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Archive for January, 2013

MDUSD appears wary of accepting liability for volunteer crossing guards

The Mt. Diablo school board tonight will hear an update about an effort underway at Ayers Elementary to provide volunteer crossing guards to replace those that were cut from the city of Concord’s budget.

Trustees first discussed this issue Jan. 14. Here’s what the agenda report for that meeting said:

“Some municipalities have reduced traffic control support in these difficult budgetary times. Accordingly, some district employees and parent groups have offered to provide crossing guard support at our elementary sites. Consequently, in order to create a consistent policy the Board shall discuss the merits and implications of providing either District based or volunteer crossing guards.”

Here are video links to the board discussion:

Part 1: http://youtu.be/iGCgwzW5ee8

Part 2: http://youtu.be/eHHbRNARTBY

After this meeting, I received an email from an Ayers Elementary parent that was also sent to the board, a response to the parent that was copied to everyone else on the distribution list, a response from the parent, a follow-up email from the parent, and a response from the Ayers Office Manager that was copied to everyone on the distribution list.

Here is the sequence of emails:

Jan. 15 email from Ayers parent Kristi Buchholz:

“Dear Concord City Council Members, City of Concord Administration, MDUSD Board Members, and MDUSD Administration,

I have been a city resident for almost 20 years. I have two children in the MDUSD, one in second grade, and one in seventh grade. I have been a very active parent at Ayers Elementary School since 2006. I have sat on School Site Council, am a member of the Ayers Safety Committee, held multiple positions on the Ayers PTA, Pine Hollow PTA as well as the Mt. Diablo Council of PTA’s. I am fortunate enough to be able to volunteer many hours a week through these worthwhile organizations.

I am writing to you all out of sheer frustration and desperation at this point. The crosswalk directly in front of Ayers Elementary has been a very dangerous problem for years. This particular crosswalk was never staffed at city or MDUSD expense. Up until last year, a MDUSD noon supervisor staffed the crosswalk, and Ayers PTA reimbursed MDUSD for the expense at roughly $2500 per year. As you are all aware, PTA’s and other parent groups are scrambling to raise precious funds to supplement the thousands of dollars cut by the State of California. Ayers PTA was happy to fund this, considering it a small price to pay for the safety and well being of our hundreds of students. We were informed at the beginning of this school year, that employees were no longer permitted to act as crossing guards, regardless of who was paying for it.

I then approached the City of Concord Police Department, on behalf of the Ayers Safety committee, to inquire about codes and rules regarding acting as a crossing guard. We were aware of Concord Municipal Code 106-39 which reads: “Sec. 106-39. Persons other than authorized officials not to direct traffic.

No person other than an officer of the Police Department, members of the Fire District, a person authorized by the Chief of Police, or a person authorized by law shall direct or attempt to direct traffic by voice, hand, or other signal, except in an emergency and except that persons may operate any mechanical pushbutton signal erected by order of the Director of Public Works.0

(Code 1965, § 3211; Ord. No. 743; Ord. No. 818″

We then were contacted by Officer Bill Roche who informed us that the Police Department was putting together a volunteer crossing guard curriculum, thus allowing trained volunteers to act as crossing guards. On Wednesday, January 9th, a small but dedicated group of volunteers attended the training. Finally, a solution!

Now, this morning, I received an email from the Ayers Principal, Ms, Charla Hernandez informing me that she had attended the MDUSD School Board meeting last night (January 14th) where the School Board stated that no volunteers may act as crossing guards. Ms. Hernandez also informed me that we can no longer act as crossing guards in front of Ayers. The children are now left to their own devices to get safely across the street. This is completely unacceptable.

I am now appealing to a broad group of you, administrators, elected officials and local media to help get this issue solved. Enough is enough. I realize that this all comes down to liability. There must be a way to make this work. This must be corrected immediately to insure the safety of the hundreds of children at Ayers. I am sure as more budget cuts loom, the City of Concord may consider eliminating all paid crossing guards, as they attempted to do in June of 2012.

Sincerely,
Kristi Buchholz
Ayers Parent
Ayers PTA Executive VP
Ayers Safety Committee Member”

Jan. 15 district response:

“To all concerned:

Trustee Brian Lawrence contacted me concerned about possible misperceptions about the Board deliberations regarding volunteer crossing guards. The Board docket information item 14 .9 entitled ‘Crossing Guards’ read:

‘Some municipalities have reduced traffic control support in these difficult budgetary times. Accordingly, some district employees and parent groups have offered to provide crossing guard support at our elementary sites. Consequently, in order to create a consistent policy the Board shall discuss the merits and implications of providing either district based or volunteer crossing guards.’

The Board agenda item demonstrates an understanding that many public entities are having to make difficult economic decisions. The Board was briefed on their legal responsibility with regard to District based in volunteer crossing guard support. The Board members all praised the volunteers at Ayres Elementary School for being part of the solution. The Board and staff uniformly stated that the District wished to participate in a collaborative solution with the municipalities, namely the City of Concord, in order to go the extra mile to protect our students. Although the Board was mindful of its fiduciary duty to protect the District from liability, they directed staff to do whatever we could to work with the City to protect our students, reduced legal exposure, and help the City provide this service. Specifically the Board directed Dr. Lawrence and me to meet with the City of Concord staff to discuss this collaborative solution. Dr. Lawrence will be contacting them today.

Greg Rolen

Greg Rolen, Esq.
General Counsel
Mt. Diablo Unified School District
1936 Carlotta Drive
Concord, California 94519
Telephone: 925-682-8000 Ext. 4001
Fax: 925-680-2505″

Buchholz’ Jan. 15 response:

“Dear Mr. Rolen,
Thank you for taking the time to reply. I am sure you can understand my frustration of fighting this battle for over six years now. My worst fear is that a child will become injured, or worse. I am sure you share those same fears.

