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MDUSD 11-5-12

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, November 5th, 2012 at 7:17 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Tonight’s board meeting appears to be very light on agenda items, with only two easement dedications listed under action items.

But there are a few interesting items on the consent calendar:

Item 8.8: Recission of bid for ethernet cabling (bidder says it’s too risky at $70,000 per day on a $1 million contract):

Item 8.9: Award of same bid to another contracter, who apparently accepted the risk (although the attachments don’t spell that out):

Item 8.10: Inspector fees of more than $8,000 to be paid from developer fees for IHTA gourmet kitchen at MDHS:

I had a call from a Bay Point/Pittsburg resident today who alleged the district is spending developer fees from new homes constructed in that area on schools on the “other side of the hill.” In this case, MDHS does serve Bay Point students, but this resident argued developer fees should remain on the other side of the hill to accommodate overcrowding there by building a new school.

Item 8.11: College Park Measure C improvements:

It looks like the school is finally getting the paving and drainage improvements that former Principal Barbara Oaks asked for back in March, 2010.

Items 8.12 are is also for College Park improvements.

Item 8.13 is for interim housing (but doesn’t say that on the agenda).

We’re back to College Park again with Item 8.14, for environmental services related to athletic facilities improvements.

The board also plans to approve more YVHS improvements related to the controversial field expansion in item 8.15:

Item 8.16: Leasing interim housing (as opposed to the other interim housing item at 8.13).

Item 8.19: Translator support:

The district intends to contract with Marisol Rolen (Greg Rolen’s wife, among other contractors)

I will try to do a live blog and videotape the proceedings.


I got here a bit late and didn’t hear the complete report out of closed session, but I believe I heard that trustees intend to go back into closed session after the meeting is over.

I believe the board approved all of the consent calendar items except 8.19, which was pulled. (I will confirm this after the meeting is over.)

NOV. 6 UPDATE: Here is a link to the meeting audio:

Per the audio, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh announced that the board voted in closed session to send one student to Diablo Day School. She also said trustees would go back into closed session after the meeting to discuss employee discipline/release/complaint.

Trustee Cheryl Hansen pulled item 8.19 from the consent calendar and the board unanimously approved the rest of the consent calendar.

Here are video clips of the discussion and votes regarding translator services:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

The board voted 3-2 to negotiate contracts with three of the four vendors presented by staff (Eberhart and Whitmarsh against).

The board then voted 3-2 to also negotiate with AIS (Hansen, Mayo against).

Deb Cooksey said the second vote put the board right back where it was before the first vote, with all four vendors in the running for contracts.

Student reports:

Superintendent’s Report:

College Park HS easement:
Board unanimously approved easement.

Sun Terrace Elementary easement:
Board unanimously approved easement.

Trustee Cheryl Hansen’s board report:
Hansen reported on an upcoming Iron Chef competition Wednesday at Concord High School, which she will help judge.

Trustee Lynne Dennler’s board report:
Dennler reported on an autism task force meeting she attended.

Trustee Gary Eberhart’s board report:
Eberhart thanked staff and the community for the support he has received over the years and wished the board well as it tackles difficult decisions in the future.

Trustee Linda Mayo’s board report:
Mayo thanked Eberhart for his years of service and reported on her recent activities.

Board President Sherry Whitmarsh’s board report:
Whitmarsh reported on what she is thankful for, then called for a break before the board went back into closed session to discuss employee complaint/dismissal/release.

Interestingly, no one mentioned the election. Whitmarsh is up for re-election and the board has endorsed Props. 30 and 38.

Do you agree with the board’s decision to allow AIS to renegotiate its contract bid to retain a portion of MDUSD’s translation services work?

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

127 Responses to “MDUSD 11-5-12”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    When does CTI say that Marisol quit working for them ? An interesting question since Marisol filed her Ficticious Business Name statement on Sept 2, 2008. I wonder if she was doing work for the district that early, but under the $25,000 Board approval requirement ?

  2. Doctor J Says:

    Agenda 10.19 on 12-14-2010 is for an increase to an existing $20,000 contract with AIS that apparently was never approved. How many years had that been going on ?

  3. Doctor J Says:

    The Brown Act also applies to newly elected trustees Brian Lawrence and Barbara Oaks even though they have not yet assumed office. Watch out Brian and Barbara — don’t get trapped on this !

  4. Wait a Minute Says:

    This latest scandal with Greg Rolen at the center should result in his termination from MDUSD employment and a complaint to the State Bar IMO.

    I think the best case scenario is that Rolen used his position to manipulate the district into terminating their long-term interpreting contractor (CTI) under false pretenses.

    At the same time the cheating Rolen manipulated the MDUSD into hiring his lover Marisol Padilla who left CTI and started her own business (AIS) and recieved the MDUSD contract at inflated rates.

    Worst case scenario is that Rolen and Marisol Padilla actively de-frauded the MDUSD through numerous billing shenanigans so in essence the MDUSD and the taxpayers were injured by dramatically overpaying.

