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Second time a charm for MDUSD charter waiver?

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 at 6:38 pm in Clayton Valley Charter High, Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Once again, several representatives of the Mt. Diablo school district plan to trek up to Sacramento tomorrow, hoping to persuade the state Board of Education to approve their request to waive the financial impact of Clayton Valley Charter High on the district.

“I am going to the SBE meeting tomorrow and plan on addressing the SBE,” Superintendent Steven Lawrence wrote in an email. “It is important to the district because of the drastic cuts the state has made to our budget and the limited amount of funding provide(d) to educate the children of California. Any further loss of funds will negatively impact the educational opportunities for students in the district.”

District board President Sherry Whitmarsh said she doesn’t intend to go to the meeting because she believes the state board would be more likely to listen to parents than to district officials. Several district parents will attend, she said.

If the board denies the waiver, the district will have to shell out about $1.7 million more to the charter than it will receive from the state for the charter’s students. This is because the high school rate of funding is about $978 more per student than the unified school district rate.

The state Department of Education recommends denying the waiver because it would increase state costs and could set a precedent that would lead other districts to seek waivers. In addition, the board may not have the authority to grant the waiver, since school funding is granted by the Legislature.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, has proposed AB 1811 to try to help remedy the financial impact of charter conversion high schools on unified school districts.

But in looking more closely at her amended bill, which is in the Senate, it appears it would not apply to Clayton Valley Charter High.

Subdivision B of her proposed bill states:

“This subdivision shall not apply to a charter school that is
established through the conversion of an existing public high school
within a unified school district on or after January 1, 2010, but on
or before December 31, 2012, which instead shall receive
general-purpose funding pursuant to Section 47633. This paragraph
does not preclude a charter school or unified school district from
agreeing to an alternative funding formula, including the formula
specified in Section 47633.”

Section 47633 is the existing law, which would require the district to pay the charter high school rate. So, it appears that the bill is intended to remedy any future disparities that could arise if more high schools convert to charters in unified districts.

Here is the link to the state Department of Education agenda:

The district’s waiver request is Item W-25.

You can watch the action unfold online at:

Do you think the state Board of Education should approve the district’s waiver request?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

100 Responses to “Second time a charm for MDUSD charter waiver?”

  1. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s the video in which Carolyn Patton talks about the preliminary FCMAT findings which the district has received:
    At 1:20 she says: “We’ve already seen preliminary findings….”
    At 1:50, she says: “As I think you have all seen, the FCMAT study identified….”
    At 2:35, she talks about the letter from herself and Greg Rolen that outlines three components of the FCMAT recommendations.

  2. Mom to you Says:

    Doctor J, saying that elementary schools are getting too much money is one of the stupidest arguments to have come from the charter supporters. I have never, in all my time, as a MDUSD parent and taxpayer, heard anyone argue that elementary schools were getting more money than they should have. It’s a ridiculous argument and I haven’t heard one single charter supporter come up with examples of how elementary education in their feeder schools should be cut to provide more money for their charter high school. Not one.

    As far as raises go, I would like to see every district employee given raises and promotions based solely on performance. Every secretary, every janitor, every teacher, every administrator. Period. But school district employees are heavily unionized and they have chosen to have salaries set by group contract rather than individual performance. So be it. Perhaps that same attitude carries over to the top. It doesn’t alter the basic facts of the financial impact of the charter school. Teachers at Clayton Valley High School found a way to get a larger piece of the pie for themselves at the expense of everyone else.

    As to why MDUSD gets less than the average unified rate, well, that goes back into ancient history, doesn’t it? As I recall, schools used to be funded by local property taxes, not the state. But a lawsuit was filed – back in the 1970’s I think – arguing that it wasn’t fair that students who lived in areas with high property values had a lot more funding for schools than students who lived in areas with low property values. As a result of the lawsuit, property taxes were sent to the state, who would then send them back to local school districts based on some convoluted formula that would fairly distribute the money. But of course it wouldn’t be fair to the wealthy districts to immediately reduce their funding, so equalization of funding was to be done gradually. But along came Prop. 13 and it changed everything. So funding was never equalized and MDUSD gets the short end of the stick. That’s the abbreviated version, from memory, but I think I have it more or less correct. And lets not forget that there’s some other piece of the school funding puzzle that allows wealthy areas to keep their “excess” (I think that’s what it’s called) property tax payments to the state and use them for their schools on top of what the funding formula gives them. So some districts have a lot more money than MDUSD, more than the funding formula provides for. It’s unfair and it’s not the fault of the MDUSD board or the superintendent. It’s just the way it is until the legislature decides to change it.

