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Cuts to Careers in Teaching program at Hercules High could mean fewer opportunities for students

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, August 2nd, 2013 at 8:02 pm in Education, Walnut Creek School District.

The Careers in Teaching program at Hercules High has garnered widespread attention, including a front page story in this newspaper on Friday that featured student Camille Winfield, who is blind, working as a Teacher Cadet with Hanna Ranch Elementary students.

But Winfield and teacher Sarah Creeley, who has mentored several Teacher Cadets over the past decade, told the West Contra Costa school board on July 24 they were concerned that cuts to the class from three sections to one could limit opportunities for future Hercules High students.

“I cannot exaggerate the power of the connections that are made by these Hercules High School Teacher Cadets who go into their own community to help children, at times revisiting their own former classrooms,” Creeley said. “It seems as though the Hercules High School administration, with the support of the school board, is trying to push out this class by cutting it down to one section despite continued high enrollment since its inception.”

Creeley pointed out that Hercules High teacher Janet Headington won the prestigious Warren Eukel Teacher Trust award in 2009 for her work with students in the program. Winfield won a 2013 Regional Occupational Program award of excellence for her work with Creeley’s students as a Teacher Cadet. And Justin Jones, another Teacher Cadet in her class, was named 2013 “Youth in the Year” in Hercules, Creeley said.

“This is a program that has garnered many awards,” she concluded. “Whatever you can do to bring it back up to three sections would be very much appreciated.”

Winfield said the children showed her love every day, when she worked in their classroom.

“Some of them have told me that they would love to be Teacher Cadets when they are older,” Winfield said. “It’s just upsetting to me to know that the experience could go away.”

Creeley added that Winfield gave a powerful presentation about what it is like to be blind to third- fourth- and fifth-graders at Hanna Ranch Elementary.

“That never would have happened if we hadn’t had the teacher cadets,” she said.

Creeley has also sent a letter to this newspaper expressing fears that the program is in jeopardy. The 2013 Hercules Educator of the Year, she wrote, is Michelle Thibault, who teaches at Hercules Middle School and is a former high school Teacher Cadet.

“I hope that the leaders of Hercules High School will listen to our Hercules community leaders and students,” Creeley wrote, “and return this exceptional Hercules High School program to three classes to help Hercules children!”

In response to an e-mail from another Hercules resident about this issue, West Contra Costa school board President Madeline Kronenberg wrote that “the program was still in effect, although the specific scheduling had changed.”

“The program is not being removed,” she wrote, “and in fact, in our strategic plan we are highlighting the need for the district to expand the direction of this type of program district-wide…”

Creeley fears the rest of the district’s gain could be Hercules High School’s loss. In an e-mail to Kronenberg, wrote that the scheduling change amounted to one class of 40 students, even though 85 students expressed interest in enrolling.

“If you hope to start other Teacher Cadet programs in other high schools, I am all for it,” Creeley wrote. “I have seen first hand how powerful this program is. Hercules must not be punished by losing our Teacher Cadet program and teacher to another school.”

Trustee Todd Groves, who was elected in November after pledging to try to mend rifts between Hercules residents and the district and give more autonomy to schools, also responded to Creeley’s concerns in an e-mail.

“The board is charged with policy setting at the highest level,” he wrote. “I personally favored allowing sites more flexibility as a campaign pledge. I will look further into the issue, but cannot promise any outcome.”

Do you think the district should cut the number of Teacher Cadets at Hercules High, while starting up the program at other schools?

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  • Giorgio C.

    How are these decisions being made? Fairness would be that each school gets a pot of money for such programs, that they will use as the see fit. The timing of such is also baffling. We approve the extension of a parcel tax. We hear the state has allocated more money to teaching. And then this? Is this the price we are paying for having our elementary school music program returned to us? If so, then say so from the beginning. Tell us that we can have music, but that it is going to cost us.

  • Doctor J

    @Giorgio#1 If you look at the latest projections for funding under the LCFF, WCCUSD will received an increase in ADA per student for year 2013/14 of $334 for a total ADA per student of $6913. Compare that to MDUSD which will receive an increase ADA per student of $240, for a total ADA per student for 2013/14 of $6570, which means that WCCUSD will receive an ADA per student of $343 higher than MDUSD. The reason ? To serve the higher percentage of English Learner, Low Income and Foster Youth in the District. [WCCUSD 74% MDUSD 49%] By the year 2020/21 when the LCFF fully funds, the ADA difference between WCCUSD and MDUSD will expand to $1,306 per student. You can now understand why MDEA wants a quick raise now, because with every year, MDUSD will become “less funded” than some adjacent districts. Here is the whole chart released a couple of weeks ago. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/711904-lcff-compromise-bydistrict060813.html

  • Theresa Harrington

    WCCUSD superintendent has released another community update, this time about Common Core implementation: http://www.wccusd.net/site/default.aspx?PageID=1

    Although MDUSD’s interim superintendent has sent “newsletters” to employees, he has not released similar community updates. However, he has sent an Op Ed piece to the Times, which he is hoping will be published during the 10 days before school starts. I have agreed to hold off on posting it on this blog until it is published.

    Still, it’s unclear whether he will continue even sporadically sending out superintendent’s messages to the entire community via email and web postings, as former Superintendent Steven Lawrence did: http://www.mdusd.org/Community/Pages/default.aspx

  • Doctor J

    @Giorgio#1 While following the link provided by Theresa to WCC website, I saw their 45 day budget revise — its very explanatory as to the impact at WCC. It might answer some of your questions.

