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School districts seek parent input for spending plans

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, January 31st, 2014 at 7:44 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, West Contra Costa school district.

MDUSD administrator leads parent discussion about engagement.

MDUSD administrator leads parent discussion about engagement.

Now that the state Board of Education has adopted emergency regulations and a template to help guide school districts in creating plans for spending their money, parents throughout the state should be hearing about community meetings asking for their opinions.

The Mt. Diablo and West Contra Costa districts started holding meetings in January to explain the state’s requirements for the plans, which must focus on eight priorities.

Nellie Meyer, Superintendent of the Mt. Diablo school district, told parents during a Tuesday meeting at Ygnacio Valley High that the priorities fall into three basic categories: conditions of learning, student outcomes and engagement.

Conditions of learning include: proper teacher assignments and student access to instructional materials; implementation of the state’s new Common Core standards; and student access to a variety of courses.

Student outcomes are: pupil achievement and other measures of student success, such as reclassification of English learners as fluent.

Engagement includes: parental involvement, student engagement, and school climate indicators such as suspension and expulsion rates.

Based on these priorities, districts must decide how to divide their money in ways that will best serve their students. The money includes base grants that can be spent on districtwide needs, along with supplemental grants intended to help narrow the achievement gap for students who are English learners, low-income or foster youth.

Districts with more than 55 percent of students in these categories receive concentration grants for their additional disadvantaged students.

Mt. Diablo does not qualify for a concentration grant because its percentage of disadvantaged students is not high enough, Meyer said. However, she said some schools have a much higher percentage of disadvantaged students.

“In my humble opinion, the formula is flawed,” she said. “It should be by school.”

Parents at the meeting broke into three groups and offered suggestions for improvement in each of the three basic categories, such as ensuring high-quality staff, providing parents with more information about students’ progress and inviting families to fun activities on campus such as potlucks.

Meyer gave a similar presentation about the spending plan Wednesday to the school board. But some public speakers said the presentation included too much hard-to-understand education lingo, while leaving out information about how much money the district is receiving in base and supplemental grants.

Resident Willie Mims said the district needs to ensure that supplemental funding will help the students for whom it is intended.

The Mt. Diablo district will hold more meetings before finalizing its plan in June. Community meetings are at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ygnacio Valley High in Concord, at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at Diablo View Middle School in Clayton, at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Northgate High in Walnut Creek, at 6:30 p.m. March 18 at Concord High, and at 6:30 p.m. April 8 at Mt. Diablo High.

The West Contra Costa district held four community meetings in January and plans to establish a special committee comprised of parent representatives that will vote on its plan. The district has posted notes from its meetings online, including suggestions for programs or services that could help disadvantaged students.

Suggestions from El Cerrito High meeting participants included: better promotion of district resources, hiring certificated teachers for after-school programs, hiring writer coaches, reintroducing music and art, lowering class sizes at all grade levels, creating newcomer programs at schools, offering full-day kindergarten and early intervention preschool programs, eliminating classes with split grade levels, providing more alternatives to suspensions, offering writing support to English learners and additional reading and writing programs for all students, year-round schools, and more counselors.

How do you think districts should spend money earmarked for disadvantaged students?

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  • Tk

    I would be overjoyed at the idea of some new blood at our district office. I know some of these people personally, and even though I like and even respect them in different ways, they represent a culture of old school attitude. Their jobs are maintaining the “that’s just how it’s always been done here” way of the district.

    That just isn’t good enough anymore. For me, for teachers, students, and the community. Hopefully not for Dr. Nellie either.

  • tmharrington

    The WCCUSD board plans to create a “Director of Accountability/Chief Data Officer” to oversee the comprehensive data needs related to LCFF and LCAP (Item C.6): http://www.wccusd.net/cms/lib03/CA01001466/Centricity/domain/16/agenda/2013-2014/20140212_BOE_Agenda.pdf

    Who will oversee this for MDUSD?

  • tmharrington

    Here’s info from Children Now on an LCFF Twitter chat set to begin at 11 a.m.:

    “Join the Community Engagement Tweet Chat at 11 AM

    As a reminder, Children Now will be hosting a tweet chat today at 11 a.m. on local community engagement processes to implement the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). This tweet chat will give an opportunity for school leaders, community organizers and other interested parties to engage each other and exchange ideas and strategies for local LCFF efforts. School district leaders and education groups from across the state will be participating to share their ideas on new and effective strategies to meet the goals of LCFF.

    You can follow @ChildrenNow or search #LCFFEngage on twitter to follow the conversation.”

  • tmharrington

    Speaking of worthwhile programs, here’s some great news from speech and debate coach Dan Leahy regarding #MDUSD and Las Lomas students who will be going to a national tournament in Chicago: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceTmVCVHJoSFlOSm8/edit?usp=sharing

    As you may recall, Leahy spoke at the last MDUSD board meeting, saying he’d like to expand his program to all MDUSD schools.

