Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'Alameda County' Category

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:








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.


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


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:

Exhibit A (July 2008 Board Resolution Authorizing $93 million construction bond measure election):

Exhibit B (December 2008 Board Resolution certifying results of Nov. 8, 2008 Measure E bond election):

Exhibit C (June 2014 Board Resolution authorizing issuance of $15 million in current interest bonds and seeking court validation for the issuance):

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:

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 »

National Merit $2,500 Scholarship Winners announced

Congratulations to East Bay National Merit $2,500 Scholarship winners, named earlier this month by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation!

Nastionwide, 2,500 Merit Scholars were chosen from among more than 15,000 finalists in the 2014 National Merit Scholarship Program. Those selected were judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies in their state, according to a news release. The number of California winners is proportional to the state’s percentage of the nation’s graduating high school seniors.

These winners were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors, who reviewed information submitted by the finalists and their high schools, including academic records, standardized test scores, leadership and other contributions to school and community activities, a student essay, and a high school recommendation. Semi-finalists were chosen based on their Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test scores from their junior years.

Winners can use their scholarships at any regionally accredited college or university in the country.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation urges the public not to compare high schools based on their numbers of Merit Scholarship winners, stressing that the program honors individual students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies. The program does not measure the quality or
effectiveness of education within a school, system or state.

Here are the East Bay winners, listed by county and city of residence, school and probable field:


Alameda: Cari Noelle Ebel Hartigan, Alameda High, Architecture
Albany: Catherine H. Li, Albany High, Neuroscience
Berkeley: Jasper Phillips Burget, Head-Royce School in Oakland, Writing
Berkeley: Thomas Woolsey Peterson, Head-Royce School in Oakland, Acting
Berkeley: Katherine I. Reed, Berkeley High, Computer Science
Castro Valley: Amanda C. Leung, Castro Valley High, Medicine
Dublin: Christine Xu, Amador Valley High in Pleasanton, Biomedical Engineering
Dublin: Kimberli C. Zhong, Dublin High, Engineering
Fremont: Adarsh N. Battu, Harker School in San Jose, Business
Fremont: Krishna S. Bharathala, Mission San Jose High, Computer Science
Fremont: Shivani Chandrashekaran, Harker School in San Jose, Medicine
Fremont: Adrija K. Darsha, American High, Medicine
Fremont: Emon Datta, Irvington High, Biomedical Engineering
Fremont: Christopher D. Fu, Harker School in San Jose, Biomedical Engineering
Fremont: Arnav J. Gautam, Mission San Jose High, Computer Science
Fremont: Rosemond L. Ho, American High, Law
Fremont: Vivian Jair, Mission San Jose High, Business
Fremont: Michael Ju, Irvington High, Computer Science
Fremont: Lucy Chaolu Li, Washington High, Patent Law
Fremont: Levina J. Lin, American High, Pediatrics
Fremont: Yixin Lin, Washington High, Computer Science
Fremont: Jenny Z. Lu, Irvington High, Biomedicine
Fremont: Amal Rohit Nanavati, Mission San Jose High, Computer Science
Fremont: Yuming Qin, Washington High, Healthcare Administration
Fremont: Kerrie Wu, Mission San Jose High, Engineering
Fremont: Patrick Zeng, Mission San Jose High, Engineering
Oakland: Francesca Paris, Head-Royce School, Journalism
Pleasanton: Bryce P. Hwang, Foothill High, Molecular Biology
Pleasanton: Aditi N. Newadkar, Amador Valley High, Medicine
Pleasanton: Brian K. Shimanuki, Amador Valley High, Computer Science
Pleasanton: Jennifer R. Teitell, Amador Valley High, Law


Alamo: Charlotte M. Lawrence, College Preparatory School in Oakland, Public Policy
Concord: Sohyeon Hwang, Northgate High in Walnut Creek, International Relations
Danville: Lance A. Chou, San Ramon Valley High, Medical Research
Danville: Lia L. Dawson, San Ramon Valley High, Chemical Engineering
Danville: Ariana N. Moghbel, San Ramon Valley High, Medicine
Kensington: Rebecca L. Shoptaw, Head-Royce School in Oakland, Film Production
Martinez: Shreyas A. Bhave, Monte Vista High in Danville, Computer Science
Moraga: Marina S. Han, Campolindo High, Psychology
Moraga: Dhruv A. Suri, Campolindo High, Undecided
San Ramon: Katherine A. Camenzind, California High, Engineering
San Ramon: Sarah R. Hay, Dougherty Valley High, Biochemistry
San Ramon: Flora Z. Wang, Phillips Exeter Academy in NH, Undecided
San Ramon: Christine H. Zhang, Dougherty Valley High, Medicine
San Ramon: Brian L. Zhong, Dougherty Valley High, Chemical Engineering
Walnut Creek: Vishank Jain-Sharma, Monte Vista High in Danville, Academia
Walnut Creek: David Simon Shif, Las Lomas High, Mathematics

The complete list of California winners is at:

Posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education | No Comments »

Congrats to Campolindo HS on its National Academic Decathlon championship title!

