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MDUSD superintendent to hold feeder pattern meetings

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 at 11:53 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence has decided to hold meetings with parents in various feeder patterns of the district. Although trustees have not publicly discussed this idea, board candidate Brian Lawrence told me the superintendent informed him the meetings would replace former Parent Advisory Council meetings, which were not well-attended.

Board President Sherry Whitmarsh told me that she has been working with the superintendent on this idea. However, neither the superintendent nor Whitmarsh made any announcement about it during the last board meeting and there has been no districtwide communication from the district about the meetings.

Since questions are arising in comments on this blog about the purpose of the meetings, I am posting a letter I received from a Diablo View Middle School parent about the meeting in the that school’s feeder pattern:

“Oct. 2, 2012

Good Morning

Our superintendent, Dr. Steven Lawrence, will be holding four feeder pattern meetings throughout the year. The purpose of the meetings are:

To increase the opportunities that he has to speak with a broader group of parents.

To address concerns that parents on our leadership teams (PTA, PFC, School Site Council, ELAC) have around district issues.

To provide a more comfortable setting to have parents and the superintendent to have a conversation in.

Improve overall district communication.

The first of these meetings will be on Wednesday, October 3rd at the Pine Hollow Library at 7:00 p.m. Subsequent dates are December 5th, February 13th and May 1st. Besides Diablo View and Pine Hollow, additional schools in our feeder pattern are Ayers El, Mt. Diablo El, Highlands El and Siverwood El.

Patti Bannister”

Do you think the district should let the entire community know the times, dates and locations for all feeder pattern meetings?

7:10 P.M. UPDATE: Board President Sherry Whitmarsh has clarified that the feeder pattern meetings were the superintendent’s idea, which she supported. They are not board meetings and she does not expect to attend most of them, although she said she would likely attend the Ygnacio Valley HS meeting, since she lives in that feeder pattern.

OCT. 11 UPDATE: After calling Northgate High, I have found out that the Northgate feeder pattern meeting is at 7 p.m. tonight in the Northgate staff lounge at 425 Castle Rock Road in Walnut Creek. Unfortunately for some parents, this conflicts with a concurrent meeting at 7 p.m. in the Little Theater for juniors and their parents.

Here is a link to video of Superintendent Steven Lawrence telling the school board about his decision to hold feeder pattern meetings:

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116 Responses to “MDUSD superintendent to hold feeder pattern meetings”

  1. Anon Says:

    I will be at this meeting taping every last word the superintendent says.

    Why all the secrets?


  2. Anon Says:

    Yes they should. It should be posted on the District web site.

  3. Michael Langley Says:

    I’ll miss the first one. There is the Obama/Romney debate in conflict.

  4. Doctor J Says:

    Where is the official announcement from the Supt ? Also, the Board resolution establishing the PAC remains in effect — does the Supt just think he can ignore Board resolutions ?

    The above stated is my opinion.

  5. Doctor J Says:

    What happened to the ONLY Board approved plan for input to the Strategic Plan ? Ask Sherry Whitmarsh.

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added an update to this blog post clarifying Board President Sherry Whitmarsh’s role in the feeder pattern meetings.

  7. Doctor J Says:

    Here’s some “good questions” for Steven Lawrence for the “feeder pattern” meetings thanks to Gov. Brown ! The Gov signed three bills affecting English learners and how MDUSD will need to do business. First, is SB 754 which requires POSTING ON LINE how the district spends the money they get to meet the needs of English learners and low income students so the public gets transparent information. Q: Steven, when are you going to start EL postings on line so we can know how you are spending our tax money ? Two other bills SB 1108 and AB 2193 are trying to correct the languishing of Enlish learners without becoming proficient in English — a problem in MDUSD. Despite MDUSD’s “new plan” this year, no significant progress is being made. The state now is going to track children who aren’t achieving fluency — and air the dirty laundry of districts hoping that public knowledge will require local accountability. Back to the drawing board for the EL plan.

  8. Doctor J Says:

    Senator Padilla understands what “transparency” means.

  9. Doctor J Says:

    Can’t wait until we see the “administrative costs” both by district and by “each school” with a comparison of the current and prior fiscal year. About time. This fiscal transparency should spread to every “categorical” and “general fund”.

    As a condition of the receipt of economic impact aid funds, a school district shall post in an easily accessible location on its Internet Web site data related to economic impact aid funding, for purposes of budget transparency, including all of the following:
    (a) The amount of economic impact aid allocated to the school district in that fiscal year.

    (b) The amount of economic impact aid used by the school district for administrative costs in that fiscal year.

    (c) The amount of economic impact aid expended for limited-English-proficient pupils in that fiscal year and the prior fiscal year by the school district and by each school within the district.

    (d) The amount of economic impact aid expended for state compensatory education in that fiscal year and the prior fiscal year by the school district and by each school within the district.

    (e) The amount of unexpended economic impact aid and an explanation of why these funds have not been expended.

  10. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Interesting that Supt. Lawrence has done a robocall about the UMDAF 5k, but not about the feeder pattern meetings, which few people were told about in Pleasant Hill.

  11. Anon Says:

    TH @10,

    Just part of the game. Notice he also continues to hold the FCMAT “official” report under wraps, while ALLEGEDLY gloating about it in Dent.

  12. Jim Says:

    Let’s remember that much of this down-from-the-top, micro-management legislation from Sacramento never goes anywhere. Here is the typical sequence:
    1) some educational problem festers for years
    2) a legislator tries to gain points with a specific constituency by writing a law to “address the problem”
    3) a law passes and school districts waste no time in starting to ignoring it
    4) (optional) some member of the targeted constituency complains about lack of enforcement
    5) years pass
    6) (optional) issue again gets attention
    7) districts undertake superficial actions to feign compliance
    8) life goes on…

    I don’t mean to sound overly cynical, but really, this is what happens over and over again. And why should we be surprised? Big districts like MDUSD aren’t really accountable to anyone, and no government official — let alone a prosecutor — wants to come across as being “too hard on them”. Even when districts are awarded extra funding for specific programs, they are seldom punished for ignoring the program requirements and spending the money elsewhere. (Instead, they are usually given multiple chances to “reform” themselves and get the money anyway.) I suspect that, in this case, Mr. Padilla will have a long wait for results (but a nice issue to brag about in his next re-election campaign!).