  3. Doctor J Says:

    @MTY#52 – Its reality: Look at the ADA amounts for pure “high school” districts [higher ADA] v. elementary districts [lower ADA] — the underlying philosophy being that it is more expensive to educate high schoolers than elementary children. Indeed, in MDUSD, except for the Title 1 schools and some other exceptions, an elementary principal is solo at the school without a vice-principal, sometimes with over 700 children. Yet high schools and middle schools have a plethora of vice principals and other administrators. The Unified ADA amounts are a blend of the two and thus fall in between. Yet in MDUSD, the balance between the two was allowed to turn upside down so that a larger percentage of the ADA is spent on elementary than on high schools, turning the funding model on its head. Lawrence has admitted this but without Board sanctification is powerless to change it. The “below average” Unified ADA for MDUSD is complicated, but what every district deals with, some being above average but the ADA is NOT based on wealthy districts getting more. All of this is going to change with the current budget revamping the whole ADA concept and calculation under a model proposed by Dr. Mike Kirst, SBE President, and a current California Supreme Court justice, with some modifications, that sets a base amount for every student regardless of age. MDUSD will not fare nearly as well as WCCUSD who will be rewarded for its high EL population and high disadvantaged socio-economic population. This was previously discussed on these blogs a couple of months ago and there were projections published. Of course there will be tinkering by the legislature. Ultimately MDUSD will suffer because it burned its bridges with the taxpayers for a parcel tax that will be needed. Part of the myopia of Eberhart and Co.

  4. g Says:

    Listening and watching that You-Tube video. Wouldn’t it be great if someone with the right equipment could “take down” the public mic, and “bring up” the side conversation that went on between Eberhart and Rolen throughout the presentation? I bet that would be a real eye-opener!

    Jester and team–are you listening?

  5. Mom to you Says:

    Doctor J, if the parents in the Clayton Valley attendance area – all of the parents, not just the high school parents – feel that too much money is being spent on their elementary schools and not enough on their high school, I’d love to hear what they think should be cut from THEIR elementary schools. I haven’t heard one parent propose specific cuts to any of the elementary schools that feed into Clayton Valley HS.

    I’m not familiar with the proposal to change ADA calculations, but it sounds like it is just a proposal for now, yes? “Of course there will be tinkering by the legislature” says it all. Any legislator whose school district stands to lose will vote against it and there’s no money to implement it without some districts gaining at the expense of others. It’s a zero sum game these days.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    @MTY, I suggest you go back to some of Lawrence’s power point presentations on comparing the average teacher salaries between elementary and secondary to show the out of balance — I am guessing February. Try the search engine on the blog. The current budget started July 1 starts the “phase in” over several years. This link should get you started.

  7. g Says:

    Rewind the tape–Patton asks the Supt if he wants her to go over the three points in the transportation plan—Rolen shakes his head at Lawrence with enough force that it gets her attention. You can see her glance over at Rolen, who then looks at her and directly answers the question for Lawrence, saying “Stick to the Power Point.”

    Was there some “legal” reason that Rolen was allowed to give direction to a speaker at a public session?

    Remember when Eberhart told Cheryl that she could not ask Rolen to “look into” something?

    Cheryl, I wish you had thought quickly enough to have said “now that the three transportation plans have been mentioned publicly–the public and I want to hear what they are.”

  8. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#51 Do we have the Patton/Rolen letter identifying the three FCMAT recommendations ?

  9. Doctor J Says:

    @MTY, here is a comprehensive projection of how the per pupil funding would work and be phased in. You can quickly compare all the Contra Costa County school districts.

  10. g Says:

    Just a quick glance at the Pawar Contract figures that were being presented to the board when the FCMAT report was brought up:

    I did some math–had a good time!

    673756.00 416850.00 254552.00
    62000.00 30000.00 160000.00
    ========= ========= =========
    735756.00 446850.00 414552.00 (totals using my calculator)

    713756.00 455350.00 414552.00 (totals the district presented)

    My grand total of the Pawar Contract:

    District’s grand total:

    Oh, but so what? The difference is a measly: $13,500.00

    I’m sure Pawar is happy – and that is why the folks at Dent make the big bucks!

