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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. g Says:

    Are those 81 all new hires or rehires or full-time or part-time. That seems like a lot of turnover unless a lot of them were just laid off and are returning.

    He didn’t mention the “Denting up” of a couple of folks who, I suspect, aren’t going to look quite so hot when the scores for their old schools come out.

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added an Aug. 29 update, with a link to Lawrence’s phone message to parents, welcoming back students and reminding them to expect increased traffic:

  3. Doctor J Says:

    Increased traffic ! What an understatement. Has he added extra phone lines and Spanish speaking receptionists to the Transportation Department ?

  4. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added a blog post with WCCUSD Superintendent Bruce Harter’s August message to the community, which explains how his district is increasing writing instruction to implement the state’s recently adopted Common Core Standards:

    Would you be interested in receiving this type of information from the MDUSD superintendent?

  5. Doctor J Says:

    If he told the public this, the public might hold him responsible for implementation.

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As far as I can recall, no one in MDUSD has mentioned during a board meeting how Common Core is being implemented. This would be a good topic for the Superintendent’s Report.

  7. Monte Gardens Parent Says:

    We are hearing reliable rumors that Monte Garden has an API of 931

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The CDE won’t publicly release API scores until October, but the STAR scores being released this week will be an indication of how well (or poorly) schools did.

  9. Doctor J Says:

    Your principal should be able to confirm or deny.

  10. Doctor J Says:

    If Monte Gardens gets a 931 API, that would only be a one point increase from last year’s score of 930. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a terrific score.

  11. anon Says:

    Theresa, entry 8: I don’t understand the difference between CDE releasing STAR scores, but not publicly releasing API scores until October.

  12. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The STAR scores show what percentage of students scored proficient in math, English and other subjects. The API score is based on STAR scores, but is released separately.

  13. Anon Says:

    So just to revisit a little recent history, Monte Gardens is going to have a 931 API, and this is the school Sherry Whitmarsh most wanted shutdown during the school closure debate.

    Also look at Sherry’s blog, after a long, long hiatus she is now posting again with what appears to be some kind of candidate statement.

  14. Anon Says:

    where is sherry’s blog?

  15. Anon Says:

    Here is the link to Sherry’s blog:

    I find it interesting that the rest of the BOE doesn’t have a problem with her using the name “mdusd-boe”. Is she trying to represent herself as speaking for the entire board with that name? Seems like one of Gary’s old tricks if I remember his blog correctly.

  16. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Trustee Gary Eberhart’s former blog was called “MDUSD Blog,” I believe. Whitmarsh differentiated hers by calling it the MDUSD Board of Education blog. Trustee Linda Mayo expressed concerns about the blogs, especially since Trustee Paul Strange also commented on them regularly (and co-operated the MDUSD blog until he left the board, I believe). Mayo was concerned that blogs that included comments from three board members could violate the Brown Act and be considered serial meetings. Greg Rolen, however, did not seem to think it was a problem.
    Since Mayo says she doesn’t read blogs, it’s possible she may not be aware that Whitmarsh is writing about her re-election campaign on a blog that is ostensibly devoted to board business.

  17. Doctor J Says:

    Mayo didn’t express concern the other night when Lame Duck Eberhart got a text in the middle of the meeting from the radio station. In the past she thought that was violating the Brown Act. Mayo on both sides of the sandwhich — which does she believe ?

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I think Mayo has objected to the idea of board members being able to receive texts, emails or “chat” messages during meetings in the past, saying it give some people unfair access to trustees during meetings, since their communications are not part of the public record, yet could influence decisions.
    I believe Mayo had proposed the idea of banning such communications, but I’m not sure if that was ever written into a board policy or bylaw.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On a lighter note, please note that I have added an Aug. 30 update to this blog post, with a link to some adorable “back to school” photos at El Monte Elementary.

  20. Doctor J Says:

    The point was that Eberhart continues to receive texts and probably emails during the meeting and there is no telling if they concern items he is voting on.

  21. g Says:

    Actually the point is even bigger than that. Four people on this board may each occasionally say “I don’t like this–or that” but then more than 9 times out of 10 they go right ahead and vote for it, rather than shoot it down for what they know is bad policy. They don’t even ask to have time to study it more thoroughly and return it later for discussion and action.

