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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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  • g. de la verdad

    Interesting that there were so many of the same recommendations from all three grade spans at WCCSD. Counselors, More counselors, Counselors at every grade level. Teacher Aides/Assistants. High School tutors for lower grades. Get parents involved, Spend money to get parents involved, Educate the parents too.
    It will be interesting to see how those guidelines/requests play out over the next few months.

  • Doctor J

    Ditto TH: “WCCUSD’s LCAP presentation is MUCH more in-depth than MDUSD’s and includes the kind of financial information Willie Mims was blasting MDUSD for omitting: http://www.wccusd.net/Page/432
    Lets not forget that Willie Mims is an NAACP representative. His words have been echoing in my mind: the extra money should be spent on the high needs children that the LCFF provides additional funds for not for across the board raises. .

  • Doctor J

    Its a Tale of Two Cities, literally.

  • g. de la verdad

    And ‘extra’ money should not end up in the ‘litigation’ bucket either. The State will be watching. A large portion of the current Reserves is going to be eaten up by legal expenses over the next year or so.

  • Doctor J

    The Audit spells out the District’s liability limits and deductibles. The Board did not disclose any possibilities of liability over and above the insurance coverage, but I don’t believe that to be true.

  • g. de la verdad

    Ah, but they have to report those “possibilities” to the insurance JPA. If I understand it correctly, claims sent to the JPA are not reportable on the District’s budget — only the deductable costs.
    On the other hand, the “possibility” that a claim might turn out to be large enough to cause a payout by the JPA Fund must be reported at the very BEGINNING of a legal case.
    I wonder if MDUSD has advised the various JPAs? I’d be surprised if they don’t get kicked out, or have coverage denied — for their seven year COVER-UP of potential liabilities.

  • Doctor J

    It would be fascinating if the JPA’s are reporting it on their audits ?

  • g. de la verdad

    Speaking of ‘dark holes’ that just suck up everything around it, you’ll never get a look at the taxpayer monies spent to be a member of, and share in all members’ ‘excess funds’ and ‘liabilities’ of an insurance JPA.

  • g. de la verdad

    If not already done, MDUSD needs to drop its Haight, Brown & Bonesteel legal services contract–Pronto! http://www.hbblaw.com/Haight-Welcomes-Gregory-J-Rolen-01-27-2014/

  • Doctor J

    This poppycock will make you sick: “Greg’s additional expertise in governance, personnel, and litigation ensures
    peace of mind for our clients.” The only experience they left out was his ability to muck up bus transportation !

  • Doctor J

    MDUSD — “parent universities” under LCFF ?? Its an idea that is over 30 years successful — maybe its time to consider it ?? http://edsource.org/today/2014/parent-universities-help-districts-tap-into-feedback-required-under-funding-formula/56778#.Uu_ZO02A3ox

  • Doctor J

    Did Greg Rolen just invite himself to be a defendant in the Martin cases ? “Created and presented employment investigation protocol.” –Did that protocol result in in 13 children being molested ? http://www.hbblaw.com/Labor-and-Contract-Negotiation/

  • g. de la verdad

    It is my contention that during her tenure as interim legal counsel, Jayne Williams did an audit of, or at least portions of, outside legal counsel contracts and expenditures under those contracts, with an emphasis on case management. That audit resulted in multiple cases of what could be deemed as, at a minimum unethical, and very possibly illegal actions with regards to outside counsel’s legal standards and billing, very likely with either the full cooperation, and/or negligence-of-duty by Greg Rolen and possibly Deborah Cooksey as well. For that audit, I thank her.

    If I surmise correctly, it would appear that, with the cooperation of this sitting board, information she uncovered regarding the unethical/illegal activities and the monies spent in those unethical/illegal pursuits has been “swept under the table” and hidden from the taxpayers. The board has decided to simply let the taxpayers “eat it” and not pursue any recompense for what likely amounts to many hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last few years.

    While it is true that it would likely cost even more to pursue – lawyers fighting lawyers – and perhaps should not be pursued, I believe the public has a right to know the findings of her audits.

    I would also suggest that it was, at a minimum, unethical for Jayne Williams to advise hiring the legal firm with which she is associated to take over the management of case(s) where she found faults in handling and/or billing.

  • Doctor J

    Local transparency is the battle cry for LCFF — but there is no way I can look at the posted financial statements to compare expenditures for the various years. Using “g”‘s example, I cannot see the amounts paid to various lawfirms, I cannot see the amounts paid for various settlements, and I cannot see the amounts paid for liability insurance and compare them year after year. So far, the battle cry is just a lone voice in the wilderness.