    It should be obvious to everyone concerned that Rolen is literally at the center of nearly every one of the numerous scandals constantly rocking the MDUSD and this alone is ample reason for employment termination.

  5. Doctor J Says:

    [NOTE: This comment was edited to delete personal information]

    @WAM – Wait there is more. Marisol claims she attended Universidad Autonomo de Guadalajara from 92-4. She says she worked for CTI from 9/96 to 8/2008 as Office Administrator and Interpreter/Translator Coordinator.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    I don’t understand why my post #55 was edited ? All of the information was from public records and has to do directly with post #46 and prior discussion of Marisol Padilla.

  7. g Says:

    I guess from 1996 to 2008 does equal 14 years. One can’t help but wonder how any single parent could support their family from Aug. 2008 to July 2010 when she got her first contract from this district.

    I also wonder if AIS listed on the RFP any other income/contracts/job references she may have had during those two ‘missing’ years.

  8. g Says:

    My point being, of course, is that as I count it in 2008 Marisol may have started her own business and even may have worked on the side or even under the table under her company name, but she still worked for CTI until 2010!

  9. Doctor J Says:

    G, 96 to 08 is only 12 years ! On Linked In, Marisol says she was with CTI for “September 1996– August 2008 (12 years)”

  10. anon Says:

    and AIS employees don’t need to be fingerprinted because their contract states that they are never to be alone with a student-a certificated staff member must always be present. but these employees walk up and down halls where students are present and there isn’t always a certificated staff member around.

    even when there’s an assembly at a school with numberous certificated staff in the audience, the folks presenting at the assembly must be fingerprinted according to district policy. doesn’t make sense.

  11. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The public linked in profile doesn’t list her experience:

  12. Brian Lawrence Says:

    @ Theresa #46- I will be sworn in during a public session.

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Brian, Thanks for this information.
    I have received clarification about the process used in the past. Apparently, trustees were sworn in during the public portion of the closed session (before they adjourned to closed session), then they were sworn in again ceremonially during the regular public meeting. This is probably what Whitmarsh was referencing.
    Is that your understanding of what will occur?

  14. Doctor J Says:

    @#61 Sure does. Just pulled it up again. Here it is:

    I am a native Spanish speaker with a strong background in the interpretation field, highly professional and dedicated interpreter/translator coordinator and office manager with over 14 years of experience in coordination, planning and direction of daily operational and administrative functions for a professional language interpreting firm.

    • Strong analytical/reasoning skills, ability to comprehend and analyze oral and written language quickly, good memory, concentration and organization
    • Strong written language skills, background in Spanish and English styles and formatting.
    • Creativity with and about language, knowledge of etymologies and forms, and the impact of choosing one word over another for the purpose of exact translation.
    • Ability to work with others, open mindedness toward people of all backgrounds, socio- economic levels and language abilities.
    • Proficiency and understanding in formal and informal styles in Spanish and English.
    • Maturity, discretion, and good judgment.
    • Commitment to lifelong learning and motivation for constant improvement.
    • Establish strong interpersonal trust and relationships with clients.
    • Excellent computer skills; proficiency with Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, QuickBooks and able to learn proprietary systems/applications quickly and easily.


    N e e d a n i n t e r p r e t e r ?
    We know you have a world full of choices.
    Advanced Interpreting Services is uniquely
    qualified to provide the language solutions your
    organization needs. We have a professional team
    of medical, federal, court certified &
    registered interpreters and translators available
    to serve your interpreting needs.

    Your business means the world to us!


    Owner & Director

    Advanced Interpreting Services Any language, any time any where…

    2008– Present (4 years)

    Advanced Interpreting Services, any language, any time, any where… with over 14 years of experience in the interpretation field can provide interpreters for all your interpretation needs in a variety of settings:
    • Legal (court, deposition, attorney -client meetings, etc.);
    • Human and social services
    • Employment services
    • Medical (IME, AME, etc.);
    • School (IEP’s, hearings, SST’s, parent-teacher conferences)
    • Business meetings
    • Conference (technical, software, marketing, etc.)
    • Others as required

    Advanced Interpreting Services only works with Interpreters and Translators who have relevant experience in the required field, whether is Legal, Medical, Technical, Financial, Employee Manual, Contracts, etc. Our goal is to dissolve the communication barriers
    of individuals who are not fluent in English. We can help you regardless of the Language. Advanced Interpreting Services always strives to accommodate our clientele with the best quality service based on their needs.
    Our prices are very competitive. Quality is always our top priority

    We respond to your interpretation request within 24 hours.

    Confidentiality guaranteed.

    Office Administrator and Interpreter/Translator Coordinator


    September 1996– August 2008 (12 years)

    • Proven business contract negotiating skills, primary focused in recruiting independent interpreters who have relevant experience in the require field for a variety of settings: Legal, Medical, School, Conferences, Employment & Human Services etc.