    Mayo could bring this issue to an Agenda.

    She could also bring the whispering and bull to a halt with a verbal admonishment right when it’s happening.

    You say: “Excuse me madam chair. Private conversations at the dais are a subversion of the public’s right to be included in all matters before the board. I would like to ask that you direct board members not to read emails, text or whisper and pass notes to each other, or to persons that are not members of the board during what is supposed to be an ‘open and public’ discussion of matters before the board.” “Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.”

    They will not stop this until it is admonished and in the record.

    The attorney for the board really should not open his/her mouth unless asked “openly” by the chair for clarification of an item.

  22. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:


    You are spot on. Unfortunately, the Attorney and his cabal of Lawrence and Eberhart run the show.

  23. g Says:

    Board Watcher: Of course you are correct, but the stated request must be on the record. It could even be made by a public speaker from the podium. How cool would that be?

  24. anon Says:

    It’s August 31. When do the STAR results get listed on the CDE website?

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    10 a.m.

  26. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s my STAR story:

    Here’s the link to MDUSD results:

    Here are the summary results:

  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a spreadsheet that compares all high schools in Contra Costa County:

  28. Anon Says:

    This seems to be the way that the MDUSD board does math:

    Looks like the Vote No On Whitmarsh campaign is kicking off:

  29. anonymous 5 Says:

    #26 The blaming has already begun at MDHS

  30. Sue Berg Says:

    Anon #28, so far everyone who’s posted on the anti-Whitmarsh blog, including “John Doe” who set up the site, has chosen be be anonymous. Sherry is waging a public campaign; comments for and against her should also be public. All of you complaining about the lack of transparency in the MDUSD need to practice what you preach: openness.

    And lest you think otherwise, I am not a Whitmarsh supporter. I enjoyed working with her on the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council in the mid-2000s and wanted her, instead of Paul Strange, appointed to fill Bill Leal’s Board seat in 2006. However, when I worked with her after she was elected to the Board in 2008 I was disappointed at how reluctant she was to meet with or accept information from staff on district matters and how often she deferred to two other Board members. After I left MDUSD and the leadership changed in 2009, I was surprised to hear Sherry back off her demands, during and after her election campaign, for a strategic plan and for more transparency and accountability from the district leadership. Ironically, I believe the district’s planning, openness, and communication have declined during the past four years of Whitmarsh’s tenure. And I’m willing to put my name on that opinion.

  31. Wait a Minute Says:

    Well Sue,
    Are you aware of the culture of retaliation by the current regime towards any of the staff who openly speak out against them or against their negative and destructive policies?

    I would suggest that most of the anonymous posters on the NO ON WHITMARSH site as well as here on the CCC Times blogs are employees or parents fearful of retaliation aimed at their children.

    Having said that there have been a number of regime figures who have come onto this site and posted anonymously too in defence of themselves and their policies and to attack the anonymous blogger who are exposing their lies!

    Since you believe that the district has been going downhill under Whitmarsh (and others) “leadership”, will you be joining the revolution to remove her and her buddies and bring positive change to the MDUSD?

  32. C'mon Sue Says:

    [NOTE: This comment has been edited to delete a verbal jab.]

    Sue have you already forgotten when you were caught red handed posting anonymously on this very blog?

    As for the rest of your message, you are correct. Sherry has done nothing but cowtow to Eberhart and Lawrence and decrease the amount of transparency.

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    WAM and C’Mon Sue: When Whitmarsh and then-Incumbent Gary Eberhart ran as a slate to defeat incumbent April Treece, Eberhart and then-Trustee Paul Strange were very open about their desire to defeat Treece. MDEA, which endorsed Eberhart and Whitmarsh, was also vocal in its desire to oust Treece and in its hope that the “new board majority” would oust then-Superintendent Gary McHenry. In fact, MDEA had voted “No Confidence” in McHenry.
    So far, I have not heard anyone except for Sue Berg publicly voice dissatisfaction with Whitmarsh without being anonymous.
    It will be interesting to see if Eberhart will campaign for Whitmarsh this time around.
    Question to blog readers: Do you think Eberhart’s support would help or hurt Whitmarsh?