  • Doctor J

    Speed Limit signs without cops or radar guns are useless. EdVoice charges that LCFF emergency regs violate the enacting legislation and must be redone ! Fasten your seatbelt for this roller coaster ride. Office of Administrative Law may not approve them, and require immediate correction to prevent LCFF ” billions of extra dollars meant to enhance the educations of poor and “English learner” students” to be spent on teacher raises. Watch out MDUSD Board, you could be bargaining with money you don’t have.
    http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2014/02/californias-school-money-fight-heads-to-new-venue.html

  • Doctor J

    CC Times posts school suspension data base. How is your school doing compared to other MDUSD schools ? http://www.dailynews.com/social-affairs/20140131/data-center-suspensions-and-expulsions-at-california-schools

  • 2busymom

    I find it odd that Foothill Middle had 41 suspensions, and Diablo View Middle had zero.

  • Doctor J

    Odd or dishonest reporting ? Ask Rose Lock why none of these schools reported any suspensions. Rose Lock signed off on the report to the CDE of ZERO suspensions for 22 schools: Diablo View Middle, Mt. Diablo Elementary, Woodside Elementary, Monte Gardens Elementary, Meadow Homes Elementary, Mountain View Elementary, Nueva Vista High, Silverwood Elementary, Crossroads High, Cambridge Elementary, Ayers Elementary, Highlands Elementary, Delta View Elementary, Strandwood Elementary, Prospect High, Valhalla Elementary, Fair Oaks Elementary, Horizons Alternative, Gregory Gardens Elementary, Walnut Acres Elementary, Valle Verde Elementary, Bancroft Elementary. Just another example of the dishonesty of district and school administrators. Why does Dr. Nellie put up with such dishonesty ?

  • g. de la verdad

    I was far more surprised at the high number of “out” suspensions v. zero “in” suspensions, and the outrageous numbers at all high schools except Mount. What is it? Zero tolerance or zero understanding of student differences and needs. Something plays wrong about a lot of the numbers.

  • tmharrington

    WCCUSD has also started reinvesting in elementary music education. Although one parent specifically mentioned this idea for MDUSD at the YVHS LCAP meeting, I don’t believe it was written down on the list compiled by staff.

    Students in MDUSD’s middle school instrumental music programs did not have the benefit of district-funded elementary music instruction, which some music educators fear will end up having an adverse effect on the overall quality of (and enrollment in) the district’s middle and high school music programs.

    Still, two MDUSD high schools are sending jazz bands and combos to the upcoming Campana Jazz Fest at Amador Valley HS in Pleasanton — Concord HS and Northgate HS: http://www.amadormusic.org/images/pdfs/finalcampana2014schedule.pdf

  • Doctor J

    Theresa, is this a case of fraudulent reporting or pure incompetence? Why did MDUSD report to the CDE that 22 schools did NOT have ANY suspensions ? Why would Rose Lock sign off on that report ?

  • tmharrington

    WCCUSD also formatted its small group discussions completely differently than MDUSD. MDUSD focused on the three areas (or buckets) of priorities, but didn’t ask any questions specifically related to disadvantaged children (as far as I could tell). WCCUSD asked these four questions:
    1. The LCFF requires that we target new resources to low income students, English language learners and foster youth. What services or programs could we provide and how could we provide them as academic support?
    2. What services or programs could we provide and how might we provide them as socio-emotional support?
    3. What other wrap around services – e.g. health, vision, attendance, parent engagement for non-English speaking parents, special services for foster youth – should we be considering?
    4. What kinds of support should we provide to our school staff, especially teachers, to improve outcomes for low income students, English language learners and foster youth?

  • Doctor J

    Hey parents — your children are being sacrificed like lambs for raises to administrators, to teachers and all unions. Just ask Dr. Nellie or Guy Moore — there will be no class size reductions in K-3 as called for in LCFF. Why ? Because neither MDEA nor the District want to negotiate the Art. 6 class sizes which exceed the class size reductions of the LCFF. The union loophole in the LCFF is that CSR does not have to be implemented if there is an agreement with the union. And don’t forget, whatever the unions negotiate, Dent and site administrators have an illegal “me too” agreement to match those union raises.

  • g. de la verdad

    I would be a lot more in favor of ‘some’ raises if I knew that MDUSD had joined in or at lease sent a letter in support of Vergara in Vergara v. CA.
    Whether a teacher lands in the top 5% of their graduating class, OR the bottom 5%, they all get to hang the SAME certificate!
    Let’s fix that and then pay our teachers what they ‘prove’ they are worth.