    • Spanish Interpreter for MDUSD assisting in IEP’s, Special Education Meetings, Teacher/Parent conferences, SST’s etc.
    • Spanish Interpreter for EHSD assisting social workers in Food Stamps Meetings, Medical Interviews, Welfare to Work, etc.
    • Demonstrate effective problem solving skills, solved problems presented by customers in a quick and efficient manner.
    • Strong analytical/reasoning skills, ability to comprehend and analyze oral and written language quickly, good memory, concentration and organization


    Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara

    International Business Trade

    1992 – 1994

  15. Theresa Harrington Says:

    When I go to the public profile, this is all I see at

    “Marisol Padilla, Advanced Interpreting Services
    San Francisco Bay Area Translation and Localization
    23 connections

    Contact Marisol Padilla, for:

    career opportunities consulting offers job inquiries expertise requests business deals reference requests getting back in touch

    Send a message to Marisol Padilla, Advanced Interpreting Services
    Send InMail”

  16. anon Says:

    Good things do not seem to have much a chance at MDHS. Cindy Gershen, whose innovative Wellness program was introduced at MDHS, has been paying for food out of her own pocket. Her efforts to ask for donations was thwarted by Principal McClatchy, who basked in the glory and publicity last semester, but appears unwilling to support the program now.

  17. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Gershen told me in the past that McClatchy was very supportive of the IHTA wellness efforts. In fact, she said McClatchy was brave to embrace such an ambitious pilot program, compared to other districts that showed more reluctance to try something new and different. Gershen has caught the attention of many powerful people, including Tom Torlakson, state legislators and local elected officials. She is a collaborator who brings people together behind the goal of making the community healthier. I have heard that she is also partnering with the district’s food services division to introduce foods such as roasted vegetables to teens at MDHS, encouraging them to go home and try it themselves, then use them in a variety of foods such as burritos. Much of the food was supposed to come from the garden on campus.

  18. District Teacher Says:

    No surprise there, Anon. That’s the same McClatchy who took credit for increases in standardized test scores at MDHS from before she was “promoted” to become principal there and didn’t even acknowledge her predecessor at MDHS, that she supposedly traded places with, who was by then at Olympic. But as long as McClatchy is willing to do whatever the superintendent tells her to do, like stumbling through that anti-CVCHS script at a school board meeting that she obviously hadn’t written or even practiced reading (and was fortunately recorded for posterity – and her future job prospects), McClatchy will be safe in her job. Unless, of course, a new school board becomes curious and investigates the events at Olympic and Mount since McClatchy’s arrival in the district and determines that her services are no longer needed.

  19. Doctor J Says:

    AB 1575 will change how every school “supports” “extra” programs since Steven Lawrence will not give them any funds to do it, and now they cannot “charge” students. As for McClatchy, she must have some kind of “leverage” over someone in high places in MDUSD to survive when others have done less and been dismissed.

  20. District Teacher Says:

    That rumor has been out there for awhile, Dr. J., but no one can think of what she has over anyone. She’s fairly new to the district, but she takes orders very well and has no problem making her version of the truth change as expediency requires.

  21. anon Says:

    Based on my opinion: McClatchy has her loyal VP’s (former Riverview teachers) who are quite good at pushing her agenda on staff. If there is any dissent or diagreement, it is handily handled. She engineers staff and other meetings. When there is dissent, it is usually dismissed by those in charge and the dissenter is told that it not the appropriate time. The question is “when is the right time?’ There are many bright and dedicated teachers, new and old, at MDHS with ideas and energy to help the school. However, control is the name of the game.

  22. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a new report that details the characteristics of great principals:

    Here is an excerpt:

    “A decade of research has shown that, on average, a principal accounts for 25 percent of a school’s total impact on student achievement. A 2012 study found that principals have a stronger effect on all students in a school than teachers do because teachers affect only their students. In fact, the difference between an average and an above-average principal can impact student achievement by as much as 20 percentage points.
    What, then, do above-average principals do to have such a substantial influence on students?
    Great principals amplified great teaching by working in three intersecting areas:
    Developing teachers.
    Managing talent.
    Creating a great place to work.”

    Here are the recommendations to districts:

    At the Local Level

    Local school districts define the majority of conditions that support or inhibit principals. Districts have multiple important opportunities to change the status quo. We recommend that school districts tackle:

    Principal hiring.
    Seek out the best. When hiring principals, districts often stress graduate degrees or number of years in the system, rather than the
    competencies and skills necessary to excel on the job. Instead, districts should implement more rigorous hiring processes that screen and assess for necessary mindsets and skills, such as an unwavering belief in all students’ ability to succeed, adult management experience and instructional expertise.

    Principal evaluation and development.
    Districts should provide clear and consistent expectations of success for principals. They should focus evaluation, professional development and accountability for the student outcomes that principals need to achieve, and on the important roles principals play, including the development and retention of high quality
    teachers. In particular, districts should provide sufficient training for principals on the new expectations for teacher evaluation and
    development and hold principals accountable for successfully demonstrating these skills.

    Principal management and support.
    School districts should dedicate sufficient time and training for district leaders to conduct principal evaluation and performance management activities, including clear goal setting, school-site visits, formative feedback and support for individual principal development.
    They should hold principal managers accountable for results of the schools and principals they manage.

