs work together on same campuses.
This will be brought back at the next meeting.

16.22 MDUSD Employee Unions’ Council
Hansen says this was her idea. Lawrence says some meetings are already happening and he will work on calendaring future meetings with individual unions, along with some joint meetings.
Eberhart objects to the idea of having the superintendent reporting what is said at those meetings to the public.
Mayo says it sounds like it’s done.

16.23 New job description for Coordinator of After School Programs:
Debra Mason questions rationale and asks what salary would be.
Info only. No one responds to Mason’s questions.
Will come back to next meeting.

16.24 Revise Job Description for Administrator, After School Services
Info only.

17.0 Board Member Reports:

Hansen speaks about a touching Bridge Program graduation, then complains that she was interviewed by the District Attorney regarding an anonymous complaint based on a comment by an anonymous blogger. She asks Rolen to contact DA and get to the bottom of it, saying it seems like a thinly-veiled attempt to threaten and intimidate board members. Eberhart says an individual board member cannot direct the general counsel and says perhaps it should be placed on a closed session agenda.

Eberhart asked to bring back the censure policy for action at the next board meeting.

Mayo talked about graduations and asked that the meeting be adjourned in memory of Mary Butler, a former English teacher at CPHS.

Whitmarsh invited the public to Centre Concord to see Grad Night decorations and reminded everyone about upcoming graduations and the Tuesday election.

She adjourned the meeting in memory of Mary Butler.

Posted on Monday, June 4th, 2012
Under: Mt. Diablo school district | 125 Comments »

Parent praises Valle Verde Elementary’s magnet autism program and teachers

During Autism Awareness month in April, I received a very touching email from Eva Marie Considine, whose son attends the autism magnet program at Valle Verde Elementary in Walnut Creek. She wanted to share her son’s experience in the preschool and kindergarten programs with the community, to demonstrate the major impact the program and its teachers have had on her son, Soren.

In response, I visited her son’s classroom and wrote about her email, as well as what I saw: However, due to limited space, I was not able to include everything she wrote in her email. With her permission, I am posting her entire email below:

“I wanted to play my part in celebrating Autism Awareness month this April by shining a light on the positive work that is being done for my son, Soren. He attends Valle Verde Elementary School in Walnut Creek where they have a spectacular early intervention program starting with an academic preschool that feeds into mainstream Kindergarten classes.

With a lot of information about Autism and what it is, mainly in my son’s case being in need of help with social interactions and focus in school, we sometimes forget to talk about what is going right.

As parents, some say it is a huge brick on the chest feeling when they hear that their child has Autism. Sort of a numbness can follow. Fear. How will I meet his/her needs? But for some, it can be extreme relief that an explanation and set plan can help make a difference when for so long they have been internally screaming for an answer to all of the: ‘Why does my child throw tantrums, repeat phrases, avoid eye contact, act as if he/she cannot hear me?’ kinds of questions.

I think that Valle Verde’s program could help other programs by following some of their components. First, the staff is caring. On paper, that word doesn’t quite seem to capture my gratitude for these ladies. They want to see success for my son and all of their students. They miss the children when they are absent. You have this feeling of peace that the children are loved in a family sort of way.

Secondly, each skill taught is carefully crafted into group and individual activities to address IEP goals, social goals, motor skill goals, speech development, and academic preparedness for Kindergarten. The transformation is mind-boggling.

For example, before my son attended Ellen Terminello’s class he refused to color, write, or even sit for a few minutes to work on these skills. I remember that first day driving to Valle Verde. My son thoughtfully stared out of the window as I asked questions. It was quiet in the car that first morning.

Within a week, we started talking on the way to school. I remember seeing a falling fence on Ygnacio Valley road, and I asked, “Who do you think could fix that fence?” Soren responded, “Grandpa.” The tears streamed down my face. We had started to converse about a single topic without random interruptions of repeated phrases that I didn’t quite understand at the time. Soon, he started writing his ABC’s and drawing and playing games with his sister more. He was ready for the next step: Kindergarten.

The program feeds into Kindergarten where my son is placed now in a mainstream class. When his Kindergarten class is finished, he is able to have speech, OT (Occupational Therapy), and social skills practice at the end of the day. His needs are being met without disruption to his day. He has a wonderful teacher, Mrs. (Joanie) Cuneo who has created a climate where my son is successful in school and being part of the group. He has friends and comes home excited about the academies, projects, routines, and P.E. (especially hip hop). The curriculum is enhanced in such a creative way and the two Kindergarten classes collectively participate throughout the week which adds expands the community of friends and learners. Mrs. LaDue, Mrs. Cuneo, Mrs. Terminello work closely together to provide specific instruction to each individual. They provide a top notch example of partnership.

I also enjoy the opportunity to help out on Fridays with art because I am able to see my son smile and fit right in to his class. With an assistant, Soren has caring support to keep on task and complete his work.

With an experienced and loving staff, a comprehensive academic program with all of the supports playing their part in the symphony, and the seamless transition between teachers and grades, the preschool and Kindergarten program sets the stage for success for years to come. My son is a new little boy who loves school and has close friends. I could not be happier for the quality of education my son has received.
Recently, the district honored teachers and staff who have made a difference. This was my response to that opportunity written to the district’s parent liaison, Hillary Shen.

‘I wanted to nominate my son’s teacher Ellen Terminello for outstanding service…going above and beyond the call of duty. She has led a wonderful staff in giving her students a solid academic foundation prior to Kindergarten. In addition to the academic preparedness, she teaches OT to ALL students whether is is on their IEP or not. She always has time to listen and work through any concern. My son has transformed from the boy who sits in the sandbox to the boy with many friends and a bright and loving personality. She is my miracle worker!’

Since I could only nominate one person this year, I am looking forward to nominating my son’s Kindergarten teacher next year. These ladies are such a team, and they truly have made a difference for which I am forever grateful.


Eva-Marie Considine
Valle Verde Parent”

Do you support the idea of “mainstreaming” special education students into general education classrooms?

JUNE 6 UPDATE: Ellen Terminello also recently shared a touching letter she received from a former student’s parent and an email from the student, after she was honored with the “You Make A Difference” award. With her permission, I am posting what she told a group of people who came to hear an Asperger’s presentation at the school by Dr. Kathryn Stewart:

“Several weeks ago, I was honored by the MDUSD CAC (Community Advisory Committee) with a You Make a Difference Award. The Contra Costa Times carried an article about the awards and listed the names of those of us who were recognized. A former parent of a student that both Kathryn and I knew 24 years ago got in touch with me after she read the article. She wanted to share how well her son is doing as an adult. This young man was finally diagnosed as an adolescent with Aspergers (which was not a diagnosis in his early years) and OCD. When Kathryn and I knew him in K-1, he was selectively mute. His mother reports that ‘He is very outgoing — unlike the days in your classroom.’

I received an email from my now 30-year-old former student, which said: ‘I am sorry you never got a chance to hear my voice. I was really shy back then and was afraid to speak to anyone. I have lots of friends now, a girlfriend, a job and an apartment. I hope to talk to you one day so you can finally hear my voice.’

These students have always been in our school population. They just had different labels in the past.”

Terminello told me the student was also a member of the Boy Scout troop operated by the Rowntrees, whom I featured in the Contra Costa Times story about the You Make a Difference awards, to which Terminello referred.

Posted on Monday, June 4th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 10 Comments »