  11. g Says:

    sorry–this system screws up columns–but they’re almost lined up 😉

  12. Doctor J Says:

    So what will Steven Lawrence do in response to State Trustee Trish Williams admonition to do what is right and work “with the charter” and not be at odds with it ?

  13. g Says:

    Well, apparently he’s decided to start by pulling the plug on KVHS. “We’ve only loaned you the equipment per the current one-year facility lease agreement–but the district will control the FCC license–do you want to buy it from us?”

  14. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    I’m still trying to figure out which blogs caused a principal to resign.

    Gary shut his down, Sherry never really posted anything, MDUSD Parents blog hasn’t been active for a while. It must be this “blog”. Hmmm…. must be the toliet lady.

  15. Theresa Harrington Says:

    There are other blogs in the community.

    On a positive note, here’s a new blog post about Cindy Gershen, who is working with the International Hospitality and Tourism Academy at MDHS to change the way students and teachers eat:

  16. g Says:

    Both Gary’s and Sherry’s blogs were illegal under the Brown Act. Posting their opinions of issues that were coming up on the Agenda–if read by other board members, could be considered “serial meetings.”

    “A majority of members cannot:
    Use a telephone, fax machine, e-mail, a chat
    room, an intermediary or other devices to develop consensus, agreement, or a decision.”

  17. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Trustee Linda Mayo expressed concerns about the Brown Act and blogs at the time, especially since Eberhart and Strange shared their blog and Whitmarsh sometimes commented on it. Perhaps this is partially why Mayo decided not to read blogs.

  18. g Says:

    On the other hand Theresa, your blog presents a lot of information that board members would be better off reading in order to be well informed.

    Commenting-NO. Reading-Most definitely!

    Yes, they might have to develop tough skin to go along with their massive egos to get through some of them, but they would frequently get a decent leg up on issues.

    To ignore both the good and the bad in the press is dereliction of duty.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Trustee Cheryl Hansen has told me she finds out more about what’s going on by reading my blog than from the district.

    I don’t know if Board President Sherry Whitmarsh and Trustee Gary Eberhart read my blog. However, they have occasionally contacted me about items in it, saying that someone else brought something to their attention.

    I also don’t know if Trustee Lynne Dennler reads blogs. As previously noted, she was initially advised not to.

    I do know that candidates Brian Lawrence, Attila Gabor and Ernie DeTrinidad have read my blog. I don’t know if Debra Mason does.

  20. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Clayton Valley Charter HS has a wikipedia page:

  21. Parent @ CVCHS Says:

    Clayton Valley Charter HS is a joke. My son, who got an A in advanced math at Pine Hollow, is not getting any credit for a years worth of work. I was told that his teacher wasn’t teaching up to the standard, so he did not pass the placement test. Thats a bunch of B.S. CVCHS is using my son, and many other children to boost their scores this first year. These idiots will be congradulating themselves at the end of the year at the expense of my child. Nobody at the school can give me a straight answer. It’s the most unorganized administration I have ever seen. My son and many others have now been denied advanced Math as seniors because they are retaking algebra as freshman. This is the problem with Charter schools in general, there is no district to watch these rookies. The teachers who started this have all taken raises by giving themselves an extra period off for Charter work. There goes any extra money for the students. This is wrong and parents are starting to get upset. Other schools in the district, don’t go charter, the district cannot be as bad as these jokers.

  22. g Says:

    Parent @ CVCHS said: “I was told that his teacher wasn’t teaching up to the standard, so he did not pass the placement test. Thats a bunch of B.S. CVCHS is using my son, and many other children to boost their scores this first year.”

    Placement test was tough, huh?

    What do you suppose the chances are that MDUSD doesn’t keep a strict eye on “teaching up to the standard” in order to “boost the district’s rotten scores?”


  23. Parent @ CVCHS Says:

    G, When you score above grade level in math on the star test, score advanced in math on the entrance exam at De La Salle ( we could not send for financial reasons)it seems the teachers at Pine Hollow are doing their job.I spoke to my sons 8th grade math teacher,and yes the test was set up for them to fail. The test had geometry problems in it, not algebra.They have not learned geometry yet? I know you are a MDUSD basher,like most in this blog, but you have to admit this is wrong. A 7 ranked school has no business giving a test like this, unless you want to boost scores. Diablo View is a high ranking school and even those kids did poor. MDUSD might have its problems, but I can not longer trust the Charter.

