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Archive for August, 2013

A closer look at Academic Performance Index scores in Contra Costa County districts

Students work quietly in a Richmond College Prep classroom. The school received an API score of 828 this year, soaring 33 points.

Students work quietly in a Richmond College Prep classroom. The school received an API score of 828 this year, soaring 33 points.

When it comes to test scores, the Academic Performance Index, or API, is considered by many to be the most important rating a California school receives. Based on standardized tests scores taken by students in grades 2-11 in the spring, the API is a composite number between a low of 200 and a high of 1,000 that shows how schools throughout the state compare to each other.

Since the scoring system was created, schools and districts have tried to reach a score of 800, considered by the state to mean most students are working at grade level. This year, 11 Contra Costa County districts achieved this goal.

But the federal government’s No Child Left Behind law measures schools according to a harder-to-reach bar. This year, 90 percent of students were required to score proficient on math and English language arts tests to meet this standard.

Those who fail to meet the standard for two years in a row are placed in federal Program Improvement and required to implement interventions. This year, 10 Contra Costa districts were in Program Improvement.

Here’s a side by side comparison of county district API scores in 2012 and 2013, showing growth or decline:

DISTRICT 2013 2012 CHANGE PROGRAM IMPROVEMENT
Acalanes 904 908 -4 No
Antioch 740 746 -6 Yes
Brentwood 861 859 +2 Yes
Byron 846 836 +10 No
Canyon 874 876 -2 No
John Swett 745 751 -6 Yes
Knightsen 816 840 -24 No
Lafayette 934 938 -4 No
Liberty 794 785 +9 No
Martinez 836 844 -8 Yes
Moraga 955 964 -9 No
Mt. Diablo 791 794 -3 Yes
Oakley 799 816 -17 Yes
Orinda 958 967 -9 No
Pittsburg 733 738 -5 Yes
San Ramon 923 928 -5 Yes
Walnut Creek 906 915 -9 Yes
West Contra Costa 717 715 +2 Yes
CALIFORNIA 789 791 -2 N/A

Districts that failed to meet the state API score of 800 were Antioch, John Swett, Liberty, Mt. Diablo, Oakley, Pittsburg and West Contra Costa. Stephanie Anello, associate superintendent of educational services in Antioch, said the district’s dip in scores came as a surprise, after teachers had been assessing students every six weeks throughout the year and principals increased classroom observations.

“It’s very disappointing, we felt we were headed in the right direction,” she said. “We’re trying to look for patterns to see what happened, but we don’t see one. For now, we are just going to have to use it to strengthen our resolve and focus on the quality of teaching that happens every single day.”

No schools in the John Swett district surpassed the state’s target of 800. In the Liberty district, one of four comprehensive high schools met that goal.

Mt. Diablo’s API score dropped three points to 791. Interim Superintendent John Bernard sent a message to the community saying the district is continuing to train teachers and administrators in the new Common Core curriculum standards, which focus on critical thinking and problem-solving.

Oakley’s API score dropped 17 points and nearly all schools in the district also saw double-digit declines, with the exception of Vintage Parkway Elementary, which posted a 14-point gain to 831. Anne Allen, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, said the district has assigned a second teacher to work as a full-time math coach at elementary grades and another to serve as a part-time middle school literacy coach.

The Pittsburg district’s score fell five points to 733, with only three of 12 comprehensive schools reaching the state’s proficiency target. The West Contra Costa district was one of four in the county to improve its API score, rising two points to 717.

“We’re happy to show improvement,” said Nia Raschidchi, assistant superintendent of educational services.

Here’s a link to the Contra Costa Times’ searchable database of API scores for all schools and districts in the state: http://www.contracostatimes.com/data/ci_23965432/2013-school-ratings?source=pkg

Staff writers Paul Burgarino and Rowena Coetseee contributed to this report.

What do you think lower-performing districts should do to improve student achievement?

Posted on Friday, August 30th, 2013
Under: Contra Costa County, Education, Liberty district, Mt. Diablo school district, Oakley district, Paul Burgarino, Pittsburg school district, Rowena Coetsee | 63 Comments »

MDUSD expects to appoint superintendent, three vice principals on Wednesday

The Mt. Diablo school board will likely appoint Nellie Meyer, deputy superintendent of the San Diego school district, as its new superintendent on Wednesday. In addition, the board expects to appoint three high school vice principals and to extend for three months the contract of Interim General Counsel Jayne Williams. If the board approves Meyer’s contract, she will take the helm of the district Sept. 23.