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Lorrie Davis and some other CAC parents repeated their request for backup information about other districts in the state that “cluster” special education students and data regarding comparison districts related to transportation expenses. In addition, Davis repeated her request to see the “third party analysis.” And, she disputed Carolyn Patton’s assertion that the Vacaville district clusters special education students but calls it something else, saying she was very clear when she asked staff in Vacaville about this and was told they didn’t do it.
    Although Patton said it was her belief that FCMAT was looking at other districts in the state that cluster special ed students, I told the group that when I interviewed Bill Gillaspie and asked him specifically if he knew of any other districts that cluster special ed students, he said he did not. Instead, he said he knew of districts that cluster general education students.
    In addition, Patton tried to assert that FCMAT developed the clustering recommendation. But, Davis pointed out that FCMAT got the idea from the third party analysis provided by the district.
    There was no mention of when the special ed FCMAT report will be released.

  14. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Speaking of transparency and accountability, the district does not post agendas or minutes from its Equity Advisory Team meetings. When one member of the CAC suggested that the district do this, Felicia Stuckey-Smith said: “Thank you for the suggestion,” but did not say she would heed it. Instead, she advised the parent to contact Chris Wilburn to get the agendas and minutes.
    The district has been identified as significantly disproportionate in terms of suspensions and expulsions related to special ed students and African-American and Latino students. So, it has to develop a corrective action plan. The district has established a “leadership team” to address this, which is comprised of district administrators.
    In addition, the Equity Advisory Team is a required stakeholder group, Stuckey-Smith said.
    These meetings should be publicly noticed and minutes should be posted online.
    One CAC parent also said the superintendent’s feeder pattern meeting dates, times and locations should be posted online so parents can plan ahead.

  15. Doctor J Says:

    @Jim#12 We share the same frustration — but the SIG audit gave me new hope when the funds were cut off. SB 754 REQUIRES “As a condition of the receipt of economic impact aid funds, a school district shall post in an easily accessible location on its Internet Web site data. . . ” If they don’t post, maybe we can get the State Auditor to . . ..

  16. Doctor J Says:

    How many lies does Carolyn Patton have to be caught in before she loses all credibility ?

  17. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Patton said she believes Angie Goakey, who was not there, is looking at other districts that are using the cluster model. She said she would try to bring Goakey to the next meeting.
    One CAC member also said she told the superintendent that it would be nice if he would come to at least one CAC meeting a year.
    A parent said that interim supt. Dick Nicoll told Lawrence if there was one thing he should continue doing, it was meeting with the PAC. But, soon afterward, it seemed Lawrence’s enthusiasm for the PAC waned considerably.
    Whitmarsh said some PAC members told her they didn’t like the press attending and videotaping portions of the meeting and they didn’t like the meetings to be commented on in blogs. So, perhaps that’s why the district is keeping the dates and times secret.

  18. Anon Says:

    TH #17, I hope you don’t really believe that.

  19. Anon Says:

    Yes the old Whitmarsh refrain,

    Everything would be better if the public’s business wasn’t actually conducted in public.

    And yes folks we elected her.


  20. Doctor J Says:

    OMG, now its Carolyn Patton blaming it on Angie Goakey. The only one who doesn’t like the “press” [read that Theresa] videotaping is none other than Steven Lawrence, because he is “held” to his statements. I heard a story recently from a very credible source about a statement made in an “interview” — no names used, but it was soooooo Steven Lawrence. And the source was hooting and howling about how “incredibly stupid” the person making the statement was and unknowledgable about how a real strategic plan is made.

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: Whitmarsh told me that the feeder pattern meetings didn’t have to be publicly noticed, since board members don’t attend. The PAC meeting was publicly noticed in case more than two board members attended, she said. So, she said at feeder pattern meetings, parents could request no videotaping.

  22. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#21 Read the Brown Act. Sherry is so ignorant on the Brown Act.

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Whitmarsh said the superintendent got the idea after his successful meeting with Pleasant Hill parents last year (which was not publicly noticed). That was a meeting that included parents who were against the Clayton Valley HS charter. I think it was held at College Park HS.
    Although Whitmarsh told me these meetings are intended to help improve communication, the reaction of CAC parents showed that this could be backfiring — since many parents were upset that they were never notified the PAC was disbanding, they didn’t agree there was consensus about disbanding the PAC, many weren’t notified about their own feeder pattern meetings (or were notified very late), they missed having the opportunity to hear from parents across the district, and some didn’t feel they were part of their neighborhood feeder patterns, since their children attend programs across the district.
    Whitmarsh’s response to all of this feedback was that it was a work in progress and she would take these comments back to the superintendent.

  24. Anon Says:

    Ask about site councils too. I was elected to a school site council but I haven’t been notified about a meeting date. I thought we’d be reviewing the STAR data by now. I wonder if Law-marsh terminated site councils like they did PAC.

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe that schools are required to have site councils to approve some funding expenditures and school level reports. I see that Pleasant Hill Elementary has a handy online calendar that lists all of its important meetings and events, such as the site council meeting planned at 2:45 p.m. Monday:
    However, I don’t see a feeder pattern meeting with the superintendent listed.

  26. Anon Says:

    TH @21,

    Theresa I beleive these meetings are conducted “in the public” as far as a court of law is concerned (not claiming they have to be agenized and noticed).

    Rather I am claiming it is completely within my rights to videotape and post on youtube anything that happens. I will be doing so. Stevie can try to have me arrested but then I will be suing his @$$ off.

  27. Doctor J Says:

    The School Board has NOT disbanded the PAC’s despite the refusal of the Supt to hold the meetings. Steven does not like the PAC’s [or similar meetings] because they are subject to the Brown Act.