    Decision making.
    District leadership should empower principals with flexibility to make managerial decisions that impact teaching, such as discretion to:
    • Make strategic staffing decisions, including hiring, promotion, and when necessary, the efficient and fair removal of ineffective teachers.
    • Manage budgets and staffing allocations to meet specific school needs.
    • Restructure school schedules to enable common planning time for teachers to foster communities of practice led by the principal and teacher leaders”

  23. Doctor J Says:

    Isn’t this the same study I linked to a few weeks ago ? Sorry, but I can’t find the post.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    My post was Oct 26 #55 under MDUSD 10-22-12: “How important are principals to the success of student achievement ? “Our results indicate that highly effective principals raise the achievement of a typical student in their schools by between two and seven months of learning in a single school year; ineffective principals lower achievement by the same amount. These impacts are somewhat smaller than those associated with having a highly effective teacher. But teachers have a direct impact on only those students in their classroom; differences in principal quality affect all students in a given school.” Interesting article in Education Next. MDUSD still doesn’t have an effective Principal evaluation program.
    I haven’t yet compared the two articles but they have a very similar theme.

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    You’re right about the similar themes. It’s possible the study I referenced also referred to the Education Next study.
    Effective principals are key to effective schools, it seems.
    In candidate forums and interviews, Barbara Oaks has talked about the importance of recognizing everyone’s strengths and finding the right “fit” for each person on a campus and in the district. She also said she didn’t feel the superintendent valued the feedback of principals (or even asked for it).
    Hansen is also a former principal and Dennler is a former teacher who had strong opinions about her principal.
    Although Mayo and Brian Lawrence don’t have any school administrative experience, Mayo has talked in the past about her desire to rebuild a “family” atmosphere in the district. Brian Lawrence has talked about the importance of listening to feedback as a “gift,” that enables an organization to become stronger.
    Can district and school administrators be taught to be responsive, if they are used to being controlling?

  26. Doctor J Says:

    I believe its the same study. The Oct 26 link was to an interpretive article about it, and your link today is to the report: “Playmakers: How Great Principals Build and Lead Great Teams of Teachers explores both what specific actions principals of high-performing schools take to improve teacher effectiveness and what distinguishes principals who lead high-performing schools from other principals.” From my cursory review its clear that the job of the principal is to build and lead the team of teachers to more effective teaching.”Great principals amplified great teaching by working in three intersecting areas:
    1.Developing teachers.
    2.Managing talent.
    3.Creating a great place to work.”
    The question that needs to be addressed is whether the leadership style of Steven Lawrence would allow principals to have the independence to build great teaching teams as outlined in the study. Every board member out to read this new study.

  27. Jim Says:

    @72 — Theresa, this is a great summary of how much principals can contribute to a school’s success. The best principals are similar, in many ways, to the best managers in the private sector. Instead of asking themselves every day, “How should I manage these people?”, they come to work every day asking, “How can I get the best possible people to work here?” and then, “What can I do to help them be successful?”

    This perspective requires, of course, that principals themselves are carefully recruited and given sufficient autonomy and accountability to take risks and make tough decisions based on the needs of the students and teachers that they work with every day. Unfortunately, in most large school districts, they are hired too recklessly and are too constrained in the centralized, top-down bureaucracy.

    What the list doesn’t touch on is the converse — how much DAMAGE a poor principal can do. It is difficult to overestimate the devastation that a poor leader can wreak on an organization, but it is pervasive — difficulty retaining good people, becoming a “refuge” for the least talented and motivated, poor results, cynicism around the mission, and deterioration in the ability to execute even the simplest tasks. We saw this vividly at Northgate HS, during years of indifferent, isolated, indecisive, and unskilled leadership prior to the arrival of Mr. McMorris. I know that he has not always been a popular figure on this blog, but he has led a significant, positive turnaround. Anyone who can do that within the dysfunctional atmosphere of MDUSD deserves to be recognized.

  28. Doctor J Says:

    @Jim#77 Actually the study does identify how much “damage” a poor principal can do — lowers the achievement at the same rate and effective one raises it. In my post #74, the prior article I quoted says: “Our results indicate that highly effective principals raise the achievement of a typical student in their schools by between two and seven months of learning in a single school year; ineffective principals lower achievement by the same amount.” This is exactly why the SASS principal coaches are so pivotal in helping principals or identifying them to be “moved”. A young principal should be getting 2-3 hours PER WEEK of coaching from a former successful principal. The disaster is multifold with SASS. First, the principals are getting only 2-3 coaching hours PER SEMESTER, and a few maybe that much per month. Next, there are very few of the SASS principal coaches that actually were successful principals in, as Steven Lawrence said, “moving their schools forward”. Most just coasted at the same speed and level. We don’t need “caretaker” principals, but “highly effective” principals to raise the learning opportunities for ALL students.