  • tmharrington

    And here’s the latest bargaining update from MDEA, which says the district has admitted it’s financial picture has improved under the new state funding plan: http://ourmdea.org/

  • g. de la verdad

    In November MDEA said “A major stumbling block to settlement has been the District’s … (CFO)”

    They also said they thought the district had gone over [Richard's] head.
    Now they speak about the “respective school finance experts”

    Are they talking about Richards? Did the board approve hiring an outside “finance expert?”

  • Tk

    The word ‘admitted’ says it all. It encompasses the general feeling that MDEA has towards the district. That they would have to ‘admit’ such a thing. Why isn’t the district happy to see that it can now afford to pay its employees the salary they deserve? That they can move towards becoming competitive again with other districts?

  • tmharrington

    And kudos to YVHS for keeping its community informed about the school through its blog: http://www.yvwarriornews.blogspot.com/

  • g. de la verdad

    Some might argue the difference between ‘admit’ and ‘acknowledge’ is very subtle, and should be taken in context. Perhaps, just as they said, MDEA meant acknowledge, and not admit. The subtlety: Acknowledge says, “Yes, this is true.” Admit says, “I didn’t tell the truth before, but I have now.”

    The same can be said for “…move toward becoming competitive again with other districts.” Surely you don’t mean to be speaking of “salaries.”
    If so, a good look at

    http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/App_Resx/EdDataClassic/fsTwoPanel.aspx?#!bottom=/_layouts/EdDataClassic/fiscal/TeacherSalary.asp?tab=0&level=06&ReportNumber=4096&County=7&fyr=1112&District=61754

    although it is a bit outdated, would require you to ‘admit’ MDEA is barking up the wrong tree. If you are talking about competitive healthcare allowances, I ‘acknowledge’ you are correct.

  • tmharrington

    I heard from Pat Middendorf that UMDAF is disbanding because the district is taking back on costs for after-school athletics (and CVCHS is taking on its share). I don’t recall this coming up at any board meetings.

  • g. de la verdad

    Which goes to my complaint that the board’s eyes glaze over during budget reports. They rubber stamp. They don’t understand enough to ask a question–because they do not study or try to understand.
    One item on the LCFF presentation by Richards, lasting just seconds, indicated CVCHS will not have their budget come through by way of the District as it has in the past. I would guess that must encompass everything. But no one asked, so it is a ‘guess.’
    Maybe someone will ask tonight for a deeper explanation. And ask about the million$ in Position Transfers — here today, gone tomorrow — must be back-filled in the future. So it should not be made to look like it’s a boon to the General Fund.
    Of course, some have the benefit of knowing what goes on in BAC meetings. The public is kept in the dark without comprehensive minutes to go by.

  • Doctor J

    Hasn’t UMDAF’s fundraising diminished the last few years ? Perhaps the district will just up the “mandatory contribution” for each student athlete ?

  • tmharrington

    Here is a new blog post with the agenda for tonight’s meeting for those who wish to comment on it: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2014/02/12/mdusd-board-to-discuss-adult-ed-and-local-one-successor-agreement/

  • tmharrington

    Here’s a new letter the district has sent out, encouraging parents to give input into the Local Control Accountability Plan: http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1011148481034-522/Parent+Newsletter+Article+11+Feb+14.pdf

  • Sherry Whitmarsh

    When did you get this letter? I received nothing via email or the postal service?

  • tmharrington

    It was sent out by the Northgate HS PFC, along with a letter from Principal McMorris inviting parents to attend the Northgate meeting.
    That’s interesting that YVHS didn’t send it out to parents, since parents at the first LCAP meeting at YVHS specifically suggested that emails, letters and phone calls to parents would help boost attendance and parent engagement in the LCAP meetings.

  • tmharrington

    Here’s a story about the rise in charters in California, including Clayton Valley Charter HS, where students, parents and staff members said they have been able to make many positive changes now that they are free from MDUSD’s bureacracy: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_25127212/california-leads-nation-new-charter-schools-and-students

  • Doctor J

    Dr. Nellie is relying on Principals and staffs to send out the letters — which is why Sherry did not get it — typical difference between the administrative styles of Northgate principal and YVHS principal — remember YVHS had a serious communication break on the stadium lights issue.

  • Sherry Whitmarsh

    Actually Dr J we did receive a phone call from Dr Meyer about the meeting at YVHS on Feb 11. I was wondering why people had not received the email referenced here…it was a Northgate email. As an FYI there was great attendance at the second YV meeting also. I spoke with parent from Woodside, Oak Grove, and YV.

