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MDUSD transportation plans revealed

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 at 7:58 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

After raising questions about the Mt. Diablo school district’s plans for special education and transportation, I received two documents today — one from a parent and one from Superintendent Steven Lawrence.

Here is a letter sent to many special education parents regarding transportation plans:

“June 20, 2012

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Please read this entire letter as it contains important information regarding changes for students who are eligible for transportation as a related service as part oftheir Individual Education Plan {lEP). All changes will commence during the 2012/2013 school year. The Mt. Diablo Unified School District (“District”) strives to provide quality educational programs in challenging fiscal times. As such, the District recently participated in a Financial Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) study to assist with identifying more effective and efficient means to proVide special education transportation.

The study revealed that we are significantly overidentifying transportation as a related service for special education students. For example, the District currently provides transportation to 26% of our students with an IEP; however, in most districts reviewed by FCMAT the average was approximately 10%. The FCMAT team found that the District has an inordinately high number of parents who receive reimbursement in lieu of transpol1ation services. One similarly sized district has only two (2) parents who are paid in lieu whlle we reimburse one hundred forty-four (144) parents. In response to the FCMAT findings and recommendations, the District is modifying speciial education transportation services as follows.

Parent Reimbursements. Effective immediately transportation reimbursements will only be offered when the District is unable to transport the student. Current parent reimbursement arrangements will be honored through extended school year 2012. Any new reimbursement requests require priorapproval from Angie Goakey, Transportation Supervisor.

Home School. Beginning August 26, 2012, students who receive special education services at their home school will not receive transportation unless the IEP team determines that a student’s unique needs require transportation.

Cluster Model. Beginning on Monday, January 7, 2013, the District will transition to a School to School (Cluster) Transportation mode. Unless otherwise noted in a student’s IEP, all transportation for students with IEPs will be from school of residence to school of placement. High school students who live in the Bay Point area will have a cluster point (bus pick-up/drop-off location) at Riverview Middle School. Middle school students who reside in the former Glenbrook Middle School attendance area will have a cluster point at the Glenbrook site.
Transportation as a related service will be reviewed with you prior to January 2013. Any specialized transportation needs will be determined by the students IEP team and documented in an IEP. Students who are medically fragile or pose significant safety concerns to themselves or others will continue to be eligible for door to door transportation. Transportation services will be reviewed at your student’s annuallEP meeting, or earlier, if needed.

We understand these changes impact your child. It is our desire to work with families during this transition. To help with the transition and answer questions the district will be offering the following:

o Parent informational meeting(s) in September 2012 (dates and location to be announced)

o Website with information regarding transportation changes and frequently asked questions

o An email address available for sending specific questions regarding transportation

For assistance during the summer break please contact: Carolyn Patton, Administrator, Special Education, (925) 682-8000, Ext. 4187; or Angie Goakey, Transportation Supervisor, (925) 682-8000, Ext. 3709.

Sincerely,

Mildred D. Browne, Ed. D., Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Services and Special Ed-ucation
Greg Rolen, General Counsel”

The above document appears to be the letter referenced by Carolyn Patton on June 25 when she told the board about the FCMAT findings: http://youtu.be/LV93z1d7wIk

However, Patton said the draft letter was from herself and Rolen. Instead, the final letter sent out was signed by Mildred Browne and Rolen.

I also received the following email from Lawrence:

“Theresa,

I needed to check with Carolyn and I believe this is the letter you are referring to. It is a (sic) exit letter of the FCMAT audit.”

But the attachment he sent was not a letter. Instead, it was a draft Transportation Review from FCMAT (Fiscal Crisis & Management Team): http://www.docstoc.com/docs/document-preview.aspx?doc_id=124831160

This report is dated July 18. That is one day BEFORE Lawrence sent me the email below, dated June 19, in response to my email asking for the FCMAT report and letter mentioned at the board meeting:

“That’s interesting because I have not received a draft or final report from FCMAT. I will have to check with Board members to determine where the reports they have received came from because to my knowledge no one at the district has received copies of the draft or final reports.”

So, it appears that Lawrence may have inadvertently attached the report that he previously claimed no one had received. It’s still unclear what document Patton was referencing when she told the board in June: “In response to the FCMAT report, we have already seen the preliminary findings….” She also said, “As I think you have all seen, the FCMAT study identified….”