A final Environmental Impact Report for proposed Ygnacio Valley High field improvements, expected to return to the board on Wednesday for approval, is not on the agenda.

Here is the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the district office 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 Conference with Labor Negotiators pursuant to Govt. Code Section 54957.6 Designated District representatives: President Cheryl Hansen, Interim General Counsel Jayne Williams; Unrepresented employee: District Superintendent Action
4.3 Public Employee Appointment pursuant to Govt. Code Section 54957 (b) (1): District Superintendent Action
5.0 Closed Session Agenda

6.0 Reconvene Open Session
6.1 Reconvene Open Session at 7:30 p.m. Info
7.0 Preliminary Business
7.1 Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call Info

8.0 Report Out Action Taken in Closed Session
8.1 Report of Special Closed Session – August 21, 2013 Info
8.2 Negotiations Info
8.3 Conference with Labor Negotiators Info
8.4 Public Employee Appointment – District Superintendent Info

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) Recommended Action for Certificated Personnel Action
9.3 (Item #3) Request to increase Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2013-2014 school year Action
9.4 (Item #4) Approval of Variable Term Waiver Request Action
9.5 (Item #5) Recommended Action for Classified Personnel Action
9.6 (Item #6) Classified Personnel: Request to Increase and Decrease Positions Action
9.7 (Item #7) Approve contract/purchase order with My Therapy Company for bilingual Speech and Language services at Meadow Homes Elementary for the 2013-14 School Year. Action
9.8 (Item #8) Renewal of Memorandum of Understanding between Seneca Center for Children & Families and Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) Action
9.9 (Item #9) Approval of master contract between Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) and Progressus Therapy Services to provide District-Wide Occupational/Physical Therapy Services for the 2013-2014 school year and 2012-2013 Extended School Year Program. Action
9.10 (Item #10) Increase purchase order with Non Public Agency Ed Support Services Action
9.11 (Item #11) Contract between Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) and Maxim Healthcare Services, Non Public Agency (NPA) for the 2013-2014 school year. Action
9.12 (Item #12) Alignment of Updated Editions/Copy Write Years of Currently Adopted Instructional Materials Action
9.13 (Item #13) Approve submission of the Cleveland Foundation grant to expand technology labs at El Dorado Middle School. Action
9.14 (Item #14) Approval of contracts with Exploring New Horizons (ENH) for Pleasant Hill Elementary School and Hidden Valley Elementary School Outdoor Ed Programs Action
9.15 (Item #15) Approve Contract with Marin County Office of Education (COE) Outdoor School of Walker Creek Ranch for Walnut Acres Elementary School Action

10.0 Consent Items Pulled for Discussion

11.0 Recognitions

12.0 Public Comment
12.1 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

13.0 Communications

13.1 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

14.0 Superintendent’s Report

15.0 Business/Action Items

15.1 Approve Contract for District Superintendent Action

15.2 Appointment of Vice Principal, High School Action

15.3 Appointment of Vice Principal, High School Action

15.4 Appointment of Vice Principal, High School Action

15.5 Legal services contract with Meyers Nave to provide specialized litigation services Action

15.6 Extension of Legal Services Contract with Latisha McCray, Contract Attorney Action

15.7 Three month extension of contract with Meyers Nave to provide Interim General Counsel services Action

15.8 Independent Contract with Document Tracking Services for the 2013-2014 school year Action

15.9 Renewal of Independent Service Contract with David H. Costa for Courier Service for Food Services and site pick-up to financial institution. Action

15.10 Solar Renewable Energy Credits/Certificates (REC’s) Info

15.11 Mandated Costs Action

15.12 Meeting Extension Action

16.0 Future Agenda Items

17.0 Board Member Reports

17.1 Board reports Info

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

19.0 Adjournment
19.1 Adjourn Meeting”

What impact do you think a new superintendent will have on the district?

Posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 110 Comments »

Side by side comparison of East Bay district STAR scores gives preview of API scores to be released Thursday

Fourth-grader at East Avenue Elementary in Hayward.

