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How should teachers and educational organizations use Twitter?

Recent publicity surrounding inappropriate tweets by a Newark school district teacher about her students have generated a lot of buzz around what not to do on Twitter. But, I have also seen many examples of innovative and inspirational use of Twitter by tech-savvy teachers, schools, districts and county offices of education.

Below is a sampling of some of these tweets, including twitter handles and the number of followers and tweets (in case you want to follow them). Some disseminated important information, while others demonstrated events as they were happening or showed the personalities and passions of the tweeters.

@CoCoSchools: Contra Costa County Office of Education (1,150 followers, 1,791 tweets): “Dr. Ovick keeps the beat with The Contraband. 2014 CCCOE Staff Institute Day, @ The El Campanil Theater” — with a photo of Superintendent Joseph Ovick playing the drums.

@acalanesdons: Acalanes High School (421 followers, 151 tweets): “Parents: Friday Forum is happening this morning at 8:30 in the Faculty Dining Room. Great way to be in the know about AHS. #go Dons”

@MUSDTechTweets: Martinez Unified School District (152 followers, 173 tweets): “Math pilot hit a slight bump in the road, but as usual MUSD teachers, admin. step up & rally! #lovemyprincipals #MUSDteachersrock”

@RamiMuthmusd: Martinez Superintendent Rami Muth (111 followers, 3 tweets): “Great opening day in Martinez. Looking forward to watching Common Core unfold in the hands of talented students and staff.”

@ahsdogs: Alhambra High School (339 followers, 185 tweets): “Math in the common core with Ikea construction. #makesomething” — with three hands-on learning photos.

@jseroadrunners: John Swett Elementary (401 followers, 5,843 tweets): “What could be better than reading in the garden on Friday afternoon! @mwatkins0913 #teamkid” — with photo of students reading in garden.

@Steph_Battles: Third grade teacher in Martinez district (79 followers, 143 tweets): “Responding to our texts and being active readers. #teamkid” — with one photo of teacher instructions and two photos of students’ work.

@MissHullJSE: John Swett First Grade teacher Nancy Hull (113 followers, 485 tweets): “‘Miss Hull, I had a really fun day with you today”-Student as they left today. melts my heart! Love my job! #teamkid #raisethebar #sweetkid’”

@mwatkins0913: John Swett Second Grade teacher Michelle Watkins (41 followers, 28 tweets): “A is for my students. Why? Because they’re AMAZING! #bestreadaloud #teamkid” — with photo of book cover.

@briantlawrence: Mt. Diablo school board trustee Brian Lawrence (115 followers, 257 tweets): “Flattered to keep being asked but no I am not running for wc council. Much to be done in #mdusd and @kdlaw left big shoes to fill!”

@YgnacioValley: Ygnacio Valley High (289 followers, 1,250 tweets): “Senior Sunrise! First Senior event of the year! Join us Friday morning, 7 a.m.!” — with link to Instagram promo for event.

@TeacherCarissa: Ygnacio Valley High teacher Carissa Weintraub (24 followers, 137 tweets): “Back at it. 1st official teacher work day. Let’s hear it for that alarm and 2 cups of coffee!”

@SRVUSD1: San Ramon Valley Unified School District (139 followers, 36 tweets): “Reminder: The 31st Run for Education will be held October 12th, 2014. Hope to see you all there! Register here- http://bit.ly/1CmRkHc” — link to registration website.

@WindemereRanch: Windemere Ranch Middle School (97 followers, 121 tweets): “Some of our 7th grade science classes got a visit from The Falcon Lady to see our mascot up close!” — with link to Facebook photo of Falcon Lady.

@WCCUSD: West Contra Costa Unified School District (575 followers, 222 tweets): “Kennedy HS receives $100,000 donation from @sprint at BOE meeting. @supejohngioia helped make the connection” — with photo of check presentation.

@AlamedaCOE (701 followers, 797 tweets): Alameda County Office of Education: “Press Release: @sheilaalameda receives 2014 Genesis Carl Anthony Legacy Award http://conta.cc/1pavMD9” — link to news release.

@sheilaalameda: Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan (65 followers, 30 tweets): “RIGHT NOW (Aug. 5): Scared #kids desperately need refuge. Speak out to protect them! #moms #borderchildren — http://moms.ly/1kfcUrl” — link to MomsRising. Org. petition asking President Obama and the U.S. Congress to “make sure that all Central American child refugees are treated humanely, that their immediate needs are met and that they are all given fair due process.”
Do you think it’s appropriate for educators to tweet?

Do you think it’s appropriate for educators to tweet?

Posted on Monday, September 8th, 2014
Under: Education | 6 Comments »

Kudos to Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord for hard-earned White House recognition!

I was excited to visit Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord earlier this week to see the students, staff and parents showing famous artists and White House officials how they are turning around their school by integrating visual arts, drama and music into their classes.

Alejandra Ceja, executive director of The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence said Meadow Homes is a model for underperforming schools around the country that want to engage students in learning.

“I want you to know you’re putting this conversation on the map and people are paying attention to what’s happening here,” Ceja said during a round table discussion with Mt. Diablo school district staff, Monument Community Partnership representatives and parents. “This is exactly what we need to continue to do across the country. And for us, it’s going to be so critical when we go into those emerging communities — Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee — where there’s parents and students that are trying to figure out: How do they become more of an community in the school district? And so we’re definitely going to take away a lot of the information that was shared and follow up.”