I fully understand that liability is at the center of the issue now. Has anyone from MDUSD inquired with your insurance company regarding employee’s acting as crossing guards? If so, what was the reply? Is this specifically excluded in the insurance plan? What would it take to get coverage for this? I can only assume that the City of Concord is going to pass the buck on liability as well. What then? I refuse to accept that this is an impossible feat.

I have spoken to many different MDUSD officials and administrators over those six years and have never gotten a clear, definitive answer. When Ayers PTA began reimbursing the district for noon supervisors acting as crossing guards, Julie Braun Martin told me that employees could not act as crossing guards because their contracts forbid it. When I pointed out that noon time supervisors are not under contract, I never heard back. I have asked to see any policy regarding this, in writing, multiple times. No one ever returned my inquiries.

I believe that six years is an unacceptable amount of time to get a problem solved.

I look forward to getting anwers to my questions soon.

Kristi Buchholz”

Buchholz’ Jan. 23 follow-up:

“I would like to pass on that while observing the crosswalk this morning, two children came within a foot or two of being hit by cars. I am at a loss for words as this is allowed to continue.

I am aware that Dr. Lawrence is meeting with Chief Swanger and Valerie Barone soon, and eagerly await a quick decision, as the current situation is unacceptable.

Thank you,
Kristi Buchholz”

Jan. 23 response from Ayers Office Manager Sarah Strong:

“Please, please stop!!

This very important issue is tearing our community apart. Our students are expecting all of us to model the spirit of collaboration to solve problems. If we don’t show it to them now, how will they ever learn it?

Sarah Strong
Office Manager, Ayers Elementary
Phone: 925 682-7686
District Extension: 85701
Fax #: 925827-2521″

After attending the Jan. 14 meeting, CC Times columnist Tom Barnidge weighed in with this column: http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_22436832/barnidge-how-solve-case-missing-crossing-guards

How do you think the district should resolve this issue>?

JAN. 30 UPDATE: Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Monday meeting, so I did not hear the crossing guard update (and there was not written staff report). However, I am posting a Jan. 29 follow-up email that was sent by Buchholz to her original distribution list, thanking them for their work on resolving the issue:

“To all involved in our Ayers Crossing Guard situation,

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!

I was so very pleased at the outcome presented at our MDUSD School Board meeting last night. This has been a glowing example of the good that can come from all the stake holders in our community coming together to solve a problem.

I thoroughly appreciate the collaboration from all involved, it could not have happened without each and every one of you participating in some way!

I would like to give a special thanks to both Brian Lawrence and Edi Birsan for going above and beyond. I am very grateful to be part of a community who has leaders such as them at the helm.

I honestly expected some push back, and some red tape, but I am so happy that all I got was support, and declarations of ‘We will get this done’, from everyone!

Thanks again,
Kristi Buchholz”

Posted on Monday, January 28th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 21 Comments »

MDUSD board tonight to discuss crossing guards, disproportionate identification of black students for special education, budget and new law that prohibits districts from requiring fees for school supplies and field trips

Due to a special project I’m working on, along with a planned vacation, I will not be able to attend tonight’s board meeting. It’s possible that Trustee Brian Lawrence may livestream it at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/briantlawrence. (I haven’t yet been able to reach him to confirm this.)

For those who want to comment on the topics to be discussed, I am posting the agenda below. The meeting is at 7:30 p.m. in the district board room at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord:

1.0 Call to Order

1.1 President will call the meeting to order Info

2.0 Announcements

2.1 In closed session, the Board will consider the items listed on the closed session agenda. Info

3.0 Public Comment

3.1 The public may address the Board concerning items that are scheduled for discussion during closed session only. These presentations are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers or the three minute limit may be shortened. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

4.0 Adjourn to Closed Session at 6:00 p.m.
4.1 Negotiations – The Board may discuss negotiations or provide direction to its representatives regarding represented employees, pursuant to EERA (Govt. Code Section 3549.1) Agency negotiators: Julie Braun Martin and Deborah Cooksey. Agencies: MDEA, CSEA, Local One M&O, Local One CST, MDSPA, and Supervisory. Action
4.2 Expulsion Info
4.3 Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Complaint – Four Certificated Employees Action
4.4 Readmissions Action
4.5 Anticipated Litigation – Two Potential Cases Info

5.0 Reconvene Open Session

5.1 Reconvene Open Session at 7:30 p.m. Info

6.0 Preliminary Business

6.1 Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call Info

7.0 Report Out Action Taken in Closed Session

7.1 Report of Special Closed Session – January 18, 2013 Info

7.2 Report of Closed Session – January 28, 2013 Info
7.3 Negotiations Info
7.4 Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Complaint Info
7.5 Readmissions Info
7.6 Anticipated Litigation Info
8.0 Expulsion Recommendations
8.1 Expulsion Recommendation – Student #07-13 Action

9.0 Consent Agenda: Action
9.1 (Item #1) Items listed under Consent Agenda are considered routine and will be approved/adopted by a single motion. There will be no separate discussion of these items; however, any item may be removed from the consent agenda upon the request of any member of the Board and acted upon separately. Action

9.2 (Item #2) Minutes of the meeting of December 21, 2012 Action

9.3 (Item #3) Recommended Action for Certificated Personnel Action

9.4 (Item #4) Request to decrease Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2012-2013 school year Action

9.5 (Item #5) Student Teaching Agreement between Cal Teach, Berkeley Science and Math Initiative and Mt. Diablo Unified School District Action

9.6 (Item #6) Recommended Action for Classified Personnel Action

9.7 (Item #7) Classified Personnel: Request to Increase and Decrease Positions Action

9.8 (Item #8) Fiscal Transactions for the month of December 2012 Action

9.9 (Item #9) Williams Quarterly Summary Report Action

9.10 (Item #10) Contract for Architectural services for Ball Wall replacement at Walnut Acres Elementary school Action

9.11 (Item #11) Increase purchase order with Independent Contractor Evelina Villa for Spanish language interpreting and document translations for the Special Education Dept. for School Year 2012-2013 Action