Campolindo HS Academic Decathlon team named National Champion for medium-sized schools 2nd year in a row!

Campolindo HS Academic Decathlon team named National Champion for medium-sized schools 2nd year in a row!

Congratulations to the Campolindo High School’s Academic Decathlon team, which has been named a National Champion for the second year in a row for medium-sized schools!

Campolindo placed 10th overall at the 2014 State Competition in Sacramento last March, competing against much larger schools several times its size. The overall winner went to the national competition, while the winners in the small and medium-sized categories competed online for their national titles, along with the second-highest scoring large schools.

Here is more about the accomplishment as described in a news release from the Contra Costa County Office of Education.

“Medium schools in this completion are high schools whose student population is between 650 and 1,300. Campolindo (California) was followed by New Jersey, 2nd place and Wisconsin, third place.

‘When I found out we won Nationals for the 2nd year in a row, I was incredibly excited,’ says Campolindo’s Academic Decathlon coach Paul Verbanszky. ‘The team has worked very hard to accomplish this. An opportunity like this does not come often in a lifetime. These are some of the finest students I have ever worked with in my 13 years of education!’”

Here is a link to final medium-school team and individual results:

Campolindo students were top-scorers in these categories as well. The students and team will be awarded trophies and medals, as well as scholarship money. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, presented the team with Congressional Recognition last week.

“I am really proud of how far our school’s Academic Decathlon has come in the three years I have been in it, and how successful it has become,” said Campolindo Academic Decathlon member Christoph Steefel, in a news release.

Teammate Graham Wade said, “I did not believe it at first, but I was really excited and happy that all of our hard work had paid off.”

Verbanszky teaches AP psychology and government/economics. He has been Campolindo’s Academic Decathlon coach since 2005.

The Academic Decathlon team is an after-school club with funding from donations and other fundraising.

“I am very proud of my students,” Verbansky said. “And, our team gives a big thank you to the Contra Costa County Office of Education for all of their support and hard work with Academic Decathlon, so that the students can have such a positive experience.”

The East Bay Regional Academic Decathlon is coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education with the assistance of community volunteers. It provides an opportunity for high school students to compete as individuals and teams in a series of 10 academic tests and demonstrations.

The curriculum includes art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, social science, essay, interview, speech (prepared and impromptu), and a Super Quiz™. About 170 high school students from 10 schools participated in the regional event.

The theme for this year’s Academic Decathlon was World War I. The Super Quiz™ focused on the subject areas the participating students had been studying, such as science, art, economics and literature.

The Academic Decathlon was created by Dr. Robert Peterson, a former Superintendent of Schools in Orange County, who believed that everyone’s learning potential can be maximized through competitive challenges. The contest that has since become recognized as the most prestigious high school academic team competition in the United States, according to a news release. The U.S. Academic Decathlon was founded in 1981.”

Do you think more schools should send teams to the Academic Decathlon?

Posted on Monday, May 19th, 2014
Under: Acalanes school district, Contra Costa County Office of Education, Education, Moraga | 1 Comment »

Congrats to 46 East Bay California Distinguished Elementary Schools!

California Distinguished School Certificate received by Hanna Ranch Elementary in 2012

California Distinguished School Certificate received by Hanna Ranch Elementary in 2012

Congratulations to the nearly 50 elementary campuses in the East Bay that have been named 2014 California Distinguished Schools!

State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson announced this week that 22 Alameda County schools and two dozen Contra Costa County schools are among 424 elementary campuses statewide designated as distinguished, based on innovative strategies for narrowing the achievement gap.

“I applaud these strong, thriving schools that are making such impressive strides in preparing their students for continued success,” Torlakson said in a prepared statement. “This award is well-deserved by these school communities for their enduring dedication to high standards, hard work, and unwavering support.”
Here is a list of East Bay 2014 California Distinguished Schools by county and district.