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Jim: While some blog commenters were critical of Mr. McMorris’ opposition to CVCHS, many have also praised his leadership at Northgate. I interviewed him for a story about the relatively new effort to offer National Board Certification for principals, similar to the certification offered for teachers. He invited me to attend one of his “Focus on Learning” meetings with his teacher-leaders from different departments, who regularly visit classrooms to critique teaching. He is also working with what appears to be a strong PFC and site council. And, Northgate is fortunate to have crisis counselors, who help students deal with issues school administrators may not be trained to help with.

    Here is the link to the National Survey of School Counselors conducted by the College Board, which I previously mentioned:

    Here is how it defines school counselors: “A profession that focuses on the relations and interactions between students and their school environment with the expressed purpose of reducing the effect of environmental and institutional barriers that impede student academic success.”

    Yet, MDUSD has eliminated these professionals from its school staffs.

  30. Sue Berg Says:

    Theresa, #79: MDUSD has not had “school counselors” for decades. Other positions such as student services coordinators and vice principals have been assigned some of those responsibilities. For one brief period Governor Schwarzenegger allocated funds specifically for school counselors, but that categorical money was allowed to be absorbed into school districts’ general funds as the state budget tightened. The City of Walnut Creek has financed school counselors for schools within its boundaries for many years. I don’t know if it still has the means to do so.

    Jim, #72: From my actual experience in working with MDUSD principals from 2000 to 2009 I can attest that the district has had and continues to have some excellent ones. The selection process I saw was rigorous with much thought given to the candidate’s fit into the specific school community. Principals had autonomy but also district support as needed for both new principals and veterans. Dr J, the principals who transferred into the SASS department all came from high performing schools. I believe many of them are still working there.

  31. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Sue: I believe the city of Walnut Creek is still funding the crisis counselors. Although it had considered cutting them, many people spoke about how important they were.

    General comment: It looks like CSBA is offering some valuable training for current and aspiring board presidents tomorrow:

    Here’s what will be discussed:

    “You will leave with strategies to increase your effectiveness and materials to support you as you take on this significant and complex role. This session explores:
    · Running Effective Meetings: A Blueprint for Success
    · Using a Board Leadership Plan to Foster an Exceptional Governance Team
    · Working With New Board Members: Tips and Checklists
    · Managing Conflict: Developing Norms for Communication
    · Leading the Meeting: Guiding Protocols
    · Accomplishing Your Governance Goals Through Board Self Evaluation
    · Knowing What and When to Expect it: Utilizing the School District Governance Calendar
    · Evaluating the Superintendent: Using this Important Leadership Tool to Focus and Align all the District’s Efforts
    · Developing a Successful Advocacy Strategy That Promotes Strong Community Relationships”

    Wonder if any MDUSD trustees will attend. Many of these are issues that have surfaced before in MDUSD as areas worth discussion and possible need for improvement.

  32. Doctor J Says:

    Northgate’s API growth has been somewhat rollercoaster.
    2007 +3 Riley
    2008 +5 Riley/Toliver
    2009 +20 McMorris
    2010 +9 McMorris
    2011 -10 McMorris
    2012 +5 McMorris

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, but the school has been scoring well over 800 for all of that time, I believe, with a 2012 score of 860:

    Also, I have heard that some students don’t take the tests seriously and don’t try to do well. That could account for some of the fluctuation. When Barbara Oaks was at CPHS, she was pushing the idea of putting STAR scores on transcripts so students would take the tests seriously. That idea, however, was not pursued by the district administration or board. We’ll see if she raises it again…

  34. Doctor J Says:

    @SB#80 You correctly point out that many of the SASS principals came from “high performing” schools — that would be based soley on API scores. But few, maybe only one, took those schools from underperforming schools to high performing schools. And when you go back and look at their records, most did not “move their schools” across the board in the subgroups. The comment often heard is that Principal XYZ had an API of 900 — but the real question is whether that prinicipal, had s/he been put at a school of 650 API been able to “move that school” to API of 800+ in all the subgroups ? We saw the massive gains at Delta View which have held steady through a second principal; we started to see massive gains at Meadow Homes, but Lawrence fired Tobey after a 58 point API gain and the new Principal had a modest gain of 6 API points; we have seen some massive gains at the three Bay Point SIG schools — can they keep it up this year ? and next year when they don’t have the SIG funding ? Sue, identifying a “successful” principal is not as easy as just saying that her school had a high API — its more about where did the principal “take the school” after s/he got there. Sue, I challenge you to show me and others “the numbers” on where the SASS members “took their schools to new significant heights” while they were principals using the data from the STAR tests — I know you can’t do it with Bill Morones, and except for one SASS Director, I don’t think you can do it with the others.

  35. Jim Says:

    @82 Dr J — I don’t regard those API variations to be very meaningful. At NGHS, the problem is getting kids to show up for the STAR exams. Some of the most talented students I’ve known there don’t bother, and that may also affect scores. Those perturbations shouldn’t obscure the fact that NGHS, like so many MDUSD schools, still performs well below its potential compared with other CA schools with similar populations. It was allowed to deteriorate significantly, and it may take years to recover from all of the damage.

