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Archive for November, 2013

Former NFL player tells Northgate students to be thankful for their talents

photo (4)As students and their families take a few days off from school and work to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I thought it would be appropriate to share some wisdom from former NFL player Honor Jackson’s recent visit to Northgate High in Walnut Creek.

Jackson visited the school to talk about concussion awareness, prevention and treatment, while also lauding staff and students for their Safe School Sports Award from the National Athletic Trainers Association. In addition, he gave students some advice to help them understand that although sports provide many wonderful life lessons, athletic activities are no substitute for a well-rounded education.

“Sports is a great, great thing in our culture,” he said. “It’s big in America, big in most cultures. One of the things that I teach all of the kids that I work with in my mentoring program and our sports camps and whatnot is sportsmanship, teamwork, and be thankful that you have the talent to play. Others have talent in math, speaking, writing, whatever it might be, being a doctor. But, be thankful for those talents, whatever you may have.”

Jackson said students should also be thankful for the education they are getting about the dangers of concussions, pointing out that he and other players didn’t know about the need to rest after getting knocked in the head back when he was a professional player.

“I wanted to get back out onto the field,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even tell the coach that I was seeing stars or that I was dizzy or that I couldn’t remember the next play. I wouldn’t do that because I didn’t know what we now know — that when we do hit someone in a jarring fashion or in a collision, that it does shake your brain. That’s education. And that’s what you all need is that education. And that’s what they’re providing here — that education for you — so you know what you’re getting into, so down the road, you won’t have the dementia and those kinds of things.”

Students should be thankful for well-trained coaches and teachers who are aware of the effects of concussions, Jackson said, since problems can develop if head injuries are not identified and students are not allowed to recuperate.

“I’m thankful I’m here and I’m thankful I can talk to you guys about these things,” said Jackson, who is 65. “What you want is — when you get to be my age — to be able to do the same thing. Take care of yourself. Take care of your body physically and mentally. You guys need to understand that this concussion thing, when I was your age, that meant nothing. Now, we understand.”

Many athletes must rely on their education if injuries prevent them from continuing to play sports, he said.

“The reason I quit playing football was I got injured — I tore a nerve here in my leg,” Jackson said. “That’s another thing that happens in sports. But it didn’t stop me from doing anything else. The concussion part could have possibly stopped me from doing other things. If I injured my shoulder or injured my knee or my foot, I may not walk perfectly, but I could do any other job there is to do. That’s exactly what happened. When I got injured, then I had to go to another career. But I had education. I had a degree.”

Jackson worked for several years as a manager of Long’s Drugs Stores and also works mentoring youth.

Yet, he said he learned many important lessons through sports.

“Through football, I’ve learned that I could get knocked on my rear end and get up and play again,” Jackson said. “That will happen to you in life. Sports teaches you a lot about life, whether you play soccer, football, basketball, track, whatever it is. Your competitive juices are what made America what it is. We’ve got to get back to those ideals in terms of being a strong country. I think you guys could lead that charge.”

What are you thankful for?

Posted on Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Walnut Creek | No Comments »

Warren Eukel Teacher Trust Award winners inspire with their speeches

Every year, I look forward to attending the Warren Eukel Teacher Trust Awards dinner to hear inspiring speeches from three educators selected to receive $10,000 each in recognition of their exemplary work.

This year, Acalanes High English teacher Natalie Moore compared her time with each student to hanging out with them on a porch, Hanna Ranch Elementary teacher Sarah Creeley summed up her teaching experiences as giving and receiving love, and Kensington Hilltop Elementary teacher Beatrice Lieberman said she often plays her trusty guitar and sings to her students, who respond enthusiastically to the arts.

“The profession of teaching is misnamed,” Moore said. “To me, it should be called being a ‘learner.’”

Even though she has read “To Kill a Mockingbird” numerous times with classes over the years, Moore said she learns something new each time. For example, after reading the last chapter of the book this year, one of her students pointed out that Scout Finch was on the porch of Boo Radley, seeing things from Boo’s perspective.