  24. Anon Says:

    Parent @ CVCHS,

    Can you provide any proof? A copy of the completed test perhaps?

    If this is true, this is really damaging to the reputation and mission of CVCHS. If this is not true, and in reality the district is the one that has been dogging it, then lawsuits might be in order.

  25. Parent @ CVCHS Says:

    Anon, I should be getting his star test results next week and then I will bring the results to his current teacher.I have spoken to other parents with the same concerns and once the results are in, we will fight to have our kids in advanced classes. The party line at the Charter is that the Middle School teachers are not doing their job, we will prove that wrong with Star results.

  26. Clayton Squirrel Says:

    For the CVCHS parents who want their kids farther ahead in math. Be careful. Some really good GATE students who took Geometry as freshmen crashed and burned in Geometry at CVHS and had to retake it. Those grades affected their ability to get into the college of their choice. Make sure your student has a really good grasp on the whole year of Algebra 1. At another private school (not De La Salle)the math placement test is also quite hard because they want the kids well prepared to move on. A friend’s son who had been in “Algebra 2” at a private school found himself back in Algebra 1 as well.

  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    One of the complaints that parents had before the school converted to a charter was about math instruction there.
    Even Board President Gary Eberhart commented during the board’s strategic planning session that his own daughter had not received adequate math instruction at CVHS.
    Former Principal Sue Brothers made it a top priority of hers to try to improve math instruction. She wanted to improve professional development for the school’s teachers and she also instituted a student peer tutoring program, which I understand is continuing at the charter.
    At some of the early charter meetings, some parents expressed concerns about the fact that the charter agreed to allow all teachers to work for the charter, if they wanted to. Some parents were hoping to “weed out” teachers they did not believe were good instructors.
    I don’t know how much staff turnover there has been in the math department in the past two years (since parents voiced concerns about instruction to former Principal Gary Swanson). It’s possible this may still be a challenge for the school.
    New Executive Director Dave Linzey has brought some online programs to the school to help students get caught up or even boost their skills.

  28. mtzman Says:

    Well, Parent, it will indeed be interesting to see those STAR results. If you look at 2011 data, 35% of Foothill MS students taking algebra tested advanced, and 42% at Sequoia. Both schools had 70% or higher advanced and proficient in algebra. At Diablo View, only 10% tested advanced and at Pine Hollow the number was 12%. Combined advanced and proficient numbers were in the 40-50% range.

  29. Doctor J Says:

    @Mtzman#78 Thanks for quoting data — trends are hard to dispute and the 2012 results should be telling. Many parents unfortunately are fooled by the bricks and mortor, and rah rah of staff, instead of proven test results year after year. These are the kinds of things that SASS, Asst Supt Rose Lock, and Supt Lawrence should have concentrated on in the last two years, instead of some of the utterly ridiculous issues they spend their time on. Focus on quality instruction — why isn’t the principal being the “instructional leader” as Lawrence claimed two 1/2 years ago would happen ?

  30. Parent@formercvhs Says:

    Clayton Squirrel you are wrong about those GATE students crashing and burning in geometry as freshman. My daughter was one of those students and she shut down because the teacher was terrible, rude, and not student friendly at all. This teacher went page for page out of the book and lost most of the class. My daughter recieved an F. I complained to the principal many times. She then repeated next year with one of the best teachers in the school, got an A, and loves math again. Hard to believe the Charter allowed this teacher to remain.

  31. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As I mentioned, any teacher who wanted to remain was allowed to under the charter.
    It is now up to the new leadership to visit classrooms and ensure that students are getting the rigor, relevance and relationships that have been promised.

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s how CVHS sophomres fared on the High School Exit Exam in 2012:
    And here are the results from the previous year, which show improvement:

  33. Anon Says:

    @Theresa 77
    Every teacher at CV knew that the only reason Gary proposed and lobbied so hard for dropping math requirements from three years to two years was the fact that his daughter was struggling in math.

  34. Doctor J Says:

    @83 Gary never could play poker very well.

  35. Anon Says:


    If what you claim is true, that is really, really sick. Why would the other board members allow such a thing?