9.12 (Item #12) Award Inspector of Record (Project Inspector) Contract Action

9.13 (Item #13) Contract for Architectural/Engineering Services for New Modular Gym and Multi-Use Room Modifications at Concord High School Action

9.14 (Item #14) Approval of Interagency Agreement Between Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) and Contra Costa Health Services, Mental Health Division Action

9.15 (Item #15) Approve Adjustments to Non-Public School Contracts/Purchase Orders for Residential/Mental Health for 2012/13 School Year Action

9.16 (Item #16) Resolution #12/13-28 African American History Month Action

9.17 (Item #17) Committee Assignments Action

10.0 Consent Items Pulled for Discussion

11.0 Public Comment
11.1 The public may address the Board regarding any item within the jurisdiction of the Board of Education of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District that is not on this agenda. These presentation are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers, or the three minute limit may be shortened. If there are multiple speakers on any one subject, the public comment period may be moved to the end of the meeting. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

12.0 Communications
12.1 District Organizations – At regular Board meetings, a single spokesperson of each recognized district organization may make a brief presentation following the Consent Agenda. Items are limited to those which are informational. Info

13.0 Superintendent’s Report

13.1 Update on School Crossing Guards Issue Info

13.2 Tomorrow’s Chef’s Culinary Competition Info

14.0 Business/Action Items

14.1 Walnut Creek Sister Cities International Program Action

14.2 2011-2012 Audit Report Action

14.3 Resolution #12/13-29 of the Board of Education of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Authorizing the Issuance and Sale of its General Obligation Refunding Bonds, 2002 Election, 2013 Series C in an Aggregate Principal Amount not to exceed $60,000,000. Action

14.4 Budget Development Calendar 2013-2014 Action

14.5 Document Tracking Services Independent Contract Action

14.6 Mt. Diablo Unified School District Significant Disproportionality Coordinating Early Intervening Services (SD-CEIS) Plan Info

14.7 Governor’s Budget Update Info

14.8 Review of 2012-2013 Single Plans for Student Achievement (SPSA) and the Academic Program Surveys (APS) Info

14.9 AB 1575 Requirements Info

14.10 Video System to Broadcast Board Meetings Info

14.11 Update on the Review Process for Administrators’ Contracts Info

14.12 Board Retreat 2013: February 23, 2013 Info

14.13 Public Input and Information Meetings Info

14.14 Meeting Extension Action

15.0 Future Agenda Items
15.1 Future Agenda Items Info

16.0 Board Member Reports
16.1 Board reports Info

17.0 Closed Session
17.1 Items not completed during the first Closed Session will be carried over to this closed session. Action

18.0 Adjournment
18.1 Adjourn Meeting Info”

On the consent calendar, the Christian Patz and Kerri Mills are asking the board to increase a translation services contract with Evelina Villa from $25,000 to $49,500. However, the board had previously asked staff to come back with contracts for four vendors: Villa, Victor Gomez, AIS and CTI. I have been told by Gomez that he subsequently received a contract for just under $25,000, which didn’t come before the board. General Counsel Greg Rolen announced that he has established an “ethical wall” between himself and AIS, due to a recent change in his marital status. Why has Gomez’ contract been extended without board review and why is Villa’s on the consent calendar, without the side-by-side comparison of all four vendors that the board requested?

Other hot topics include the crossing guard update, the district’s Significant Disproportionality Coordinating Early Intervening Services Plan, budget update, AB 1575, an upcoming Feb. 23 board retreat, and an update on the contract language for the superintendent, general counsel, CFO and two assistant superintendents.

For comparison purposes, here is the Pittsburg district’s PowerPoint on disproportionality: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceSGJ3WllSQ0NUM2s/edit

And here is the Pittsburg district’s draft disproportionality plan: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKcebXhpcGRFcGlQM1k/edit

What MDUSD topics interest you the most?

Posted on Monday, January 28th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 101 Comments »

MDUSD board president asks superintendent to be more welcoming and transparent to press and public regarding meetings

Covering the Mt. Diablo school district is never dull. But, this week, I had to stand up to Superintendent Steven Lawrence to insist on my right to attend an Equity Advisory Team meeting where a committee was discussing the district’s draft plan to address the fact that the state has found it significantly over-identifies African-American students for special education, labeling many “emotionally disturbed.”

This is an important issue that the district has been working on for more than a year. In addition, it over-identifies African-Americans and Hispanic students for suspensions and expulsions, according to the state.

I heard a report about this at a recent special education Community Advisory Committee meeting, where the presenter invited other members of the committee to attend the Tuesday Equity Advisory Team meeting.

But, when I started to walk into the Equity Advisory Team meeting, Lawrence quickly stood and said, “Ms. Harrington,” (while the meeting was in progress) and asked me to step outside.

He tried to prevent me from attending the meeting, saying that it wasn’t open to the public. I told him the CAC presentation had given me the impression that anyone could attend. He said he didn’t know who made that presentation, but that wasn’t his impression.

I also told him another district administrator has encouraged me to attend, saying it’s important for the community to know about the work the committee is doing. He said he didn’t know why that administrator would have invited me.

Lawrence said it wouldn’t be good for just any member of the public to drop in and start making suggestions, since they wouldn’t have been to all of the other meetings and wouldn’t have reviewed all of the materials. I pointed out it would be easier for the public to review the documents if they were posted online.

He said the district can’t possibly post agendas and minutes for all of the various committees online because there are so many. But, he said the public could see the finished report when it is presented to the board on Monday.

Further, the superintendent said it was a “working meeting” and it wouldn’t be good if I was there videotaping or blogging, since it might inhibit discussion.

When I saw how intent he was on turning me away, I decided to compromise. So, I asked him if I could attend the meeting if I agreed not to videotape or live blog, although I said I might blog later. He said if I just sat there and took notes, it would be all right for me to go in.