    @80 Sue — I admire your willingness and ability to look on the bright side. Maybe MDUSD had outstanding policies for selecting and “supporting” principals during 2000-09, but the system for evaluating a principal’s performance was clearly broken. During much of that time, NG had a principal who managed to discourage many talented teachers from staying, who did nothing about teachers whose performance and demeanor was so poor it left many colleagues and parents speechless, who could not even use email, who was “afraid” of the implications of having a functional school web site (and therefore resisted all efforts to have one), and who generally thought (perhaps wisely) that staying in the principal’s office was the safest strategy. Please, don’t make excuses. That period was an abomination, and the blame falls squarely on a district administration that too often saw prinicpal positions at “higher-performing” schools as a “reward” for loyal service and a place where incompetents could coast to retirement.

  36. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#83 yup, even under Riley they were over 800 — McMorris has taken them up a net 24 API points in four years — at least in the right direction, with only one major setback year. But when comparing Northgate to “similar schools” the median API was 891 and Northgate 860. As far as getting students to take the tests seriously, Chula Vista seems to be doing that based on the article. Here you can compare Northgate with 100 similar schools, many of which are in the East Bay. How do those schools get their students to “take it seriously” ?

  37. Doctor J Says:

    @Jim#85 I would agree that I don’t see the variations as “shocking” — not sure of the root cause of the sudden 10 point drop in Lawrence’s first full school year. I agree with you about the underperforming — hope you took a look at the link in post #86 to see there are many “local” high schools who don’t seem to have a problem getting the students to “take the test”. I agree that the “principal evaluations” are broken and just “shoot from the hip”, but I don’t call it a “system” as there is no such thing in Steven Lawrence’s management style.

  38. Jim Says:

    Dr J — I don’t see how the link in #86 proves that local high schools are more successful at getting students to take the test. Maybe I am missing something. A narrower bell curve distribution would allow the same number of high-performing students to skip the test and yield higher average scores for that school. Or maybe the answer is that more low-performing students skip the test, which could also skew results upwards.

    The whole irony of our “accountability” system is that almost none of the adults in the system experience any significant consequences when scores fall (or rise), and the students, who ought to be at the crux of accountability, have no reason on earth to care about their scores. STAR scores may provide a useful indicator of school-level or student achievement at the extremes, but I fail to see why people care about these minor differences.

    IF the STAR tests could reliably reflect state learning standards, and IF the curriculum were also aligned to those standards and effective for teaching those standards (two very different things, btw), then by all means, put the results on the student’s transcript. We are one of the few countries in the world that routinely assess our students with tests where the results have almost no bearing on the student’s future. Everybody, throughout our traditional public schools, is happy to avoid accountability.

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    On a positive note, here’s a nice story about Transitional Kindergarten in MDUSD:

  40. Doctor J Says:

    TK is a very positive program. But for the life of me, I don’t understand why in a district with such declining enrollment, there has been a shortage of tables and chairs for TK’s requiring more to be purchased ? And why wasn’t it budgeted for ? Especially since there have been school closures. Where have all the K’s tables and chairs gone ? Lets see, who would be in charge of school property inventory ? Would it be Greg Rolen, as part of his $27,000 “extra responsibility” ?

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Dr. J: Since you have posted frequently about the new law that prohibits mandatory contributions for school-related activities, I’m wondering whether that would impact Walnut Acres’ plan to charge students who want to perform — or even usher — for the upcoming school production of Aladdin. They do specify that it’s an “optional after-school activity.” But, clearly, anyone who can’t afford to pay can’t participate. They are charging performers $195 and ushers $50.

    Here’s the info:

  42. Doctor J Says:

    AB 1575 is powerful legislation to correct “winks and nods” about California’s constitutional “free education” requirement. You might ask the Principal what direction she received since she was “trained”, along with all principals, on AB 1575 a couple of weeks ago by Julie B-M and Deb Cooksey. “Optional after school activity” is no different than sports or cheerleading or VAPA activities — all defined in the legislation as “educational activities”. The charge is clearly “mandatory” — its the worst of “pay to play”. Since they are using school facilities, school equipment, and limiting themselves to Walnut Acres students, it seems to be sponsored by the school, even though it says the PTC is running it. I don’t think the PTC’s involvement will get the school or district “off the hook” because of the integral relationship of the PTC and school. The fiscal risk to the district is enormous — with a simple “Uniform Complaint” the district is required to investigate and decide. Then, an appeal directly to the State Board of Education is made which can require “repayment” to every child involved, not just the person filing the complaint [which can be annonymous]. If you are looking for a comment for a story, you might contact Catalina Hayes-Bautista, (916) 319-2050 of the ACLU who sponsored the legislation in settlement of a lawsuit.

  43. Doctor J Says:

    I guess I had lost track of how much Walnut Acres PFC raises every year for the exclusive support of Walnut Acres — WOW. “Did you know that only 7 fundraisers this year will support over 50 personnel positions, activities and school support services (an amount equal to over $240,000) at Walnut Acres?” Check out the pie charts:

  44. Theresa Harrington Says:

    And the PFC has a “strategic planning committee”
    Wonder if it has been informed about the new law.