Here is a portion of the July 18 report related to FCMAT’s staffing recommendations:

“…FCMAT recommends that the district create the positions of director of transportation, vehicle maintenance supervisor, and field trip scheduler. This model also includes only one lead mechanic, eliminating one of the lead positions. The vehicle maintenance supervisor would lead one shift, and the lead mechanic would be responsible for the other shift. Both the vehicle maintenance supervisor and the lead will maintain the parts inventory and work order processing. The safety and training supervisor would no longer dispatch on a regular basis, but would work out in the field, performing duties such as behind-the-wheel driver training, completing safety ride checks with drivers as they drive routes (evaluations), observing student loading and unloading at schools, providing classroom and in-service driver training, as well as maintaining driver records.

The three driver instructors would continue bidding a route, but they would not be guaranteed eight hours per day. These personnel should be used as driver instructors only when necessary as an extra work assignment. The supervisor-dispatcher positions would be reconfigured as scheduler-dispatchers and not retain the supervision responsibility. Added to the dispatch office will be the support of the third scheduler for field trips. Supervision would be accomplished by the operations supervisor, safety and training supervisor, vehicle maintenance supervisor and the director of transportation, dividing the staff for evaluations. The net effect of this reorganization would be the addition of three positions and the deletion of four others, an overall reduction of one position.

Aides who assist students on buses are assigned by the Special Education Department but are charged to the Transportation Department. Fewer than five aides ride on school buses, but the exact number was unclear. Bus aides should report to the Transportation Department, which should hire, train and evaluate them. The reasons for assigning a bus aide should be clearly stated on a transportation request, so the department knows the specific student requirements.

Employees indicated that in recent months, tension has developed in the department. Meetings were conducted, a survey administered, and an outside facilitator hired to evaluate and mitigate some of these issues. This tension was not evident at the time of FCMAT’s visit; however, bus drivers and other staff reported that meetings were recently attempted between the supervisory staff and department employees. Every attempt should be made to continue this process.

Transportation rarely holds staff meetings where key department staff can discuss issues and plan. These meetings are an effective way to build camaraderie and contribute to the overall welfare and success of the department. Staff meetings should be a regular function of the department.

The department has no driver or employee handbook. The transportation services coordinator has worked on a draft handbook that he hopes will ultimately be adopted. The district should completely evaluate the draft document to ensure it complies with the collective bargaining agreement, existing district rules, and practices, and laws and regulations.

Recommendations

The district should:

1. Consider adopting the staffing model recommended by FCMAT.

2. Consider reclassifying the driver instructors as bus drivers and utilizing them as instructors only when needed as appropriate through the collective bargaining process.

3. Bus aides should be hired, trained and evaluated by the transportation department.

4. Continue meetings with employees.

5. Continue to work on developing a department handbook.

6. Institute regular department staff meetings.”

Do you agree with FCMAT’s staffing recommendations?

JULY 25 UPDATE: I received the following email from Superintendent Steven Lawrence this morning regarding the draft FCMAT report:

“Theresa,

I made a mistake. That is our draft report and has not been shared with the Board or any member of the public. Because people have been on vacation we are still vetting the draft to get corrections back to FCMAT. As part of the FCMAT process they always check findings with a school district before the report is finalized. Therefore, there could be errors in the current document. I know that I cannot mandate that you do or don’t do anything with the report, but our goal is to share the actual final report with the Board at the August 13th meeting. At that point, the final report would be a public document and you could share any parts of it that you felt appropriate. Attached is the letter that we received at the end of the visit.

Sincerely,

Steven”

Since I had already posted the draft report on my blog last night, I replied that I would post the above email today so readers would know that the draft might contain errors and could be corrected before the final report is presented to the board on Aug. 13.

I will post the exit letter as a separate blog item.

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  • Flippin’ Tired

    The recommendations sound utterly reasonable.

    I predict a ton of lawsuits, or threats of lawsuits, from the parents who have thus far had their every whim granted. I know of at least three parents at my site who begin every conversation with the words “my lawyer says…”

    This should get interesting. General Counsel better get a comfy chair, there’s gonna be a lot of paperwork on his desk pretty soon.

  • Anon

    I don’t understand how they can keep referring to a report that they refuse to release? Many admins at the district had no idea what I was talking about when I called to ask for a copy of the report. The admins were in special Ed, transportation and mr Rolen office.
    The changes that were released seem reasonable but we as parents have no idea what the rest said and if the numbers in the first letter are correct or is it just the district saying sorry folks we need to cut and it is getting cut from transportation……we need to make sure the top 5 get raises and benefits get paid for the board and family members.

    Flippen, I hope you are not a teacher.