So, true to my word, I sat and took notes on my laptop. I didn’t videotape, live blog or tweet.

But, I was surprised when I looked at the agenda and saw that it was in fact a public meeting after all and that recording was allowed.

Under “introductions,” the agenda stated: “Please notify the audience during introductions if you are recording the meeting and let us know if this is your first time attending the Equity Advisory Team.” The agenda also allowed for “Public Comment” from people who were not on the Equity Advisory Team.

So, why was he trying to bar me from the meeting?

After the meeting, I happened to see Board President Cheryl Hansen and relayed my frustrations to her about the superintendent’s attempt to exclude me. She said she would ask him why he did that, since it is her hope to make meetings more transparent, not keep them secretive. She also said the district needs to change its mindset and allow the public to see how business is being conducted.

Hansen informed me today in an email that she spoke to the superintendent about his actions. Here is what she wrote:

“I followed up with the superintendent about the incident with you yesterday. I told him that we have to find ways to be more transparent and welcoming to the public and the press. It’s just better PR (Public Relations). I suggested that the district:

1. Post all meetings on the district’s online calendar and, when people click on the posting, they would be able to see agendas and other information showing the purpose of the committees and what they’re discussing. Relevant documents/reports could actually be linked there as well.

2. Take the initiative to inform and actually invite the press to our public meetings.

3. Make sure committee members are emailed information prior to the meetings so they can prepare ahead of time and make meetings more productive.

Thanks for letting me know what happened because it helps keep the focus on more transparency and accountability.”

Somewhat ironically, the need to communicate better with the public also came up during the committee meeting. The draft report stated that one of the root causes of the over-identification is that some parents don’t trust the district and may not feel comfortable discussing their children’s needs with school staff. The draft plan emphasizes the need to warmly welcome parents (and the public), so they don’t have a negative impression of the district.

Bill Morones, director of secondary education, said: “For some of our parents, visiting a school is not a positive experience. When they walk on a campus, we want them to feel welcomed and loved and part of the Mt. Diablo family. One bad experience can turn them off.”

After the meeting, I tweeted about the superintendent’s attempt to exclude me. Recently elected Trustee Brian Lawrence followed up with this tweet: “(Thomas) Jefferson: ‘Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.’”

Do you agree with Hansen’s suggestions for greater district transparency?

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 174 Comments »

MDUSD trustee urges rest of board not to talk to press or public via social media

Mt. Diablo district Trustee Linda Mayo became the longest-serving board member after Trustee Gary Eberhart stepped down and voters ousted former Board President Sherry Whitmarsh in her November re-election bid.

Mayo, who has served 15 years on the board, now sits alongside Cheryl Hansen and Lynne Dennler — elected just two years ago — and newcomers Barbara Oaks and Brian Lawrence.

Given her seniority, Mayo may have seemed like the natural choice for board president. In fact, she appeared poised to accept that position when Trustee Lynne Dennler nominated her Dec. 10.

Often on government boards, elected officials defer to the first person nominated and don’t nominate anyone else, adhering to a sort of unwritten protocol that rewards those who have put in the most time. But that didn’t happen on the Mt. Diablo school board.

Instead, Oaks and Lawrence backed Trustee Cheryl Hansen for president, who won in a 3-2 vote. Thus, a new board majority was born.

Since then, Hansen has taken bold actions to improve transparency, producing agendas with more detail than I ever recall seeing in the past. Lawrence, who was already on Twitter, immediately started up his own blog and has commented regularly on my blog, responding to questions posed by readers.

Hansen, Lawrence and Oaks have also all given me their cell phone numbers and have been very responsive when I have called them for comments on a variety of district issues. Mayo and Dennler, on the other hand, are far less accessible.

After listening to comments Mayo made to her fellow trustees before they went into closed session Dec. 21, I now understand that she doesn’t think it’s appropriate for board members to speak to the press over the phone, via e-mail or social media. She urged the rest of the board to embrace her ideas about limiting communication with the public and press, saying failure to do so could damage the trust among trustees.

Here are her comments:

“Trust is a five letter word with a profound meaning. The word itself has five letters, like our number on this board.

Without one letter in the word, the word stands as a jumble of letters — meaningless.

As members of the board, we must work on building trust with one another. Each action can build or destroy a relationship.

The letter T — we must work as a team.

The letter R — we must rely and respect one another.

The letter U — we must listen for understanding.

The letter S — we must speak as one in support of adopted decisions.

The letter T — finally, we must treasure the children, for whom we do this great work.

Our employees and our community expect us to model trust, civility and respect. For me, trust does not include discussing out of context your actions as trustees with the press or through social media outside of your presence.

Trust, when lost, is difficult to restore. I look forward to our positive work as a team, building trust today and in 2013.”

Yet, in the age of technology and accountability, many trustees believe that it is perfectly appropriate for them to communicate with the public and the press via social media. These include San Francisco Trustee Rachel Norton, West Contra Costa Trustee Todd Groves and Contra Costa Community College Board Trustee Vicki Gordon.

In addition, many elected state leaders also regularly tweet, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson; Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez; and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.

After Mayo made her statement, I noted that Lawrence continued posting comments on my blog, showing apparent disagreement with her strict admonition. This prompted the following (exerpted) comment from board watchdog Wendy Lack: “Glad to hear about Brian Lawrence’s ongoing use of today’s customary modes of communication (i.e., social media, blogs, etc.), in defiance of Mayo’s bizarre perspective on the matter. All of the board members should follow his lead.”

Do you agree with Mayo’s position?

Posted on Friday, January 18th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 113 Comments »

MDUSD board to act on two “Cure and Correct” Brown Act allegations, review district safety plans Monday

The Mt. Diablo school board’s Monday meeting at 7:30 p.m. in the district office at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord promises to be very interesting, with several hot topics on the agenda including: action on two Cure and Correct Brown Act violation allegations related to contract extensions for the superintendent, general counsel, CFO and two assistant superintendents; superintendent reports regarding the theft of the CFO’s laptop that contained confidential information related to 18,000 MDUSD and Berkeley district employees or former employees and a review of the district’s school safety and security procedures in the wake of recent school shootings; discussion around how to videotape and archive board meetings (which was discontinued after former Trustee Paul Strange left the board and former Trustee Gary Eberhart took down their blog, which contained the archived videos); a board retreat and crossing guards.