  • Doctor J

    Watch Jonathan Raymond testify about “Last In First Out” layoff policies. LIFO is wrong for our children but endorsed by MDEA and the CTA. http://studentsmatter.org/evidence/#lay-witness-jonathan-raymond

  • tmharrington

    Our database producer is trying to get answers from MDUSD about the numbers.

  • g. de la verdad

    Speaking of raises. Should McMorris be getting $7K “Principal’s” Fund pocket money from the PFC, when some schools don’t even have an active PTA or PFC, but quite likely have much better Principals making far less salary? Are other principals also getting kick-backs from PFCs? Does it buy better deals for ‘some’ kids?
    And what about that $20K cookie jar fund that he voted to give himself?

  • Doctor J

    What vote ? PFC minutes do NOT show any vote for $20,000 to be given to McM. Does McM as principal feel justified in taking the PFC money without a vote ? What keeps ringing in my ears are Cheryl Hansen’s prophetic words during the audit discussion: The fastest way to get fired as a principal is the PFC money. Did she know in advance that Guy Moore would rat out McM ? What a Brown Act blunder by not asking for public comment on the approval of the Northgate New York trip for 12 students — Guy Moore’s public comment after the vote had the board mumbling to themselves. I hope someone asks for a Brown Act “cure and correct”. Wendy L. where are you ?

  • Doctor J

    Theresa, can you please post copies of the 3 documents filed by BANG on Feb 3 in MDUSD lawsuit ? Decl. of Duffy Carolan, Mem. of Points and Authorities, and Request for in Camera Review of Withheld documents. Thanks. These documents should give us a good idea of what our elected leaders are withholding and why.

  • Doctor J
  • tmharrington

    She emailed two of them, but her declaration was too large. So, I can post the other two.

  • Doctor J

    The January 15 minutes are posted — but unsigned. I believe Roberts Rules of Order require signed minutes by the Secretary in order to make them official to be placed into the Minute Book.

  • k. saint

    Hi all you College Park readers; Just want to add that the district is set to visit CP on May 20th for community input.

  • tmharrington

    Here’s another reminder about the upcoming MDUSD community LCAP meetings, along with a last-minute reminder about the Las Trampas PTA’s Legislative Advocacy Day tomorrow: http://www.contracostatimes.com/walnut-creek/ci_25069385/walnut-creek-school-notes-mt-diablo-parents-asked

  • Doctor J

    Any word why 22 MDUSD schools show zero suspensions for 2012-2013 ?

  • Doctor J

    Another failure to report suspected child abuse — with a twist. Could this happen in MDUSD ? http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-redlands-district-sued-sexual-battery-20140206,0,7490494.story#axzz2sZeGC8Mk

  • g. de la verdad

    Theresa, Which district was represented at ‘your table’ at the PTA meeting today? Did they take their district rep to task over not including them in the LCAP draft plans?

  • tmharrington

    They were parents from Lafayette. It turns out the district rep was the new Lafayette superintendent! No, actually one parent said she would rather comment on something that is already drafted than try to help come up with the ideas first.
    The Lafayette superintendent was not on the panel. All the superintendents on the panel said they have begun to meet with parents. After hearing that, perhaps the Lafayette parents will start to demand more input.
    Also, the state PTA rep said if districts don’t start asking parents for input, the community may begin to think the district has something to hide.

  • tmharrington

    Here’s a new blog post about a controversy brewing on the County Board of Education, where it appears that three trustees want to ask voters to convert the County Superintendent from an elected to an appointed position: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2014/02/07/county-education-trustees-seek-more-power-over-superintendent/

  • tmharrington

    Here’s my story on the SRV-Las Trampas PTA event today in San Ramon: http://www.contracostatimes.com/san-ramon/ci_25089563/local-parents-get-overview-states-new-funding-formula

  • g. de la verdad

    Am I not seeing this correctly? 2/12 – Agenda Item 13.6 Something just doesn’t pass the smell test.

    The State has barely formulated what they “think” they are looking for with LCAP for LCFF, and MDUSD hasn’t even knocked the dust off of requirements yet, nor compiled stakeholder input, much less presented a Draft of LCAP-LCFF plans to the Board and public. We know we are getting a Base Grant, and will also have “targeted” funds for EL, Low Income, Foster Youth.

    Wednsday staff plans to do what seems to me to be jumping the gun on LCAP-LCFF. They will backdate $8million of hours/salary adjustments to 7/2013 using Restricted/Partially Restricted funds (mostly Tier 3), which seems to me will skew the books in favor of general fund operations for the 2013-14 school year.
    It also appears that MUCH of the money is being transferred to budgets that have nothing to do with EL, Low Income, Foster Youth.