  28. John Q Says:

    In other words our public servants are openly evading the law. The Brown Act is intended to be followed and not evaded. Honestly it’s not that hard! All these invitation-only secret meetings make the public wonder what’s to hide?

    Good thing building public trust is not a worry.

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Speaking of trust, some parents in the CAC said the district should hold some sort of forum to present the FCMAT report and answer questions. If the district did that, parents wouldn’t feel like they don’t trust the process, one parent said.
    Carolyn Patton nodded, but did not offer to hold such a forum.
    Whitmarsh acknowledged that the board does have some policies related to transportation, but she said the board and superintendent still need to decide whether the superintendent has the authority to make the planned changes or whether they require board approval.
    When I interviewed Bill Gillaspie, he also said parent meetings — including the opportunity to give input and have questions answered — were critical to communicate why changes are necessary and involve the community in the process.
    Although the FCMAT contract includes community presentations, the district has opted not to invite FCMAT.

  30. Anon Says:

    TH @29,

    Inviting FCMAT would bring up the possibility of an “accidental” release of the “official” report. Steve would never do such a thing as he ALLEGEDELY considers keeping it under wraps as one of the great outcomes he has orchestrated in the district.

  31. Doctor J Says:

    Another PRA to FCMAT is in order. They are a public entity created by the legislature and required to disclose the “final” report along with emails directing FCMAT not to post the report on the internet. I thought Gillaspe said it was FCMAT policy to post the final version on its website. We cannot rely on the District to produce the “final” version. BTW, has the District produced the signed copy of Mills’ contract ?

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The district hasn’t even produced the signed copies of the contracts for the superintendent, Rolen, Braun-Martin, Lock and Richards (showing the approved one-year extensions to 2014).
    After they get around to signing those, they should have time to sign Mills’ contract.
    At the CAC meeting, I didn’t hear any mention of when Mills will arrive (although I didn’t stay til the end of the meeting). Stuckey-Smith was sitting in for the Assistant Supt.

  33. Doctor J Says:

    Steven Lawrence avoids any meeting requiring Brown Act Compliance even though he swore an OATH to uphold the law. Board Regulation 1220 says in part: “Committees Subject to Brown Act Requirements
    The following citizen advisory committees shall comply with open meeting, notice and public participation requirements of law (the Brown Act):
    (cf. 9320 – Meetings and Notices)
    (cf. 9321 – Closed Session Purposes and Agendas)
    (cf. 9321.1 – Closed Session Actions and Reports)
    (cf. 9323 – Meeting Conduct)
    1. Advisory committees established pursuant to Education Code 56190-56194 related to special education
    (cf. 0430 – Comprehensive Local Plan for Special Education)
    2. Advisory committees established pursuant to Education Code 8070 related to career technical education
    (cf. 6178 – Vocational Education)
    3. Other committees created by formal Board action
    (cf. 9130 – Board Committees)”

  34. Doctor J Says:

    Kerri Mills resignation effective Oct 7 was accepted by the SBUSD Board on Sept 24. Mills contract should be available now. However, the BIG5 contracts have some legal problems since they don’t comply with AB 1344.

  35. Doctor J Says:

    Where is our up-to-date Education news reporting ? What is Supt Lawrence’s reaction to Gov Brown’s veto of AB 1811 pushed by Susan Bonilla to rectify charter high school funding ? Its been over a week since he vetoed it, and no reporting on one of the most hotly contested issues in MDUSD history concerning the funding gap between a unified district and a charter high school conversion. Gov. Brown said: “I agree that the funding gap created when a high school within a unified school district converts to a charter needs to be addressed. Shifting the inequity of the current funding system, however, fromthe school district to the charter school, as this bill does, is not right.” Gov Brown will be pushing his new financing model — as I pointed out some months ago, MDUSD will suffer by that model — Is the Supt in favor of Gov Brown’s proposed revision of funding ? How do the Board members feel about it ? Why aren’t the tough relevant questions being asked, especially when there is a study that shows how each district would fare under the Governor’s proposal.

  36. Doctor J Says:

    Letter from Gov. Brown:

  37. Doctor J Says:

    This is why Lawrence wants out of Dodge:

  38. John Q Says:

    Doc J, or Theresa

    What is the status of Gov Brown’s proposed revision of funding–will it pass and when would the revenue change take effect ?

  39. Doctor J Says:

    @JQ: The Gov only proposed it in the budget, but not in a legislative bill — so no revision for the current year. Its expected with his multiple explanations in vetoes of bills, that he will come back with a legistlative revision next year. Some of the good legislative commentators have spoken of if in the last week. When it passes, it will probably phase in over a 4 or 5 year period. As I pointed out months ago, and most everyone ignored it, West CC will benefit by it — San Ramon will be devastated by it — and MDUSD will be significantly hurt by it. A “middle class” district like MDUSD cannot continue to have “loaded” District administration costs and still take care of the children.

  40. Doctor J Says:

    No report on the Feeder Pattern meeting last night ?

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I did not attend the feeder pattern meeting and have not heard anything about it.
    Regarding weighted pupil funding, SBE President Michael Kirst is pushing the idea, but districts are worried because there will be “winners” and “losers.”
    The idea is to give more money to students that really need it for specialized programs. But, it would take money away from students who are not considered disadvantaged.
    Regarding AB1811, I was not following it, so thanks for the update. As I have stated before, we are short-staffed and I am now covering WCCUSD as well as regional education. Today, I am doing a Fleet Week story. So, I do not have time to follow up on every issue that affects MDUSD.

  42. Doctor J Says:

    And where does the Times stand as far as the documents it previously requested, but not received, that it said “No” was not an acceptable answer ?

  43. g Says:

    Dr. J: Some really good points, and many questions we would all like to have answered. But, if you shoot the messenger too many times….

    Hearkening back to the discussions about Brian Lawrence the other day– research only shows me an ambitious party politician who is following the footsteps of others, trying to use the school board as a first rung on the political hand-in-your-pocket ladder.

    That he has small kids that may (or may not) attend district schools for 13 years is a moot point.