The student reminded the class that Scout’s father had previously told her that you never really understand a person until you see things from his point of view. Moore said her students discussed empathy and compassion and learning through their parents’ examples, along with the importance of seeing things from other points of view.

“I sat back, I listened, I learned,” she said. “Because that’s really what teaching is — it’s standing on the porch of our students’ minds and seeing things from their points of view. It’s seeing things from fresh new perspectives outside of ourselves, every year, every day, every period.”

As students move on at the end of the year, teachers move off their porches and make room for new students.

“As we step away from them,” she said, “we hope that at least one lesson, at least one memory, will be carried with them as they expand, remodel, develop.”

Creeley thanked her family and her education mentors for their inspiration.

“For me, tonight is all about love,” she said. “The love my family gives me, the love I give to my students, the love they give to me, love for our community and all who are there.”

She said some people tell her she is always smiling and always happy. After working with special education students who had no choices in their lives, Creeley said she always feels grateful.

“I don’t care how much money I have,” she said. “I am poor. I’ll tell you right now. But, I’m rich, because I realize how lucky I am. And I just would like for everybody to appreciate those things that we have — that may seem so simple — but are so tremendous to so many people.”

Lieberman took the opportunity to talk not only about her classroom teaching, but her education philosophy.

“First and foremost, the humanity of all children should be honored at all times,” she said. “There is no magic formula or one-size fits all method.”

Nothing, she said, can substitute for the warmth and nurturing a teacher can provide. Her secrets, she said, are music and great stories.

“With my fearless guitar, I use great folk songs or songs I write myself,” she said. “The best teaching and learning occurs when art is wed to academics.”

She railed against standardized curriculum, saying teachers must have a voice in discussions about changes.

“Children are not factory products and they are not for sale,” she said. “We must not let anyone’s financial interest in our tax dollars drill the beauty of learning out of our children.”

A formulaic curriculum and high stakes testing will not take the country in the direction it needs to go, she said.

“Education is a basic human right,” Lieberman said. “We need to work together not to fill the pail, but to light the fire to ignite the desire in children to learn.”

I also got a chance to chat briefly with Sarah Peddie, who won the award last year.

“When you win something like this,” Peddie said, “it just re-energizes you for the next millennium.”

What is your reaction to the speeches?

NOV. 23 UPDATE: Here are links to video clips from the first two speeches. Unfortunately, my cell phone died during Sarah Creeley’s speech, so I was unable to videotape the end of it or to record Beatrice Lieberman’s speech and intro.

Intro to Natalie Moore:

Natalie Moore’s speech:

Intro to Sarah Creeley:

Sarah Creeley’s speech:

Posted on Friday, November 22nd, 2013
Under: Contra Costa County, Education | 7 Comments »

Pleasant Hill Education initiative hosts Wednesday Career Night at College Park High

The Pleasant Hill Education Initiative will present a Career Night for College Park High students Wednesday at the school.

The free event is from 6:30-8 p.m. in the multi-use room at 201 Viking Drive in Pleasant Hill.

Professionals in the engineering, manufacturing, construction and architecture industries will discuss the education and training needed to work in their fields.

More information is available at

Do you think this event should be open to students from other schools, including middle schools in Pleasant Hill?

Posted on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
Under: Education, Martinez school district, Pleasant Hill | 3 Comments »

MDUSD seeks holiday donations for foster youth and homeless students

As we prepare for the holiday season, the Mt. Diablo school district asks community members to consider donating food, checks, gift cards and/or hoodies and sweatshirts to foster youth and homeless students.

James Wogan, who coordinates the annual program, sent the following e-mail to remind the public of the program:

“Dear Friends, In the spirit of the holiday season, I am writing to ask for your consideration to contribute to a foster youth or homeless student. Last school year, the Mt. Diablo Unified Homeless Outreach Program for Education (HOPE) served 457 homeless students and the Mt. Diablo Unified Foster Youth Services Program (FYS) served 268 foster youth. We help students in kindergarten through high school to overcome trauma and hardship to do well in school. Education is the key to their future. Your contribution will help make the holidays a little brighter for our students.