  36. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The reason given by the Superintendent was to save money by eliminating the need for summer school.
    Trustee Linda Mayo and then-Trustee Dick Allen voted against reducing the math requirement. But, they were overruled by Eberhart and trustees Sherry Whitmarsh and Paul Strange.
    However, Trustee Cheryl Hansen has asked the superintendent to consider reinstating the math requirement and boosting graduation requirements overall.
    I believe CVCHS has the same requirements as the district, but could change them.

  37. Anon Says:

    March 9, 2010, Eberhart moved, Whitmarsh second, 3-2 vote ( Mayo, Allen – no )

  38. Clayton Squirrel Says:

    Yes, Former CVHS Parent, I agree with you that there was a huge difference in teaching styles and effectiveness among math teachers at CVHS. I have yet to find a school, public or private, where I haven’t heard of parents with legitimate math teacher complaints. That is a very good reason to make sure that your student is well prepared and ready for the subject in case he or she doesn’t get the fabulous one. I am just saying be careful if there is a question of student readiness (performing poorly on a placement exam is a warning flag if many other students passed).

    I have high hopes for CVCHS and their student and teacher support programs. They have hired several new math teachers this year as well because some from CVHS have left or retired. It will not be perfect and it will be a work in progress but I know that having a great math department is one of their main goals.

  39. David "Shoe" Shuey - Clayton City Council Says:

    #71 Parent@cvchs – I read your comments on the math issue at CVCHS and I would be happy to talk with you on your issue and see whether or not there is any assistance I can offer. Admittedly, I believe the Board and Admin at CVCHS are doing an excellent job and I am excited for the future of our charter. However, as the Council and me in particular took an active role in establishing and executing this charter for our children, I have a vested interest in ensuring that it is run correctly and fairly. I have heard about issues with the math scores but had not heard about your particular issues. If you desire, please email me at and I will be happy to talk with you and help if I can. This offer applies to anyone at the charter so please feel free to email me.

  40. Parent @ CVCHS Says:

    Thanks for the offer Mr Shuey but I need a real educator to look at this, not a politicion. When I find one at the charter,I will let you know.
    Clayton Squirrel: When you recieve an A in alegabra and score advanced on Star, that means your well prepared. I wonder how many students who are taking algebra 2 would pass this test? Maybe this warning flag test should apply to all students if the middle schools are so bad.

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    According to this spreadsheet, only 26.4 percent of Clayton Valley HS students scored proficient in math last year:

    Here’s the summary report for CVHS:

  42. Anon Says:

    None of the MDUSD high schools scored over 50% in math, MDHS was 10% and Northgate was 46%, then someone please explain how the district scored 53.10% ?

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I was wondering the same thing. We got this chart from Liberty USD (to show that other high schools scored low too), but it does seem odd that you could get a higher overall score than any of your individual high schools. Same thing with Antioch, WCCUSD, and Pittsburg. I will have to double-check this.

  44. g Says:

    Whomever ran, double checked and approved all of the averages must be products of MDUSD math departments. None of them are correct. All are high, and math average is just about double. Either something got left out or someone needs a new job.

  45. g Says:

    They must have thrown in entire district’s on the average line? How else could the districts with just one high school (PUSD, MUSD) be off between the school line and the district line?

    I want my taxes back.

  46. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, that’s the point. The Liberty Union High School District is pointing out that the scores for unified districts such as Martinez and Pittsburg would be much lower if they were based solely on the high school scores. It is the elementary and middle school scores that give them their higher average scores.
    This chart is a comparison of the high school scores (with the elementary and middle school scores left off), but it includes the district averages that are reported in my story.

  47. Anon Says:

    We should not be celbrating 50% scoring proficient or above. The other 50% are not! This is terrible

  48. anon Says:

    TH: i tried to get the scores of individual schools and wasn’t successful. Doesn’t appear that API scores are yet available. But, is there away to compare the scores of 2011 to 2012 in regards to students at proficient and above?

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, but it’s time-consuming and cumbersome because you have to look up each school individually by year on the CDE website:

  50. Anon Says:

    Liberty made a good point. it’s a sad state of affairs that math proficiency declines in the upper grades. the goal is students should be proficient by high school graduation. this failure-seen at low-scoring schools like MDHS and Kennedy-should be addressed by the cde

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