  • Doctor J

    Sherry, YVHS & its feeder pattern did a very poor job of publicity for the first meeting — hence Dr. Nellie ordered a second meeting. The letter flyer for the 2nd meeting you DID NOT receive was supposed to be sent out to all parents by the schools — obviously YVHS and its feeder pattern did a poor job again. Dr. Meyer had to resort to using the robo-call to advertise the meeting. Northgate followed the protocols and got the email letter out. Here are the instructions: “I am
    attaching in English and Spanish, a notice about the upcoming LCAP Community
    Meetings which Dr. Meyer would like included in your next school newsletter as
    an article and/or distributed to students as a flyer.” You mention parents being in attendance — did you have any plain old “community members” ? They were supposed to be invited too. One last option: “You can also provide input during our School Site Council meetings or by sending an email to LCAP@mdusd.org.” Lastly, Dr. Meyer is obviously worried that schools will not follow the instructions. Here is how she is ensuring schools follow the protocols: “Lastly,
    please send via pony or email, a copy of your newsletter in which this article
    was published or a brief note documenting when a flyer was sent home with
    students. This information will be included in documentation of our LCAP
    conversations with Mt. Diablo Unified School District stake-holders.” So we as the public will get to see what each school says they did to publicize the meetings. I guess Sherry that you didn’t even know about the first meeting.

  • Sherry Whitmarsh

    I did know about the first meeting as I was there also. For YVHS there is no parent newsletter. Because of our population, phone calls work best. If Michael Langley counts as a community member, then yes we did.

  • Doctor J

    MDUSD’s plan to buy computers with Meas C money and use Common core testing money for administrator and teacher raises will soon be banned under emergency legislation.

  • tmharrington

    Reminder: LCAP meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Diablo View MS in Clayton: http://www.mdusd.org/lcap/Pages/CommunityMeetingSchedule.aspx

  • tmharrington

    PH Ed. Commission meeting is next Wednesday – the same night as the next board meeting: http://www.ci.pleasant-hill.ca.us/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/1662

  • tmharrington

    Here’s a new guide from the CA PTA to help strengthen parent engagement in schools: http://www.benchmarkemail.com/c/v?e=42E5BA&c=4592C&l=6208CA8&email=KxxvGSzgLXL%2BaX3C4kEg9nzXEaHTtGcN&relid=C0A8025A

  • tmharrington
  • tmharrington

    Here’s a lot of information about parent engagement for the LCAP on the Riverside COE website: http://www.rcoe.us/educational-services/assessment-and-accountability-services/jumpstarting-lcap/

  • tmharrington

    I’m hearing from our Antioch reporter that teachers at Dozzier Libbey Medical High have filed a charter petition. That is the district’s star high school. CVCHS may have started a trend. It’s not only low-performing high schools that seek autonomy from district bureaucracy.

  • Doctor J

    @TH lots of resources but NO ACTION ! The “Family Engagement Framework” published by CDE in 2011 remains unread by MDUSD administrators — instead they have bonding parties, white out faces for Halloween in SASS (racism alive and well at SASS), and spend time in principal meetings guessing about little known quirks of their colleagues. Please Rose lead us in a round of Kumbaya while holding hands. Now the Familiesinscools.org is visionary — unless like MDUSD you really don’t want true parental involvement telling Bryan Richards and Rose Lock where parents want to spend tax money — Not on raises for administrators !

  • Doctor J

    Gary McAdam retires ! When will Rose, Julie, Bryan, and Kerri announce theirs ? They failed to comply with the Feb 1 deadline and sought no relief for their oversight. I was thinking that if dr? Nellie doesn’t have the stomach to fire McMorris, with his fundraising abilities he might be a good fit at Crossroads and Kate Mcclatchy would really “fire up” the parents at Northgate !

  • tmharrington

    Former Woodside Elem. Principal Michelle Batesole (who is named in molestation lawsuits) is also retiring after her leave of absence: http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/f7b0b1a7-09ec-45b6-9e2e-6944a1d41eea.pdf

  • tmharrington

    Here’s the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_agendaview.aspx?mtgId=450

  • tmharrington
  • Doctor J

    Balderdash ! If Guy Moore only has the gumption to call McMorris’ taking $40,000 a “mistake” any of us could make, Moore doesn’t have the stomach for a real strike. Moore is just posturing. Remember the gift that Gov. Arnold gave to Senate Pro temp Steinburg during budget negotiations a few years ago ? Guy could use the same. BTW Guy, how do you feel that the approved minutes for the January 29th meeting show you gave public comment BEFORE the UN trip vote ? Why haven’t you spoke up about such a blatant falsehood ? don’t you believe in accurate minutes for public meetings ? John McMorris apparently doesn’t. He is now suppressing the NHS PFC minutes.