In light of recent school bus accidents, it’s possible the board may want to also discuss consent calendar item 8.15 – replacement of a district school bus. Will more bus replacements be needed as a result of the recent accidents? And more importantly – why are these accidents happening and what can the board do to improve bus maintenance and school bus driver employment practices to ensure the safety of students?

The public can comment on any item on the agenda, including closed session and consent calendar items, as well as topics to be discussed during the superintendent’s report. Board President Cheryl Hansen pointed told me she has included the topics to be discussed by superintendent on the agenda to be more transparent. Previously, the superintendent often reported on items of general interest to the community, without any advance public notice.

Here is the complete agenda:

“1.0 Call to Order
1.1 President will call the meeting to order Info

2.0 Announcements

2.1 In closed session, the Board will consider the items listed on the closed session agenda. Info

3.0 Public Comment
3.1 The public may address the Board concerning items that are scheduled for discussion during closed session only. These presentations are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers or the three minute limit may be shortened. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

4.0 Adjourn to Closed Session at 5:00 p.m.

4.1 Superintendent’s Performance Evaluation Info

4.2 Readmissions Action

4.3 Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Complaint Action

4.4 Anticipated Litigation Info

4.5 Request for second extension of District Administrative Panel Hearing Action

4.6 Negotiations – The Board may discuss negotiations or provide direction to its representatives regarding represented employees, pursuant to EERA (Govt. Code Section 3549.1) Agency negotiators: Julie Braun Martin and Deborah Cooksey. Agencies: MDEA, CSEA, Local One M&O, Local One CST, MDSPA, and Supervisory. Action

5.0 Reconvene Open Session

5.1 Reconvene Open Session at 7:30 p.m. Info

6.0 Preliminary Business

6.1 Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call Info

7.0 Report Out Action Taken in Closed Session

7.1 Report of Closed Session January 14, 2013 Info

7.2 Superintendent’s Performance Evaluation Info

7.3 Readmissions Info

7.4 Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Complaint Info

7.5 Anticipated Litigation Info

7.6 Request for second extension of District Administrative Panel Hearing Info

7.7 Negotiations Info

8.0 Consent Agenda Action

8.1 (Item #1) Items listed under Consent Agenda are considered routine and will be approved/adopted by a single motion. There will be no separate discussion of these items; however, any item may be removed from the consent agenda upon the request of any member of the Board and acted upon separately. Action

8.2 (Item #2) Minutes of the meeting of December 10, 2012 Action

8.3 (Item #3) Recommended Action for Certificated Personnel Action

8.4 (Item #4) Approval of Variable Term Waiver Requests Action

8.5 (Item #5) Request to increase and decrease Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2012-2013 school year Action

8.6 (Item #6) Recommended Action for Classified Personnel Action

8.7 (Item #7) Classified Personnel: Request to Increase and Decrease Positions Action

8.8 (Item #8) Resolution 12/13-27 regarding accounting of development fees for the 2011-2012 fiscal year in the Capital Facilities Fund pursuant to Government Code Sections 66001(d) & 66006 (b) Action

8.9 (Item #9) Approval of Contract with Marin County Office of Education Outdoor School at Walker Creek Ranch for Valhalla Elementary School Action

8.10 (Item #10) Approval of Contracts with The YMCA at Camp Arroyo for Meadow Homes Elementary and Rio Vista Elementary Action

8.11 (Item #11) Approval of contract with Exploring New Horizons for Silverwood Elementary School Action

8.12 (Item #12) Contract for Architectural/Engineering Services for New Modular Gym and Multi-Use Room Modifications at Concord High School Action

8.13 (Item #13) Approve contracts with Resource Development & Associates (RDA) for evaluation services for the School Improvement Grant (SIG) schools for the 2012-2013 school year Action

8.14 (Item #14) Membership Recommendation for Community Advisory Committee (CAC) Action

8.15 (Item #15) Purchase of Replacement Special Education School Bus Action

9.0 Consent Items Pulled for Discussion

10.0 Student Representatives

10.1 Student representatives will report on activities at their schools. Info

11.0 Public Comment
11.1 The public may address the Board regarding any item within the jurisdiction of the Board of Education of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District that is not on this agenda. These presentation are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers, or the three minute limit may be shortened. If there are multiple speakers on any one subject, the public comment period may be moved to the end of the meeting. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

12.0 Communications
12.1 District Organizations – At regular Board meetings, a single spokesperson of each recognized district organization may make a brief presentation following the Consent Agenda. Items are limited to those which are informational. Info

13.0 Superintendent’s Report

13.1 School Site Safety Plan Info

13.2 Security Update – Computer Theft Info

13.3 Graduation Requirements Committee update Info

14.0 Business/Action Items

14.1 Membership Recommendations for 2010 Measure C Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee Action

14.2 Brown Act and Cure and Correct General Overview: Namita Browne Info

14.3 Consideration of Two Cure and Correct Demands a) Consideration of Wendy Lack’s Cure and Correct Demand b) Consideration of Alicia Minyen’s Cure and Correct Demand Action

14.4 Board Committee Assignments & Descriptions Action

14.5 Graduation Schedule – Board Assignments Info

14.6 Broadcasting and Archiving Board Meetings Info

14.7 Public Input and Informational Meetings Info

14.8 Board Retreat 2013 Info

14.9 Crossing Guards Info

14.10 Meeting Extension Action

15.0 Future Agenda Items

15.1 Future Agenda Items Info

16.0 Board Member Reports
16.1 Board reports Info

17.0 Closed Session
17.1 Items not completed during the first Closed Session will be carried over to this closed session. Action

18.0 Adjournment
18.1 Adjourn Meeting Info”

Trustee Brian Lawrence has promised to try livestream the meeting. I also plan to try to videotape portions of the meeting.

