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MDUSD superintendent welcomes students back to school Wednesday

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, August 28th, 2012 at 6:38 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Mt. Diablo school district Superintendent Steven Lawrence has sent out the following message to families. I am posting it below, since it is not yet posted on the district’s website:

“Mt. Diablo USD News Update
Where Kids Come First
August 27, 2012

Welcome back for another exciting school year. We hope that you had a great summer and created some great memories. While school was out we have been busy hiring new employees, working on Measure C facilities projects, and providing professional growth opportunities for teachers, administrators, and classified staff members.


First, I would like to thank all of the parents, teachers, support staff members, and administrators who gave up their summer time to help us interview potential administrative and teacher candidates.

Through this community effort we hired many great new teachers, support staff members, and administrators.

Overall we hired:
 81 Teachers
 16 SDC Teachers
 4 Resource Specialists
 3 Teacher Coaches in the areas of English Language Development and Math
 3 Speech Therapists
 4 Psychologists
 2 Behavioral Health Specialist
 6 Elementary Principals
 1 Middle School Principal
 1 High School Vice Principal
 1 Student Services Coordinator
 2 Program Specialists

We welcome these new team members to Mt. Diablo USD. We look forward to working with them to serve the children of our district.

Measure C
 We have completed the solar installation at 41 of our sites. The remaining 10 sites are scheduled to be completed, commissioned and fully operational by mid‐September. You can observe how much electricity is being created at each site by:
1. going to
2. clicking on “Schools” link in the left hand column
3. clicking on the school name
4. clicking on “solar performance”

 HVAC work has been completed at Phase 1 schools: Foothill Middle School, Valley View Middle School, Ayers Elementary, Sun Terrace Elementary, Sequoia Elementary, and Mt. Diablo Elementary
 Opteman fiber optic backbone has been completed at 19 sites with five additional sites to be completed by October 1, 2012
 Classroom additions at Meadow Homes
 Concord HS – HVAC replacement, surveillance camera installation, classroom technology enhancements, white board installation
 Ygnacio Valley HS – exterior painting, girls’ locker room locker replacement, wireless internet installation, computer lab upgrades
 College Park HS – stadium infrastructure improvements, interior campus drainage improvements, tennis court renovation
 Mt. Diablo HS – interim housing placed, Department of State Architect approval of new science classrooms, design work for science lab up‐grades
 Northgate HS – Project Lead the Way remodel of auto/metal shop, pool/classroom design team selected

Adult Learning Opportunities
As a community of professionals, the adults in the Mt. Diablo USD are committed to continuous learning to improve our skills and better serve your children. This summer, over 900 teachers, administrators, and classified staff members participated in over 5,000 hours of summer growth opportunities focusing on:
 Singapore Math Strategies
 Agents of Change‐iPads
 Being a Writer
 Hands‐On Equations
 Board Math and Language
 Systematic English Language Development
 Advance Placement Course Training
 Expository Reading and Writing
 California State University (CSU) Early Assessment Program
 Public Relations and Customer Service
 Response to Intervention

We would like to thank the teachers, administrators, and classified staff members who attended these powerful learning opportunities.

Again, welcome back to the 2012‐13 school year. We look forward to working with our parents, guardians, and community members to support all our students.”

It looks like this was written before Monday night’s board meeting, so it does not include the very important appointment of Kerri Mills as interim Superintendent for Pupil Services and Special Education.

It also doesn’t mention the elimination of some overflow busing approved by the board Monday night or anything about Measure C money going toward Clayton Valley Charter High projects.

Still, back-to-school is a happy time for some, nervous for others. Here’s a Storify Oakland reporter Katy Murphy compiled using tweets, photos and videos from the first day of school:

I would love to do a similar Storify for MDUSD. If you would like to contribute, please tweet with the hash tag #MDUSD or email me at

Do you believe the district is ready to work with you to support all students?