Donations made by check can be made payable to ‘MDUSD HOPE.’ Please indicate if you would like a receipt for tax purposes. Donations of Target, Safeway, or other gift cards are also helpful because they are easy to distribute and allow students to choose their own gifts.

Please send contributions to:

James Wogan and Elsa Dalpiaz
Mt. Diablo Homeless Outreach Program for Education (MDUSD HOPE)
2730 Salvio St., Concord, CA 94519

‘Food insecurity’ is a challenge for our homeless families. Homeless students and families especially need open-and-eat food such as power bars and fruit roll ups. Nonperishable food donations or grocery store gift cards can be dropped off at the Mt. Diablo Unified District Office, 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord, CA 94519.

If you would like to sponsor an individual foster youth or homeless student for the holidays, please go to or We don’t use the words ‘adopt-a-family’ for the holidays because this is a loaded term for foster youth.

We are also collecting new hoodies and sweatshirts for our homeless students and foster youth. New hoodies and sweatshirts can be dropped off at three locations:

1) The Mt. Diablo Unified District Office, 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord, CA.
2) The Willow Creek Education Center, 1026 Mohr Lane, Concord, CA.
3) The Mt. Diablo Homeless Outreach Program for Education (HOPE), 2730 Salvio St., Concord, CA, Room 24.

Please feel free to share these opportunities to help children in need.”

Wogan — who has been named a Bay Area News Group Hometown Hero for his work with at-risk students — spoke about the youth he serves at a recent school board meeting.

“Our programs provide great support for our student who have faced trauma — some of which you couldn’t believe — hardships and stressors that can be hard to imagine,” he said. “We know that working together takes a village so that kids can thrive in the classroom.”

Wogan thanked companies, individuals and board members who have already contributed.

“People have been so generous in this district,” he said. “It baffles me at the holiday season that sometimes people who are struggling themselves contribute to the welfare of (other) people who are struggling.”

The sweatshirt program, he said, is called “Hoodies for Hope.” The district accepting the sweatshirts in sizes extra small through double extra large.

Wogan also stressed the importance of what some might consider “little things,” such as the ability of parents to buy gifts for their children. The donation of checks and gift cards makes this possible.

The sponsorship program allows donors to purchase gifts from an anonymous wish list provided by a student. Donations of nonperishable foods assist families who live in cars, runaways or other students without permanent homes.

“We have about 60 families who have no access to cooking,” Wogan said. “Kids can’t learn on an empty stomach.”

Here are links to Wogan talking about the programs at the Oct. 23 board meeting:

Do you have suggestions for other ways Wogan could get the word out about these programs?

Posted on Friday, November 15th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 2 Comments »

MDUSD board to meet tonight to appoint an elementary principal, vote on Northgate aquatic center

The teachers’ union is planning an rally tonight before the school board meeting to protest the district’s last, best and final offer before impasse was declared. Union members and their children will participate in fun activities from 4-6 p.m., followed by a rally from 6-7:30 p.m. outside the Dent Center and Monte Gardens Elementary.

Here is the agenda for the meeting, which is slated to begin at 7:30 in the district office at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord. However, it could be moved to Monte Gardens Elementary next door in the event of a large crowd. Interestingly, one of the elementary principals has been moved from an action item to an information item/report since the agenda was originally posted. Yet, there is no indication on this agenda that the item was changed.

“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 Readmission of Student #32-12 Action
4.3 Pending Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t Code Section 54956.9(1) regarding matter of D. Reynolds v. MDUSD Info
4.4 Pending Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t Code Section 54956.9(1) regarding Rhinehart v. Mt. Diablo Unified School District, et al, Contra Costa Superior Court Case No. C13-00297 Info
4.5 Pending Litigation – Confeence with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t Code Section 54956.9(1) regarding I.H. (a minor) v. MDUSD, OAH Case No. 2013090182 Action
4.6 Pending Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t Code Section 54956.9(1) regarding N.M. (a minor) v. MDUSD, OAH Case No. 2013080665 Action
4.7 Pending Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t Code Section 54956.9 (1) regarding Bay Area News Group, et al v. Mt. Diablo Unified School District, et al, Contra Costa Superior Court Case No. N13-1551. Info
4.8 Potential Litigation based on facts and circumstances regarding various J.Doe claims pursuant to Gov’t Code Section 54956.9(3)(c) Info
4.9 Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Complaint – Three (3) Cases Info
4.10 Public Employee Performance Evaluation. Title: Interim General Counsel 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 Out of Closed Session Info