Fourth-grader at East Avenue Elementary in Hayward.

California public school students in grades 2 through 11 take Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, tests to assess their academic progress. Below is a look at how students in most East Bay districts compared to those statewide in English language arts and math.

These scores will be used to create Academic Performance Index, or API, scores to be released Thursday. The state is shifting to a new testing system in 2014-15 that will assess students based on new Common Core Curriculum Standards, which are not aligned to current tests.

PERCENTAGE OF EAST BAY DISTRICT STUDENTS SCORING “PROFICIENT” OR BETTER IN 2013

English Math

CALIFORNIA 56.4 51.2

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY 62.3 55.7
Acalanes 87.1 56.3
Antioch 47.3 38.9
Brentwood 68.7 70.3
Byron 65.6 70.3
Canyon 81.1 66.0
John Swett 47.6 43.2
Knightsen 56.1 68.2
Lafayette 86.4 87.4
Liberty 63.5 27.0
Martinez 66.3 64.9
Moraga 91.2 89.1
Mt. Diablo 58.0 53.3
Oakley 56.9 54.2
Orinda 91.6 91.1
Pittsburg 43.4 40.0
San Ramon 84.9 78.5
Walnut Creek 80.1 80.9
West Contra Costa 42.3 37.7
ALAMEDA COUNTY 61.3 55.2
Alameda City 70.8 63.1
Albany 77.9 74.7
Berkeley 66.6 57.9
Castro Valley 73.8 64.8
Dublin 79.4 74.1
Emery 44.9 38.1
Fremont 78.2 72.6
Hayward 41.0 37.9
Livermore 68.8 60.5
New Haven 55 42.9
Newark 55.6 53.3
Oakland 43.0 41.4
Piedmont 88.5 80.8
Pleasanton 83.4 72.5
San Lorenzo 44.7 38.0
Sunol Glen 81.1 89.3

Martinez dropped 2.7 percentage points in English to 66.3 percent proficient and dropped 0.7 percentage points in math to 64.9 percent proficient. Superintendent Rami Muth said the district transitioning to Common Core standards.

“As a result of these shifts in program and design our schools have experienced a decline in the STAR test scores,” she said. “While this decline is not entirely unexpected it can convey the wrong impression about the forward progress of our schools. We will continue to carefully disaggregate our test scores to ensure that all of our students are learning the essential skills and content needed for long term success.”

The Mt. Diablo district’s English score dropped from 59.4 proficient to 58. The math score increased from 53.1 percent proficient to 53.3 percent.

“As a district, we are focused on continuous improvement and it’s important to take note of the progress we have made over time,” said Rose Lock, assistant superintendent of Student Achievement and School Support. “We are currently analyzing the results of the (tests) at the district as well as site levels. We will identify areas where we have to double our efforts to insure all of our students are achieving at high levels.”

The Pittsburg and Pleasanton districts were flagged for security breaches related to social media postings of test questions or answers. Breaches involving test site images that didn’t include questions or answers were identified in the Acalanes, Albany, Antioch, Berkeley, Fremont, Hayward, Martinez, Milpitas, Mt. Diablo, New Haven, Newark, San Ramon Valley and West Contra Costa districts.

Detailed STAR results, including school scores, are available at www.cde.ca.gov.

Staff writer Lisa P. White contributed to this report.

Do you believe STAR tests are a good measurement of student achievement?

Posted on Friday, August 23rd, 2013
Under: Education | 24 Comments »

MDUSD interim superintendent urges community to ensure students are in school

As students, parents and local neighborhoods gear up for another school year, Mt. Diablo school district Interim Superintendent John Bernard sent a message to the community via the Contra Costa Times, reminding everyone about the importance of getting to class.

Here is his message, which was published last Sunday. I am posting it below to allow for blog reader comment.

“Making Sure Kids Stay in School is Everyone’s Business

When you are absent in the workplace, you could miss important training that might allow you to perform more efficiently and to advance yourself.

It is the same for students in our schools.

When a student is absent from school, regardless of the reason, important learning can be missed. In the early grades, being absent could mean missing the experience of writing a class story about, for example, observing how steam cools and collects on a mirror to become water droplets.