  44. Anon Says:

    I think Brian Lawrence is probably the most intelligent candidate we’ve had in a long time.

    Unfortunately his unwillingess to denounce the Sherry Whitmarsh campaign probably indicates where his allegiance lies.


  45. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: Where are the allegations about Brian Lawrence trying to use the school board as a political stepping stone coming from?
    When I asked him about this, he said he does not have any plans to seek higher office right now and he does not know why people are making that assumption.
    Anon: Brian Lawrence said he does not consider himself to be running “against” anyone else. However, he has been critical of some past board actions.

  46. g Says:

    Theresa, there were no quotation marks on any of my comment–thus, no quoted “allegations.” I generally do my own research and make my own extrapolations from the two+two I come up with.

    I started with:

    I happen to be a registered Dem—but that doesn’t blind me to the party faults, or the good I see in those with other party affiliations. I vote my conscience and the issues.

    Lawrence, it seems may not be of that same persuasion.

    Let me ask you. Do you believe his goal is limited to what Should Be an Apolitical local school board?

  47. g Says:

    As for any candidate stating that they are not running “against” anyone, while “opposing” them in the contest, is slicing the politically-correct bread pretty thinly.

  48. Anon Says:

    @G46 – Oops, there is that pesky Paul Strange endorsement in 2006 again….just like the Whitmarsh, Eberhart, Strange endorsement in 2010. Not to mention his still unexplained and unjustified claim to be an “Educator” and his ties to some people like Matt juhl-Darlington. He has also been snuggling up to some Walnut Creek political types like Kish Rajan who has been acting as a political mentor.

    G. is right.

  49. Doctor J Says:

    @#48 Lets not forget his refusal to identify his 717 Facebook friends, which we already know include Whitmarsh, Eberhart and Strange.

  50. Anon Says:

    Stop the presses!

    This guy was endorsed by Paul Strange. That in and of itself speaks volumes. No wonder he won’t denounce the Whitmarsh campaign.

  51. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, here’s my Fleet Week story, which includes interviews with the Blue Angels’ lead solo pilot, a female crew member and a member of the Air Force F-22 Raptor team, talking about how they spend time talking to students and others about what it takes to become an aviator:

  52. Doctor J Says:

    Wow, Gov Brown lays down the gauntlet to Districts charging “pupil fees” for participation — Watch out MDUSD !This might even require cutting Dent salaries ! This is a big deal — LETS LIST ALL THE PUPIL FEES NOW BEING CHARGED BY MDUSD. Violations are appealable to the CDE and refunds would have to be made to ALL AFFECTED PUPILS, not just the complainer ! AB 1575. “Existing law prohibits a pupil enrolled in school from being required This bill would authorize a complaint of noncompliance with the provisions of this bill to be filed with the principal of a school under those uniform complaint procedures. The bill would authorize acomplaint to be filed anonymously if specified circumstances exist. The bill would authorize a complainant not satisfied with a public school’s decision to appeal that decision to the State Department of Education and receive a written appeal decision within 60 days of the department’s receipt of the appeal. If merit is found in either the complaint or appeal, the bill would require the public school to provide a remedy to all affected pupils, parents, and guardians that,where applicable, includes reasonable efforts by the public school to ensure full reimbursement to pay a fee, deposit, or other charge not specifically authorized by law.”
    “Educational activity” “including, but not limited to, curricular and extracurricular activities.”
    “A pupil fee includes, but is not
    limited to, all of the following:
    (1) A fee charged to a pupil as a condition for registering for school or classes, or as a condition for participation in a class or an extracurricular activity, regardless of whether the class or activity is elective or compulsory, or is for credit.
    (2) A security deposit, or other payment, that a pupil is required to make to obtain a lock, locker, book, class apparatus, musical instrument, uniform, or other materials or equipment.
    (3) A purchase that a pupil is required to make to obtain materials, supplies, equipment, or uniforms associated with an educational activity.”

  53. Doctor J Says:

    Oh, forgot to say that AB 1575 “The bill would require public schools to establish local policies and procedures to implement these complaint procedures by March 1, 2013.” New Board, you got your work cut out for you as soon as Steven and Bryan disclose all of the fees now being collected ! Those cheerleading uniforms are just going to eat up Linda Mayo’s annual family Medical, Dental and Vision benefits ! And that’s just for one high school !

  54. Doctor J Says:

    What’s the candidates and other Board members reactions to AB 1575 ? Full family medical dental vision for Board members OR fund science classes, VAPA, cheerleaders, football teams ??? Now, that would have been a great question to ask during the “debate” moderated by the Times. And it was the political reporter asking the questions too !

  55. Anon Says:

    In my OPINION, the Eberhart, Whitmarsh cabal that runs the district will not take this sitting down.

    Get ready to hear, “Oh we will cut football, and band, and field trips, etc. etc. etc.”

  56. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: Most of the district’s football funding has already been cut. This is why UMDAF was formed. But, Greg Rolen has said the district is within its rights to charge a mandatory transportation fee. The team contribution and district contribution, on the other hand, are optional. Many schools also charge uniform deposits and charge extra to travel to far-away events, which involve overnight stays.
    Dr. J (and anyone else who has questions for candidates): The Pleasant Hill Education Commission is accepting questions from the community for its Oct. 18 candidate’s forum. If you are dissatisfied with the questions asked during the CCTV forum, feel free to email your suggested questions for the Pleasant Hill forum to:

  57. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Back on the subject of feeder patterns, I see the board expects to approve another contract for nearly $22,000 for Schreder and Associates to again prepare an updated demographic study of the Bay Point area (on the consent calendar):
    Anyone know when the Bay Point feeder pattern meeting is being held?
    And for those in the Clayton Valley feeder pattern, it looks like the board plans to move forward with Measure C improvements at the charter high school:
    And for the YVHS feeder pattern, the expanded stadium project appears to be moving ahead:
    Wonder if the neighbors have been informed.

