Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for December, 2013

Guest post regarding MDUSD Bond Oversight Committee

The following guest post was submitted to me by g. de la verdad regarding the Mt. Diablo school district’s Bond Oversight Committee. Please note this post is the opinion of the guest poster.

“The board is due in January to assign board members to their committee assignments.  As it is, without minutes we cannot tell if those assigned last year have even attended the meetings of their assigned posts.

To Brian Lawrence, Linda Mayo:
RE: Bond Oversight Committee(s) 2013.

Knowing how difficult it is to find volunteers, it is not too soon to start recruiting (and installing) new members for our Bond Oversight Committee(s).  ALL original 2yr (X two terms) member Terms will expire in AUG 2014.

Question:   Of those recruited after June 2010, (who actually attend) whose seat did they fill – which should determine their official ‘term’ of membership? Please don’t tell me “no one kept track of that.”

Bylaw:  ‘5.4 Term. Except as otherwise provided herein, each member shall serve a term of two (2) years, beginning August 10, 2010. No member may serve more than two (2) consecutive terms. At the Committee’s first meeting, members shall draw lots to select a minimum majority for an initial two (2)-year term and the remaining members for an initial one (1)-year term.’

That Bylaw is NOT to be interpreted by the ‘needs’ or ‘wants’ of either staff or the existing members on any given day, for any given cause. Either follow the Bylaws, or hold a public hearing and then ask the Board to vote to change them. Keeping those Terms in mind, please note:

Some members held themselves to their initial 1 or 2 year terms, and have stopped attending. However, possibly to ‘by-step’ Prop 39 mandates, some names are being kept on the roster long after they stopped attending, and some far beyond their legal term, and some without attending for two or more years.

Some with a 1 yr term, automatically extended for another 1 yr but, in fact, are still on the committee 3.5 yrs later. Some were placed on the committee, by ‘staff’ recommendation to the board, only to fulfill certain Prop 39 criteria — but have attended, at best, one meeting a year, if ever at all.  Some may have never actually attended more than one meeting in over three years. This is NOT the intent of the law.

Board Member(s) assigned to the BOC are to, on a regular basis, report back to the board – and taxpayers – on the activities of the BOC – Not the bond, but the committee!  That is especially important when dealing with Measure C Staff who seem not only reticent, but in fact rebellious in adhering to the Prop 39 requirements. In this case, that minutes be posted in a timely manner. It is not enough to have the BOC Chair annually regurgitate a STAFF engineered PowerPoint, spilling out data that is more than a year – or two – old, just to ‘fulfill the requirement’ and ‘fill the allotted space on the board calendar.’  That too, is not the intent of the Prop 39 law.

NINE months:  On 12/13/2013, at 3:05 pm, the minutes of March 2013 were posted for the 2010 measure. None for 2002. With that, we are still waiting for June and Sept minutes, and fear that they too will take nine months to post for the public/taxpayer benefit.

Please take the time to read, carefully, the March minutes. Please go back and read the older ones too.  You will see a pattern. A pattern that is often repeated when questions are asked at Board Meetings.  Then, ask yourself: ‘If I were the person asking staff these questions, would I be satisfied with these answers, or in many instances, non answers.’

Example: You/the board recently asked Tim Cody if Alisha Jensen carried insurance on any workers she might hire as subs or assistants. His answer was: ‘I don’t think she will need that on this project.’

Was that really an answer to the question?  Not even close. But the board accepted it – as if it had come from some higher authority. I remind you that the board didn’t hire or even ratify Tim Cody’s position. Pedersen ‘bequeathed’ the job to him.

With this new board I had hoped that the dogmatic Staff control – and the board’s lax oversight – of the mandated requirements of G.O. Bonds-Prop 39 would be addressed and corrected when needed.  That has not happened. Specific to this problem, I hoped the BOC would, as mandated by Prop 39, be given a proper ‘secretary/clerk’ to handle quarterly minutes and upkeep of the BOC’s portion of the Measure C website. Sadly, after a full year of waiting, I and many other taxpayers are very disappointed.