Principal Mary-Louise Newling, teachers and parents talked enthusiastically about how rigorous instruction in painting, drawing, dance, singing and instrumental music is lighting a fire in students for learning, including some who previously didn’t want to come to school or who had behavior problems. Vice Principal Margo Peckham said the parent community at the school is very active and interested in what their children are doing, with some meetings drawing 100 people.

John Abodeely, deputy director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, said hearing about the parent involvement at the school gave him goose bumps. At some schools, he said, the only time parents visit is for disciplinary issues.

The premise of the “Turnaround Arts” program Abodeely is overseeing, he said, is that art is not a flower, it’s a wrench.

“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.”

Despite the impressive work going on the Meadow Homes, some parents and teachers expressed frustration about the negative reputation the school has in the Concord community. Many people don’t understand how special the school is and some students fail to live up to their potential after they leave, one teacher said.

“We want them to take that empowerment with them beyond Meadow Homes,” she said. “They sense it here. We believe in them. But, there’s a point where I see them come back — and I know how smart they were and I know what they could have achieved — and I see that they didn’t. And so that saddens me.”

The teacher said that when she tells people where she works, she often gets the response: “Oh.”

Instead, she said she wants people to say, “Wow, that must be a great place to work!”

“Because that’s what I feel every day,” she said. “I feel honored to come to work here.”

Choking back tears, she added: “And I just want the community of Concord to realize that.”

Opera singer Carla Dirlikov, who dazzled the students with a mezzo-soprano song from Carmen, along with two Spanish songs, said she wants to reach out to other artists to help bring music into schools. Representatives from the Monument Community Partnership said they believe more community members — including elected officials — may be willing to visit the school and possibly partner on programs or activities. Newling said the school will need these kinds of partnerships to continue to flourish after the campus’ School Improvement Grant runs out in June. She described the school’s transformation as nothing short of a “renaissance.”

How do you think the community can help to support the arts in schools?

Posted on Monday, September 8th, 2014
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | No Comments »

Back-to-school advice from the state PTA

As students head back to school on campuses around the state this month, the California state Parent Teacher Association offering suggestions to help calm the “Start-of-School Jitters.”

Here’s what the group says, in a back-to-school news release:

“The back-to-school season is an exciting time, but it can also cause anxiety for some children — and parents too! Preparing in advance can help your child feel more confident and have a more positive school experience. California State PTA offers guidance for parents and students for helping to calm jitters during the start of school.

Reassure your child. Anxieties and concerns are normal. Many children will experience these feelings at the start of the school year. Encourage your child to talk openly with you and with teachers about concerns or worries they may have.

Point out the positives. Starting a new school year can be fun. Your child will see old friends and/or meet new ones. The first week of school offers a chance to learn about new things and pursue interests. Reinforce with your child the power of learning.

Prepare ahead. Have your child pick out the clothes he or she plans on wearing to school the next day. This will save time and stress in the morning. Encourage everyone in the house to go to bed early and get up 15 to 30 minutes earlier so they’re not rushing around in the morning. Allow enough time for a good breakfast, and make arrangements for your child’s lunch. During the first week of school, find out if any additional materials are requested (pencils, folders, etc.) Remember: your school, local nonprofit groups and PTAs often can help with providing school supplies.

Encourage safe traveling to and from school. Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your youngster can walk or bike to school, or ride with on the bus. Briefly review the basics of safe walking and biking. If you feel it is appropriate, drive your child (or walk with him) to school and pick him up on the first day.

Plan for special needs. If your child requires medication, treatment or has special needs, talk to the school administrative staff, then talk to your child about how those needs will be handled at school (what time to go to the office for medication or what foods in the cafeteria to avoid, etc.).

Prepare for emergency situations. What should your child do if you are late picking her up, or if no one is at the house when she arrives home? What should your child do if he feels picked on while at recess? Talking in advance with your child and having a plan will help minimize panic and stress.

For more back-to-school tips for parents and information on the importance of family engagement, visit www.capta.org. PTA connects families and schools, and helps kids and parents feel welcomed at school throughout the year.

California State PTA will be featuring the #FirstDayofSchoolSmiles on Facebook and Instagram throughout the back-to-school season. To get the latest information, get connected with California State PTA online.

The California State PTA connects families and schools, and has more than 800,000 members throughout the state working on behalf of public schools, children and families, with the motto, ‘every child, one voice.’ The PTA is the nation’s largest and highest profile volunteer association working to connect families and schools, and improve the education, health and welfare of all children and youth. The PTA also advocates at national, state and local levels for education and family issues. The PTA is nonprofit, nonsectarian and noncommercial.”

I would like to reiterate the importance of traffic safety. Sadly, every year, it seems that children are hit and sometimes killed by motorists who don’t see them walking or biking to school. Please allow extra time to get to school and follow the rules for drop-off and pickup to ensure that everyone gets to school safely.

What’s your back to school advice?