  58. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The MDUSD school board’s dysfunction is keenly apparent on Monday’s agenda, which includes the reintroduction of Prop. 30 — which no one motioned to approve the first time around — and two opposing plans for the Strategic Plan adoption process:
    Whitmarsh wants to approve the plan, based on the recent dot-sticking exercises, while Hansen wants a longer process that would allow site councils to weigh in (since few community members participated in the recent dot-sticking opportunities).

  59. Doctor J Says:

    I beg your pardon, but AB 1575 is so much broader than the “mandatory” “athletic contribution fee” approved by the Board in June 2010 and something that would be a great question for the Supt during feeder pattern meetings because it affects every academic, scholastic, and extracurricular activity in the district where so called “fees” or “deposits” are being charged or books required to be purchased,for science, field trips, literature, sports, etc. An August 2010 investigation by the ACLU of Southern California uncovered a widespread practice among public school districts of charging students mandatory fees to participate in educational activities. For example, districts were requiring students to purchase textbooks, workbooks, and assigned novels in order to matriculate in academic courses. In September 2010, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of students alleging the fees violate the California Constitution’s free public education guarantee and discriminate against lower-income students by creating a “pay to learn” system that threatens the integrity of our state’s public education system. The ACLU investigation mirrors some of the same practices in MDUSD including the athletic “pay to play” contribution — no pay, no play, and the mandatory transportation fee. In some cases in the targeted districts, there was testimony that some of the teachers were writing the names of those who had not paid “on the board” highlighting their non-payment and in many cases inability to pay, demeaning the students in front of their peers. The same happens to athletes who have not paid — the coaches are given a list. No pay. No play. Look at some of the other practices highlighted bt the ACLU investigation — its just lucky the MDUSD website is so poor th ACLU could not tell what was happening in this district. How ironic. Mr. Rolen might want to revisit his opinion on a mandatory transportation fee for athletics since it seems to be covered in AB 1575.

  60. Doctor J Says:

    It appears that Steven Lawrence in Dec 2010, along with every other Supt] received a letter from the Governor warning about these collection of fees — I haven’t seen any change in MDUSD’s practices as a result of this letter. Additionally, the Governor quite clearly spells out that transportation fees for athletics are not one of the permissible exceptions to allow to be mandatorily charged. Did the Supt communicate this letter to High School Prinicpals ? What fees were eliminated in MDUSD ?

  61. Doctor J Says:

    Adding to Theresa’s comments on the Board agenda, interesting how new monies for consultants suddenly pop up just in time for campaign donation time. Also, noticed the AA Med Trans is blowing through the money pretty quickly — 25% spent by Oct 3, and still nine months to go. Guess who is going to need more money ?? Textbook sufficiency — no attached report of who has and who doesn’t — where is it ? Must be worse than last year. Only a general claim they are buying the books that weren’t there at the start of school. Funny how with declining enrollment there aren’t enough textbooks. SASS runs it. Ah, that’s the reason. The “Strategic Plan” — “votes” ?? Someone could have attended several of the meetings and “voted” multiple times. Where are the lists of who “voted” ? What was the purpose of the votes ? Re-organize the points ? Reduce the points ? What a fiasco ! A story is circulating that during an interview one candidate for Supt of a district [not here] was asked about the district’s community developed Strategic Plan and what the candidate thought of it — the reply by the candidate: I will bring my own. Apparently that candidate and our Supt have at least one thing in common: neither understands how or why a Strategic Plan is developed.

  62. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It is with sadness that I announce a loss for all MDUSD feeder patterns: CC Times’ ace prep sports reporter Ben Enos has accepted a job at St. Mary’s College and will no longer be covering local games:
    For those of you who knew him, I highly recommend that you watch the video at the link above, which includes a cameo by Coach Hamilton of Concord HS. Ben has a great sense of humor and will be missed here in the newsroom — as well as on high school sports fields throughout the district and county.
    But, I wish him the best of luck in his new gig!

  63. Jim Says:

    @57 — Such a shame that MDUSD is spending money on consultants to see how fast they can expand their facilities in Bay Point, when the district should actually be shrinking and trying to identify whatever few things they can do well.

  64. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Perhaps the strategic plan – once adopted – will help clarify the district’s priorities in terms of spending money and expanding facilities in some areas, while possibly shrinking in others.

  65. Doctor J Says:

    @Jim#63 Steven Lawrence’s one act of accomplishment in West Sac was to build a new high school — improve API scores ? Not so much. You know his modus operendi — shift the focus. Official API scores will be out next Thursday.

  66. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, forgive me, but just because it is called a “Strategic Plan” doesn’t make it one — it doesn’t meet the definition of a Strategic Plan. It was not developed by ALL stakeholders. There was no buy in. And on and on. One example, where was MDEA’s on-going input and buy-in ? Put aside the Brown Act violations on the dot placing; that kind of priortization at the “end stage” is meaningless by people who didn’t even participate at the beginning. For all we know, since it was all done in secret, Lawrence could have taken it home and placed the dots himself [yes, that matches your speculation yesterday :-) and no I don’t think he took it home ! ]

  67. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I don’t know what “speculation yesterday” you are talking about.
    However, I was disappointed that Susan Petersen took down the plan from the lobby walls before the last board meeting ended. I had been planning to look at the dots after the meeting.
    It would be helpful if the district identified how many of the dots were placed on the plan at each of the four dot-placing meetings: PAC, CAC, Sept. 10 and Sept. 24. Now, it is impossible to know which groups favored which goals.

  68. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Another important news alert for all feeder patterns — UMDAF 5k on Sunday needs 1,300 more signups to meet its fundraising goal:

  69. Anon Says:

    I have a question. When the school district says things like “best practice” what do they mean? Who is it best for? the District or the student?
    Perhaps Jim could answer this?

  70. g Says:

    A while back, looking at SBUSD and Kerri Mills, I noticed their “committees” link. Just checked it again. The Strategic Plan committee is 25 people strong, they hold site meetings, and the board and staff is not even mentioned. Isn’t that interesting?

    They also seem to be taking a long time (like MDUSD) but, at least a couple of drafts are published, and it seems to be of-by-for the stakeholders/students of the district.