That takes us back to the huge dilemma. We have a scant handful of dedicated volunteers on the BOCs). How shall we handle their mandatory departure in just a few months?

Jay Bedecarre -1 yr
John Burke    -1 yr
Rick Callaway -2 yrs
John Ferrante -2 yrs
Brent Hayes   -1 yr
Pat Howlett   -1 yr
Bonnie McDonald-2 yrs
Faye Mettler  -1 yr
Susan Noack   -1 yr
John Parker   -2 yrs
Jenney Reik   -1 yr
Tina Seagrove -2 yrs
Mark Weinmann -1 yr
Jack Weir     -2 yrs
Marc Willis   -1 yr
Larry Wirick  -1 yr

Evident that they either chose 1 or 2 yr terms incorrectly, or minutes were typed incorrectly—and should have never been approved. There should have been a ‘simple majority’ of the initial ‘2 yr’ members.”

Do you share g’s concerns?

Posted on Sunday, December 22nd, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 23 Comments »

State Superintendent of Public Schools outlines some plans for 2014

Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, speaks at his inauguration at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord.

Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, speaks at his inauguration at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord.

Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, is already gearing up for his re-election run next year.

“It’s the toughest work I’ve ever done, but the most rewarding work,” said the Pittsburg resident, who is a former Mt. Diablo school district science teacher and cross country coach. “I love working with students. I’m a teacher and a coach and this gives me a chance to work on a large scale to help students across the state — not only help them, but be inspired by them. I am just amazed at what students are doing and what a great future they have and what potential we could have helping them get their education.”

During an end-of-the-year interview, we discussed several issues, including the new Common Core standards and the state’s school funding formula, which will appear in a story in this newspaper. In this blog, I am excerpting another portion of the interview related to Torlakson’s emphasis on student absenteeism and career technical education.

“Q. What can be done to cut down on student absenteeism and why is that important?

A. On the big focus points for next year, including absenteeism, we have to have parent involvement. We recently had a chronic absenteeism symposium in Orange County. We called it ‘Keep kids in school and out of court.’ It’s the whole idea of turning off the faucet on the school-to-prison pipeline with intervention — more counselors and on-campus suspensions, instead of sending them off to their neighborhood. We’re looking at disproportionate suspensions of African Americans and Latinos. How can we help diffuse situations, help with problems in their lives, implement more effective restorative justice programs and provide more counselors to help these students?

In some areas like Oakland, Richmond and Los Angeles, 20 percent of kindergartners are chronically absent. Once that starts, students get farther behind. We already know low-income an English learners come into kindergarten with one-fifth the vocabulary of students who come from homes where parents read to them. You can’t learn if you’re not there, even if you have the best teachers and best facilities. We need services and interventions to help parents, get kids to school and knock down absenteeism. That’s a moneymaker for the districts as well as the right thing to do with kids. Once the kids are in their seats, the school gets funding for them.

Q. What kinds of interventions do you have in mind?

A. I did some of this when I was a teacher in Pacifica High School in the community of West Pittsburg — everything from calling parents to sending someone out. I used to go out to neighborhoods in Bay Point, which was then called West Pittsburg. I would go out and sometimes I interrupted the family’s dinner and I said, ‘I’m your son’s teacher and we have some issues we want to work out.’

Some students are being left at home because they have an elderly grandparent in a wheelchair and no one to watch them. Or, mom says, ‘I don’t have money to pay for day care for 3-year-old sister Sally, you take are of her.’ We sent social workers out and helped find where they could get elderly care or child care.

Some parents need a wake up call from the district. Attorney General Kamala Harris has worked on this — to inform parents not only of their moral, but legal responsibilities.