  45. Doctor J Says:

    Day of Reckoning: Linda Mayo, as a Califoria PTA Board member, must support AB 1575 since the California PTA supported it. “In addition to broad support from student, parent and teacher organizations, such as the California State PTA and California Federation of Teachers, AB 1575 was supported by numerous school districts and school administrator associations, including Los Angeles Unified School District, Riverside County School Superintendents’ Association, Association of California School Administrators, California Association of School Business Officials and California Association of Suburban School Districts.” Walnut Acres parents: be sure to send your complaints to Linda Mayo, your elected representative.

  46. anon Says:

    I do believe that PFC’s, etc., can charge for programs they put on. They are a non profit, not under the same rules as the schools. If that is not correct, please direct me to the language of the bill that includes outside groups. The city of Concord offers enrichment classes after school on some sites, they do get permits, and pay the appropriate use fees, so they do not fall under this bill do they?
    I do believe it incredibly foolish of any PFC or such to have their finances available so easily to the general public. That info should only be available to their members. They are leaving themselves wide open for scrutiny from the outside that they most likely do not want.
    Wow, they have a huge budget! But in all honesty, how much do the Title 1 schools get in extra funding? Do the numbers compare at all? Looks like WA is funding a lot of extra staff, that other schools are not getting. My interpretation is that schools in higher socioeconomic areas are making up the cuts by paying for extras. Low income areas get extra funding as well, but from the state, and in grants.
    Once again, those in the “middle” are getting screwed.

  47. Anonymous Says:

    Bravo to the Walnut Acres PTC for establishing a really fantastic resource for their parents! Have you checked out their room parents guidelines? You don’t get $240,000 without getting into the nuts and bolts of parent participation.

    Hello, organizers, and fundraising chairs! It takes a great deal of someone’s unpaid time to put together the kinds of events that will bring in these kinds of dollars.

    Clearly this school has got the organization piece down to take advantage of every unpaid volunteer who is willing to donate time but just needs direction.

    Sometimes (God willing, and time and money allowing) people just want to know how to contribute according to their ability. And if the PTC is well organized to find any and every available dollar, well – more power to them. How many other schools are this well-organized, communicative, or user-friendly?

    How much volunteer time or money goes untapped because the lines of communication aren’t developed?

    Don’t knock them for doing it well. (Says someone whose school is trying, but not coming nearly as close, or doing nearly as well as WA.)

  48. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The principal’s newsletters to parents are also extremely informative, showing an understanding of the need to involve parents in the school:

    I was particularly interested to see that the school was very proactive after the arrest of a district janitor last year related to lewd conduct with children (outside of the school). Did any other schools take these kinds of precautions?

    Here are excerpts from the principal’s newsletters from January through March:


    “…Enthusiasm for the new year is tarnished by the distressing news of the arrest of our substitute custodian, John Astor. Allegations of inappropriate contact with a minor are extremely disturbing. According to the Walnut Creek police there has been no indication that any of Mr. Astor’s alleged illegal behavior took place at our school or any school in this district; however, if you have any information that will aid the police in their case, you are asked to contact the police at 943-5844. Mt. Diablo Unified School District officials are taking all appropriate personnel actions under the direction of Greg Rolen, district legal counsel. If you have questions relative to our district’s work with the police in supporting the investigation, Mr. Rolen requests that you contact him at 682-8000 extension 4001.

    I am convening our safety committee to review our current procedures in order to insure that we are doing everything we can at school to keep students safe. All of our employees and volunteers are fingerprinted, but the committee will consider ongoing routines that will support continued student safety. If you have ideas for the committee to consider or if you would like to join us on Thursday, January 12, at 3:00 p.m. in A-1, you are welcome. Please RSVP to the office so that we know how many guests to expect at our meeting.
    Meanwhile, in order to keep your children safe, maintain an open door of communication with them, listen well, and talk to them about difficult topics at a relaxed time and in a comfortable place. Let your children know that you want them to come to you if someone is making them uncomfortable. Speak to them directly and simply. If you are concerned about your child’s safety, ask if anyone is talking to them or touching them in a way that makes them uncomfortable. Let them know that they are not in trouble with whatever they tell you. Tell your children that it’s OK to say “no” to touches that make them uncomfortable and let them know that some body parts are private. They should also know that they need to tell an adult immediately if someone wants to touch or show private body parts. Your children are safest when they know they can tell you anything.
    I realize these conversations can be difficult, so if you would like support with this process, please join Alma Spring, our counselor, on Tuesday, January 10th at 10:00 a.m. in A-1. This is an opportunity to process through your feelings about this incident and gather ideas from Mrs. Spring about how to discuss child abuse prevention with your children.