  71. g Says:

    I have a question for the Supt, the Board, the candidates or anyone besides Rolen/Pedersen:

    Can you explain: With a General Council on staff, an Asst General Council on staff, both (supposedly) working full time, and with six outside Contracted Legal Firms, all contracted at $185-$240 per hour, with very high annual guarantees, WHY in the world do partners Pete Pedersen & Gregory Rolen want to hire a separate Legal Team for $200,000.00, with a two year guarantee, JUST for Measure C??? Is something starting to smell stinky???

  72. g Says:

    Agenda Item 8.21:

    Q: How is a Board Action “Progress” Report related to a SpEd Allocation/Expenditure Report?

    A: No relationship at all! They are little more than Ugly Step-Cousins trying to slip past the approved board resolution unnoticed.

  73. Jim Says:

    @71 G — I think you answered your own question there.

    @69 Anon — In the world outside education, of course, “Best Practice” typically means an outcomes-validated process that is employed by all highly regarded organizations in that field, because it achieves the optimum result, in light of the resources used. Now in the parallel universe of traditional public education, “best practice” is supposed to mean a research-validated approach that is shown to yield the best results, in terms of student achievement. (So even something like a teacher recruiting or training process should me measured in terms of its ultimate impact on the organizational mission of maximizing student achievement.) But alas, the words “education research” are almost an oxymoron, given the low standards in the field. (If a “best practice” is advocated by someone with a PhD in education, it’s always best to read further and see if the results have been validated by someone trained in a more rigorous discipline.)

    And then there’s the matter of adoption. Outside of education, validated best practices are usually adopted by many organizations. In traditional public education, where there is little accountability, and therefore far less incentive to undertake the time and effort to employ the best approaches, there are many best practices that have been well validated, but are still hardly used.

    So when you hear anyone in MDUSD use the term “best practices”, you must: 1) hope that they have even a vague idea of what they are talking about, and 2) that they have the discipline to actually implement the practice, if it is, indeed, a good approach.

  74. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Jim@73 – or it could just be MDUSD using catch-phrases and buzzwords to sneak crap by the public.

  75. Doctor J Says:

    @G#71 What’s even more rotten in Denmark is that its one law firm hiring another law firm on behalf of the district — which tells me there’s trouble in River City, and the district’s first law firm has a “conflict of interest” with MDUSD’s adversary, and therefore needs to “farm it out”. But wait, there’s more. Why is there never any “action” on these “potential” lawsuits ? Never a denial of a claim, never approval of a settlement, never a word. What happens with these lawsuits ?

  76. Anon Says:

    First we would have to know what the potential law suit is. If it is special Ed. And due process has been started, it first goes to mediation and most likely settled. If it is settled in mediation then it is not reported as a law suit.

    Jim, thanks for the answer. I have come to the conclusion that best practice here in mdusd is just a buzz word. I am not sure how they can buy programs that is not research supported.
    I have been hearing mentioned more in the last month then I have in the last 3 years.

  77. g Says:

    Note on the outside legal council contract engagement letter that it says the “scope of the engagement” runs from July 1, 2011 (un-huh, 2011) thru June 30, 2014, and that they are the “primary” attorney for the district—-?

    Have they been getting paid without a valid contract since 2011? Covering asses for – or sidestepping advice from – Juhl-Darlington, Stone & Youngberg and Dent since 2011 without a contract?

    The more you read, the more it stinks.

  78. g Says:

    Further research seems to indicate that the 2011 dating is just one more example of sloppy work by the district–an error that would drop any student’s grade.

    But, further research shows that the district already has a job lined up for Henderson:

    Right below this link, a google search also shows the same lease/leaseback agreement for CVCHS modular buildings.

    I understand lease/leaseback is ideal for districts that are short on money to fund such projects, but Measure C, and Prop 55 are not short on funds—and it seems a lease/leaseback comes with costs (akin to interest) that simply make our bottom line costs even greater. Right? Wrong?

    I welcome an explanation of why this is such a good deal.

  79. Doctor J Says:

    Time for a PRA request on all legal billings for last year and the current year.

  80. mika Says:

    Re New law signed by Gov Brown–I don’t have to pay for my kids’ locker fees anymore? Or field trip fees?

  81. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: The board is scheduled to take action on a lawsuit Monday in closed session:
    That action should be reported out.

  82. g Says:

    I would love to know what the Roaldson charges are against the principal and teacher. The district has been playing run-around in court with this one for a full year. Guestimate what we have paid just in legal fees for this one at average of $200+ per hour for 3-4 attorneys/staff at Edrington, Schirmer & Murphy–before it even goes to trial!

  83. Jim Says:

    On pg 143 of the 201-page MDUSD 2013-14 Adopted Budget, under “Contingent Liabilities”, the district is asked to certify whether there are “known or contingent liabilities (e.g., financial or program
    audits, litigation, state compliance reviews) that may impact the budget”. And they checked “No”.

    So I guess we don’t need to worry about lawsuits.

  84. Jim Says:

    In MDUSD’s 2010-11 audited statements, the litigation expenses are probably buried in the $11 million “General Administration” expense lines. It could be instructive if school districts were required to break out the line item for legal expenses in their budgets and statements, but with only 200 pages for the budget and 87 pages for the audited statement, how could we ask MDUSD to find room to do that? Besides, if districts did offer such break-outs, then some troublemaker would probably start asking why one district’s expenses were so much higher than another’s. Best not to go there.

    I do recall some years ago an analysis that indicated MDUSD’s legal expenses were well above normal for a district its size, but it would be quite difficult to investigate that now, given the district’s greater reluctance to release information to nosy journalists and taxpayers. In any case, I’m sure that any district with high expenses would just say that their residents are unusually litigious. On the other hand, some observers might call high legal expenses a “Stupidity Tax” on districts that are unable to competently manage their affairs.

  85. g Says:

    Jim: “…that may impact the budget”. And they checked “No”.

    I suspect the devil is in the details!