Posted on Saturday, August 16th, 2014
Under: Education | No Comments »

MDUSD board to make several appointments tonight

Here is the agenda for tonight’s Mt. Diablo school board 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 Board Member, Brian Lawrence, will participate via teleconference from Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Business Center, 1201 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 Info
1.2 President Will Call the Meeting to Order at 5:00 p.m. 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 5:00 p.m.
4.1 The Board of Education will adjourn to Closed Session at 5:00 p.m. to consider items listed on the Closed Session Agenda. Action
5.0 Closed Session Agenda
5.1 (Item #1) Expulsion of Student #14-14 from all regular schools of Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
5.2 (Item #2) Discipline, Dismissal or Release of Public Employee Action
5.3 (Item #3) Discipline, Dismissal or Release of Public Employee Action
5.4 (Item #4) 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, Teamsters M&O, Local One CST, MDSPA, and Supervisory. Info/Action
5.5 (Item #5) Existing Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(1) regarding the matter of California Taxpayers Action Network v. MDUSD, MSC14-00996 Info/Action
5.6 (Item #6) Existing Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(1) regarding the matter of Rhinehart v. MDUSD, USDC 4:13-CV-05919-CW Info/Action
5.7 (Item #7) Existing Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(1) regarding the matter of John Does v. MDUSD, Case Nos. MSC14-00262, MSC14-00289, MSC14-00312 Info/Action
5.8 (Item #8) Existing Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(1) regarding the matter of Kovasti v. MDUSD, EEOC Charge No. 555-2009-01175 Info/Action
5.9 (Item #9) Existing Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(1) regarding the matter of Richard Heyer v. MDUSD, Case No. MSC11-01425 Info/Action
5.10 (Item #10) Existing Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(1) regarding the matter of Roaldson v. MDUSD, MSC11-02675 Info/Action
5.11 (Item #11) Anticipated Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Sec. 54956.9(b, Significant Exposure to Litigation: 2 cases Info/Action
5.12 (Item #12) Conference with Negotiator(s) pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54957.6; Agency Negotiator: Barbara Oaks; Unrepresented Employee: Superintendent Info/Action
5.13 (Item #13) Conference with Negotiator(s) pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54957.6; Agency Negotiator: Dr. Nellie Meyer; Unrepresented Employee: Director Info/Action

6.0 Reconvene Open Session at 7:30 p.m.
6.1 Reconvene Open Session at 7:30 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 #14-14 from all regular schools of Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
8.2 (Item #2) Discipline, Dismissal or Release of Public Employee Action
8.3 (Item #3) Discipline, Dismissal or Release of Public Employee Action
8.4 (Item #4) 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. Info/Action
8.5 (Item #5) Existing Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(1) regarding the matter of California Taxpayers Action Network v. MDUSD, MSC14-00996 Info/Action
8.6 (Item #6) Existing Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(1) regarding the matter of Rhinehart v. MDUSD, USDC 4:13-CV-05919-CW Info/Action
8.7 (Item #7) Existing Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(1) regarding the matter of John Does v. MDUSD, Case Nos. MSC14-00262, MSC14-00289, MSC14-00312 Info/Action
8.8 (Item #8) Existing Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(1) regarding the matter of Kovasti v. MDUSD, EEOC Charge No. 555-2009-01175 Info/Action
8.9 (Item #9) Existing Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(1) regarding the matter of Richard Heyer v. MDUSD, Case No. MSC11-01425 Info/Action
8.10 (Item #10) Existing Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(1) regarding the matter of Roaldson v. MDUSD, MSC11-02675 Info/Action
8.11 (Item #11) Anticipated Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Sec. 54956.9(b, Significant Exposure to Litigation: 2 cases Info/Action
8.12 (Item #13) Conference with Negotiator(s) pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54957.6; Agency Negotiator: Barbara Oaks; Unrepresented Employee: Superintendent Info/Action
8.13 (Item #12) Conference with Negotiator(s) pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54957.6; Agency Negotiator: Dr. Nellie Meyer; Unrepresented Employee: Director Info/Action

9.0 Board Member Reports
9.1 Board Reports Info

10.0 Superintendent’s Report
10.1 Superintendent’s Report Info

11.0 Reports/Information
11.1 Presentation by the Pleasant Hill Green Team Info

12.0 Public Employee Appointment
12.1 Appointment of Director, Special Education Action

12.2 Appointment of Director, Personnel Action

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

12.4 Appointment of Vice Principal, High School – Mt. Diablo High School Action

12.5 Appointment of Vice Principal – Northgate High School Action

12.6 Appointment of Vice Principal – El Dorado Middle School Action

12.7 Appointment of Vice Principal – Riverview Middle School Action

12.8 Appointment of Vice Principal, Elementary – Bel Air Elementary and Delta View Elementary Action

12.9 Appointment of Vice Principal, Elementary – Cambridge Elementary Action

12.10 Appointment of Vice Principal, Elementary – Meadow Homes Elementary Action

12.11 Appointment of Vice Principal, Elementary – Mt. Diablo Elementary School and Ygnacio Valley Elementary School Action

12.12 Appointment of Vice Principal, Elementary – Shore Acres Elementary and Hidden Valley Elementary Action

12.13 Appointment of Program Specialist, Categorical Programs, Site Based – Meadow Homes Elementary Action
13.0 Consent Agenda Action