8.0 Student Representatives
8.1 Student representatives will report on activities at their schools. Info

9.0 Board Member Reports
9.1 Board Reports Info

10.0 Superintendent’s Report
10.1 Superintendent’s Report Info

11.0 Consent Agenda Action
11.1 (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
11.2 (Item #2) Recommended Action for Certificated Personnel Action
11.3 (Item #3) Request to increase Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2013-2014 school year Action
11.4 (Item #4) Recommended Action for Classified Personnel Action
11.5 (Item #5) Internship Agreement between Brandman University and Mt. Diablo Unified School District Action
11.6 (Item #6) Approve contract/purchase order with Marie Wyman, SLP for Speech and Language services for the 2013-14 School Year Action
11.7 (Item #7) Approval of Non-Public School Contracts/Adjustments Action
11.8 (Item #8) Approve Independent Services Contract with Sacramento Childrens Home Action
11.9 (Item #9) Approval of independent contract with Carol Teltschick-Fall for $55,000 as S3 Grant Coordinator for College Park High School. Action
11.10 (Item #10) Fiscal Transactions for the month of October 2013. Action
11.11 (Item #11) Williams Quarterly Summary Report Action
11.12 (Item #12) Approve submission of the Tobacco Use Prevention Education (TUPE) grant to support secondary schools. Action
11.13 (Item #13) Increase to Independent Services Contract with AA Medtrans Action
11.14 (Item #14) Disposal of District Surplus Vehicles Action
11.15 (Item #15) Request contract approval for design services Action
11.16 (Item #16) Final Change Order to LLB #1617 – S-Wing Modernization at Mt. Diablo High School (XL Construction, Inc.) Action
11.17 (Item #17) Final Change Order for LLB #1593 – Window Replacement at College Park High School Action
11.18 (Item #18) Award of Contract with McGrath Corporation dba Mobile Modular Management Corporation for the Lease of Interim Housing Units Necessary for Projects Being Implemented through the 2010 Measure C Facility Improvement Program Action
11.19 (Item #19) Notice of Completion for Lease/Leaseback #1617: Science Wing Renovation at MDHS Action
11.20 (Item #20) Notice of Completion for L/LB #1593: Window Replacement at College Park High School Action
11.21 (Item #21) Contract Amendment: LSA Associates, Inc.: Provision of Requisite Environmental Consulting Services Related to the Revised Stadium Lighting Improvement Project at Ygnacio Valley High School Action

12.0 Consent Items Pulled for Discussion
13.0 Public Comment
13.1 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

14.0 Communications

14.1 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
15.0 Reports/Information

15.1 Annual Report on Schools Identified in the Williams Settlement for Fiscal Year 2013-14 Info

15.2 Appointment of Principal, Elementary School Info

16.0 Business/Action Items

16.1 Appointment of Principal, Elementary School Action

16.2 Appointment of Program Specialist, Categorical Programs, Site Based – Rio Vista Elementary Action

16.3 Appointment of Program Specialist, Categorical Program, Site Based at Bel Air Elementary Action

16.4 Public Hearing Regarding the Final Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Northgate High School Aquatic Center Action

16.5 Adoption of Resolution Accepting Final Initial
Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Northgate High School Aquatic Center Action

16.6 Approval of Northgate High School Aquatic Center Project Action

16.7 Request to Approve Tentative Agreement between Public Employees Union Local 1 (CST) and the Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) Action

16.8 Chabot-Las Positas Community College District contract with Mt. Diablo Adult Education and related MOU’s with Pittsburg, West Contra Costa, and Liberty Adult Education. Action