    Remember this district has been under a leadership that plays teeter-totter with “accuracy” over “honesty” and they can say litigation expense will not impact the budget—because they budget for plenty of litigation.

    Someone should ask Rolen/Richards directly, “what is the amount of your annual legal budget, and how much of that do you spend each year?”

  86. District Teacher Says:

    Note to Theresa Harrington: If you feel that this information should not be made public, please remove this comment. It is not my intention to divulge confidential information.

    The Roaldson lawsuit is one filed on behalf of a College Park H.S. student related to an eye injury the student alledgedly received in a chemistry class when a potato gun was shot in the class while the teacher was momentarily out of the classroom. The suit names the teacher and a vice principal.

    This isn’t classified information – court documents are public files. I found the PDF file of the lawsuit online several months ago. I have no personal knowledge of the alledged incident that led to the lawsuit, which was filed with the Contra Costa Co. Superior Court in Nov. 2011 (case #C11-02675).

    It looks like the district is moving toward setting the suit.

  87. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The CAC appears to be getting frustrated over the lack of responsiveness it is receiving from the district about its concerns regarding the FCMAT transportation report:

  88. Doctor J Says:

    The CAC has caught the district in a myriad of LIES, the district refuses to response with specicifics to those LIES, and frankly doesn’t care one hoot about the CAC. They know Linda Mayo will continue to rely upon “staff” whether or not it is the truth — CAC continue to point to the LIES of staff. How much longer will Linda Mayo keep her head in the sand to deny the the TRUTH ?

  89. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Although Greg Rolen has refused to release the third party analysis, trustees could direct staff to release it.
    Bill Gillaspie told me he didn’t think there was anything that appeared to be of a confidential nature in it.
    As has been previously pointed out, openness and transparency would go a long way toward building public trust in this district.
    The district appears to have underestimated the CAC. The fact that the CAC is asking the district to back up the assertions made in the FCMAT report with actual facts and statistics seems to have caught the district — as well as FCMAT — off guard and unprepared to respond.
    I wonder what grade a district teacher would give to FCMAT for its report.
    Where is the comprehensive bibliography? Who are the sources for the data cited?
    It is unlikely that a district student would receive an “A” on a research paper that made similar assertions, with no backup.

  90. Anon Says:

    Rolen will release the FCMAT report about the same time as they finally release Lawrences’s “Thorough analysis” and Eberhart’s ” Extremely definitive Assessments” of the bond sales documents

  91. Theresa Harrington Says:

    As has been previously pointed out, the board could also direct Rolen to release that bond assessment. Hansen said she did not believe the information distributed to the board about the district’s use of bond premium to pay cost of issuance was “extremely definitive” or “thorough.” But, the superintendent, Rolen and Eberhart appear to hope the public takes their word for it that it is. Whitmarsh didn’t even recall receiving anything in writing.
    Mayo appears to be taking Rolen’s word for it that the district shouldn’t release it.

  92. Theresa Harrington Says:

    MDEA is hoping for a big turnout Wednesday at the big Prop. 30 rally in Todos Santos Plaza. I wonder if many teachers will turn up tonight to urge the MDUSD board to reconsider its failure to endorse the measure.
    If voters reject Prop. 30, “we will all take 11 furlough days this school year which is a 6% pay cut,” according to MDEA.
    Surprising that this information hasn’t compelled a single trustee to make a motion to support the proposition. Can a district in its second year of Program Improvement really afford to lose more than two weeks of student instruction?

  93. g Says:

    Mayo will listen to, or vote with, any con artist or board majority that keeps her family supplied in medical/dental/vision benefits. She is almost useless if an independent thought process, backed by conscientious voting is required.

  94. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Mayo appears to have gone through a conscious thought process in her decision to endorse Prop. 38, but not Prop. 30.
    When Bryan Richards pointed out that the district would lose millions of dollars this year if Prop. 30 fails, Mayo quickly interjected that district schools would receive about $31 million in 2013-14 if Prop. 38 passes. So, she appears to have decided that the money schools could receive in the future outweighs the money the district will lose this year, if Prop. 30 fails.

  95. Doctor J Says:

    MDEA will have the Prop 30 smiles wiped right off teacher’s faces on Thursday when the official API scores are released. Some rumors floating around Dent that the data used by the district to calculate the “estimated” API scores has now been “cleaned up” — and since Dent didn’t release “new” estimated scores, some are speculating that the “official” scores may even be “lower”. I guess Steven has been reading the blogs again since he was upset when he learned that some schools have been sharing their API scores with their parent communitities[revealed on this blog] who are going to realize the TRUTH on Thursday ! Just another instance where the District information does NOT match the TRUTH. Maybe parents are finally realizing why nothing adds up and wondering where is the truth ! Next month will be Steven’s third anniversary of his “hire” — just about the same amount of time he lasted in West Sac before he left and former Berkeley Supt. Michelle Lawrence [no relation] had to clean up before they could hire a new Supt.

  96. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Coincidentally, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla and State Supt. Tom Torlakson will be rallying with teachers the night BEFORE the API results are released.
    Surely, Torlakson knows how well the state’s schools fared overall. I wonder if he’ll give any hints…

  97. Doctor J Says:

    Connect the dots to Linda Mayo’s support of Prop 38 by virtue of her Board of Director membership on the California State PTA Board, a big supporter of Prop 38, but notso much Prop 30. Significantly, Linda Mayo also supported AB1575, which is the one I identified last week which prohibits all “fees” and “deposits” and “required purchases” for both curricular and extra-curricular activities. Like I said, it will have a HUGE impact on MDUSD, probably causing the death of high school athletics, the death of many science classes, prohibit requiring students to purchase their own calculators for advanced math, and the list goes on and on. Just another example of Linda letting someone else do her thinking — but she still gets her full family Medical\Dental\Vision. Linda, ought to be held accountable for voting, as a State PTA Board member, for voting for a law that will cost MDUSD millions or further dumb down the educational opportunities. What were you thinking Linda ?