13.1 (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
13.2 (Item #2) Recommended Action for Certificated Personnel Action
13.3 (Item #3) Request to Increase and Decrease Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2014-2015 School Year Action
13.4 (Item #4) Recommended Action for Classified Personnel Action
13.5 (Item #5) Classified Personnel: Request to Increase/Decrease Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2014-15 School Year Action
13.6 (Item #6) Fiscal Transactions for the month of June 2014 Action
13.7 (Item #7) Correction of Funding Source for Director of Measure C Action
13.8 (Item #8) Increase of days per year for the position of Director, School Support & Accountability Action
13.9 (Item #9) Approve contract between Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) and Maxim Healthcare Services, Non Public Agency (NPA) for the 2014-2015 school year. Action
13.10 (Item #10) Execution of Non-Public School Contracts for the 2014-15 School Year Action
13.11 (Item #11) Internship Agreement between San Francisco State University and Mt. Diablo Unified School District Action
13.12 (Item #12) Internship Agreement between Brandman University and Mt. Diablo Unified School District for Multiple Subject, Single Subject and Education Specialist Internship programs. Action
13.13 (Item #13) Student Teaching Agreement between University of Phoenix and Mt. Diablo Unified School District Action
13.14 (Item #14) Internship and Fieldwork Agreement between Brandman University and Mt. Diablo Unified School District for School Counseling and School Psychology programs. Action
13.15 (Item #15) Internship Credential Program Agreement between National University and Mt. Diablo Unified School District Action
13.16 (Item #16) Student Placement Agreement between Saint Mary’s College of California and Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
13.17 (Item #17) Approval of 2014-15 independent contract with Carol Teltschick-Fall for $55,000 as S3 Grant Coordinator for College Park High School. Action
13.18 (Item #18) Partial Award RFP #1683: Supplemental Student Transportation – Ambulatory Action
13.19 (Item #19) Partial Award of RFP #1683: Supplemental Student Transportation – Ambulatory and Non-Ambulatory Action
13.20 (Item #20) Partial Award of RFP #1683: Supplemental Student Transportation – Sports and Field Trips Action
13.21 (Item #21) Award of Bid #1682: Building E Window Replacement at CPHS Action
13.22 (Item #22) Williams Quarterly Summary Report Action
13.23 (Item #23) Approve textbook for Career Choices High School course. Action
13.24 (Item #24) Education Code 44263 – Board Authorization Action
13.25 (Item #25) Amended Certificate of Signatures Action

14.0 Consent Items Pulled for Discussion

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 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

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 Business/Action Items

17.1 Opportunity for public response to the additional Sunshine Proposal from Teamsters Local Union #856 (M&O) to Mt. Diablo Unified School District Action

17.2 Approve Memo of Understanding between Maintenance and Operations, Teamsters Local No. 856 and Mt. Diablo Unified School District Action

17.3 Conduct Public Hearing Regarding Draft Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for College Park High School Athletic Facility Improvements. Action

17.4 Creation of Board Policy 5131.62 and Administrative Regulation 5131.62 to prohibit students against tobacco use. Info

17.5 Revision of Board Policy 3513.3 and Administrative Regulation 3513.3 Info

17.6 BP 6174 Education for English Learners AP 6174 Education for English Language Learners Info

17.7 Revise Job Description for Assistant Director, College and Career, Adult Education Action

17.8 Mt. Diablo Adult Education seeks approval to submit a grant application for $75,000 to Outreach and Technical Assistance Network (OTAN) Action

17.9 Meeting Extension Action

17.10 Approve agreement between Mt. Diablo Unified School District and Santa Clara County Office of Education Action

17.11 Memorandum of Understanding with City of Concord to co-fund School Resource Officers for the 2014/2015 School Year at District High Schools in Concord Action

17.12 Legal Services Contracts Action

17.13 Adoption of Middle School Math Common Core Courses of Study. Info/Action

17.14 Approve course name change from Algebra Readiness to Math 8. Action

17.15 Community Facilities District # 1 (Measure A) Action

17.16 Hold Public Hearing and adopt Resolution of Intent to Dedicate an Easement at Clayton Valley Charter High School Action

17.17 Approve Short Term Facilities Lease Agreement with YMCA of the Central Bay Area at Strandwood ES. Action

18.0 Future Agenda Items
18.1 Future Agenda Items Info

19.0 Closed Session
19.1 Items not completed during the first Closed Session will be carried over to this closed session. Action

20.0 Reconvene Open Session
20.1 Reconvene Open Session Info

21.0 Adjournment
21.1 Adjourn Meeting Info”

What items are of most interest to you?

Posted on Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 145 Comments »

Nearly 100 candidates seek school board seats in Contra Costa County

As the election filing deadline neared in Contra Costa County on Friday, nearly 100 candidates had taken out papers for more than 20 school board races.

The filing deadline will be extended to 5 p.m. Wednesday in 11 districts where some incumbents are not seeking re-election. These include: The Acalanes, Brentwood, Byron, John Swett, Lafayette, Moraga, Mt. Diablo, Orinda, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek and West Contra Costa districts.

Just before the filing deadline, it appeared that nearly all of the races would be contested, with most incumbents facing challengers. Here is a list of the races and candidates who had qualified for the ballot by 5 p.m. Friday, followed by potential candidates who had taken out papers, but had not yet completed all the ballot requirements.