Alameda Unified: Edison Elementary

Dublin Unified: Harold William Kolb Elementary (also award for Exemplary Physical Activity and Nutrition Program)

Fremont Unified: Ardenwood, Fred E. Weibel, James Leitch, John Gomes, Joshua Chadbourne, Mission San Jose, Mission Valley and Niles elementary schools

New Haven Unified: Pioneer Elementary

Newark Unified: James L. Bunker and John F. Kennedy elementary schools

Oakland Unified: Achieve Academy, Montclair Elementary and Think College Now

Pleasanton Unified: Donlon, Henry P. Mohr, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, Vintage Hills and Walnut Grove elementary schools

Sunol Glen Unified: Sunol Glen Elementary


Lafayette Elementary: Lafayette Elementary

Mt. Diablo Unified: Mt. Diablo, Sequoia, Silverwood, Strandwood, Valle Verde and Walnut Acres elementary schools

Orinda Union: Del Rey, Glorietta, Sleepy Hollow and Wagner Ranch elementary schools

San Ramon Valley Unified: Bollinger Canyon, Coyote Creek, Golden View, Greenbrook, Hidden Hills, John Baldwin, Live Oak, Neil A. Armstrong, Rancho Romero, Sycamore Valley, Tassajara Hills and Vista Grande elementary schools

Walnut Creek School District: Walnut Heights Elementary

The “signature practices” that helped earn these schools their recognition will be posted online later this year. Signature practices of past campuses named as California Distinguished Schools are at

Each school is visited by a team of local educators to see how the signature practice have been implemented. In Contra Costa County, a team of 19 educators from the Contra Costa County Office of Education, along with 18 school district administrators and four retired district administrators visited the sites, according to a news release.

Greg Santiago, principal of Hanna Ranch Elementary in Hercules, was one of the district administrators on the site visits. Hanna Ranch was one of two West Contra Costa district elementary sites named as California Distinguished Schools in 2012.

Its signature practices were analyzing test data to provide extra support to low-performing students and trying to close the achievement gap between high-achieving Asian and Filipino students and lower-achieving African-American and Latino students by using culturally relevant teaching methods.

One such teaching methods is “call and response,” which allows students to chant responses to teachers’ prompts instead of raising their hands to be acknowledged. In reading the signature practices, it is clear that the principal keeps the staff, students and parents focused on them.

The school’s description of signature practices states: “The principal’s message about academics is simple, ‘You may not get it the first time, but you never give up!” Santiago heads up a school equity team, which walks through classrooms with a checklist that includes these questions: “Are students engaged? Are they participating? Is there bell-to-bell instruction?”

I met Santiago last month during a ride-along with Hercules School Resource Officer Greg Sanchez, who told me when we arrived: “This principal has got it down.”

What are the signature practices at your school?

Posted on Friday, May 2nd, 2014
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, West Contra Costa school district | 2 Comments »

A closer look at student fitness results in the East Bay


State fitness test results for students in grades 5, 7 and 9 released earlier this week showed that many children need to eat better and get more exercise to improve their aerobic capacity, strength and flexibility.

Based on six different tests of these areas, about a quarter of fifth-graders statewide met all fitness goals, compared to roughly one-third of seventh-graders and nearly 37 percent of ninth-graders.

Alameda County’s fifth-graders scored slightly higher than those statewide, with about 29 percent meeting all six fitness goals, while the same percentage of seventh-graders as those throughout California met the goals and 36.4 percent of ninth-graders met the goals. Contra Costa County students were also in the same range, with 28.1 percent of fifth-graders meeting all six fitness goals, compared to 31.8 percent of seventh-graders and 37.7 percent of high school freshmen.

Here’s a closer look at how fifth, seventh and ninth-grade students in some local districts compared to those throughout the East Bay and state:
Grade 5 Grade 7 Grade 9
STATE 25.5 32.4 36.5
ALAMEDA COUNTY 28.9 32.4 36.4
Castro Valley Unified 49.3 47.8 54.7
Dublin Unified 32.7 55.7 59.6
Livermore Valley Joint Unified 27.3 38.2 47.8
Pleasanton Unified 32.8 40.3 57.9
Sunol Glen Unified 70.0 50.0 (Grades 5 and 7)
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY 28.1 31.8 37.3
Acalanes High 53.5 (Grade 9)
Antioch Unified 18.7 29.4 33.5
Brentwood Elementary 28.1 38.5 (Grades 5 and 7)
Byron Elementary 41.4 46.2 (Grades 5 and 7)
Clayton Valley Charter High 31.7 (Grade 9)
John Swett Unified 19.2 27.4 28.8
Knightsen Elementary 42.0 28.6 (Grades 5 and 7)
Lafayette Elementary 54.5 24.1 (Grades 5 and 7)
Liberty High 46.0 (Grade 9)
Martinez Unified 23.3 36.2 25.0
Moraga Elementary 66.7 64.9
Mt. Diablo Unified 17.8 28.1 27.1
Oakley Elementary 7.3 23.7 (Grades 5 and 7)
Orinda Elementary 53.9 44.7 (Grades 5 and 7)
Pittsburg Unified 22.2 20.4 21.5
San Ramon Valley Unified 50.0 43.8 53.0
Walnut Creek Elementary 50.8 39.3 (Grades 5 and 7)
West Contra Costa Unified 15.2 20.3 21.9

Seventh-graders at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek surpassed the Mt. Diablo district average and roughly matched the state average, with about 32 percent of students meeting all six fitness goals.