In the middle grades, being absent could mean missing the important lesson on short cuts in dividing fractions. At the upper grades, it could mean missing the class discussion about Jane Austin’s book, ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ or learning about the unique biological differences between two similar reptiles.

The learning a person acquires during important lessons often serves as building blocks of knowledge for future comprehension, understanding and success in school.

Educators and parents are not the only persons concerned about student attendance and its impact on student achievement. In the cities and communities that make up the Mount Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD), civic leaders, religious leaders, business owners, and community individuals are concerned as well.

While teachers and principals focus their energies on educating the student, it is next to impossible to ensure that the knowledge has been acquired if the student is absent from school.

Following are some ideas on how parents, schools and the community can support student attendance and positively impact student achievement.

Parents can help by:

• Monitoring bedtime to ensure that your child is well rested.

• Helping your children develop a morning routine so they arrive at school on time ready to learn.

• Monitoring study time and provide assistance with homework when necessary.

• Helping your child develop a positive attitude about school, include good study habits, a love of books and reading, and respect for those who lead and teach them.

• Showing an interest in your children’s learning to help make school a place where children want to go.

Schools in the districts can help by:

• Acknowledging and rewarding students and their parents when students have good attendance.

• Reminding parents of the importance of attendance and encouraging parents to use independent study when their child will be absent for five days or more.

• Developing intervention programs to work positively with families whose children are truant.

• Showing an interest in each student’s learning to help make school a place where children want to be.

• Informing parents of how much district revenue has been lost based upon the number of absences the previous month ($52.31 per student per day in MDUSD).

Community and businesses also can help:

• Doctors and other medical professionals – please schedule routine medical appointments for school-aged children outside the school day.

• Law enforcement officers – please investigate school-age children who are observed not being in school, and not accompanied by their parent/guardian.

• Judicial officials – please insist that parents take responsibility for their child’s attendance in school.

• Retail businesses – please do not sell to school-age children during the school day unless they are high school age and it is during lunchtime.

• General businesses and community – please contribute “incentive awards” to schools for students who have good attendance.

Additionally, quite a few years ago, State legislation no longer allowed school districts to include excused absences for attendance reporting toward reimbursement.

The State only provides funding for school days when a student is physically in attendance. Therefore, not attending school because of a doctor or dentist visit, funerals, court appearances and being ill will penalize school funding at a time when there is already limited money.

Through a concerned community effort, supported by parents, schools and the community working together to improve student attendance, the Mount Diablo Unified School District goal of increased student achievement will be realized.

Dr. John Bernard, a Bay Area native, serves as the interim superintendent for the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. He has more than 43 years experience in public education, with 19 years as a superintendent or a state administrator.”

Do you think improved attendance rates in the district would boost student achievement?

Posted on Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 46 Comments »

MDUSD appointments/assignments for 2013-14

Because the Mt. Diablo school board and superintendent tend to make administrative appointments and reassignments over a period of months, I am compiling a list of the appointments and reassignments made thus far for 2013-14 (that I know about), along with who was replaced (if I know) and current vacancies:

BOARD-APPROVED APPOINTMENTS:

SCHOOLS:

Cambridge Elementary Principal: Jose Espinoza (8/14) (Promoted from YVHS vice principal, replacing Liane Cismowski, who was appointed Principal of Mt. Diablo HS by interim superintendent)

El Monte Elementary Program Specialist for Categorical Programs: Jennifer Molino (8/14)

Meadow Homes Elementary Program Specialist for Categorical Programs: Margo Peckham (8/14)

Mt. Diablo HS: Vice Principals Akilah Byrd and Christopher Beischel; and Student Services Coordinator Heather Morelli (8/14)

Pleasant Hill MS: Vice Principal Jane Abell

Shore Acres Principal: Cathy Chan (6/17) (Replacing Elizabeth Block, who retired)

Ygnacio Valley Elementary Principal: Linn Kissinger (6/17) (Replacing Christine Richardson, who was promoted to SASS)

DISTRICT OFFICE:

Interim Superintendent: John Bernard (5/20) (Replacing former Superintendent Steven Lawrence, whose contract was terminated a year early April 25 in a 3-2 board vote)

Interim General Counsel: Jayne Williams (5/6) (Replacing former General Counsel Greg Rolen, whose contract was terminated a year early April 25 in a 4-1 board vote)