County Board of Education, Area 2: Incumbent Christine Deane and Ray Andersen.

County Board of Education, Area 4: Incumbent Richard Asadoorian and Mike Maxwell.

County Board of Education, Area 5: Incumbent Cynthia Ruehling and Jeff Belle.

Community College, Ward 1: Incumbent John Marquez and Cheryl Sudduth.

Community College, Ward 3: Tim Farley and incumbent Matthew Rinn.

Community College, Ward 4: Incumbent John Nejedly (unopposed).

Acalanes: Incumbent Susan (Susie) Epstein, incumbent Nancy Kendzierski, Kristen Correll and Robert Hockett.

Acalanes (short term): Incumbent J. Richard Whitmore (unopposed).

Antioch Unified School District: Incumbent Joy Motts, Incumbent Gary Hack and Debra Vinson and Walter Ruehlig.

Brentwood: Incumbent Emil Geddes, incumbent Heather Partida, John A. Fjeldstad, Scott S. Dudek, Susan Wallace, Johnny Rodriguez, Christina Bell and Marci Lapriore.

Byron Union: Incumbent Jill Marlene Sprenkel, Felicia Schweller and Tania Salinas. Not yet qualified: Karri Jo Murayama.

Byron (short term): Incumbent Betty Sanchez. Not yet qualified: Gina Larmar Parish.

Canyon Elementary: Incumbent David James Smith, incumbent Ian Llewellyn and incumbent Geronimo Bernard.

John Swett: Incumbent Brian Colombo, Michael Kirker and Deborah A. Brandon.

Knightsen: Incumbent Liesel Williams, Patrick Hulleman and Kristen L. Fuller, incumbent Ralph Adam McMeans and Robin Denise Pastor.

Lafayette: Incumbent Teresa Gerringer and incumbent David Gerson and Suzy Pak.

Liberty: Incumbent Roy Ghiggeri, incumbent Daron Spears, incumbent Joanne Louise Byer and Pauline Allred.

Martinez: Incumbent Deidre Siguenza, incumbent Roberta “Bobbi” Horack and Ronald Skrehot.

Moraga: Incumbent Parker Colvin, Heather O’Donnell and Jonathan Nickens.

Moraga (short term): Not yet qualified: Heather o’Donnell.

Mt. Diablo: Incumbent Linda Mayo, incumbent Cheryl Hansen, Michael Langley, Herbert Lee, Debra Mason and James Ryan Egnor-Keil.

Oakley: Incumbent Gloria Jean Lott, incumbent Mark Jordan and incumbent Arthur Fernande.

Orinda: Incumbent Juliane Rossiter, Hillary Shayne Weiner, Carol Brown and Jason Kaune. Not yet qualified: incumbent Christopher Clark Severson.

Pittsburg: Incumbent Joe Arenivar, incumbent Duane Smith and De’Shawn Woolridge. Not yet qualified: Daniel Borsuk.

San Ramon Valley: Incumbent Ken Mintz, incumbent Rachel Hurd, incumbent Denise Jennison and Jerome Pandell.

Walnut Creek: Incumbent Barbara Pennington, Stacey Schweppe, Aimee Moss, Heidi Hernandez Gatty and Sherri McGoff.

West Contra Costa: Incumbent Madeline Kronenberg, incumbent Elaine Merriweather, Elizabeth (Liz) Block, Chester Stevens, Raquel Donoso, Otheree Christian, Mister Phillips and Peter Nicholas Chau. Not yet qualified: Charlene W. Harlan-Ogbeide, Valerie Cuevas and Giorgio Cosentino.

Which candidates do you support?

Posted on Friday, August 8th, 2014
Under: Contra Costa Community College District, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa County Board of Education, Education, Election, John Swett district, Lafayette school district, Liberty district, Martinez school district, Moraga, Mt. Diablo school district, Oakley district, Orinda, Pittsburg school district, San Ramon Valley school district, Walnut Creek School District, West Contra Costa school district | 14 Comments »

Torlakson or Tuck? Who will you choose for state Superintendent of Public Instruction?

Marshall Tuck greets Dan Hatfield

Marshall Tuck greets Dan Hatfield

Tom Torlakson walks into Contra Costa Times editorial board interview

Tom Torlakson walks into Contra Costa Times editorial board interview

An incumbent former teacher who is a seasoned politician is running against a challenger known as an education reformer and political outsider in the race for state schools chief.

In interviews with the editorial board of this newspaper, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and his opponent Marshall Tuck revealed similarities and differences in their opinions about education issues.

Torlakson said he waiting to see the final judgment in the recent Vergara court case, where a judge struck down California’s teacher tenure laws, before deciding whether or not to appeal.

“We want the most highly qualified, excellent teachers in front of all of our students in all of their classes, so I am working diligently on different ways to accomplish that,” Torlakson said. “At the same time, I want to make sure that the final judgment doesn’t detrimentally affect our ability to recruit and retain our teachers.”

Granting tenure after two years is reasonable if teacher training programs provide hands-on classroom experience and if competent administrators provide adequate programs to mentor and evaluate teachers, along with peer reviews when they first become teachers, he said.

Tuck wholeheartedly supported the judge’s decision and promised to drop any appeal the state files if he’s elected. He said most people he’s talked to in the state believe that tenure laws are not benefiting kids.