16.9 Pearson Vue contract and agreements for GED testing. Action

16.10 Firedoll Foundation Grant Action

16.11 Adult Education Board Policy and Administrative Regulations 6200 Action

16.12 18.10 New and Revised Technology Policies – BP 3513, BP/AR 4040, BP 6162.7 Action

16.13 Adoption of Textbook for Sports Medicine II – Principles of Athletic Training: A Competency-Based Approach, Prentice, 15th Edition Action

16.14 Resolution 13/14-23 regarding accounting of development fees for the 2012-2013 fiscal year in the Capital Facilities Fund pursuant to Government Code Sections 66001(d) & 66006(b) Action

16.15 Adoption of Resolution of Dedication of Easement at Shore Acres Elementary School Action

16.16 RFQ/RFP 1627 – Award of Lease-Leaseback Agreement to Taber Construction, Inc. District wide security improvements. Action

16.17 RFQ/RFP 1631 Approval of Preliminary Services Agreement with Meehleis Modular Buildings, Inc. for the Coordination, Constructability Review, Value Engineering and Recommendations related to Building a new Modular Gymnasium at Concord High School. Action

16.18 Award of Independent Services Contract to Enviro-S.T.A.R. for Pre-Construction Hazardous Materials Survey and Specification Preparation for Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning Renovations for Group III sites (El Dorado MS, Highlands ES, Pine Hollow MS, Wren Avenue ES, Pleasant Hill ES, Sequoia MS, Valhalla ES and Walnut Acres ES) Action

16.19 Meeting Extension Action

17.0 Future Agenda Items
17.1 Future Agenda Items 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”

Please note that I will be covering the Contra Costa County Board of Education meeting vote on the controversial Summit Charter School proposed in El Cerrito and will arrive to the MDUSD meeting late.

What items are most interesting to you?

Posted on Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 164 Comments »

Hands-on learning opportunities in high schools could grow in state

Students at DeAnza High in El Sobrante got to strut their stuff Tuesday, when state Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, visited the campus.

Student “ambassadors” led the legislators, press and business reps through the school to see classes that help prepare students for college and careers. Each student must choose between three “academies,” focusing on health, law or technology.

In the health academy, teacher Kenyetta Haynes explained the importance of strong communication skills to students. Student Romina Pelaez, 16, of Richmond, told me these skills will serve students well throughout their lives.

The senior wants to major in psychology in college, then become a neurologist. Last summer, Romina said she had an internship in a dental office where she did filing and prepped the room for patients.

Internships are a hallmark of “linked learning” programs that link what is being taught in the classroom with the real world, making the learning relevant to students and motivating them to explore a variety of career options. Steinberg and other officials visited the campus to generate community and business interest in competitive grants through a $250 million Career Pathways Trust set aside in the state budget to fund similar linked learning programs statewide.

Health academy student Brandy Phillips, 17, said she thinks it’s a good idea to offer career-oriented classes to more students so they can receive the same kinds of opportunities she and her classmates have had.

“Once they get into an area, they will find a calling in it,” she said. “I want to be a nurse practitioner because I feel like I have good communication skills and it’s something I would be good at. It wouldn’t be ‘work’ because it would be something I’d be happy to do every day.”

Brandy said the academy also offers students the opportunity to become Certified Nursing Assistants through Contra Costa Community College and begin working while still in high school.

Some health academy students are studying diabetes in an integrated curriculum that even includes their Spanish class, linking coursework so they can see connections in their community. Similarly, law academy students visit courtrooms to see justice in action, said Judge Judy Johnson, who works with the program.

“In an academic framework, we bring it home to them when they see a defendant in court being arraigned and told what the charges are against them,” she said. “Or sometimes they’ve seen people taken away and incarcerated for a crime they’ve been convicted of committing.”

Law academy senior Michael Reyes, 17, of El Sobrante, said he is learning valuable life skills such as public speaking, collaborating with partners and backing up arguments with facts. He plans to major in criminology and dreams of becoming a district attorney.

“I think the law academy really set me up to pick my profession,” he said. “We had a mentor program with 25 local lawyers and judges. I feel like I got a head start on my college career.”

Technology academy students build robots and participate in robotics competitions. The school also offers Advanced Placement courses, said Principal Bob Evans.