Assistant Superintendent, Pupil Services and Special Education: Kerri Mills (ratified 6/3) (Replacing Mildred Browne, who retired with a board-approved separation agreement that included a paid leave of absence during the last year of her contract)

Administrator of Equity and Disproportionality: Jonathan Roselin (promoted 8/14 from Assistant Director of Student Services)

Educational Consultant/Behavior Management Specialist: Karen Miller (8/14)

Food and Nutrition Services Supervisor: Deanna Robles (6/17)

Interim Transportation Coordinator: Tom Bishop (8/14)

Measure C Assistant Construction Manager: Rhonda Abreu (8/14)

School Support Administrator: Chris Holleran (6/24)

School Support Administrator: Christine Richardson (5/6)

School Support Administrator: Juliana Sikes (6/17)

Special Education Program Specialists: Avrilio Moumoutjis and Cynthia Remis (8/14)

OTHER RETIREMENTS (not mentioned above):

SASS: Administrators Linda Hutcherson and Helena Postrk

Special education program specialists: Hunt Lin, Berry Murray and Melody Royal

Crossroads Continuation High School Administrator: Pam Neudecker

Ygnacio Valley HS Principal (later transferred to Gateway): Sue Brothers

APPOINTMENTS/REASSIGNMENTS APPROVED BY INTERIM SUPERINTENDENT:

SCHOOLS:

Ayers Elementary Principal: Susan Petersen (transferred from Director of Elementary Education position, which was eliminated to create another SASS administrative position)

Crossroads Continuation HS: Kate McClatchy (transferred from principal of MDHS, replacing Pam Neudecker, who retired)

Oak Grove MS English Language Arts Program Specialist: Jenny Cronan (transferred from principal of Woodside Elementary)

Mt. Diablo HS Principal: Liane Cismowski (transferred from Principal of Cambridge Elementary to replace Kate McClatchy, who was transferred to Crossroads Continuation HS)

Sequoia MS Interim Principal: Vivian Boyd (replacing Connie Cirimeli, who was hired as principal of a San Mateo MS)

Woodside Elementary Interim Principal: Ava Suddath (replacing Jenny Cronan, who transferred to Oak Grove MS)

Ygnacio Valley HS Principal: Stephen Brady (promoted from Northgate vice principal, replacing Sue Brothers, who was transferred to Gateway and then retired)

VACANT POSITIONS:

DISTRICT OFFICE:

Superintendent (Finalist Nellie Meyer may be appointed Aug. 28)

General Counsel (interim general counsel contract runs through Sept. 9)

Assistant Director of Student Services (vacated by Jonathan Roselin’s promotion)

SCHOOLS:

Northgate HS: Vice Principal (vacated by Stephen Brady’s promotion to YVHS)

Sequoia MS: Principal (Vacated by Connie Cirimeli, who was appointed Principal of Borel MS in San Mateo)

Woodside Elementary: Principal (vacated by Jenny Cronan’s transfer to OGMS)

Ygnacio Valley HS: Vice Principal (vacated by Jose Espinoza’s promotion to Cambridge Elementary)

I realize this may not be a complete list of current openings. District jobs are posted at: http://www.mdusd.org/personnel/Pages/default.aspx

Are you concerned about the number of administrative jobs that still need to be filled 12 days before school starts?

Posted on Friday, August 16th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 22 Comments »

Woodside Elementary principal takes administrative position at Oak Grove Middle School and is replaced by retired principal as interim leader of scandal-rocked school

I have received a copy of a message sent to Woodside Elementary families by former Principal Jenny Cronan about her decision to take an administrative position at Oak Grove Middle School, which is also in Concord. Here is her message:

“Dear Woodside Families:

I hope this communication finds all of you well and enjoying the final weeks of summer vacation. This past year has been a transitional and challenging one for the Woodside community. It has also been a revealing one for me, as leading Woodside has helped bring me to my true calling as an instructional leader focusing on common core standards in English Language Arts. Consequently, I have requested, and was granted a transfer to Oak Grove Middle School, in a co-administrator role as Program Specialist of English Language Arts. Despite my excitement at this new opportunity, it is somewhat bittersweet as I will be leaving those within the Woodside community who have been steadfast at supporting my efforts throughout the year. I thank all of you who partnered with me during this transitional year. Nevertheless, I leave you in good hands, as Mrs. Ava Sudduth, an accomplished retired Principal from Mt. Diablo Unified, will begin the year at Woodside as your Interim Principal. Please help make Mrs. Sudduth feel as welcome as you have made me here at Woodside. Again, thank you all for the opportunity, to be a part of your community, and I wish you all a fruitful school year.