“I think that kind of lack of leadership — where it requires a lawsuit by students rather than true leadership by elected officials to really drive change that we know our kids need — was a big challenge,” he said.

After the lawsuit was filed, Tuck said the state superintendent of public instruction, whose job is to advocate for kids, should have been the first witness for the plaintiffs. After the ruling came out, Tuck said the state superintendent should have immediately begun working to fix the system.

Both men are passionate about improving education statewide. They agree that it’s important to help charter schools succeed and to share best practices among teachers at all public schools. They also want to help schools involve parents in their children’s education.

However, they have taken different paths to accomplish their goals.

Torlakson has worked as a classroom teacher and legislator, collaborating with others to pass laws to benefit students. While in office, he has convened education leaders and others to create a Greatness By Design report focused on “supporting outstanding teaching to sustain a golden state,” A Blueprint for Great Schools report, No Child Left Offline report and a report on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM. He has worked to implement Common Core standards and the new Local Control Funding Formula, which shifts more money to schools with a high percentage of disadvantaged students.

“I’m determined. I‘m a bulldog when it comes to getting things done,” Torlakson said. “I’m a coalition builder. I’m a team builder. I’m a coach. I’m a teacher. I’ve done some good work by building strong teams.”

Tuck, who started his career as an investment banker in his early 20s, later transitioned into running Green Dot charter schools, then working with the Mayor of Los Angeles to turn around low-performing schools in the city.

“I jumped into education full time in 2002. I made the decision that I wanted to spend my time and energy helping as many people have a better life as possible,” he said. “(With the) combination of values I was raised with growing up, I decided, ‘I’m jumping off the material success train and jumping on the helping people and better life train.’ And to me, there’s nothing better than education to do that.”

Torlakson has strong backing from the California Teachers’ Association. Tuck says the voices of parents should be given more weight.

But, like Torlakson, Tuck said change can only happen if everyone comes together behind common goals.
“Without question,” Tuck said, “to get to where California needs to get to — which is everybody focused on a kids first agenda — we’re going to need everybody on the same team.”

Here’s the complete video of the Torlakson interview: http://www.contracostatimes.com/endorsements/ci_26245676/editorial-board-meeting-incumbent-tom-torlakson

Here’s the complete video of the Tuck interview: http://www.contracostatimes.com/endorsements/ci_26245679/editorial-board-meeting-marshall-tuck

Here are two short videos of Torlakson and Tuck in which they were free to talk for one minute about why they want to be California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction:

Torlakson: http://www.tout.com/m/f4d4j2

Tuck: http://www.tout.com/m/8kgfj5

Who do you support in the state Superintendent of Public Instruction race?

Posted on Monday, August 4th, 2014
Under: California, Education, Tom Torlakson | 3 Comments »

Middle and high school students can vote in mock statewide election this fall

Poster encourages students to vote in mock election

Poster encourages students to vote in mock election

To interest students in the candidates for governor and proposition issues on the November statewide ballot, the Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction are sponsoring an October 28 mock election.

“Mock elections are a great way for young people to experience firsthand what it’s like to make informed decisions at the ballot box,” said Debra Bowen, Secretary of State, in a prepared statement. “As students learn about the candidates and issues, they discover how government and politics affect every part of their lives.”

Since 2004, the Secretary of State’s office has sponsored a mock election for middle and high school students every two years. Participation has grown from 647 schools a decade ago to a record 735 schools in 2012, including 88 from the East Bay.

This year, the state is hoping that even more schools will sign up for the 2014 My Vote Mock Election, which will include the race for governor and all seven propositions, said Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State.

“We have a few hundred registered and we’re looking to surpass our record of schools participating,” she said. “For some schools, it’s simply a civics or history or government teacher distributing the ballots on a single date.”

But at the other end of the spectrum, Winger said, some schools conduct mock debates between students who study the positions of candidates or proponents and opponents of ballot measures.

“Some students and teachers will really get into it and build classes around elections or civic engagement,” she said. “Some will pick issues, such as the water bond.”

A science teacher could use the Proposition 43 water bond proposal as a starting point for discussions about the drought and how it affects residents and farmers, Winger said.

The Secretary of State’s website includes information about registering your school at www.sos.ca.gov/elections. Click on “My Vote: Student Mock Election.” Schools that register by Sept. 19 will receive free instructional materials and student voter information guides in time for the election. Those registering by Oct. 27 can print materials from the website.

After the Oct. 28 mock election, registered schools can report their results to the Secretary of State to be included in an announcement of the statewide student voting results that will be released Oct. 29. Students can also get “I voted stickers” just like adult voters receive.

Posters and fliers on the My Vote website can help students understand that voting is one way for citizens to help make changes in the state.

One poster says: “Change your ringtone. Change your hairstyle. Change your playlist. Change your oil. Change your BFF. Change your shoes. Change your attitude. Vote. It may be the best change you make all year.”