  • Doctor J

    Is MDUSD ready to implement Class Size Reduction in K-3 beginning at the start of school [Aug 28} ? Or is Rose Lock who refused to hire a new Director of Elementary Education asleep at the wheel again ? WCC just agreed to hire 25 more FTE K-3 teachers. How many will MDUSD hire in the next 3 weeks ? Here is the synopsis from WCC: “The newly adopted State budget includes the implementation of the LCFF funding model for K-3 Class Size Reduction. The new program requires that each district make progress toward the 24:1 class size average, in grades K-3 by school site, not by grade. The State will require districts to provide site level average data for 2012-13 as the base year and progress will be required at each site, reducing the average class sizes in grades K-3 by 12% in 2013-14. Using the District staffing model from 2012-13 as a base and applying the 12% reduction, on average, our schools would be at 25:1 for 2013-14. However, many schools had lower average class sizes than 25:1, such as schools that had QEIA or other special funding. Those schools must stay at or below 24:1 in order to avoid severe district wide penalties for class size.”
    Better take into consideration not only those QEIA schools but also the 3 Bay Point SIG schools that used grants to fund class size reduction — they can’t increase their K-3 classes. Don’t forget we just transferred a bunch of Delta View kids to those SIG schools so there might not even be room for CSR at those former SIG schools. I didn’t see any advertisements for more K-3 teachers. Remember how Rose Lock got caught by the Feds and State surprise audit for not implementing the original 3 SIG grants and the grants were suspended until a Corrective Action Plan was adopted. This time the state will suspend the additional K-3 funding for ALL 29 elementary schools — that could cost millions.

  • Theresa Harrington

    At the School Services of CA budget workshop I attended, they warned that there are no waivers for going over the required class size to receive CSR funding. The penalty is no CSR funding, they said.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#26 As I understand it, if one of the 29 schools is out of compliance — all 29 elementary schools loose. That could be millions. Lorie O’Brien won’t be able recalculate to apply for a waiver like she did with QEIA.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, SSC told districts: “A district’s failure to meet the target at one school site would result in the loss of all K-3 CSR funds districtwide — a penalty that is likely to be out of proportion to the error.”

    No waivers.

  • Doctor J

    Based on the 2012/13 K-3 enrollment of 10,720 students, at the $712 CSR addition, the penalty would only be $7,632,640. What a way to end a career.

  • Theresa Harrington

    However, it looks like districts don’t have to reach the 24 student average enrollment per class until “full implementation of the LCFF” in 2020-21. Between now and then, districts must meet “intermediate targets, based on the funding provided to move all districts to their LCFF target,” according to SSC.

    So, it remains to be seen what MDUSD’s 2013-14 target is. Districts can also receive an “alternate ratio” that can be “locally negotiated,” according to SSC. It’s unclear who negotiates this.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#10 The problem lies in the QEIA and last year’s SIG schools as pointed out by WCC. Last year, if you had an enrollment 24 or below, you must maintain that. How about all of those Delta View students transferred to other Bay Point schools. All you need is one school in violation. WCC said the reduction percentage for schools above 24 is 12%. I would presume the percentage was set by the legislature. So last year if your school average for K-3 was 30 students, you would have to reduce by 12% per year until you reach 24 or below. If your school average last year was 23, you have to maintain the 24 or below. That’s what I understand.

  • Doctor J

    Example: I looked up Meadow Homes SARC with 2011-12 enrollment. Each of K-3 levels had class size average BELOW 20. Assuming that was maintained in 2012-13 — the “base” year — under LCFF Meadow Homes must always maintain that level and not rise since it is under 24. As it has been explained MH will NOT be able to increase its class size UP to 24. If just one grade level rises, the entire district will be penalized by loss of the “add on” for K-3 which by my calculations would be over $7 million. Someone needs to monitor this carefully. FYI here is the Legislative Analyst over of LCFF of July 29. http://lao.ca.gov/reports/2013/edu/lcff/lcff-072913.pdf

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s a story in today’s paper about a fellowship opportunity for math and science teachers to work in high-tech Bay Area companies: http://www.contracostatimes.com/twitter/ci_23789123/bay-area-teachers-get-hands-math-and-science

    Twelve Contra Costa County teachers participated, including three from College Park HS who are working in the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and SRI International. Surprisingly, Dow Chemical was the ONLY Contra Costa County company that participated.

  • Theresa Harrington

    And here’s a SunPower press release about the participation of MDUSD, WCCUSD, Antioch, SRVUSD, Dublin and Oakland districts in a “solar science academy:” http://us.sunpowercorp.com/about/newsroom/press-releases/?relID=137212
    Unfortunately, it doesn’t say when the programs took (or are taking) place in these districts.

  • Giorgio C.

    @Dr.J#2: Thanks for taking the time to help me understand this. Still, what does this look like on a school-by-school basis. The WCCUSD is diverse. Also, factor in absenteeism, which is seen more often in the very groups receiving the additional funding…if they attend class. I’ll spend some time reading up on this. Thanks!

  • Doctor J

    @Giorgio#15 Hope you are involved in the development of the Strategic Plan — bankrolled by Chevron. http://www.contracostatimes.com/west-county-times/ci_23806063/strategic-plans-highlights-shortcomings-west-contra-costa-school

  • Giorgio C.

    @Dr. J#16,
    I attended the original Strategic Plan workshop. I also completed the on-line survey which asked if I wanted to be contacted to be part of the strategic plan process. I said yes, but never heard from them again. That was months ago. It isn’t clear to me what future participation might be offered. I would like it if the next workshop was parents only. During the original workshop, I was surrounded by district staff-teachers in my breakout group. I did not feel comfortable bring up the issue of teacher evaluations in that environment or any issue regarding teachers. I later learned that the district also had a “staff only” workshop, but no “parents only” workshop? That’s why I stay away from PTAs. Half the stuff I talk about makes teachers defensive. I’ll try to work on my delivery.