Most Sincerely,
Jen Cronan”

I called the school to find out more about Sudduth and learned that she sent a letter to teachers detailing her 30-year history in the district. She taught fourth- and fifth-grades at Shore Acres; taught third- through sixth-grades at Diablo Vista Elementary, which preceded Sequoia Middle School; became an administrator in 1989 and worked at Bancroft , Walnut Acres and Wren Avenue elementary schools; and was a principal at Bel Air and Sun Terrace elementary schools.

Cronan’s decision to transfer to Oak Grove comes on the heels of the arrest of Woodside fifth-grade teacher Joseph Martin, who has been charged with 109 sexual abuse charges involving 13 former students between 2006 and April of this year, when he was arrested. A lawsuit filed July 8 against the district alleges that administrators ignored complaints against him and that his classroom was an isolated, single portable unit with windows blocked by children’s pictures and other items, making it impossible to look inside. In addition, the lawsuit alleges Martin had little outside supervision or accountability.

A claim filed July 31 against the district alleges that Martin was allowed by district officials to return to his classroom to “say goodbye” to his students the day he was placed on administrative leave. The claim alleges Martin took this opportunity to corner one of his victims and try to dissuade the boy from reporting fondling incidents. This claim contradicts Interim Superintendent John Bernard’s statement that “The teacher in question was removed immediately and has not returned to the campus.”

The claim names Martin, former Woodside Principal Jennifer Sachs, former Woodside Principal Michele Batesole, Cronan, former Superintendent Steven Lawrence and former General Counsel Greg Rolen as employees who failed to report suspected child abuse to police or Child Protective Services.

Although Sachs is Bernard’s daughter, he told me that would not influence the investigation and that the district is participating fully with police. Sachs is now Director of Categorical Programs in the Pittsburg school district.

The same day Martin was arrested — April 25 — the school board held a closed session and “received information relative to a personnel matter,” then voted 3-2 to release the superintendent from his contract without cause and 4-1 to release the general counsel from his contract without cause. A majority of board members had expressed an interest in replacing the superintendent and general counsel since the November election, due to a perceived lack of trust in the district and low employee morale. Trustees held their first closed session to discuss possible dismissal of Lawrence and Rolen on March 25 — one month before Martin’s arrest.

In a closed session Wednesday, trustees discussed potential litigation based on facts and circumstances in one matter related to a claim filed on behalf of “J. Doe.” Afterward, Board President Cheryl Hansen reported that the board gave “some direction to staff on how to proceed with that potential litigation.”

Although school starts Aug. 28, the Woodside Elementary website still lists Cronan as principal and Martin as one of two fifth-grade teachers at the school: http://www.mdusd.k12.ca.us/woodside/Woodside_Elementary/Faculty_%26_Staff.html

How can the district help the Woodside staff, students and community get off to a good start this school year?

Staff writers Malaika Fraley and Matthias Gafni contributed to this report.

Posted on Friday, August 16th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 33 Comments »

Mt. Diablo school board to discuss YVHS field improvements, solar projects and new appointments tonight

Cindy Walker speaks voices concerns about planned YVHS field project.

Cindy Walker voices concerns about planned YVHS field project.

The Mt. Diablo school board will hold its first meeting of the 2013-14 school year at 7:30 p.m. in the district office at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord. The board has decided to meet on Wednesdays, instead of Mondays, from now on. (This is the same day that the Contra Costa County Board of Education meets, as well as the same day the West Contra Costa County Board of Education meets.)

