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Archive for January, 2015

What is the value of performing arts in society?

Just a little over a week after newly-sworn in Contra Costa County Superintendent Karen Sakata proudly performed with a Taiko drum group at her inauguration ceremony, the president of the county board of education has questioned the value of performing arts in society.

Board President Daniel Gomes angered a crowd of arts advocates at a board meeting earlier this week by suggesting that pursuing the idea of a countywide performing arts charter school might be “wasting money and wasting time — and we might be wasting lives by supporting this.”

This prompted Rob Seitelman, a local teacher and professional actor, to yell back: “That’s how I want to waste my life — by supporting the arts!”

In a long and rambling monologue, Gomes said it would be better to pursue a countywide charter focused on robotics or environmental science than performing arts.

“These are programs that are vital to our survival as a society,” he said. “It’s well and good that arts — and performing arts especially — are part of our society, but they’re not the vital part of our society.”

When the crowd erupted with gasps of disbelief, Gomes said those who disagreed with him could vote against him in the next election.

“But until then,” he said, “you should listen to what I have to say because I listened to what you have to say.”

Many people left after the board unanimously denied the proposed Contra Costa School of Performing Arts, based on staff findings that the petition did not meet state requirements for approval.

But Gomes’ comments set off a larger debate, causing some people to question his characterization of the arts as less important than science. In education, arts have suffered severe cuts and have been considered “extras” by some, in part because of the No Child Left Behind emphasis on math and English language arts, coupled with years of budget cuts.

As the economy has recovered and studies have shown the value of the arts in education, there has been a renaissance of arts in many schools. Even the Contra Costa County Office of Education emphasizes the value of arts alongside Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — known as STEM — by hosting a STEAM Colloquium that integrates the arts into STEM.

And earlier this year, representatives from the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence visited Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord to praise its integration of the arts into its curriculum. John Abodeely, deputy director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, said the arts are a vital part of a well-rounded education and are especially powerful in efforts to engage underperforming students.

“The arts are not something you provide to students when you’ve fixed all the other problems,” he said. “Just like music is not something that’s been a part of humanities after we’ve figured out all of our other problems. It’s been a part of our soul and heart forever. So, the arts are a critical element in reform strategies.”

Outside the county board meeting, performing arts teacher Jason Miller said he disagreed with Gomes.

“Arts education is essential to our society,” he said. “The sentiment expressed tonight (by Gomes) was alarming — the idea that arts education isn’t valuable or that arts students are wasting their lives.”

After my story about the meeting was published, retired arts teacher Suzanne Cerny called to express her dismay about Gomes’ comments.

“How did this guy get to be president (of the board)?” she asked. “Studies show how arts are important. This reminds me of people in power who demean the people whom they are supposed to be helping.”

I also spoke to Richard Asadoorian, a former Contra Costa County trustee who lost his seat in the November election, who said he didn’t believe the arts should be considered as secondary behind other subjects.

“So often, the arts have been cut in schools,” he said. “They’re usually the first to go, along with librarians and counselors.”

Do you think performing arts are vital to society?

Posted on Friday, January 23rd, 2015
Under: Contra Costa County Board of Education, Education | 56 Comments »

Mt. Diablo school board tonight to discuss linked learning, special ed identification, audit and early retirement notification incentive

The Mt. Diablo school board has agreed to meet at 7 p.m. Mondays instead of at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, starting tonight. Here is the agenda for tonight’s meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. in the district office board room at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord.

Highlights include the district’s participation in a regional career pathways consortium, revisions to identification and evaluation for special education, the 2013-14 audit and a $1,000 early retirement notice incentive.