Anna Meehan, 13, who is now in 8th grade, said she likes PE classes because she knows it’s good to get her heart rate going faster everyday and to work a little harder as she progresses through the school year.

Maggie Claire McCoy, who is also a 13-year-old eighth-grader, said she also participates in club volleyball outside of school and is hoping to play on the top-notch Northgate High volleyball team next year. She said exercise helps to condition her body for after-school sports, as well as keeping her fit overall.

Andrew Rinella, another 13-year-old eighth-grader, said he thinks it’s a good idea to participate in after-school sports in high school, so that students can stay fit even if they don’t take PE in their junior and senior years.

Chris deClercq, chairman of the PE department at the school, said he and other teachers promote lifelong fitness and try to find something that every child can enjoy.

“We try to expose them to as many activities as we can,” he said. “Our goal is getting them to believe fitness is a good thing and that it can still be fun, even though it’s hard at times.”

Complete fitness results by school, district, county and state are available by visiting Click on “Physical Fitness Test Results for 2012-13.”

Why do you think older students score better overall than younger students?

Posted on Friday, October 25th, 2013
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education | 1 Comment »

Candidate filing period for Nov. 6 election opens July 16

The filing period for local candidates planning to run for open seats in the Nov. 6 election opens July 16 and closes Aug. 10, unless an incumbent fails to file for re-election. In that case, the deadline is automatically extended to Aug. 15, according to political reporter Lisa Vorderbrueggen, who has compiled a long list of open seats in local agencies.

Here’s an excerpt of her list, which includes school board openings in Contra Costa and Alameda counties:

Contra Costa:

Acalanes Union High School District (two seats)
Antioch Unified School District (three seats)
Brentwood Union School District (two seats)
Byron Union School District (two seats)
Canyon Elementary School District (two seats)
Contra Costa County Board of Education (two seats)
Contra Costa Community College District (two seats, wards 2 and 5)
Chabot-Las Positas Community College District (one seat, Ward 7)
John Swett Unified School District (two seats)
Knightsen School District (three seats)
Lafayette School District (two seats)
Liberty Union High School District (two seats)
Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (two seats)
Martinez Unified School District (three seats)
Moraga School District (two seats)
Mt. Diablo Unified School District (two seats)
Oakley Union Elementary School District (two seats)
Orinda Union School District (two seats)
Pittsburg Unified School District (three seats)
San Ramon Valley Unified School district (two seats)
Walnut Creek School District (two seats)
West Contra Costa Unified School District (two seats)

Alameda County:

Alameda Unified School District (three seats)
Castro Valley Unified School District (three seats)
Dublin Unified School District (three seats)
Fremont Unified School District (three seats)
Hayward Unified School District (three seats)
Livermore Unified School District (two seats)
Mount House Elementary (one seat)
New Haven Unified School District (three seats)
Newark Unified School District (three seats)
Pleasanton Unified School District (three seats)
San Leandro Unified School district (three seats)
San Lorenzo Unified School District (four seats)
Sunol Glen Unified School district (1 seat)

In the Mt. Diablo district, incumbents Gary Eberhart and Sherry Whitmarsh have not yet publicly announced whether they intend to seek re-election. The teachers’ union has endorsed challengers Brian Lawrence and Attila Gabor. District residents Ernie DeTrinidad and Debra Mason have also told me they intend to run.

What are you looking for in a candidate?

AUG. 22 UPDATE: I have received a phone call from Mt. Diablo teachers’ union President Guy Moore informing me that MDEA has endorsed retired College Park HS Principal Barbara Oaks, now that Attila Gabor has pulled out of the race due to health concerns.

Posted on Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education, Election, Mt. Diablo school district | 63 Comments »

30 East Bay elementary schools named “2012 California Distinguished Schools”

Congratulations to the 30 East Bay elementary campuses that were named 2012 California Distinguished Schools!

Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, announced Thursday that 387 schools throughout California earned that honor for innovative education programs that encourage students to learn and help close the achievement gap.

“The schools we are recognizing today demonstrate the incredible commitment of California’s teachers, administrators, and school employees to provide a world-class education to every student, in spite of the financial hardships facing our state and our schools,” Torlakson said in a news release. “Their dedication is inspiring, and I applaud and admire their passion and persistence.”