Schools are encouraged to share ideas for making the mock election fun online. Ideas posted from previous mock elections include:

— Voting in official booths used in the real election or in booths created by wood shop classes

— Enlisting parent volunteers or students to act as poll workers and sign in students, before voting

— Creating “Vote Here” signs for the mock polling site

— Encouraging students to make posters for and against propositions

— Mock debates covered by journalism students with mock press passes

— Inviting guest speakers to address students about the election process and media coverage

— Encouraging students who are 18 or older to talk to classmates about their experience of registering to vote and voting

— Partnering with an after-school program, which could provide a pep rally the day before the mock election and count the votes afterward

Voting in the mock election can help engage students in assignments related to the real election.
“Part of the debriefing was to analyze voter participation in California and the nation,” one teacher wrote. “Students also analyzed and evaluated exit poll data. The fact that they participated in the mock election made these activities more meaningful and relevant.”

Will your school participate in the mock election?

Posted on Monday, July 28th, 2014
Under: Education, Election | 1 Comment »

Acalanes district “sues” residents, warning court may decide against them without their being heard

The Acalanes Union High School District has published the following legal notice in the Contra Costa Times, warning residents that the Contra Costa County Superior Court could take action that would adversely affect them, unless they respond by Aug. 18 to a complaint seeking to validate the issuance of $15 million in current interest bonds that will exceed the tax rate of $35.58 promised in the 2008 Measure E ballot language:

“NOTICE! YOU HAVE BEEN SUED. THE COURT MAY DECIDE AGAINST YOU WITHOUT YOUR BEING HEARD UNLESS YOU RESPOND BY AUGUST 18, 2014. READ INFORMATION BELOW.

AVISO! USTED HA SIDO DEMANDADO. EL TRIBUNAL PUEDE DECIDER CONTRA USTED SIN AUDIENCIA A MENOS QUE USTED REPONDA ANTES DEL 18 DE AGOSTO DE 2014. POR FAVOR LEA LA INFORMACION QUE SIGUE.

SUMMONS

NOTICE TO DEFENDANTS:

ALL PERSONS INTERESTED IN THE MATTER OF THE ISSUANCE BY ACALANES UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE ELECTION OF 2008 GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS AS AUTHORIZED BY THE NOVEMBER 4, 2008 PROPOSITION 39 BOND MEASURE ELECTION APPROVING THE ISSUANCE OF SUCH BONDS IN BALLOT MEASURE E, THE ADOPTION OF A RESOLUTION OF ISSUANCE OF GOVERNMENT CODE BONDS, THE SALE OF SUCH BONDS, AND PROCEEDINGS AND MATTERS RELATED TO THE ABOVE

YOU ARE BEING SUED BY PLAINTIFF:

ACALANES UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT

TO ALL PERSONS INTERESTED IN THE MATTER, PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that you may contest the legality or validity of the matter by appearing and filing a written answer to the Complaint not later than August 18, 2014.

Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 861.1, any person who contests the legality or validity of the matter will not be subject to punitive action, such as wage garnishment or seizure of real or personal property.

YOU MAY SEEK THE ADVICE OF AN ATTORNEY IN ANY MATTER CONNECTED WITH THE COMPLAINT OR THIS SUMMONS. SUCH ATTORNEY SHOULD BE CONSULTED PROMPTLY SO THAT YOUR PLEADING MAY BE FILED OR ENTERED WITHIN THE TIME REQUIRED BY THIS SUMMONS.

The Acalanes Union High School District has brought this action for the purpose of obtaining a judgment validating documents and processes relating to the issuance of bonds of the District (“District Bonds”) in an aggregate principal amount not-to-exceed $15,000,000 at a projected ad valorem tax rate of not more than $30.00 per $100,000 in assessed value which is projected to result in an ad valorem tax rate in excess of the initial projected tax rate for the issuance as originally projected in estimates included in Ballot Measure E, the November 2008 Proposition 39 Bond Measure Election approving the issuance of such bonds; the adoption of a Resolution Of Issuance Of Government Code Bonds; the execution of a Continuing Disclosure Certificate; and, the sale of such Bonds.

The purpose of the District Bonds is to raise money for the Acalanes Union High School District to fund projects to achieve energy-savings, for new and upgraded instructional facilities, and for needed repairs to school facilities, in addition to the other needs of the District as approved by the electorate voting on Measure E (which includes, to establish a ten-year technology fund, upgrade instructional classroom technology, replace worn, aging roofs, convert obsolete facilities into additional classroom space, upgrade electrical and energy management systems to improve efficiency and repair, construct, equip or upgrade school facilities), and, to pay all necessary legal, financial and contingent costs in connection with the issuance of the District Bonds.

CASE NO.: C14-01298

THE NAME AND ADDRESS OF THE COURT IS:

Contra Costa County Superior Court 725 Court Street Martinez, CA 94553

THE NAME, ADDRESS AND TELEPHONE NUMBER OF PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY IS: Sean B. Absher Jeremiah I. Nelson Stradling, Yocca, Carlson & Rauth 44 Montgomery Street, Suite 4200 San Francisco, CA 94104 Telephone: (415) 283-2240 Facsimile: (415) 283-2255

DATE: July 14 , 2014 Clerk, by D. WAGNER, Deputy [Insert Name of Deputy Clerk]
CCT# 5241182 July 18, 24, 31, 2014″
Appeared in: Bay Area News Group on Friday, 07/18/2014

Here are links to the documents the district filed in court.