Which items interest you the most?

Posted on Saturday, January 12th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 81 Comments »

Why the state plans to revamp its student testing

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson recommended a huge overhaul in school testing on Tuesday, but it is up to the governor and legislators to adopt, modify or implement his proposal. Here is the rationale for the sweeping changes, as laid out in Torlakson’s letter to Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature:

“While what we test, how we test, who we test, when we test, and why we test all continue to be subjects of debate, this much is clear: California’s system of student assessment has proved to be a powerful tool for improving school accountability and achievement.

When the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program began more than a decade ago, only one student in three scored proficient or higher. Today, roughly 900,000 more students are reaching the goals we have set for them now than when the STAR Program began.

As significant as this progress is, the time has come to remake our state’s assessment system. As we do, we must set our sights on a new, more ambitious goal — creating a system that fosters high-quality teaching and learning in every classroom.

The first step in this process is to align our assessments to the new Common Core State Standards, which provide a practical way to prepare our students for the challenges of a constantly changing world, equipping them with the real-world skills they need for college and career.

Just as the skills we want our students to master have changed, so too must our tests. The ability to engage in critical thinking and solve complex problems cannot be reliably assessed with the kinds of multiple-choice tests that are the centerpiece of our current system.

The Common Core State Standards ask students to acquire deeper knowledge of the subjects they study and be able to perform more complex tasks using what they have learned. It is critical that we have assessments that measure their progress toward these goals.

But perhaps even more important, I believe this work provides us with the opportunity to develop new assessments that serve as models for the kind of high-quality teaching and learning necessary for a world-class education.

The concept is simple but powerful: if our assessments require students to use problem solving and critical thinking skills to perform well, those same skills are much more likely to be taught in our classrooms day in and day out. The goals we set for our assessment system have profound implications for our students and our schools.

Tests that are scientifically valid and reliable for one purpose cannot necessarily be easily and reliably adapted to another. Creating a system focused principally on fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills likely means our students will initially find them more difficult. Although they rely less heavily on memorizing specific information than our current assessments, they will require deeper understanding of how to access and apply knowledge and skills to real-world tasks and problems.

Trade-offs are inevitable in this process. Just as it takes a student longer to write an essay than to choose A, B, C, or D on a multiple-choice answer sheet, designing, administering, and scoring these more complex assessments will take more time, and, inevitably, more money. However, the investment in this form of assessment is an investment in the quality of teaching and learning as well, so the costs are balanced by significant benefits.

There are other concerns as well. After all, testing and learning are not one and the same. We must always be mindful that time spent testing generally comes at the expense of time our students would otherwise have spent gaining the very knowledge and skills that are the goal of education.

It is noteworthy that many of the countries leading the world in achievement place little or no emphasis on standardized testing. Where they do test, they use more open-minded measures, sparingly and strategically, and often sample students rather than testing every child. In the absence of current federal requirements, these recommendations offered in this report would no doubt be substantially different.

Indeed, the clear failure of No Child Left Behind to meet its objectives should long ago have spurred federal policymakers to re-examine their requirements that every student be tested in English-language arts and mathematics nearly every year. In the absence of federal action, these recommendations strike a balance — continuing to provide an individual student score each year in the grades and subjects required by federal mandates while providing more thoughtful and flexible alternatives for students in other grades and subjects.

There are many factors to consider, especially in California, which serves such a vast and diverse set of students. It is vital that we address the needs of all students, including English learners and students with special needs, from the outset of this effort.

For this reason, the California Department of Education undertook an extensive process of engagement with education stakeholders and the public in developing these recommendations. I trust you will find their input, which is summarized in the accompanying report, as useful as I did. My staff and I look forward to working with you in considering these recommendations during the upcoming session.”

Here is the link to Torlakson’s report, called “Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System”: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/documents/suptrecrpt2013.pdf

Do you support the new tests?

Posted on Saturday, January 12th, 2013
Under: California Department of Education | 3 Comments »

MDUSD’s special ed Community Advisory Committee to hear report on district’s Disproportionality Corrective Action Plan

After being identified by the state as a district that disproportionally identifies African-American and Latino students for special education and suspensions and expulsions, the Mt. Diablo district has been working on a plan to correct this situation.

The district’s special education Community Advisory Committee is set to hear a report about this plan Tuesday, along with other monthly reports. Here is the agenda for the meeting, which is open to the public:

“COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE
AGENDA
DATE: January 8, 2013
TIME: 7:00 – 9:15 p.m.
PLACE: Dent Center – Board Room (1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord)

1. Call to Order 7:00

2. Introductions (7:02 – 7:05)
Please notify the audience during introductions if you are recording the meeting
Please let us know if this is your first time attending a CAC meeting

3. Adoption of Minutes – December 4, 2012 (7:05 – 7:10)

4. Presentation – “Disproportionality Corrective Action Plan” – Stephanie Roberts (7:10 – 7:40)

5. Chairperson’s Report – Lorrie Davis (7:40 – 7:50)

6. Old Business (7:50 – 8:20)

6.1 Interim Assistant Superintendent’s Report – Dr. Kerri Mills

6.2 Board of Education Report – Lynne Dennler

6.3 Board of Education Comments – Autumn Green

6.4 Budget Advisory Committee Report – Tricia Tamura-Li

6.5 Equity Advisory Team – Dorothy Weisenberger

NETWORKING BREAK

7. New Business (8:30– 9:00)

7.1 QIAT – Christian Patz

7.2 Autism Task Force – Vi Ibarra

7.3 Advisory Commission on Special Education – No Report

7.4 Parent Liaison – Hilary Shen

7.5 Sub-Committee Updates
Parent & Community Education Committee – Julie Nibblett
Membership & Publicity Committee – Vi Ibarra
Legislative Committee – Denise Lambert
Blog Committee – Autumn Green

8. Public Comment (9:00 – 9:10)
Public comment is an opportunity to share concerns and comments with the CAC. In the interest of time, speakers are limited to three (3) minutes each with a total of fifteen (15) minutes for all speakers. Please respect student and personnel privacy. CAC members and district staff might not be able to respond to individual concerns in this forum, but will take your contact information and follow-up with you.