    As a community we will continue to work collaboratively to do all we can to keep our children safe. Remember that if you would like to get input on talking to your children about safety, join Alma on 1/10 at 10:00 a.m. and if you have suggestions as we pursue the safest possible environment, please pass them to me or join us on 1/12/12 at 3:00 p.m. to discuss safety challenges. Here’s to a safe and rich learning environment in 2012!
    Colleen Dowd”


    Dear Walnut Acres Parents,

    During this month of hearts and flowers, it may seem incongruous to select as a discussion topic something as serious as child abuse safety, but then again, what could be more appropriate than talking about protecting our beloved children? Last month I shared with you that child safety would be the topic of many informal conversations and formal meeting agendas in January. These conversations have reinforced for me that there are two crucial activities we need to promote as we continue to protect our students:

    I. The consistent use of safety procedures and practices that we have in place at Walnut Acres.

    I’ve reviewed our current procedures and practices with many different groups and individuals this month, and the Safety Committee has developed a list of essential practices to support student safety. Staff procedures include ID badge wearing at all times and use of buddy system around campus when appropriate. I am listing the daily parent practices for you below. I ask you to review them carefully and contact me if you have questions about any of them. They are simple, but they are only as effective as our routine and continuous use of each rule!

    1. Parents sign in to office and wear volunteer badges at all times on campus.

    2. Parents (and younger children) use office bathroom.

    3. Parents drop off students at or after 7:45 AM or take to Day Care anytime after 7 AM.

    4. Parents pick up students by 3 PM.

    5. Any student not picked up by 3 PM goes to the office to call parents.

    6. Parents supervise children on playground after dismissal.

    7. Parents tell children to go to someone trusted at school if they feel unsafe.

    8. Parents inform principal if something seems peculiar.

    We will have an additional support system to use in the protection of our students, when the district completes the installation of security cameras at our site. All MDUSD sites are being provided with this protection system and I am told Walnut Acres’ installation date is spring, 2012.

    II. The empowerment of our students so that they know what to do if confronted with a difficult situation.

    Our school counselor, Mrs. Spring, provided a wonderful presentation to interested parents about communicating with children to protect them from abuse. The Safety Committee, in a public meeting, suggested that we augment this presentation with direct training for students. We are researching the costs and timeframes for providing safety empowerment training to Walnut Acres students and I will share more with you as further decisions are made. If we proceed with that plan, there will be an opportunity for parents to participate in a workshop to become informed about the details of the student program.

    Of course, having our children safely ensconced at school is crucial, but just the beginning of our efforts to help our children achieve their potential. There are 2 different groups currently seeking your perspective as they work to guide and support student learning. Please lend your valuable input to their efforts!

    I wish you all a lovely Valentine’s Day with a reminder that true love is shown in the daily tasks that we all perform for each other, not just the gifts that are exchanged on this special day. Here’s to loving our children every day, with every dinner made, discipline carried out, chauffeuring completed, skill taught, and hug provided!


    Colleen Dowd, Principal”


    “One of the annual events of the season is the district approval of our annually updated safety plan. This year we have three safety plan goals. The first two are valuable and potentially life-saving strategies and the third is a fun, life-enhancing support to our learning community.

    1st Safety Goal – Increase empowerment of students to protect them from adult predators and reduce bullying.
    We learned from our focus on student safety that began in January 2012, that making students aware of simple safety precautions is crucial. To this end, we decided to research the possibility of bringing in a team of experts to guide Walnut Acres staff, parents and students in preventing child violence. After some research, the Child Assault Prevention Training Center (CAPTC) emerged as the highly-recommended group that could provide the specific, age-appropriate support we are seeking. Two of our Safety Committee team members observed the CAP trainers working in another district and returned with praise for the program’s curriculum and implementation practices. The CAPTC will provide Child Assault Prevention (CAP) workshops for each class at Walnut Acres. The workshops are designed as non-threatening curriculum experiences with topics that include bullying behavior, child abduction, and sexual assault. The CAP program is not a lecture series, but an interactive workshop that involves children in role-playing and practice. CAP trainers will visit each of our classrooms for a 2 hour workshop between April 17th and May 3rd. (Kindergarten and first grade workshop sessions are divided into 2 1-hour sessions.) Both parents and staff will have the opportunity to receive training prior to the student workshops. Our parent orientation to the CAP program will be held on Tuesday, April 3rd from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the MUR. At the presentation, the CAP leaders will share an overview of their developmentally-appropriate lessons and discuss the follow-up that parents may use at home to reinforce student learning. Forms will be sent home prior to the classroom workshops so that individual parents may opt out of the sessions if they choose.

    If you would like to research the CAP Training Center and their activities, please visit their website at”

  49. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon#96 I do agree with you that the middle class schools are hurt the most since they have no safety net. It was interesting that Linda Mayon once proposed a few years ago that the fund raising of schools be pooled and distributed equitably. I do wonder if each PFC has its own 501 (c)(3) qualification, or whether the PFC uses the state PTA’s or the schools’ tax exempt status. If it uses the school’s status, it might be considered part of the school. Also, its clear at Walnut Acres, the Principal is a Principle of the PFC and uses their newsletter as her own, and freely gives “free use” of the school and its facilities to the PFC, not charging “use fees” that otherwise would be charged to other non profits such as girl or boy scouts.

  50. Doctor J Says:

    From the California Attorney General website on charities, here is the Walnut Acres PFC IRS 990.

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