We also have a model SARB (School Attendance Review Boards) program that deals with kids who are truant and missing school, sharing best practices. So, those are things we’re already doing and could expand on, along with involving parents.

Q. What’s another priority for you?

A. Career Technical Education is a new emphasis. There are nearly 500 Partnership Academies in the state. They link learning in all curriculum areas at high schools to career pathways, to the real world. My department will be issuing requests for grant proposals in January for the new $250 million Career Pathways Trust fund.

I created a Career Readiness Initiative three years ago. It ties into the goals of the new Common Core standards, with relevancy, workplace readiness and 21st Century skills, which employers want. They want team work. They want communication skills. They want critical thinkers and problem-solvers.”

What do you think the state should do to cut down on absenteeism and prepare students for the workforce?

Posted on Friday, December 20th, 2013
Under: Bay Point, California, Education, Pittsburg, Tom Torlakson | 13 Comments »

MDUSD Board to approve new general counsel, Local 1 contract tonight

Tonight, the Mt. Diablo school board expects to appoint a new general counsel and to approve a bargaining agreement with the Local 1 Maintenance and Operations workers that appears to mirror the agreement with the Clerical, Secretarial and Technical unit.

Here is the agenda for tonight’s meeting, which is at 7:30 p.m. in the district office 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 The board may discuss or provide direction to its negotiators regarding unrepresented employee, pursuant to Government Code section 54957.6. Agency negotiator: Dr. Nellie Meyer. Unrepresented employee: General Counsel. Public Employment. Title: General Counsel. Action
4.3 Expulsion of student #02-14 from all regular schools of Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
4.4 Pending Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t Code Section 54956.9(1) in the matter of OAH Case #2013100126. Action

5.0 Reconvene Open Session
5.1 Reconvene Open Session at 7:30 p.m. Info
6.0 Preliminary Business
6.1 Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call Info
7.0 Report Out Action Taken in Closed Session
7.1 Report out of Closed Session Info

8.0 Organizational Meeting
8.1 Annual Board of Education Organizational Meeting Info
8.2 Elect Board President Action
8.3 Elect Vice President Action
8.4 Appoint Secretary Action

8.5 Establish Regular Meeting Dates, Time and Location Action
8.6 Adopt Certificate of Signatures Action

9.0 Student Representatives
9.1 Student representatives will report on activities at their schools. Info

10.0 Board Member Reports
10.1 Board Reports Info

11.0 Superintendent’s Report
11.1 Superintendent’s Report Info

12.0 Consent Agenda Action
12.1 (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
12.2 (Item #2) Recommended Action for Certificated Personnel Action
12.3 (Item #3) Request to Increase and Decrease Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2013-2014 School Year Action
12.4 (Item #4) Community Engagement Memo of Understanding between Saint Mary’s College of California and Mt. Diablo Unified School District Action
12.5 (Item #5) Recommended Action for Classified Personnel Action
12.6 (Item #6) Classified Personnel: Request to Increase and Decrease Positions Action
12.7 (Item #7) Independent Services Contract for Events to the “T” Inc. Action
12.8 (Item #8) Approve submission of the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21stCCLC) and ASSETs grant for two high schools, one middle and five elementary schools. Action
12.9 (Item #9) Fiscal Transactions for the month of November 2013. Action
12.10 (Item #10) Budget Transfer and/or Budget Increases/Decreases for the month of October 2013 Action
12.11 (Item #11) Contract for Maintenance of District’s Phone Systems and Voice Mail Action
12.12 (Item #12) Request for Purchase Order for A to Z Bus Sales Action
12.13 (Item #13) Request to issue Purchase Order to Sabah International Action
12.14 (Item #14) Board Bylaw 9200 – Limits of Board Member Authority Action
12.15 (Item #15) Approval of increase to Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Ed Contract for Mt. Diablo Elementary School Action
12.16 (Item #16) Award of Bid #1652: South West Parking Lot Overlay Expansion Project at Clayton Valley Charter High School Action
12.17 (Item #17) Award of Lease/Lease-back Agreement with Taber Construction, Inc. to support RFQ/RFP 1664 – Middle School General Science Classroom Buildings 2014 Project Action
12.18 (Item #18) Design Service Contract Amendment Salas O’Brian – security system replacement Action
12.19 (Item #19) Design Service Contract amendments for Smith, Fause & McDonald(SFMI) – technology improvements de-scope of work Action
12.20 (Item #20) Award of Inspector of Record (Project Inspector) Contract for Aquatic Center Project at Northgate High School Action
12.21 (Item #21) Amendment to Cal-Air (Johnson Control) Phase 2 Energy Conservation Project Action
12.22 (Item #22) Notice of Completion for L/LB#1616: Construction and Finishes for 2013 Chemistry/Science Buildings at Concord High School and College Park High School Action
12.23 (Item #23) Notice of Completion for LLB #1626: Elementary and Pleasant Hill Middle School Technology Improvements Action
12.24 (Item #24) Notice of Completion for LLB 1640: Modernization of S Wing, Shop Building at YVHS Action
12.25 (Item #25) Notice of Completion for LLB #1641: Science Center Remodel, Building 100 at YVHS Action
12.26 (Item #26) Resolution#13-14/25 Authorization for submittal of Bus Retrofit Grant to Bay Area Air Quality Management District Action
13.0 Consent Items Pulled for Discussion