Here are the East Bay schools that made the list, by county and district:


Alameda City Unified: Amelia Earhart Elementary, Donald D. Lum Elementary

Berkeley Unified: Malcolm X Elementary

Castro Valley Unified: Chabot Elementary, Independent Elementary, Jensen Ranch Elementary, Palomares Elementary, Vannoy Elementary

Dublin Unified: James Dougherty Elementary, John Green Elementary

Fremont Unified: Forest Park Elementary, Glenmoor Elementary, Hirsch Elementary, J. Haley Durham Elementary, Oliveira Elementary, Parkmont Elementary, Warm Springs Elementary

Livermore Valley Joint Unified: Altamont Creek Elementary, Arroyo Seco Elementary

Oakland Unified: Acorn Woodland Elementary, Henry J. Kaiser Jr. Elementary

Pleasanton Unified: Fairlands Elementary


Byron Union Elementary: Discovery Bay Elementary, Timber Point Elementary

Martinez Unified: John Swett Elementary, Morello Park Elementary

Mt. Diablo Unified: Highlands Elementary

Pittsburg Unified: Los Medanos Elementary

West Contra Costa Unified: Hanna Ranch Elementary, Olinda Elementary

The complete list is on the California Department of Education’s website at

Here is more information about the annual recognition program, from the news release:

“The 2012 California Distinguished Schools Program focuses on California’s students and their entitlement to an equitable and rigorous education. The program identifies and honors those schools that have demonstrated educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap.

To be invited to apply for Distinguished School honors, schools must meet a variety of eligibility criteria including designated federal and state accountability measures based on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Academic Performance Index requirements.

Once schools are deemed eligible, the CDE (California Department of Education) invites them to apply to be recognized as a California Distinguished School. The application process consists of a written application, which includes a comprehensive description of two of the school’s signature practices, and a county-led site validation review process, which validates the implementation of those signature practices.

Elementary and secondary schools (middle and high schools) are recognized in alternate years. This year focuses on elementary schools.

Schools earning the Distinguished School title agree to share their signature practices with other schools and serve as mentors to other educators who want to replicate their work. An updated searchable database of these Signature Practices will be available later this spring by the California Department of Education.

Schools selected for recognition will be honored as Distinguished Schools at award ceremonies where Torlakson will present each school with a 2012 Distinguished School plaque and flag. The event and awards are funded by donations from many of California’s most prominent corporations and statewide educational organizations.

To see signature practices shared by the 2009 California Distinguished Elementary Schools, visit

What are your school’s signature practices?

Posted on Friday, March 30th, 2012
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education | No Comments »

Campolindo retains title as county Academic Decathlon champ

Two Academic Decathlon teams from Campolindo High in Moraga again bested their competition during the annual Contra Costa County competition, sponsored by the Contra Costa County Office of Education.

Since the Alameda County Office of Education doesn’t put on a similar event, Contra Costa also hosted two schools from that county in its competition, with Irvington High from Fremont winning.

Both the Campolindo and Irvington teams will advance to the state competition representing Contra Costa and Alameda counties, respectively.

Here’s more information about the competition from a news release I received today:

Campolindo High School Returns as Contra Costa County’s 2012 Academic Decathlon Champion

PLEASANT HILL, Calif., February 9, 2012 – Last night, during an exciting awards reception, it was announced that Campolindo High School (Moraga) Red Team successfully defended its title as the overall team winner of the 2012 Contra Costa County High School Academic Decathlon. Along with Campolindo Red Team’s triumphant return, the school’s Blue Team also repeated its second place standing from last year, as well. This year’s third place team went to Acalanes High School (Lafayette). The Campolindo Red Team will now represent Contra Costa County at the California State Academic Decathlon, to be held in Sacramento, March 15-18. (This year’s National Academic Decathlon will be held in Albuquerque, N.M., April 26 – 28.)

Also noteworthy, of the two Alameda County participating schools, Irvington took first place; the school will represent their county at the California State Academic Decathlon. (Alameda County Office of Education does not produce a county-wide Academic Decathlon.)

Directed by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), and with the assistance of community volunteers, the county’s Academic Decathlon provides an opportunity for high school students to compete as individuals and teams in a series of ten academic tests and demonstrations. The curriculum includes art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, essay, interview, speech (prepared and impromptu), and the Super Quiz™. More than 155 participating high school students had been studying and preparing for this event with their coaches since September. This year’s Academic Decathlon theme was The Age of Empire, and the Super Quiz™ will focus on the topic of The Age of Imperialism: The Making of a European Global Order. The Super Quiz™ included readings on such topics as mercantile empires, the Atlantic economy, motives for imperialism, the role of technology in the age of imperialism, New Imperialism, tactics of colonial rule, and decolonization and postcolonial immigration.

This year’s participating teams represent the following high schools: Acalanes (Lafayette), Antioch (Anticoch), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Dublin (Dublin), Freedom (Oakley), Irvington (Fremont), Las Lomas (Walnut Creek), Miramonte (Orinda), and Pittsburg (Pittsburg). Acalanes High School has won the past four years. High school teams are made up of nine students, grades 9-12, with a maximum of three students in each of the following divisions: Honors (3.75-4.00 GPA), Scholastic (3.00-3.74 GPA) and Varsity (2.99 GPA and below). High schools that have more than nine students who want to participate in Academic Decathlon, can field more than one team, e.g., Campolindo’s Red and Blue Teams. The teams can also bring guests or alternate participants from their school.