“You can’t give up on any kid,” he said. “Every one of our kids is going to be successful in some way.”

Yet, many DeAnza students must overcome challenges to stay focused on schoolwork, Evans said. Sixty percent are bussed in, many from the often violent Iron Triangle. Some have parents in jail or don’t have enough food for dinner.

“Most of our kids have lived in multiple homes and don’t know where their next home is going to be,” he said. “This is a safe haven for them. We have to look at every student individually and think: ‘How can I support them?’”

DeAnza High is in the West Contra Costa School district. Other East Bay districts with linked learning programs are Antioch, Mt. Diablo and Pittsburg in Contra Costa County, and Oakland and San Lorenzo in Alameda County.

More information about linked learning is available at

Posted on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013
Under: Antioch school district, Education, Oakland school district, Pittsburg school district, San Lorenzo school district, Walnut Creek School District | 4 Comments »

Possible showdown at state Board of Education meeting Thursday over proposed Local Control Funding regulations

The state Board of Education could face a showdown Thursday over proposed regulations for school spending under the new Local Control Funding Formula.

A coalition of civil rights groups including Education Trust-West sent a letter Thursday to Michael Kirst, board president, expressing strong concerns about whether money intended for disadvantaged students will really end up helping them. The advocacy group EdVoice sent a similar letter.

Draft language to be reviewed by trustees would give school districts three ways to satisfy the requirement that they demonstrate increased or improved services for English learners, low-income students and foster youth in proportion to increased funding distributed through supplemental and concentration grants.

1. Districts could spend more money on services for those students in proportion to the increase in supplemental and concentration grant funds over the amount spent the previous year.

2. Districts could provide more, or improve, services for those students in proportion to the increase in grant funding.

3. Districts could promise to improve the achievement of disadvantaged students in proportion to the increase in grant funding.

Arun Ramanathan, executive director of Education Trust-West, said the civil rights coalition supports combining the first two options and eliminating the third.

“We think that’s the most rational way for them to actually comply with the law,” he said. “That would be providing for and spending more on high need students.”

The first option could allow districts to claim they will spend more, without documenting what they would spend it on, he said. If the second option is combined with the first, districts would be forced to outline how they would spend the money on needy students, he said.
Ramanathan called the option to plan to increase achievement “the biggest loophole ever.”

“So basically, you say, ‘OK, we’re just going to plan on increasing achievement in the next few years and we’re just going to use our money whatever way we want,” Ramanathan said. “They have structural costs they want to address. They want to put chunks of money into salary increases and to offset health benefits costs and put money into reserves. But that money is to be used for kids.”

Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s radical shift in school funding, districts get three pots of money: base student grants, supplemental grants for English learners, low-income students and foster youth; and concentration grants for districts where more than 55 percent of students fall into those categories. The idea behind the new law was that the supplemental and concentration grants would help districts overcome persistent achievement gaps.

After the law went into effect July 1, an implementation working group began meeting to come up with draft recommendations for spending regulations the board must approve by January. Although Ed Trust-West and some other advocacy groups participated in the group, Ramanathan said their voices were drowned out by representatives of those who work inside school systems, including unions for teachers and administrators.

Many union members are now eyeing the new money for raises. Ramanathan said it’s appropriate to use the base grant money for across-the-board raises, but not the supplemental and concentration grants.

“I think what they’ve done now is essentially a bait and switch,” he said. “When it comes down to it they are listening to the Sacramento interest groups.”

Similarly, the letter from EdVoice said the proposed regulations “fall far short of the governor’s promise and don’t satisfy the protections of all students guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Ramanathan challenged the board to think about the legacy promised to California children.

“If you’re going to have essentially a vast swath of civil rights organizations saying this isn’t fair,” he said, “then what’s the legacy here?”

Here is the coalition’s letter:

Here is the EdVoice letter:

Do you support the three proposed options for demonstrating evidence of increased or improved services for disadvantaged students?

Posted on Friday, November 1st, 2013
Under: California, Education, Local Control Funding Formula | 34 Comments »