    My question is: Is it proper to ‘back-date’ and rob the very kitty that currently funds EL, Low Income, Foster Youth, and leave that bucket drained before we even start formulating the base LCFF and “Target Funding” in 2014-15?

    Won’t Target Funds still be Restricted Funds?

  • ClarenceW2

    I found the WCCUSD format odd because it included teachers and parents in small breakout groups together. I thought the feedback was supposed to be from parents and community members. Also, the questions were poorly designed. The questions were geared towards education experts, those knowledgeable of potential solutions. Much of our breakout group discussion consisted of dialogue with teachers and administrators who spoke using acronyms that the layman parent or community member was ignorant of. I think the questions should have been written from the voice of the parents of the impacted student groups, asking them such questions as “What are the obstacles you see to these children succeeding? What are your complaints? What are examples of what is not working?” and then take it from there. Let me tell you what I think is wrong, then you tell me what you are going to do about it, and I’ll tell you if I think that is an acceptable solution. It is the experts who should provide solution options as they are better informed than we are.

  • g. de la verdad

    Long Beach videotapes their meetings. Parents and teachers alike let it be known that the whole LCAP process is much like voter polls. The questions drive the answers, and the outcome will be what management wants, regardless of how many meetings are held.

    http://www.lbschools.net/Main_Offices/Deputy_Superintendent/EARCC/Local_Control/

  • Doctor J

    Hi Theresa, please don’t forget about posting these !

  • Doctor J

    Big 4 Administrators Choose to Terminate Contracts. Rose Lock, Julie B-M, Bryan Richards and Kerri Mills all chose not to deliver the required notice to the Superintendent by February 1, and according to their contracts, each contract will automatically terminate on June 30, 2014 say rumors, If true, the district should immediately begin posting Job Openings for the three Assistant Superintendents, and Chief Financial Officer. If any of them attempt to backdate notices and now submit them to the Superintendent, safeguards are now in place to bring such conduct to light — which would give an opportunity to terminate for cause immediately.

  • ClarenceW2

    With the WCCUSD format, you listened to a presentation by the Superintendent, then you were sent directly to a breakout group and immediately you jumped into the 4 questions. There was no opportunity for parents to simply raise questions or to comment about the presentation or the process we were now part of. Even better if we could have raised the questions in the larger primary group. We were rushed out of there pronto! Seriously, our administrator told us “That’s all the time for question #1, next question.” Why were we hurried? Aren’t the administrators exempt employees, so the time clock was not an issue? Or were the teachers in attendance getting paid to be there? The wCCUSD says they want parent involvement, so we show up, then they tell us to hurry up! What gives, WCCUSD? Add to the fact that teachers in our discussion group chewed up much of the allotted time, how much “community” input was really received?

  • g. de la verdad

    Please, let it be true!

  • Tk

    Theresa….do you any knowledge of this? Those are four very high positions in the district to be playing around with the rules on that type of thing.
    I’m interested to see what happens here, or if this story is true.

  • Doctor J

    Dr. Nellie now has a huge opportunity to “select her own staff” as former Sacramento City Supt Jonathan Raymond says is so important for a new Supt. “Looking back, Raymond said that he would have spent more time early on developing a deep leadership team. “Who you recruit and develop and retain is absolutely critical,” he said. “People make or break you in this business.” Dr. Nellie is savy and knows the Big 4 really hamper her ability to produce reform and she does not want to be plagued with the same disease that Steven Lawrence had. Perhaps more importantly, it would give Dr. Nellie the unique opportunity to restructure the top tier of administration in a district declining in enrollment, reduced the bloated administration overhead by reducing the number of Assistant Supts by one, and maybe two, and perhaps their inflated salaries. After all, FCMAT recommended that the Special Education Asst. Supt. be reduced to a “Director” [former position of Kerri Mills in her previous district]. The Board would welcome the overhead cuts for budgetary reasons. The board also has become increasingly disenchanted with Bryan Richards, and his continually late presentations, plus they lack confidence in his projections, recently hiring outside analysis of the financial situation during union contract negotiations. Richards keeps his financial cards close to the vest — opposite of what the LCAP is supposed to require. http://edsource.org/today/2013/taking-stock-of-jonathan-raymonds-tenure-and-legacy-at-sac-city/54013#.UvGFn02YbIU
    And TK, all you need to do is go back and read the contracts of the BIG 4 — they all have the same language about February 1.

  • Guest

    I wonder if the writing is on the wall, they know their contracts will not be renewed, and they want to avoid professional embarrassment. Re Kerry Mills, because Mt. Diablo is its own SELPA, I don’t see that position being reduced to director of special ed, and believe it will remain as an assistant superintendent position.