“1.0 Call to Order
1.1 President Will Call the Meeting to Order at 6:00 p.m. Info
2.0 Public Comment
2.1 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
3.0 Announcements

3.1 In Closed Session, the Board will consider the items listed on the Closed Session Agenda. Info
4.0 Closed Session Agenda
4.1 (Item #1) Expulsion of Student #04-15. Action
4.2 (Item #2) Admission of Student #A-15 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
4.3 (Item #3) Discipline, Dismissal or Release of Public Employee Info/Action
4.4 (Item #4) Anticipated Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Sec. 54956.9(b), Significant Exposure to Litigation: 2 cases Info/Action
5.0 Adjourn to Closed Session at 6:00 p.m.
5.1 Adjourn to Closed Session at 6:00 p.m. Action

6.0 Reconvene Open Session
6.1 Reconvene to Open Session at 7:00 p.m. Info
7.0 Preliminary Business
7.1 Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call Info

8.0 Report Out Action Taken in Closed Session
8.1 (Item #1) Expulsion of Student #04-15. Action
8.2 (Item #2) Admission of Student #A-15 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
8.3 (Item #3) Discipline, Dismissal or Release of Public Employee Info/Action
8.4 (Item #4) Anticipated Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Sec. 54956.9(b), Significant Exposure to Litigation: 2 cases Info/Action

9.0 Recognitions and Resolutions

10.0 Board Member Reports
10.1 Board Member Reports Info

11.0 Superintendent’s Report
11.1 Superintendent’s Report Info

12.0 Reports/Information
13.0 Public Employee Appointment
13.1 PULLED BY STAFF: Appointment of Vice Principal, Adult School Action
13.2 Appointment of Manager, Grounds & Facilities Assessment Action

14.0 Consent Agenda Action
14.1 (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
14.2 (Item #2) Recommended Action for Certificated Personnel Action
14.3 (Item #3) Request to Increase/Decrease Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2014-2015 School Year Action
14.4 (Item #4) Recommended Action for Classified Personnel Action
14.5 (Item #5) Classified Personnel: Request to Increase/Decrease Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2014/15 School Year. Action
14.6 (Item #6) Provisional Internship Permit (PIP) Request Action
14.7 (Item #7) Education Code 44256(b Board Authorization Action
14.8 (Item #8) Variable Term Waiver Resolution Action
14.9 (Item #9) Ygnacio Valley High School Marching Band & Jazz Ensemble New Orleans Performance Tour, February 4-9, 2015 Action
14.10 (Item #10) Sequoia Middle School’s Leadership Field Trip Action
14.11 (Item #11) Northgate’s Folsom Jazz Festival January 23-25, 2015 Action
14.12 (Item #12) Contract between University Corporation-Camp Sea Lab and Ayers Elementary Action
14.13 (Item #13) Contract between ENH-Loma Mar and Woodside Elementary Action
14.14 (Item #14) Clinical Affiliation Agreement-Nursing between California State University Dominguez Hills and Mt. Diablo Unified School District Action
14.15 (Item #15) Submission of Two Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) for Eleven Eligible Bay Point and Concord Mt. Diablo CARES After School Programs Action
14.16 (Item #16) Notice of Completion Lease/Leaseback #1635: Athletic Facility Improvements Project at Clayton Valley Charter High School Action
14.17 PULLED BY STAFF: (Item #17) Joint Use Agreement between Pleasant Hill Recreation and Mt. Diablo Unified School District regarding Pleasant Hill Middle School Tennis Courts Action
14.18 (Item #18) Minutes for the Board of Education Meeting held on December 10, 2014 Action

15.0 Consent Items Pulled for Discussion
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 Public Comment
17.1 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 presentations 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

18.0 Business/Action Item
18.1 Board of Education Committee Assignments for 2015 Action

18.2 MOU between MDUSD and Contra Costa County Office of Education for the Regional Diablo Gateway to Innovation California Career Pathways Trust grant. Action