  • http://www.k12reboot.com Jim

    Only in the world of the unaccountable education monopoly could someone like Lawrence still have a job — with a recent contract extension no less! He tells you he is sending you a letter, but instead, attaches a report dated July 18 — a report that he had denied knowing about on the 19th. The ongoing farce at Dent Center would almost be comical if thousands of students and staff and hundreds of millions of dollars weren’t involved.

    With this crowd, I’ve given up trying to distinguish the duplicitous from the merely incompetent.

  • MDUSD Board Watcher

    Hmmm….I wonder what lies Gary and Sherry will tell to extract themselves and Lawrence from this one. The good news? This just torpedoed any hope Gary had of running again. For that Steve, I thank you.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Anon: It definitely seems like putting the cart before the horse to send a letter to parents on June 20 citing the FCMAT study, without ever having released the study.

    As you point out, it’s even more surprising that the district claimed it didn’t have the study when you asked to see the backup for the letter.

    The letter states: “In response to the FCMAT findings and recommendations, the District is modifying special education transportation services as follows.”

    This implies that there has been a public presentation and board discussion of the findings and recommendations, along with board approval. But instead, the district appears to be unilaterally implementing changes without offering the public the chance to discuss — or even see — the findings and recommendations.

  • g

    It’s obvious the district did not just receive the report on July 18 and then Dr Browne had a “plan” worked up and sent out within two days.

    I have no idea what the reasoning may have been, for altering dates, but it certainly appears that the July 18 date on the FCMAT document has been altered – or added by someone other than the original typist. At the very least, it is not in the same font as the rest of the letter, or the report.

    Equally obvious is that they’ve had the report for some time, and there WERE additional letters to Lawrence from Rolen and from Patton with regard to this scathing report. Otherwise, why would/how could, Patton refer to such letters and the report on July 16?

    There are some other discrepancies, not in the reporting, but in information given to FCMAT. Those 19 new buses they initially speak of as being “paid for in cash, instead of financing” and then later speak of “19 new buses purchased on a lease arrangement”. There was only the one purchase, on a lease, as far as has been reported by the district. Then there is mention on page 37 of the “recent grant to purchase 10 new CNG buses”—but the report does not indicate any confirmation that they were ever purchased. We were approved for that grant over a year ago. Did we, or didn’t we use the money given to us to buy those 10 CNG buses?

  • Theresa Harrington

    g: The letter from the district is dated JUNE 20, not July 20. So, Browne and Rolen came up with plan — based on the findings and recommendations — nearly one month BEFORE they received this July 18 report.

    Also, Patton mentioned the reports at the JUNE 25 meeting — nearly three weeks before this report was completed. The July 16 meeting was a closed session, which hasn’t yet been reported out to the public.

    Again, it is unclear what findings and recommendations Browne and Rolen are referring to in the June 20 letter — and that Patton referred to at the June 25 meeting — since the district appears to be claiming it didn’t receive the report until July 18.

  • Anon

    So did I read the report right? The district purchased busses, exited the County and knew they would not get the transportation costs? Is this what Mr. Rolen did?
    Now they spend way to much money on transportation and the familys of the most disabled are having to deal with it?

    Sherry, Gary and the other board members that approved this and extended contract of these very corrupt people should step down now! Steve Lawrence and Greg Rolen should also leave now! How dare they!

  • g

    In Dec. 2004 we had 14 CNG school buses. In April of 2012 we still had 14 CNG buses.

    What did we do with the $1,699,989.10 grant money from BAAQMD in 2011?

  • g

    I wonder how FCMAT would feel about having the date on their letter “altered”? It certainly makes them look less than efficient by the false ‘appearance’ of it taking them three months to complete their contract.

    Anon is correct–the corruption runs deep. I think we now know what some of the Closed Session “Anticipated Litigation” Items were really about—Rolen’s failure to properly oversee the busing program is going to cause a landslide of law suits.

    AND they plan to make the routing changes over Winter Break? MID-YEAR? What are they thinking?

  • MDUSD Board Watcher

    A few days ago I told everyone that some of the information coming out over the next month would shock us all. I suspect we haven’t seen anything yet, the best is yet to come…..

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have heard one fairly shocking rumor, but will not repeat it until I am able to find out whether it’s true.

  • Anon

    I hope it is a good one Theresa. The rest of the FCMAT report will be out hopefully soon. Perhaps that will be a shocker as well.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Please note that I have added a July 25 update to this blog, which includes an email sent to me by Superintendent Lawrence this morning regarding the draft FCMAT report he mistakenly sent me yesterday.