  34. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s Superintendent Steven Lawrence’s message to the community about STAR scores:

  35. School Teacher Says:

    For those that want to try and do a little number crunching, you can do an estimate of a school’s API using the STAR test scores of that school (and CAHSEE results for high schools), and plugging them into the calculation spreadsheet. You’d have to convert the percents listed in the results to actual number of students. The url for this is

    You would have to go to the Information Guide (which is not very easy to understand) which contains instructions on how the API is calculated, and then open the “Calculation Spreadsheet Base and Growth”, and plug in the numbers that you would have from the STAR test results.

  36. Flippin' Tired Says:

    TH asks, “Question to blog readers: Do you think Eberhart’s support would help or hurt Whitmarsh?”

    I don’t think it matters either way. She’s toast, unless the voting public is in a coma.

  37. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Brian Lawrence recently posted this on twitter: “Thank you to CA Superintendent of Public Instruction @TomTorlakson for endorsing me for the #MDUSD Board!”
    Attila Gabor told me he is also supporting Lawrence’s candidacy.

  38. Anon Says:

    This is Brian Lawrence the “Educator,Technology Executive” you’re speaking about. Has he explained his educational experience yet seeing that he has listed that as his primary vocation?

    As for Torlakson’s endorsement he endorses anybody who is a registered Democrat. Those party endorsements are asinine considering the board is or should be a non-partisan seat. But, Lawrence long ago said his goal was to place a democrat in every elected seat in the county.
    And, he was endorsed by Strange, Whitmarsh, and Eberhart in the last election. You can’t change your stripes.

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    After the Aug. 20 board meeting, Lawrence told me that he is teaching economics and entrepreneurship to about 20-25 students in a vocational school for aspiring barbers in San Pablo. He is teaching them how to create budgets and to analyze whether it makes more sense to work for someone else or to go into business for themselves.
    Regarding changing stripes, MDEA endorsed Whitmarsh and Eberhart four years ago, then didn’t endorse anyone — including Lawrence — two years ago. So, MDEA is changing its stripes, to some degree.
    Lawrence has been somewhat critical of the board leading up to this election, appearing to distance himself on occasion from Eberhart and Whitmarsh.
    Regarding Strange, I wonder if he will resurface to campaign for Whitmarsh.
    Regarding endorsements, I don’t believe Dennler had any significant endorsements, yet she won in the last election.

  40. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Our searchable STAR database is up and running. Here are MDUSD results:
    The CVHS results show less than 5 percent of students were proficient in Algebra I:

  41. Doctor J Says:

    @#40 — Which means the feeder pattern is doing a horrible job. The only thing Lawrence could brag about is the SIG schools — ASK HIM if he plans to keep the longer instructional hours after this year ? The answer is NO.

  42. Doctor J Says:

    More than a week after school started, about 300 children still wait to find out who their teacher is and which school they will attend. School overflows still have not been finalized and won’t be completed for about ten days. The schools are waiting for “the district” to tell them how many children need to be moved and to where. Once the schools are notified of the numbers, then the schools have to identify the students and notify the parents. But the transfer cannot be completed until the Transportation Department arranges a bus to transport any child who is transfered from a Title 1 school to a school that is more than 1 1/2 miles from his home school, no matter how far his new school is from his home. My sources say it will be about 200 students who need transportation. Meadow Homes Elementary alone is expected to transfer some 50 or 60 children, many to non Title 1 schools. Based on Transportation’s horrific record, these transfers may take a couple of weeks to arrange and Transportation doesn’t have anyone who speaks Spanish who answers the phones. Has anyone thought about the huge number of instructional days lost by these children, especially from the Title 1 schools ? Why is MDUSD so disorganized ?