18.3 Independent Services Contract with ConnectEd Action

18.4 AP US History Textbook Adoption Presentation Info

18.5 Psychology Textbook Adoption Presentation Info

18.6 Amended Contract With Bay Area Community Resource (BACR) Action

18.7 Revision to BP 6164.4 – Identification and Evaluation of Individuals for Special Education Action

18.8 Revision to AR 6159.4 – Behavioral Interventions for Special Education Students (Post-Hughes Bill) Action

18.9 Budget Development Calendar 2015-2016 Action

18.10 2013-2014 Audit Report Action

18.11 2014-15 Early Retirement Notification Incentive Action

18.12 Approval of Tentative Agreement between CSEA (Mt. Diablo 43) and MDUSD for 2014/15 Re-Opener (Benefits Action

18.13 Public Hearing for Resolution 14/15-30: Increase Statutory School Facility Fees Imposed on New Residential and Commercial/Industrial Construction Action

18.14 Resolution No. 14/15-30 Increasing the Statutory School Fees Imposed on New Residential and Commercial/Industrial Development Projects Action

18.15 Meeting Extension Action

18.16 Execution of Documents Action

19.0 Future Agenda Items
19.1 Future Agenda Items Info

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 Reconvene Open Session
21.1 Reconvene Open Session and Report Out Info

22.0 Adjournment
22.1 Adjourn Meeting Action”

What items pique your interest?

Posted on Monday, January 12th, 2015
Under: Education, linked learning, Mt. Diablo school district | 135 Comments »

A New Day Dawns in County Superintendent’s Office, but drumbeat continues

Karen Sakata is sworn in as the Contra Costa County superintendent of schools outside of the Contra Costa County Office of Education

At her swearing-in ceremony earlier this week, Contra Costa County Schools Superintendent Karen Sakata was honored with an original poem written and presented by Kathy Moore, who is a curriculum and instruction coordinator in the San Ramon Valley school district and is also the city of San Ramon’s Poet Laureate.

The poem, which appears below, references the fact that Sakata has got many traits and talents, including prowess as a Taiko drummer. Former Superintendent Joseph Ovick was also a drummer, although he did not play Taiko drums.

“A new day dawns
A new era begins
This day, today
Built on a vision of kindness and civility
Passed from hand to hand, heart to heart
Past becomes future, a rhythmic drumbeat,
Carried on each heartbeat
Student by student by student

Today we hear the drumbeat
Of Respect
Of Integrity
Of Diversity
Of Teamwork
Of Ethical Leadership
Of Creativity and Innovation
Of Advocacy for all learners

The persistent advocacy of education that matters for one, for all
Passed from hand to hand, heart to heart,
Teacher to teacher, drummer to drummer, leader to leader
Here and now

Karen Sakata, your moment is our moment
From there to here, you’ve traveled well
Following your passion with strength and compassion
Listening loudly to each child in need
Lifting the spirit, spreading the word
Drumbeat by drumbeat, heartbeat by heartbeat,
Walking the true path and leading with love”

Here is a video clip of Moore reading her poem, followed by two video clips of Sakata’s performances with the Diablo Taiko group:

Poem: http://youtu.be/V98LBQD28os

Hachijo: http://youtu.be/uqLQcp9RoyQ?list=UUzNb8poV27WgVD3TDzblkZw

Raku: http://youtu.be/rxN19NZ-GiY?list=UUzNb8poV27WgVD3TDzblkZw

After she was sworn in, Sakata said the most important thing for her and her career and her life have been my relationships. Sakata said she and her husband and sons had an “incident” in December, on which she did not elaborate.

“It shook us up, but I think it made our priorities really important,” she said. “What I really learned from it is that it’s the relationships that make all the difference — everything that we do at work, everything that we do at home, everything that we do with one another. So, I’m so pleased to be here with all of my colleagues, my friends. I think friends and family make all the difference and make us more relevant and important.”

She proudly introduced her husband, sons and brother, referring to them as her “men in black” in the front row because they were all clad in dark clothing. Sakata also thanked Ovick for his support throughout her career.

“Joe’s been my friend and mentor for the last over 30 years,” she said. “He hired me when I was in my late 20s at Santa Clara County. I never thought at that time that we would be working together and that I would be in this position. And so, I owe most of it to you, Joe, and of course, everything to my family and my friends.”