14.0 Recognitions
14.1 Announcements/Awards Info

15.0 Public Comment
15.1 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

16.0 Communications
16.1 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

17.0 Reports/Information
17.1 Information Provided to Board and Community Info

18.0 Business/Action Item
18.1 Appointment of General Counsel and Resolution to designate specified position as senior management of the classified service, appoint an employee and set a salary Action

18.2 Appointment of Program Specialist, Special Education Action

18.3 Appointment of Social Work Specialist Action

18.4 Classified Personnel: Appointment of Educational Consultation and Behavior Management Specialist Action

18.5 Appointment of Vice Principal, High School – Concord High School Action

18.6 Appointment of Coordinator, Student Services 6-8 – Sequoia Middle School Action

18.7 Approval of Independent Service Contract with Center for Human Development for $50,000. Action

18.8 First Interim Report 2013-2014 Action

18.9 Budget Development Calendar 2014-2015 Action

18.10 Request to Approve Tentative Agreement between Public Employees Union Local 1 (M&O) and the Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) Action

18.11 Approval of Textbook Adoption for AP Physics, Physics for Scientists and Engineers with Modern Physics, Pearson, 4th edition by Douglas C. Giancoli Action

18.12 Independent Services Contract with Pivot Learning Partners Action

18.13 Sole Source Authorization and Consent Form– APPLE, INC. Action

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

18.15 Award of Contract with DecoTech Systems for the Middle School Laptop Order, through the 2010 Measure C Facility Improvement Program, as part of the Classroom Technology Enhancements Project. Action

18.16 Award of Inspector of Record (Project Inspector) Contract for MDUSD Project 1663 Portable Replacements & MDUSD Project 1664 MS General Science Buildings. Action

18.17 Award of Lease/Lease-back Agreement with Taber Construction, Inc. to support RFQ/RFP 1663 – Portable Classroom Replacement 2014. Action

18.18 Award of Lease-Leaseback Agreement to Kenridge Builders, Inc. Construction of New Aquatics Center at Northgate High School Action

18.19 Final Change Order for LLB #1616 – Taber Construction Inc. for Chemistry Classrooms 2013 at Concord/Nueva Vista and College Park High School. Action

18.20 Contract Amendment: Salas O’Brien Engineers, Inc. Ygnacio Valley High School Stadium Lighting Project Action

18.21 Final Change Order for LLB #1641 – Landmark Construction, Inc. for Modernization of Science Center, building 100, at Ygnacio Valley High School Action