Here is the agenda for tonight’s meeting:

“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 Conference with Labor Negotiators pursuant to Govt. Code Section 54957.6 Designated District representatives: President Cheryl Hansen, Interim General Counsel Jayne Williams; Unrepresented employee: Superintendent Action

4.3 Public Employee Appointment pursuant to Govt. Code Section 54957 (b) (1): Superintendent Info

4.4 Anticipated Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel regarding the initiation of litigation in one (1) matter pursuant to Govt. Code Section 54956.9 (c). Action

4.5 Potential litigation based on facts and circumstances (one matter) pursuant to Govt. Code Section 54956.9 (3)(c): Claim filed on behalf of J.Doe 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 Negotiations Action
7.2 Conference with Labor Negotiators Info
7.3 Public Employee Appointment – Superintendent Info
7.4 Anticipated Litigation Action
7.5 Potential Litigation 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) Recommended Action for Certificated Personnel Action

8.3 (Item #3) Request to increase and decrease Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2013-2014 school year Action

8.4 (Item #4) Recommended Action for Classified Personnel Action

8.5 (Item #5) Classified Personnel: Request to Increase Positions Action

8.6 (Item #6) Education Code 44258.2 – BOARD AUTHORIZATIONS Action

8.7 (Item #7) Approval of Variable Term Waiver Requests Action

8.8 (Item #8) IFAS Vendor Warrant Report and IFAS Vendor Warrant Cancellations Report for the months of June and July 2013 Action

8.9 (Item #9) Approve adjustments to Special Education/Student Services contracts for the 2012-13 School Year for services rendered Action

8.10 (Item #10) Resolution Rendering Local Ordinances Inapplicable: Northgate High School Aquatics Center Project Action

8.11 (Item #11) Resolution, Disposition of Surplus Property Action

8.12 (Item #12) Ratification of Award of Summer Contract Action

8.13 (Item #13) Ratification of Award of Summer Contracts Action

8.14 (Item #14) Ratification of Award of Summer Contracts Action

8.15 (Item #15) Final Change Order for Bid #1618/Contract C-914 for Structured Cabling, Adding Ethernet Drops in Classrooms with Fiber Optic Backbone at various school sites. Action

8.16 (Item #16) Notice of Completion for Bid #1618/C-914 Action

8.17 (Item #17) Ratification of Award – Inspector of Record (Project Inspector) Contract Action

8.18 (Item #18) Independent Contract for The Event Group. Action

8.19 (Item #19) Independent Contract for STAND! for Families Free of Violence. Action

8.20 (Item #20) 2013-14 Contract for Sierra Pacific Tours Action

8.21 (Item #21) 2012 Contract 2012-13 for Michaels Transportation Action

8.22 (Item #22) Williams Quarterly Summary Report Action

9.0 Consent Items Pulled for Discussion

10.0 Public Comment
10.1 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

11.0 Communications
11.1 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

12.0 Reports/Information

13.0 Business/Action Items
13.1 Appointment of Principal, Elementary School Action

13.2 Appointment of Vice Principal, High School Action

13.3 Appointment of Vice Principal, High School Action

13.4 Appointment of Vice Principal, Middle School Action

13.5 Appointment of Administrator, Equity and Disproportionality Action

13.6 Appointment of Program Specialist, Categorical Programs, Site Based Action

13.7 Appointment of Program Specialist, Categorical Programs, Site Based Action

13.8 Appointment of Program Specialist, Special Education Action

13.9 Appointment of Program Specialist, Special Education Action
13.10 Appointment of Coordinator, Student/Community Services 9-12 Action

13.11 Classified Personnel: Appointment of Assistant Construction Manager Action

13.12 Classified Personnel: Appointment of Educational Consultant/Behavior Management Specialist Action

13.13 Classified Personnel: Appointment of Interim Transportation Coordinator Action

13.14 Public Hearing and Adoption of Resolution Accepting Final Environmental Impact Report for the Ygnacio Valley High School Sports Field Lighting Project Info

13.15 Community Facilities District # 1 (Measure A) Action

13.16 Solar Energy Savings and District Cost Update Info

13.17 Department of Justice – Open Purchase Order Action

13.18 Diablo Valley Community College, Contra Costa Community College District, agreement for MDUSD high schools funding, effective July 1, 2013 to May 30, 2014. Action

13.19 Request to approve MDUSD/Solution Tree Marzano Research Lab Contract Action

13.20 Multi-Disciplinary Team for Equity and Disproportionality Action

13.21 Meeting Extension Action

14.0 Future Agenda Items

15.0 Board Member Reports
15.1 Board reports Info

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

17.0 Adjournment
17.1 Adjourn Meeting Info”

Although Trustee Brian Lawrence has repeatedly asked that the names of candidates be made public before board meetings, so the public can comment on the appointments before they are made, no names appear on the agenda reports. The district typically doesn’t name the candidates until the item comes up for a vote, when the name is announced by Julie Braun-Martin. This gives the public no opportunity to comment, since the public is left in the dark until the last minute.