During the awards ceremony, many individual awards were also given out. (All Academic Decathlon statistics will be posted on the CCCOE’s website in the very near future.)

The Academic Decathlon was first created by Dr. Robert Peterson, former Superintendent of Schools in Orange County, California. Firmly believing that everyone’s learning potential can be maximized through competitive challenge, Dr. Peterson set in motion the contest that has since come to be recognized as the most prestigious high school academic team competition in the United States. The program spread rapidly throughout the states due to the success and excitement it engendered. USAD was founded in 1981.”

Do you think this competition is a worthwhile event for the Contra Costa County Office of Education to organize?

Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2012
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County Office of Education | 4 Comments »

Report of gun at Acalanes HS unfounded

In response to rumors Tuesday that a student brought an unloaded gun to Acalanes High in Lafayette, police and school administrators conducted a search of the campus, Principal Aida Glimme said, in a Wednesday message to the community.

“Yesterday, Tuesday 9/27, Acalanes administration received a report of a possible weapon on campus,” Glimmer wrote. “In partnership with the Lafayette Police Department, a thorough search and investigation were conducted. A weapon was not found on campus.

The school’s safety procedures were followed and students were secure and safe on campus. We appreciate the partnership and aid of the Lafayette PD. We continue to encourage our students to keep the Acalanes staff informed of any safety risks to our students.”

Based on the school’s reported suspensions and expulsions for 2010-11, weapons were not an issue on campus last year:

However, the school logged 67 suspensions, including 44 related to violence or drugs. This far exceeded the number of suspensions on all other district campuses. However, Las Lomas High was the only district school to expel a student last year (for sale of controlled substances, alcohol, or intoxicants).

Are you satisfied with the school’s policies and procedures related to student safety?

Posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
Under: Acalanes school district, Education, Lafayette | No Comments »

A closer look at API and Program Improvement in Contra Costa County and the Tri-Valley

According to data released by the state Wednesday, East Bay schools are improving when measured by state Academic Performance Index (API) scores, but many are failing when evaluated by federal No Child Left Behind standards.

Why? Because the state rewards schools that make modest gains, while the federal government is expecting incrementally larger gains each year by students on math and English tests.

According to the No Child Left Behind law, the federal government’s goal is for all students to be proficient in both subjects by 2014. The goal for the state is for schools to keep making moderate progress, even though most educators seem to agree that proficiency for all students in the next three years is unattainable.

Frustrated, some administrators say the federal program appears to be setting them up for failure. Still, most agree the goal of proficiency for all students is laudable and say schools should strive to achieve it.

Here’s how East Bay districts stacked up against each other on their API scores:

(Scores range from 200-1,000, with target of 800)
Acalanes 903
Antioch 731
Brentwood 843
Byron 827
Canyon 888
John Swett 742
Knightsen 847
Lafayette 922
Liberty 764
Martinez 832
Moraga 955
Mt. Diablo 786
Oakley 790
Orinda 957
Pittsburg Not available
San Ramon 922
Walnut Creek 905
West Contra Costa 709
Alameda 842
Albany 881
Berkeley 790
Castro Valley 865
Dublin 885
Emery 702
Fremont 877
Hayward 715
Livermore 832
Newark 773
New Haven 775
Oakland 726
Piedmont 930
Pleasanton 906
San Leandro 738
San Lorenzo 741
Sunol Glen 939
Detailed school, district and county scores are at

Although these scores look pretty good overall, 66 percent of Contra Costa County schools and 60 percent of Alameda County schools are in federal Program Improvement for because students in various designated groups failed to made adequate yearly progress two years in a row. Student subgroups include: ethnic minorities, low-income students, English learners and those with disabilities.

Sanctions escalate each year a school fails to improve. In the first year, schools must notify parents of their program improvement status and set aside 5 percent of Title 1 funds for professional development. By year 5, schools must restructure their staffs and the district must offer alternative choices to students, along with supplemental services.

Districts entering program improvement must develop plans to address deficiencies and devote a percentage of Title 1 funds to professional development.

I and several other Times reporters spoke to local district officials about their scores to get a better sense of what they thought they did right and where they think they need to work harder.