  98. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#96 Torlakson knows now since his press release has been written and is waiting to be posted on the 11th — but will be given to you, along with the official scores at least 24 hours ahead so you can write your story. Will you dare ask him a question in person about the specific scores for MDUSD since you will already know what they are ? I hope you will ask Linda Mayo why she voted to support AB 1575 with its drastic consequences. Perhaps she will share the Cal PTA “staff report” she relied upon.

  99. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have heard a rumor that students at Walnut Acres Elem. have been charged to be part of the school musical in the past. I have not yet corroborated this, but the source was reliable.
    Also, based on the low turnout at the UMFDAF 5K, I’m guessing they may not have met their goal. Only 228 runners signed up for the competitive race and it looked like fewer participated in fun run and kiddie races…likely bringing the total number of participants to far fewer than the desired 2,000.
    Pat Middendorf said many CVCHS students committed to working at the Clayton Oktoberfest in appreciation for all the the CBCA’s support of the charter. However, there was still a sizable contingent from CVCHS at the race. But, it remains to be seen if the school will keep its trophy for the most participants.
    Dr. J: Mayo has long been a proponent of equitable funding for school programs across the district. When many PTAs started raising money for their own schools to fund instructional assistants and other positions cut by the board, Mayo said that wasn’t fair. She suggested that funds raised should be split by all schools.
    But, the rest of the board — and many parents — didn’t like that idea. Parents said they wanted to be able to raise money that would directly benefit their own students, in part because some didn’t trust the district to spend their money wisely.

  100. Doctor J Says:

    How many high school math and science class “require” a student to supply their own calculator ? AB 1575 prohibits that requirement, and one complaint appealed to the State Board of Education could result in the district reimbursing every family who purchased their own. How many English classes require student to purchase and read certain novels ? How many elementary and middle schools require students to “pay for” field trips and camps ? Or pay science class fees ? No longer under AB 1575. Sure schools can “encourage” BUT NOT REQUIRE fundraising — no discrimination against those who don’t “fundraise”. No more lists of “who didn’t fundraise” or “who didn’t contribute”. Ask Linda Mayo why she voted to have the California PTA support AB 1575 — was it because “staff recommended it” ?

  101. Doctor J Says:

    @TH #99 — Yes, I remember Linda’s suggestion — but she never made a motion or got staff to support it. The rich schools sharng their donations with the poor schools — blasphamy in the eyes of the rich. AB 1575 will require the district to fund more programs and cut out nonsense like Board MDV. No longer will teachers be able to write on the board: Johnny has donated yet; or Debbie hasn’t been to the fundraiser.

  102. Anon Says:

    Dr. J.,

    I’m confused. If a principal has shared the “estimated” API score with parents, and that score is worse, is it the principle or Lawrence who purposely misled the parents?

  103. Doctor J Says:

    From Ventura:Impact on Art classes

  104. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon#102 I doubt the PrincipAl knew that the data needed to be “cleaned up”. Why did Steven Lawrence feel such an urgent need to share the API scores that were “just estimates” ? Remember that the release of the STAR scores and API scores were delayed from August release due to the widespread posting of pictures of the test on Facebook and other social media because the test givers: TEACHERS were not monitoring the test giving closely. Those teachers and schools who performed poorly have already started to suffer the consequences — SASS increasing in size.

  105. Random Thoughts Says:

    Random Thoughts

    Brown Act Violations – did some research on this and talked to an attorney who has a strong background in school law. He said that he doesn’t know of anybody at a school board level charged or removed from office for a Brown Act violation and that some boards use the Brown Act to hide their activities from the public. He explained that 99% of the time it is an attempt to hide their incompetency from the public. This gentleman also explained that some attorney’s working for a board will use “potential litigation” to hide from the public. By claiming someone “might sue” the board can hide a multitude of issues ( and sins) from the public.

    So, from an experienced attorney versed in ed. law, we find that all this posturing about violating the Brown Act, is simply that, posturing, because they know nothing will happen.

    Interesting, no?

  106. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a new blog post regarding tonight’s meeting:

  107. Anon Says:

    I am having such a hard time with prop 30 and the statement of 6% paycut for teachers. What about the kids. Is it about the kids or the adults? 11 less days of school would be criminal.

  108. anon Says:

    I’m sick and tired of the Sacramento pols always blackmailing taxpayers by threatening to cut teachers, firefighter, and police funding. How about cutting the freeloaders who constantly eat from the public trough.They tax us to death and want to tax us some more. Jerry Brown is an idiot.

  109. anon Says:

    Yes, many parent groups are raising funds to fill some of the gaps at their schools. Claiming that the “rich” schools are getting more can easily be countered with all the extras the Title 1 schools get. I am tired of all the categorical funding.

  110. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added an Oct. 11 update to this post to alert parents in the Northgate feeder pattern that their superintendent meeting is tonight at 7 p.m. in the Northgate HS staff lounge.
    No word yet on when and where the planned YVHS feeder pattern meeting will take place next week.

  111. g Says:

    It is for items like fresh clean drinking water laws, and the district’s complience—or NONcomplience that the “Board Action Progress Report” was intended.

    The board votes to DO something, considers its job ‘done’ and drops the ball. Then the staff just lets it die for lack of follow-up! Current board ‘leadership’ (ha-ha) is a joke!

  112. Anon Says:

    Northgate tonight? During the A’s game? ROFLOL

  113. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Perhaps that’s why it’s in the staff lounge. Is there a TV in there? :)

  114. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    @G # 111 – exactly. This could have been just one of those “feel good” endings the district could publicize – but 15 months later and access to free fresh water in at least one school out of the 10 listed appears to still be a need to be filled instead of a reality required by law.

  115. Theresa Harrington Says:

    This didn’t qualify for the board action progress report because it didn’t cost enough money and it is related to food service.
    I wonder if this shows up on the Bond Oversight Committee reports.
    With the accelerated Measure C timeline (thanks to the property tax rate increase), perhaps the district will accomplish this in five years instead of seven — after installing field lights at YVHS.

  116. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that I have added a new blog post, in which the superintendent revealed the dates and times of future (and past) feeder pattern meetings:

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