AUG. 29 UPDATE: Here is a link to Lawrence’s welcome back phone message, which he sent out to parents last night, reminding them to expect traffic congestion:

AUG. 30 UPDATE: Here is a link to some cute pictures of students on their first day of school at El Monte Elementary in Concord, including some 4-year-olds entering the district’s new Transitional Kindergarten program:

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75 Responses to “MDUSD superintendent welcomes students back to school Wednesday”

  1. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    This is absolutely unacceptable. Excuse my language but WTF is going on with the district if anyone thinks this is acceptable.

    Please Theresa blow this scandal wide open, something just isn’t right here. There must be something illegal going on.

  2. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence told the Board on March 12 there were 234 “Overflow” students being bused. He couldn’t give numbers at the last two Board meetings. As I broke the news about the largest impact being on the lower socio-economic schools, and Lynne Dennler picked up on geting the Board to slightly modify the overflow policy for Title 1 schools to 1.5 miles from their “home school”, it appears that the new Board policy may only change the overflow busing numbers by 20-40 children, saving only a bus route or maybe two, but creating a DANGEROUS CONDITION for these children walking miles and waiting unsupervised in cold and winter conditions. All of this so he can pay off Mildred Browne, trash the consent decree, and phase out the effectiveness of the CAC — remember the CAC rebellion that led to ButtercupGATE ?

  3. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Ironically, Carolyn Patton said the superintendent doesn’t want to pursue the “clustering” idea for special ed students unless it would save a “substantial” amount of money. So, he’s studying that before recommending going forward, so he can analyze the numbers.
    Yet, he was unable to tell the board how much money his recommendation to slash overflow busing would save and recommended moving forward with it quickly, so students wouldn’t get too attached to their home schools.
    This appears to be a double-standard.

  4. Doctor J Says:

    Schools are reading the blogs this morning — here come the leaks — staffs are very upset. I am told about 80% of the overflow transfers are from Title 1 schools and only 4% of the overflow transfers from non-Title 1 schools are eligible for busing.

  5. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Trustee Cheryl Hansen asked the board to consider holding off on the vote until all this data was collected and could be presented to the board (and parents could have actually spoken about how it would affect them), but Lawrence wanted to push the decision through that night.
    I wonder how many of the Title 1 overflow transfers would have been eligible for busing if the board had accepted Lawrence’s recommendation to extend the distance to 5 miles for them too.

  6. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    G – thank you.

    All – pls don’t forget – soon it will be dark in the mornings and late afternoons – these kids are walking in some areas where there are no sidewalks and no crossing guards and no “safe place” to hide.

    There are very real dangers to these kids of traffic accidents as people are rushing to get to work and not able to see these kids on the sides of the roadways, children getting lost while they walk (only takes one wrong turn down a street) and stranger abductions or being confronted. These dangers are always present, but now more kids will have to walk or bike much longer distances over a longer period of time, increasing the likelihood of this issues happening.

  7. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Although the board shot down Trustee Cheryl Hansen’s idea of creating a Mayoral Council, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh and Vice President Linda Mayo said they have spoken to mayors who are interested in opening dialogue with the district. Mayo also urged district staff to pursue “Safe Routes to Schools” grants with local cities.
    I happened to see Concord Mayor Ron Leone at a concert at Todos Santos Plaza last week and mentioned this to him. He said Concord had already completed three such projects, including one near Wren Avenue Elementary, I believe (I didn’t have my notebook, so I wasn’t able to write it down).
    It is unclear whether Lawrence or anyone else planned to follow up on Mayo’s suggestion to push for these types of street and sidewalk improvements.

  8. Doctor J Says:

    More data leaks: Meadow Homes overflowing 21 Kinders mostly to Cambridge — no busing; 30 1st Graders, over half to Wren, some to Sun Terrace. Delta View overflowing nearly 60 — mostly to Ayers and Mt.Diablo E. One factor not being considered is “breaking up families” where some of the older children walk the younger to school as in G’s experience — but now some of those children will be attending different schools without any supervision to school by older siblings. What a freaking disaster ! HFO: Points well taken.

  9. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In WCCUSD, Hercules parents protested outside an elementary school about similar moves happening there, including breaking up families. In response, I believe the district created some combination classes to accommodate additional students at school sites. Could the same thing be done in MDUSD?