Here’s a sampling of what they said:


ACALANES: Reporter Jonathan Morales told me the Acalanes district can no longer claim to be the highest-scoring high school district in the state. It was edged out this year by the Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union district in Santa Clara County, which received an API of 904, compared to 903 for Acalanes.
Here’s Morales’ story about the Lamorinda district school results:

Reporter Paul Burgarino reports that Antioch Unified saw its overall API score fall by one point to 731. While three elementary schools scored 800 or higher, only one increased its score.
Two schools — Orchard Park and Dozier Libbey Medical High — fell back below the 800 mark.
Though the district made little progress on meeting federal standards, no additional schools were designated for program improvement.
Antioch Superintendent Donald Gill said many teachers in the district were moved around last year because the district removed class-size reduction, which forced them to adjust to teaching new grade levels.
“I believe this year things will start to stabilize,” Gill said.
Schools that had specialized coaching for teachers showed improvement, while the district’s four-year data shows improvement in eight out of 10 subgroup categories, Gill said.
Three quarters of the teachers at Turner Elementary were new to their grade level last year. That school’s API score dropped 24 points to a 745.

Reporter Roman Gohkman reports that in the Brentwood Union School District, nine of 10 schools finished above 800. All three middle schools increased their scores; the largest jump coming at Adams Middle School, which increased its score by 17 points from 854 to 871.
All six elementary schools, however, saw their scores decline. The only school that finished below 800, Marsh Creek Elementary, had a growth target of 5 points. Instead, the school dropped 9 points.
“We had really great gains between 2009 and 2010, but our results this year are a mixed bag,” said Michael Bowen, district director of curriculum and instruction.
Bowen said the scores for the district’s six elementary schools dropped possibly because the district put more emphasis into increasing the scores of its three middle schools.
“We’ll be engaging our principals in diving into the data and addressing areas of need,” he said. “When we see drops we always want to dig deep and see what’s going on.”
All three middle schools, including Edna Hill, which is in the second year of program improvement, met their components in the AYP report, while four of the six elementary schools did not meet target goals on at least one component. Garin Elementary, which is in the second year of program improvement, did not meet the target in English-language arts or math.
“I think the targets are becoming unrealistic,” Bowen said.

Reporter Lisa White reports that Superintendent Rami Muth said a a teacher at Las Juntas Elementary (whom she declined to identify) did not follow the directions when administering the STAR test, so those students’ scores were declared invalid. Since those test results affected more than 5 percent of the student body, the test scores for the entire school weren’t counted, thus it was placed in Program Improvement.
The district hired a contractor to crunch the data, which found that every subgroup did make AYP, according to Muth. This, however, is unofficial and not recognized by the state.
So, technically the school is in Year 1 of Program Improvement and will have to do all the things the feds require. Parents will be notified at Back to School Night that they can apply to have their child transferred to one of the other elementary schools (all of which did make AYP) on a space-available basis.
“From our perspective,” Muth said, “the label — while not a good thing — we’re using it as a tool to grow.”

I spoke with Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for student achievement and school support. I will do a separate blog post looking more closely at the district, but here are a few of her comments:
She noted that many schools made good gains on their API scores, but said she wasn’t surprised by the district’s program improvement status:
“We knew it was coming, because we know that our subgroups are continuing to struggle,” she said. “Other school districts across the state are in a similar situation. If you look at the California API accountability, we are making gains. Unfortunately, it’s the federal accountabliity system that’s challenging. Walnut Creek is in program improvement too. We’re in good company.”
She pointed out that only a few districts met all the components of growth targets for all their schools. These included Moraga and Orinda.
“Even San Ramon didn’t,” she said. “Even Lafayette didn’t. But that doesn’t take away the work that we need to do.”
Lock said that being named a program improvement district requires the district to set aside at least 10 percent of its Title 1 money for district-wide professional development.
“We have been focusing on improvement,” Lock said. “Our department is really focused on really targeted and focused efforts — working with our schools in terms of using data and formative assessments — being more strategic in how we respond to the needs of students.”
She said the district hopes to complete its Master Plan for English learners by March, with the newly appointed Director of English Language Services.
“That’s a highest priority,” she said.
The district is also working on an Equity Plan to help narrow the achievement gap for black and Latino students.
In addition, Superintendent Steven Lawrence issued a News Update to the community about the district’s API and AYP results. However, he omitted the Eagle Peak Montessori Charter School from his list. Its score rose by 27 points to 918 and it met all federal targets.

Reporter Rick Radin reports that all Pittsburg elementary and middle school scores rose between 4 and 52 points, with one school — Los Medanos Elementary — scoring over 800.
Superintendent Linda Rondeau (a former MDUSD administrator) credited “a tight focus on teaching strategies and expository writing” in the schools for the improvement.
Pittsburg High and Riverside continuation school scores will not be available until October or November because of data errors by the testing service, Rondeau said.
Total test score increases at the Pittsburg elementary schools far outstripped those at the middle schools.
The elementary school curriculum is more aligned with state testing standards than the middle school curriculum, said Abe Doctolero, assistant superintendent for educational services.
“It becomes more difficult to get everyone aligned on the same instructional page in the middle schools because the teachers teach different subjects,” Doctolero said.