  • Anon

    It seems very odd that a district can correct the audit of an outside agency. At least we will now know what the District changed from the original unbiased report.

  • g

    Oopsie Daisy! “…we are still vetting the draft to get corrections back to FCMAT.” ‘But in the mean time, we went ahead and published a letter to parents about the blade that’s about to come down on busing.’

  • g

    Lawrence: “That’s interesting because I have not received a draft or final report from FCMAT. I will have to check with Board members to determine where the reports they have received came from because to my knowledge no one at the district has received copies of the draft or final reports.”

    Lawrence: “I made a mistake. That is our draft report and has not been shared with the Board or any member of the public.”

    How could you have a presentation at a board meeting that discussed the report (draft or otherwise) if “no one at the district had received copies?”

    Lawrence: Pants on fire–and Rolen’s holding the matches!

  • Hell Freezing Over

    After reading the attached draft it would appear the contract extensions and raises for “the top five” the board recently approved would be better spent paying a bunch of folks to clean up the transportation department.

    Maybe that’s why Mayo didn’t want to include General Council in that neat “tied with a big red bow” package of extensions.

  • Theresa Harrington

    g: The letter to parents and the comments by Patton at the June 25 board meeting appear to be related to the letter that Lawrence sent me today.

    Anon: I have been told by a FCMAT rep that it will only allow corrections to factual errors.

    HFO: The report definitely calls into question Rolen’s oversight of the Transportation Dept. It also notes tension within the department and says there is no department or employee handbook.

  • Anon

    This just keeps getting better every hour. I can’t wait to see what will happen in August when school is a week away and there is so much confusion.
    They (Lawrene, Rolen, Patton and the Board) are such idiots. Wonder who has who’s head up who’s butt. :-)

  • MDUSD Board Watcher

    Trust me everyone, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Anon

    Where is doctor J to weigh in on this?
    Mdusd BW you obviously know something? Can you please spill it already?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Please note that I have posted a new blog item, which recaps this blog post and includes a link to the June 5 letter Lawrence originally intended to send me: http://bit.ly/Mniq5R

  • Doctor J

    Theresa reporting a “fairly shocking rumor” ? Sounds more like Fox news teasers.

  • Anon

    I want to note that Mr. Lawrence said people have been on vacation…..Patton has been in her office. Rolen has been in his office. Lawrence has been in his office. Browne is on leave. The key players who signed the letters that went to special Ed parents were there.

  • g

    Aside from Lawrence’s ‘oops’ moment, I believe there is one major problem with this timeline. I still believe the letter dated July 18 has been altered. The date is in a different font, and is darker than any other part of the letter. I believe someone at Dent held the letter up, and then altered it before it was passed around. The question is, was it Rolen, or Lawrence? Only FCMAT could confirm exactly what their date was on the original.

  • MDUSD Board Watcher

    What could possibly be the motivation for doing this? I suspect this is all part of the cover-up of something much, much bigger. Follow the money it will lead us to the answer.

  • Doctor J

    Lawrence said: “but our goal is to share the actual final report with the Board at the August 13th meeting.” Steven, as Board Secretary, you had better check your calendar as the next regular Board meeting is August 27. http://www.mdusd.org/boe/Pages/boe-sam.aspx On Tuesday night, 7:58 pm, Theresa posts Lawrence’s “mistake” — wrong document” — and by the next morning Lawrence is begging Theresa to not publish the “mistake”. And Lawrence is not reading the blogs ? Got any used school buses for sale Steven ?

  • Flippin’ Tired

    http://www.mdusd.org/Pages/default.aspx
    The district front page has had the 8/13 board date noted for at least the last few days. Wonder what other surpised they’re going to pull on us.

  • Hell Freezing Over

    Remind us – when did eberhart remove his email address of gary@mdusd.net from the Board of Trustees page on the district website? Just trying to put that next to the timelines we’re beginning to see …

  • Flippin’ Tired

    Maybe a month or two ago? This was the e-mail connected to his blog. Look closer – Sherry has the same “mdusd.net” attached to her e-mail. Wonder, if you sent her a message would it bounce back? Perhaps that’s why she’s not getting e-mails from parents who want to know what’s going on? I think that TIS should set up e-mail accounts through the district for board members. I mean, they get better benefits than actual employees, the least we can do is give them district e-mail addresses.

  • MDUSD Board Watcher

    HFO,

    Awesome question and thoughts. I wonder where this leads.