  43. Doctor J Says:

    Correction: Its even worse. Innocent children who have bonded to their teachers will be yanked out of their arms and sent to a different school in the next two weeks, all because the district is so chaotic it can’t balance the available student spots with available classrooms the first couple of days — and want to send children walking miles to school when school buses drive past them waiting to be picked up. Again, I say to Lawrence: YOU walk to Dent just one day getting there at 8 am [OMG that early ?], work the same hours an elementary child attends school, eat the cafeteria food, and then walk home. With your sore feet, skip the cocktails and advil, and do your homework, and try it the next day.

  44. Doctor J Says:

    Steve, its only 6.6 miles from your home to the office, just about what you are asking some of the non Title 1 school children to walk [you measure 5 miles from their “home schools” not from their “homes”]. You are a math major so at 2.5 mph that would be about 2 1/2 hours plus add about 15 minutes for waiting at stop lights. Steve, by my calculations you will need to leave the house at 5:15 am to get to school at 8:00 am — no Starbucks stops. Leaving school at 4:30 pm, you will get home at 7:15 pm. Its ok, you could afford to lose a few pounds anyways. 🙂

  45. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Meanwhile, the Clayton Valley Charter HS community will celebrate its grand opening tonight at 6 p.m.:

  46. g Says:

    Dr. J isn’t far off. This morning my sprinklers went on at 6:30am and woke me. I decided I didn’t want them to go today, so went out to turn them off. An older boy and two younger boys were walking to school–yes, 6:30am. I asked where they went to school. The older boy was walking the two younger ones (a 3rd and a 5th grader) to Wren, and then he would back track, back past his home and down to MDHS. The little ones would be at school way too early, but that was the only way for the one in high school to make it back in time for his first class.

    What would the little ones do if no adult was at school yet? They would “hide out” in “their secret place” (with a few other kids that also have to get there really early) until others arrived–! No, they hadn’t been caught doing that yet, and they did it almost all of last year too. The littlest one said; “But sometimes it’s really cold.”

    I asked if it would be alright to give them a ride, but only would if they called their mom or dad first. No dad. Mom didn’t have a cell phone, and had left at the same time they did to walk to Bart, to go to work. But anyway, if I gave them a ride, they would just get there a half hour earlier and have to “hide out” a half hour longer.

    So, I asked how about we arrange in the future for me to pick the younger ones up and give them a ride at the right time. I gave them my number for mom to call and let me know. I was told her English isn’t very good, but they would ask her, and then call me if it was OK.

    I should mention that two blocks after they walked past my house, they would pass within one block of Holbrook Elementary–and still have a mile and a half to go for the little ones, and then the older one would backtrack another two miles or so to get to his school.

    Is there something wrong with this picture?
    How many new “overflow” kids will be hiding out in back of a strange school in a strange neighborhood, in the cold, waiting for adults to show up?

  47. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: This is very compelling. If the mother or boys are willing to talk to me, I’d be very interested in writing about their plight (and could leave you out of it, if you prefer). If you are willing to ask them, please call me at 945-4764 or email me at to let me know.

    The subject of getting to school too early or staying too late also came up at the CAC meeting. Carolyn Patton said students are not to be dropped off earlier than 30 mins before school starts and are not to be left more than 15 mins after school. However, she acknowledged that the district isn’t yet meeting these goals, so she said the district would have special ed assistants arrive early to watch the children who get there early. Otherwise, they are to remain on the bus under the bus driver’s care.
    Perhaps the district could also hire instructional assistants to watch overflow/displaced children (including those due to school closures) and open up a cafeteria or library so they could stay warm. Or, they could let the overflow kids get on the special ed buses in the parking lot to sit with the special ed students who arrive early and stay warm.

  48. Anon Says:

    G – I’m crying for these families. Bless you for offering to help.

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    When the school board discussed discontinuing busing for Delta View students in Bay Point, some parents said their families would face similar dilemmas. But, the board cut the busing anyway.
    It would be interesting for the board to hear how those cuts are affecting families in Bay Point.

  50. Doctor J Says:

    Or Theresa, you could be waiting for them to arrive at Wren in the cold and soon the rain. Or you could be waiting at Dent for Steven to arrive with his fresh Starbuck’s. Actually, there is time to do both in the same morning because the arrival times are a couple of hours apart. 🙂 Excuse me, no its 🙁

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