Reporter Eric Louie reports that the San Ramon Valley school district as a whole did not meet the standards because socioeconomically disadvantaged students and those with disabilities did not make the mark in math. Yet, Pine Valley Middle School in San Ramon was the only school that failed to meet its adequate yearly progress goal for math because too few Latino students achieved proficiency.
All other district schools did meet proficiency goals. However, like the majority of schools in the large district, Pine Valley is not a Title 1 school, so it will not be subject to No Child Left Behind sanctions.

I spoke to Superintendent Patricia Wool, who said the district did not meet its adequate yearly progress goals for English learners and Hispanic or Latino students.
“Overall as a district, we’re doing really well,” she said. “In fact our API is 905.”
Every year, the district prepares an Achievement Gap report, she said. The district will come up with a plan to address lagging students.
“We’ve got some work to do,” she said. “We’re trying to come up with varying ways to adjust the curriculum.”
Murwood and Buena Vista elementary are Title 1 schools. Murwood was newly identified as a Program Improvement school this year for failing to make adequate yearly progress in both English and math. Buena Vista failed to meet its math goals, but hasn’t been placed in program improvement yet. If it doesn’t improve, it could be headed for program improvement next year.
“We’re certainly committed to each and every subgroup,” she said. “We don’t rest on our laurels.”
I mentioned that the Cupertinto schools superintendent strongly objected to his district being singled out for “Program Improvement” this year, since that district also has high test scores overall. But Wool said she didn’t have a similar reaction.
“Am I up in arms? No,” she said, “because it’s going to take all of us in this district working together to figure out how to support all the subgroups.”

Reporter Shelly Meron reports that the West Contra Costa school district showed modest improvement overall this year, increasing its API score by 13 points to 709. School officials there say there were many successes this year, with several schools showing significant improvement since 2010.
“We’re in a better place than we were last year and we continue to see that movement in the right direction, and continue to focus on accelerating that growth,” said Nia Rashidchi, the district’s assistant superintendent for educational services. “Our teachers and administrators are working really hard. I think our scores are showing that effort.”
Title I schools in the district performed all over the map. Several campuses – including Stege Elementary, Dejean Middle School and Kennedy High, all in Richmond – dropped significantly. Others showed big improvements, including Bayview Elementary in San Pablo and Highland, Lincoln, Nystrom and Peres elementaries in Richmond.
Rashidchi said local schools have been tackling the job with close collaboration among staff, regular and in-depth assessment of student performance, pinpointing where strengths and weaknesses are, and figuring out how to replicate practices that are working and to weed out what’s not.
“Everyone’s working on that,” Rashidchi said. “Some of our schools have gotten more proficient at it.”
Rashidchi praised 60-point API growth at Lincoln Elementary to 719. The school met growth targets school-wide and for all subgroups.
Kennedy High, on the other hand, is still struggling. Its API score dropped by 33 points to 518 this year, and the school failed to meet its growth targets. It is also in year 5 of program improvement.
“There’s a sense of urgency with the (Kennedy) staff that we know we need to meet the needs of all our kids. We’ll be sitting down and talking with the staff, working with them and providing support to make sure we see the gains we see at other schools,” Rashidchi said. “We will have folks who are perhaps having more success talk with each other about what strategies they’re using. There is lots of energy and effort being put into Kennedy.”


Reporter Eric Louie reported that Frederiksen Elementary in Dublin entered its first year of program improvement, with the school as a whole and multiple subgroups not meeting proficiency targets. Latino and English learners missed their goals in both math and English. White, low-income students missed the English target.
Elsewhere in the district, Dublin Elementary and Wells Middle school — which meet all the standards in 2010 — did not in 2011. If they miss their targets next year, they could fall into program improvement.
Superintendent Stephen Hanke noted the district’s Academic Performance Index has been rising — from 878 last year to 885 in 2011 — far past the target of 800. He said while the district strives to have all students proficient and above, meeting the goal by 2014 as required by federal guidelines isn’t realistic.

Reporter Robert Jordan spoke to Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi about that district’s difficulties keeping campuses out of program improvement. Pleasanton Middle School entered program improvement last year, followed this year by Valley View Elementary.
“We have to do something,” Ahmadi said. “We have been waiting for NCLB reauthorization for a couple of years. We know we have to take a look at a different set of criteria to look at proficiency — a growth model rather than 100 percent by a specific date.”
If the law doesn’t change soon, he predicted even more dire consequences in the next three years.
“By 2013-14, 100 percent of every sub group has to be proficient,” he said. “I would say that most districts in California will be in program improvement.”

What do you think local school districts that are struggling should do to help boost student achievement?

Posted on Friday, September 2nd, 2011
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education, Tri-Valley | 7 Comments »