18.22 Final Change Order for LLB #1640 – Landmark Construction, Inc. for Modernization of S-Wing, Shop Building 1300, at Ygnacio Valley High School Action

18.23 Meeting Extension Action

19.0 Future Agenda Items

20.0 Closed Session
20.1 Items not completed during the first Closed Session will be carried over to this closed session. Action
21.0 Adjournment
21.1 Adjourn Meeting Info”

Due to a greater emphasis on regional stories at Bay Area News Group, I will not be attending tonight’s meeting. However, I will try to watch portions of it online and will report on the general counsel appointment, Local 1 agreement and reorganization.

Do you agree with the recommendation that the general counsel be designated as senior management of the classified service?

Posted on Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 116 Comments »

Do you know the code? If not, learn it next week!

By the year 2020, the United States could be short 1 million computer programmers, according, a nonprofit that wants to bring computer science instruction to every K-12 school.

To raise awareness of the dire need for more computer programmers and help celebrate Computer Science Education Week from Dec. 9-14, is organizing “a massive campaign to recruit 10 million students to try one hour of computer science.”

Called “Hour of Code,” the campaign revolves around the concept that every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science, which builds creativity problem-solving skills.

Jobs in computer programming are growing three times faster than the number of students entering the field, according to
Exacerbating the problem, only 10 percent of schools in the country teach computer science, which is fewer than taught it a decade ago.

To encourage more teachers and schools to teach programming skills, has prepared free self-guided activities for students at all grade levels available at Tutorials will include lectures from Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, along with artwork from the popular Angry Birds and Plans vs. Zombies games.

Nearly 34,000 teachers and others had signed up to host The Hour of Code by Friday, according to the website. Of those, about 11,570 planned to involve their entire schools. Overall, participants expected to teach computer code to more than 4.5 million students in 167 countries during the week.

In the Bay Area, dozens of schools plan to join the fun, including Granada High in Livermore, where Computer Science and Technology teacher Carol Kinnard will teach The Hour of Code after school to anyone who wants to check it out.

Kinnard got turned onto computer programming in high school in 1979, when the course was brand new at her school.

“We had a math teacher who wanted to play around with the computers and teach it to us,” Kinnard said. “I saw it as this wonderful puzzle that I had to solve and this very cool mystery. I was engaged.”

Kinnard worked as a computer programmer in Silicon Valley for several years before deciding to bring her skills and knowledge to classrooms. This year, she said her program has grown from two programming classes to nine.

“I’m thrilled,” she said. “We have an AP (Advanced Placement) computer science class where the kids are delving deep into the job of programming language and a case study where they have to learn it and modify it.”

At the other end of the spectrum, she said, is Exploring Computer Science, where students learn about the Internet and basic programming language. Kinnard also teaches a midlevel course called computer science and software engineering.

“That goes deep into a lot of the ideas that computer science either generates or works with,” she said. “We do a lot of programming in that course, but we do it in a lot of different languages instead of in-depth Java.”

The course also includes data simulation, genomics, and analyzing “big data,” which involves the collection of data that is so large and complex it can be difficult to process. For example, Kinnard said the class might talk about how to analyze the all the birthrates for the entire planet and how meaningful that would be.

As the gap between computer programming jobs and qualified candidates grows, Kinnard and others participating in The Hour of Code are hoping to excite more people about pursuing programming careers.

“The divide is going to be getting worse,” Kinnard said. “It’s going to really escalate in 2014-15.”

The Hour of Code campaign is backed by Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the College Board, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and more than 100 other individuals and organizations. Computer Science Education Week starts Dec. 9 on the birthday of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, a computing pioneer born in 1906.

“I think it’s going to make a difference,” Kinnard predicted, “especially if we can get teachers more educated on the value of computer science and get parents and kids to explore computer science.”

Do you think more schools should offer computer programming courses?

Posted on Friday, December 6th, 2013
Under: Education, Livermore | 1 Comment »