Complaint seeking court validation to issue $15 million in bonds that will exceed tax rate promised in ballot language:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceUmI4cmJqbHlKT1k/edit?usp=sharing

Exhibit A (July 2008 Board Resolution Authorizing $93 million construction bond measure election):
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceMTUyT0VEZEtpZGc/edit?usp=sharing

Exhibit B (December 2008 Board Resolution certifying results of Nov. 8, 2008 Measure E bond election):
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceNGJJdHozZDNGSGs/edit?usp=sharing

Exhibit C (June 2014 Board Resolution authorizing issuance of $15 million in current interest bonds and seeking court validation for the issuance):
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceM3lOOEZ2RlRRSkE/edit?usp=sharing

Here is my most recent story about the validation issue, which includes some video clips from the June meeting where the board voted 4-1 to issue the bonds and seek court validation for their decision, since it will require property owners to pay more than the tax rate their were promised in the ballot language: http://www.contracostatimes.com/News/ci_26162494/Acalanes-district-seeks-to-validate-bond-issuance-exceeding-promised-tax-rate

I have received phone calls and emails from several area residents who are concerned about this issue and have indicated they may look into filing an answer to the court complaint. However, they are also concerned about the possible filing fee and are unsure how to go about filing an answer. Some believe this case could set a precedent for other districts that may also exceed tax rates promised in their ballot language.

Do you think district residents should contest the bond issuance?

Posted on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
Under: Acalanes school district, Education | 4 Comments »

How does your district’s accountability plan compare to others around the state?

Many school district officials are breathing sighs of relief this summer, after completing plans for the next three years that show how they will spend state money to benefit students.

The process was arduous and confusing to some, as they waited for details from the state Board of Education about how the plans should be created and what they should include.

Districts were supposed to ask parents, students and community members what their priorities were and to craft their plans based on the feedback they received. They were required to respond to comments and questions from the public in their final plans.

How well this process worked varied from one district to another. Some held community meetings, some created special advisory committees and a few wrote their own draft plans before ever meeting with parents or other stakeholders.

Now that the plans are done, the public can review them to determine whether they truly meet the needs of local students. Ultimately, the money is expected to improve student achievement, as well as school environments.

Local communities can hold districts accountable for following through on their promises by reading the plans on their district websites or comparing them to others on a site created by the nonprofit student advocacy group Education Trust-West in conjunction with more than 30 other organizations.

Called LCAP Watch, the site aims to compile every Local Control Accountability Plan in the state from 1,000 districts. Launched earlier this month, it can be found at http://lcapwatch.org.

You can review your district’s goals, planned actions and expenditures and find out how progress will be measured. After the next school year, districts must report how their actions have improved student outcomes, as part of requirements established under the state’s Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF.

“Under LCFF, parents play an important role in deciding how their district spends state funds to serve all students, especially those who are low income, English learners, and foster youth,” said Valerie Cuevas, Interim Executive Director of The Education Trust—West, in a news release. “Every parent in California must have access to their district LCAP if LCFF is going to live up to its promise and full potential for our students.”

The site includes hundreds of LCAPs, including drafts and final versions. But Education Trust-West hopes to expand the database through crowd sourcing.

Visitors can see existing plans or add plans that have not yet been uploaded. These will be confirmed, then posted by an administrator.

The website also includes additional resources offering best practices for addressing state priority areas, including school climate and student engagement.

“We encourage parents, educators, and community stakeholders to view and share LCAPs,” said Carrie Hahnel, Director of Research and Policy Analysis at Education Trust-West. “We also urge them to engage with their local school districts to monitor and improve the plans over time as a way to ensure their schools meet the needs of all students.”

How does your plan compare to others in the state?

Posted on Friday, July 18th, 2014
Under: Education | 131 Comments »

Principal of Northgate High in Walnut Creek resigns

I have received the following message from the Northgate HS Parent Faculty Club in Walnut Creek from Principal John McMorris, announcing his resignation.

“Dear Northgate Community,

It is with great regret that I announce to you that I have resigned as principal of Northgate High School.

For six years, it has been my biggest honor and highest accomplishment to be your principal. Together, we have moved Northgate forward and created a strong, collaborative and supportive community between all the stakeholders of our school. We have transformed Northgate into a school that we can all be proud of — Bronco spirit pervades our community; test scores are up; AP classes have increased; football lights shine and a pool is being built; dedicated teachers have been empowered to create dynamic and collaborative professional learning communities; WASC commended us for our outstanding leadership and direction; our athletes perform at the highest levels; our performing arts continue to win awards and recognition; and our students are learning at high levels and are committed and involved in their school. We have a lot to be proud of.

There is still work to be done, and I am confident that the collaboration between students, teachers, staff, administrators and parents will continue to build on our past successes. I know you will continue to fight for the best education for all of the Northgate students.

I have too many people to thank to name them all here. And, frankly, every parent, student, and staff member who has walked through those doors over the last 6 years has helped make Northgate a better place, and I am forever indebted to everyone’s hard work, dedication, and support.

As I have said over the past six years, Northgate has the best students I have ever had the privilege to work with. I leave with countless memories of these amazing students. Your children give me great hope for our future!

It has been a great six years to be a Bronco!

Most sincerely,

John McMorris”

Posted on Monday, June 30th, 2014
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Walnut Creek | 39 Comments »