Sakata said she was excited about her new role as superintendent.

“I know that what I want for students in Contra Costa is the same thing I always wanted for my boys,” she said. “I want kids to be successful, ready to work, to find something that they love to do and that will enhance their talents, to have choices in their lives, and to be — most importantly — good people and good citizens.”

However, Sakata acknowledged that some hurdles remain.

“I know that right now, there are some big challenges that we face in education with the state standards, new assessment, new funding model and new accountability for school districts,” she said. “But, I see this as an opportunity and I see this position as a way to promote the county office and the wonderful work that we do in programs and support and in oversight. Again, I want to thank all of you and I am very excited about my next four years as superintendent.”

What are your hopes for Contra Costa County students?

Posted on Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Under: Education | No Comments »

A look back at some significant state and local education stories in 2014

Here’s a sampling of some significant education stories that appeared in this newspaper in 2014.

1. New school funding, curriculum and testing

– The California Board of Education adopted regulations to help districts implement the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula, which changed the ways schools were funded and required districts to create plans showing how they would spend money, especially for English language learners, low-income students and foster youth.

– Districts implemented new Common Core standards for education, focusing less on memorization and more on critical thinking.

– Students piloted new computer-based tests aimed at gauging how well they were learning with the new standards.

2. School child abuse cases

– The Brentwood school district agreed to pay $8 million to settle a lawsuit with the families of eight special needs children over its handling of a special-education teacher who was convicted of child abuse, yet allowed to remain in the classroom.

– An Antioch district teacher charged with abusing special-education students pleaded guilty to one felony count of child abuse and two misdemeanor charges.

n The Moraga school district agreed to pay $14 million to two women who sued over sex abuse by a former teacher, in what was believed to be the nation’s largest molestation settlement per student.

n Former Woodside Elementary teacher Joseph Martin was charged with 150 counts of child molestation involving 14 students. The District Attorney later dismissed 34 charges, a jury acquitted Martin of 21 more and failed to reach consensus on 95 charges. The District Attorney is retrying the former Mt. Diablo school district teacher on 24 felony molestation counts involving nine students.

3. Charter schools

n The Contra Costa County Board of Education approved an agreement paving the way for the Summit K2 Charter School to open in El Cerrito in the fall, after the West Contra Costa school board rejected the charter petition.

n The Antioch school district reached an agreement with Dozier-Libbey High teachers to keep the site under its authority, after a months-long campaign to convert the school into an independent charter. The Antioch school board and Contra Costa County Board of Education denied the charter petition and teachers dropped their appeal to the state Board of Education.

n Although the Contra Costa County Board of Education renewed the charter for Clayton Valley Charter High for five years, tensions built throughout the year between some staff members and the school’s governing board. An original petitioner for the school was fired, the board president resigned and a teacher board member was asked to resign, but refused. Teachers voted no confidence in Executive Director Dave Linzey and the board dismissed the school’s coordinator of technology after he was accused of breaching Linzey’s confidence.

n The West Contra Costa school board approved three charter petitions in December, after initially proposing to seeking a waiver from its responsibility to vote on charters, saying the independent schools negatively impact the district.

n The Knightsen school board rejected a charter proposed by ChartHouse Public Schools, which also seeks to operate a countywide Performing Arts charter.

4. West Contra Costa bond program

n Voters rejected a $270 million bond measure in June.

n The Securities and Exchange Commission subpoenaed the district, board president, county, and district financial advisers and consultants in an inquiry into the district’s bond financing. The school board approved hundreds of thousands in contracts for legal representation related to the SEC inquiry, along with representation related to separate questions from the FBI.

What do you think were the most significant education stories in 2014?

Posted on Friday, January 2nd, 2015
Under: Antioch school district, Brentwood school district, California Department of Education, Clayton Valley Charter High, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa County Board of Education, Education, Knightsen school district, Moraga school district, Mt. Diablo school district, West Contra Costa school district | 7 Comments »