9. Information Items/Announcements/Adjournment (9:10 – 9:15)

DON’T FORGET – - BRING A FRIEND TO THE MEETING!!”

It is interesting that the board has not yet received a presentation regarding the disproportionality corrective action plan. The board also doesn’t receive monthly updates from several other district committees whose meetings are under the radar.

The CAC used to also include reports from the PAC, until it was disbanded.

In contrast, the WCCUSD board invites the following “standing reports” at every meeting:

“D.5 Standing Reports
Representatives of the following committees and employee unions are invited to provide a brief update to the Board. Representatives from these groups need to sign up to speak prior to the beginning of this item on the agenda by submitting a ‘Request to Address the Board’ form. Five minutes may be allowed for each subcommittee or group listed below:
Academic Subcommittee
Public Employees Local 1
Bayside Parent Teacher Association
Safety Committee
Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee
School Supervisors Association
Community Budget Advisory Committee
United Teachers of Richmond
Facilities Subcommittee
Youth Commission
Ivy League Connection
College and Career Readiness Academies”

MDUSD’s board invites comments from organizations including unions, Bond Oversight Committee, the CAC and the PTA. But I have never heard reports from the Budget Advisory Committee, Parent Advisory Committee, Equity Advisory Team, Technology Advisory Committee, Bay Point Master Plan Committee or Graduation Requirements Committee. And if the district’s Facilities Subcommittee had presented reports in the past, perhaps the district’s solar plans wouldn’t have come as such a surprise, when Trustee Gary Eberhart assured the public in his blog that the Facilities Subcommittee had been discussing it for months.

The Pleasant Hill Education Commission meetings also include reports from representatives who serve on district committees.

Do you think the MDUSD school board should receive regular public reports from district committees?

JAN. 9 UPDATE: Here are links to video clips of the portions of the meeting I recorded (the CAC requires members of the audience to announce in advance any intention to record portions of the meeting):

Part 1 of Draft Disproportionality Corrective Action Plan presentation: http://qik.com/video/56699411

Part 2 of disproportionality discussion, including questions from CAC members: http://youtu.be/nTxQ8DXYu94

Part 3 of disproportionality discussion: http://youtu.be/dKy0Jqw6l3k

Chairperson’s report: http://youtu.be/Rn1VYIIlXq4

Assistant Superintendent’s report: http://youtu.be/z62KJ1Q-_J8

Posted on Monday, January 7th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, special education | 49 Comments »

MDUSD board to discuss superintendent’s evaluation in Monday closed session

With a new board majority and new board president in the Mt. Diablo school district, closed session agendas have become markedly more transparent — giving more detail than I have ever seen regarding what will be discussed.

The agenda for the Dec. 21 closed session was very specific about the types of “anticipated litigation” to be discussed and even named the outside counsel that was meeting with the board to talk about allegations the previous board may have violated the Brown Act — or open meeting law — in its handling of contract extensions for the superintendent, general counsel and three other top administrators.

The closed session agenda for Monday’s superintendent evaluation includes similar never-before-seen details about the topics to be discussed.

The public can comment on the superintendent’s evaluation before trustees retire to their closed session. Here is the complete agenda, for those who may wish to comment:

“Special Closed Session
DATE: 1/7/2013 TIME: 4:00 PM
LOCATION: School District Board Room – 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord

1.0 Call to Order
1.1 President will call the meeting to order Info

1.2 Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call Info

2.0 Public Comment
2.1 The public may address the Board concerning items that are scheduled for discussion during closed session only. These presentations are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers or the three minute limit may be shortened. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

3.0 Adjourn to Closed Session
3.1 Superintendent’s Performance Evaluation Info

4.0 Reconvene
4.1 Report out on Closed Session Info

5.0 Adjournment
5.1 Adjourn meeting Info”

Here are details about the superintendent’s evaluation, from the agenda report:

“Summary
On December 21, 2012, the Board met in Closed Session to conduct the Superintendent’s formal performance evaluation. In that Closed Session meeting, the Board and the Superintendent agreed that, given the fact that two new Trustees had joined the Board, a one-time adjustment to the Superintendent’s evaluation timeline would be made, and the interim evaluation process would be completed in a two-step process as follows:

1. January 7, 2013 Special Meeting – The Superintendent presents and discusses evidence and data to demonstrate progress made in the accomplishment of his performance targets in a Closed Session with the Board (see attached targets from the August 27, 2012 Board meeting).

2. January 14, 2013 – The Board meets in Closed Session to complete the Superintendent’s interim evaluation process.”

Here are the evaluation targets:

“Superintendent’s Evaluation Targets 2012‐2013
Academic Excellence in Learning
Performance Targets

Elementary Schools ‐ these measurements are school‐wide and all significant subgroups:

Target 1: Academic Performance Index (API) All schools will meet their annual school and significant subgroup State API targets.

Target 2: K-3 Reading
Over the next two years, increase the percentage of K-3 reading at grade level based on district approved assessment.

• Currently if less than 40% of students are reading at or above grade level increase by 10%

• Currently if between 40-70% are reading at or above grade level, increase by 6%

• If over 70% are reading at or above grade level, increase by 4%

Target 3: K-5 Mathematics

Over the next two years, increase the percentage of students scoring at the proficient level on the district benchmark or approved common assessments.