Do you think the district and board should list the names of those to be appointed on staff reports or attach an addendum to the agenda the day of the meeting listing the names, so the public could have the opportunity to comment before the board votes?

LIVE BLOG OF MEETING:

Trustee Lynne Dennler is absent.

Hansen reported out of closed session that board discussed negotiations with an unrepresented employee and will continue those discussions after the meeting (regarding superintendent).

Board approved consent calendar.

Posted on Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
Under: Education | 67 Comments »

Mt. Diablo school board names superintendent finalist from San Diego

I received an e-mail from Mt. Diablo school board President Cheryl Hansen this afternoon that names Dr. Nellie Meyer, who is a Deputy Superintendent in San Diego, as the finalist for the superintendent position.

Hansen said she sent the following letter to district staff updating them on the appointment process and she wanted to make sure that I also received the information, which she said I could share with the public. Here is Hansen’s letter:

“August 7, 2013

TO: Mt. Diablo Unified School District Staff

FROM: Cheryl Hansen, Board President

RE: Update on Appointment of New Superintendent

The Mt. Diablo Unified School District Board of Education is pleased to announce that we have unanimously chosen Dr. Nellie Meyer as the finalist for the position of Superintendent. Currently, Dr. Meyer is Deputy Superintendent in San Diego Unified School District.

Final negotiations for a contract are in progress. As part of the final process, the board will conduct a validation visit within the next two weeks to Dr. Meyer’s district and hold teleconferences between MDUSD and SDUSD stakeholder groups. The Board expects that ratification of the appointment of Dr. Nellie Meyer as our district’s next superintendent will occur at our regular board meeting on August 28, 2013.

Based on the feedback received from our parents, staff, and community
members and, after a rigorous screening and interview process, Dr. Meyer was chosen from an outstanding field of candidates as the best match for our district needs.

Dr. Meyer’s experience and credentials are exactly what we need in our district.

She has developed strong connections among community, district, schools, and classrooms and worked to ensure that schools are positive learning environments that are supported and focused on improving student achievement and preparing students for college and careers. She has engendered trust, fostered collaboration and communication, built and maintained relationships while raising expectations and increasing student success.

Dr. Meyer, a native San Diegan, began as a teacher’s aide at Jackson
Elementary while she attended San Diego State University, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She also received her Master’s Degree in Administration and her Doctoral Degree in Education from SDSU. Dr. Meyer holds teaching credentials in Social Science, English, and Language Development. She has taught everything from fifth grade literacy to eighth grade Algebra to twelfth grade Economics.

Dr. Meyer has presented at national conferences on topics including school turnaround, dropout prevention, and school system best practices. She has also led and served on numerous community task forces designed to further student achievement at all grade levels, partner with universities, and support at-risk youth.

Prior to her current position, Dr. Meyer served as a middle school teacher, high school teacher, dean of students, vice principal, principal, Assistant Superintendent of High Schools, Chief High School Improvement Officer, Executive Director of Dropout Prevention, Interim Chief Elementary School Improvement Officer, Interim Deputy Superintendent, and Deputy Superintendent of Academics.

The Board of Education made our decision with input gathered from key
stakeholder groups in Mt. Diablo USD regarding the qualities desired in the next superintendent. Dr. Michael Escalante and Dr. Sally Frazier, consultants from the firm of Leadership Associates, assisted us in our search.

Dr. Meyer is honored to have been chosen and excited about serving our community. She looks forward to the opportunity to share successes that she has implemented as well as to support programs that are successfully in place in our district.

The Board of Education is equally excited and optimistic about the positive leadership that Dr. Meyer will bring to our school community.”

Do you agree with the school board’s decision?

Posted on Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 185 Comments »

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

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?

Posted on Friday, August 2nd, 2013
Under: Education, Walnut Creek School District | 17 Comments »