  10. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Also somewhat ironic is the fact that the board adopted its “Hispanic Heritage Month” resolution on the consent calendar during the same meeting at which it eliminated some overflow busing, without reading the resolution aloud:
    Under previous superintendents, these types of resolutions were always presented as separate action items and were read aloud. But, Superintendent Lawrence proposed moving them to the consent calendar to save time during meetings. At first, Trustee Linda Mayo pulled such resolutions and read them aloud anyway. But, now the board seems to have resigned itself to recognizing its unique populations silently.
    The resolution states, in part: “…the California State Board of Education recognized in its Multicultural Education Policy that each student needs an opportunity to understand the common humanity underlying all people…”
    The resolution encouraged all schools to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 14-Oct. 14 “with appropriate instructional materials.”
    It appears that many of the overflow students live in areas that are predominantly Hispanic.

  11. Doctor J Says:

    More shocking stats: 80% of overflows are K,1, and 2 grades — the youngest children who really need to be closer to home ! Its really hard to believe that Rose Lock tolerates Lawrence’s bullying tactics — and hide the ball like he did with these statistics that he could have broken down from last year but didn’t. Who will stand up to protect the little children in the district ?

  12. Anon Says:

    Combo classes are a horrible idea. This is just terrible what our district is doing! G, you are an angel for offering to help this family! I know of busses picking up at 6:45 and getting to school at 7:30
    when school does not start until 8:10. Some of the special ed kids can’t handle being there that early with or without supervision. One would think that in cases like this the transportation department could pick up later…..But no, staff is so pissed off at the district that they are making the children suffer.
    Teachers are very frustrated also. This district is becoming more of a Joke everyday and just to think Mrs. Mills hasn’t even started yet.

  13. g Says:

    Theresa, it will depend on them calling me. I did not ask for their phone number. They were polite, but a bit evasive. I don’t know if they “hide out” on school property. It didn’t sound like it, but who knows?

    Last year, I wrote about another neighbor who I offered to drive her daughter to Wren because I had seen them walk by–baby in a stroller, toddler holding on, and daughter school age. Through a real language barrier I found that if they thought they might be late, or if the weather was bad, she just kept the girl at home—and considered that to be OK. I tried to say that is not OK, but I think I scared them off–she started walking the other way around the block. These are good, clean, hard working, proud neighbors–but really do “stick to their own” and last Spring someone else started picking the girl up.

    I questioned then how things like this were affecting ADA. I knew this could not be the only Holbrook family in this dilemma.

    When they discussed closing Holbrook, I tried to suggest to the district that demographics were rapidly changing. Housing was much cheaper here, and there were many more rentals every day. They needed to look at not what the school population was in the Fall of 2010, but look at the numbers of little ones moving in and being born in the neighborhood. To me, it looks like a whole lot more little kids than there were as my kids were growing up here. I suspect Schreder’s numbers were way off for this area, and his ‘guesstimates’ based on historical birth rates and immigration had little to do with changing neighborhood demographics.

    This year, the stroller baby is walking, and there is another tiny baby in that stroller. The toddler is now a holy terror on a mini skate board. The good news–dad brings a company truck home, so mom has a car now.

  14. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At the CAC meeting, Patton began her report by saying she has received good feedback overall regarding transportation since the beginning of the school year.
    But, one woman said her child was on a bus 2 1/2 hours and Patton said that was unacceptable.
    As previously mentioned, Patton acknowledged that some bus drivers don’t seem to be very responsive to parents’ concerns and she’s trying to remedy that.
    In this clip at about 4 mins in, Patton says that no child should be on a bus for more than an hour, “but we’re not there yet”:

    g: Loss of ADA because kids couldn’t get to school was brought up during the school closure discussions. But, the board apparently didn’t believe that was a good enough reason to keep Holbrook and Glenbrook open.

  15. Wait a Minute Says:

    Welcome to the world-view of Stevie Lawrence, Greg Rolen, Sherry Whitmarsh, Gary Eberhart and company.