• If currently below 40% are proficient, increase by 10%

• If currently between 40-70% are proficient, increase by 6%

• If over 70% are proficient, increase by 4%

Middle Schools ‐ these measurements are school‐wide and all significant subgroups:

Target 1: Academic Performance Index (API) All schools will meet their annual school and significant subgroup State API targets.

Target 2: Mathematics
Over the next two years, based on data from the 2011-12 school year, decrease by 10% the number of 8th graders who are required to enroll in pre-Algebra in their freshmen year.

High Schools ‐ these measurements are school‐wide and all significant subgroups:

Target 1: Academic Performance Index (API) All schools will meet their annual school and significant subgroup State API targets.

Target 2: California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE)
Over the next two years, all high schools will improve their school-wide and significant subgroup CAHSEE pass rates for 10th graders in ELA and math by 6%, or they will achieve a 90% pass rate.

Target 3: Graduation Rates
Based on the State graduation rate data, all high schools will increase their graduation rate over the next two years by: [sic - nothing was listed]

Target 4: Other Critical Measures
All comprehensive high schools will increase at least two of the following measures by 8% over the next two years:

a. Increase the percentage of graduating seniors who complete one of the following: the UC a-g requirements, or a capstone course for a career pathway/academy program with a 2×2 articulated agreement with a local community college.

b. Increase the percentage of juniors who pass the EAP math and English Assessment or who receive a qualified result and complete the appropriate math or English course during their senior year to be exempt from remedial math and English classes in the CSU system.

c. Increase the percent of juniors taking the PSAT, and seniors taking the SAT or ACT.

d. Increase the percentage of graduates who take an AP class and achieved a 3 or better on the AP test; pass a UC-CSU approved Community College (CC) course; or pass a CC course that leads to a specific AA degree.

e. Increase the number of AP classes or sections, or career pathway classes.

All K‐12 Schools:
Target 1A: English Proficiency
All English learners will gain one level on the CELDT each year, but will be allowed two years to move through the Intermediate level.

Target 1B: English Proficiency
All English learners will be reclassified as fluent English proficient within six years of enrolling in our district.

Target 2: Attendance
Over two years, all schools will improve average daily attendance (ADA) by 1% or maintain attendance of at least 96%.

Supportive Family and Community Involvement

Target 1: Internal Communications

 There will be regular (at least monthly) updates from the School Support and Personnel Divisions and these memos will be copied to Board members.

 There will be weekly updates to School Board members on site/community events attended and site visits made by the superintendent

Target 2: External Communications

 During the school year monthly newsletters will be sent to parents and district staff via e-mail and posted on the web.

Target 3: Community Outreach

The district will reach out to community organizations to schedule available Superintendent council members to provide annual presentations on the status of the district. There will be six of these events.

High Quality and Effective Staff

Target 1:
Provide the Board with factual information around the district budget and negotiations in order to fairly and accurately represent the Board’s point of view at throughout the negotiations process. Evidence will be provided in closed session negotiations updates.

Target 2:
Train all managers, both certificated and classified, to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to follow the contracts with a focus on effective evaluation practices and progressive discipline guidelines. Evidence will be dates the trainings were provided.

Target 3:
Provide the Board with the legal implications of creating a feedback mechanism for school staff (classified, certificated, administrators), students, parents/guardians, and district staff to provide feedback around school and district climate. The goal of the feedback tool is to identify areas we are doing well and areas of growth. It is not meant to be an evaluative tool.

Optimal Operations and Infrastructure

Target 1:
Create and maintain a balanced budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that takes into account changes in the State’s budget.

Target 2:
Develop a plan for balanced budgets through the 2014-15 fiscal year.”

During its Aug. 27 meeting, the previous board (that included former Board President Sherry Whitmarsh and former Trustee Gary Eberhart) talked about whether the superintendent’s evaluation goals should be publicly discussed.

Here are video clips from that discussion:

Part 1: http://youtu.be/WvRuMoWjDR8

Part 2: http://youtu.be/sqcKr4_U4Sg

On Sept. 10, the previous board discussed its policy regarding developing the superintendent’s evaluation goals in closed sessions instead of public meetings. Trustee Cheryl Hansen suggested amending the policy to develop the performance goals during public meetings.

Here’s a synopsis of what was discussed, from the agenda report:

“Business/Action Items
Type: Info
Subject: 15.12 Amendment to BP 2140(a) Evaluation of the Superintendent

Summary: CSBA’s publication entitled ‘Maximizing School Board Governance’ Superintendent Evaluation” provides the following exemplary governance standard:

‘Meeting in open session, the board, working with the superintendent, who will be working with staff, should:

• Using the previous year’s priorities and goals as a baseline, agree on updated priority areas and set goals for the following year that the governance team believes will reasonably move the district toward its long-range vision.

• Agree on success indicators for each new goal or revised indicators for ongoing goals, and on progress reports the board would like to receive.

• Discuss the governance team’s level of satisfaction with the evaluation instruments and methods we used this year. Decide whether to modify our evaluation system for next year based on the new goals we have set.’

Mt. Diablo USD’s Board Policy 2140(a) currently omits this important practice that other districts have adopted. The intent of this proposed amendment is to increase the public’s awareness of the superintendent’s goals, ensure that these goals are aligned to district goals, and increase Board accountability.

After each evaluation has been completed, the Board shall meet in open session to give the Board and Superintendent an opportunity to jointly identify performance goals for the next year.

(cf. 2111 – Superintendent Governance Standards)
(cf. 9005 – Governance Standards)
(cf. 9400 – Board Self-Evaluation

Legal Reference:

Government Code 54957 – Closed session, personnel matters

Management Resources
CSBA Publication
Maximizing School Board Governance: Superintendent Evaluation, 2004

Web sites:

CSBA: www.csba.org
ACSA: www.acsa.org

Funding:
Fiscal Impact:
Recommendation: Information”

After discussion, the board did not change its policy.

Do you think the board should publicly identify superintendent performance goals?

Posted on Friday, January 4th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 74 Comments »