    They will always choose to screw over the weakest in the community or manipulate them in order to re-direct money to themselves and their friends.

    They will always choose to try and bully and intimidate or manipulate anyone who stands against them even if they are doing the right thing by opposing their policies as horrible for the children and community.

    These are the types of people that run this district into the ground!

    These people ARE BAD FOR OUR KIDS!!!

    They must be removed from power and new and competent people brought in WHO WILL AUTOMATICALLY DO THE RIGHT THING BY OUR KIDS AND COMMUNITY.

    Please, please tell everyone you know to VOTE NO ON WHITMARSH and help end the incompetence and corruption of these clowns and take back our district.

  16. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Perhaps some of the Measure C administrators at Holbrook could provide escorts for the children who are walking past their closed school, on their way to Wren.
    Or, some of the Poway drivers who are taking special ed kids to the new Anova site at Holbrook could pick up a few displaced Holbrook students and take them to Wren after they drop of the Anova kids.
    Patton said that overflow kids could ride the same buses as special ed and NCLB kids, if there was space.

  17. Doctor J Says:

    Since the Hispanic community is adversely impacted at a greater degree, have you asked for a reaction from the local Hispanic community leaders and ask them what they are going to do about it ? We need a Cesar Chavez for education !

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    No Hispanic community leaders spoke at the board meeting where this decision was made.
    Perhaps the superintendent’s lack of information about who would be affected kept them away.

  19. g Says:

    Ronald Way (Holbrook Elem) is a loop-around street, designed specifically with the school in mind, with just the school and a half dozen or so houses facing it. 99.999 % of kids walking to Wren do not walk right past Holbrook.

    As for overflow, NCLB, “home school” etc.; What is considered the “home school” for these kids–Holbrook or Wren? Will they overcrowd Wren with overflow from Meadow Homes, and then overflow from there to even farther out into the valley within the next couple of years?

    I doubt it.

    If we allow these same out-of-touch Dent folks to continue to look to their own pay check before they look at the children’s welfare, or to the neighborhoods and parents who provide that paycheck, they will continue on the same me-first course–much like Whitmarsh, looking out for her neighborhood schools first and foremost.

    They will change the maps so they no longer have to call it “overflow” and just send even more kids walking out of their own neighborhoods. That will save even more money for the paycheck coffers.

    The “no-plan plan” was flawed from the beginning.

  20. anon Says:

    Where were the 60 kids from Delta View last year? I find it hard to believe that 60 first and second graders suddenly moved into the Delta View boundaries over the summer.

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Breaking news from Twitter: “Residents of the Shore Acres area of Bay Point have been advised to shelter in place as police search for an armed fugitive.”

    Hopefully, there aren’t too many school children walking home now.

    UPDATE: I just heard that Shore Acres Elem. and possibly Riverview MS may be on lockdown, but this is unconfirmed.

  22. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon#60 — Its a defacto boundary adjustment WITHOUT Board approval or public comment They cut the staffs at the schools they want to reduce the population to and add staff to schools where they want to increase the population. By eliminating the busing, its a no cost, secret boundary adjustment.

  23. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence’s best kept secret: But for the huge API gains by the SIG schools [District +6 API gain], the District would have dropped about 25 API points. Theresa, why are you afraid to ask Lawrence or Rose Lock if they intend to continue with the “increased instructional time” [the key to the massive gains in API] at Bel Air, Shore Acres and Rio Vista after their SIG grants expire in June 2013 ?

  24. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I am not afraid to ask Lawrence or Lock about increased instructional time. I have been working on other stories and haven’t had time to go over the SIG results in-depth. I also need to do the same for the SIG schools in WCCUSD, as well as in Hayward, Oakland and San Lorenzo.

  25. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence, Eberhart & Whitmarsh wasted tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars by not implementing the travel ban, cell phone ban, and trinket ban as I called for two years ago. Gov. Brown set the example and it paid off. Instead Lawrence had his contract extended with illegal automatic pay increases, and Eberhart and Whitmarsh continued their FULL FAMILY medical dental and vision benefits by being on the Board while cutting employees time and benefits.

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