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11 East Bay middle and high schools named “Distinguished”

Congratulations to the 11 middle and high schools in the East Bay named today as “2011 California Distinguished Schools.”

Here’s a list of the East Bay winners:


Alameda City Unified: Lincoln Middle School

Albany City Unified: Albany High School

Fremont Unified: Mission San Jose High School

Oakland Unified: American Indian Public Charter Middle, American Indian Public Charter School II Middle, American Indian Public High, KIPP Bridge Charter Middle, Montera Middle School

San Lorenzo Unified: KIPP Summit Academy Middle School


Antioch Unified: Dozier-Libbey Medical High School (was also one of five schools in state to earn the “Exemplary Career Technical Education Program” award)

Brentwood Union Elementary: William B. Bristow Middle School

Here’s the news release from the California Department of Education:

“SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced 97 exemplary California public middle and high schools were selected as 2011 California Distinguished Schools as the state’s prestigious awards program celebrates its silver anniversary…

‘These schools are being recognized for attaining high levels of performance and sustained growth, and for making significant progress in closing the academic achievement gap,’ Torlakson said. “Becoming a Distinguished School is a direct reflection of the dedication, hard work, and vision of each school’s education community. They have succeeded despite a bleak economic environment and have endeavored to maintain their momentum and focus.’

In addition, five of the newly designated Distinguished Schools also earned the Exemplary Career Technical Education Program Award for offering exemplary career technical education programs…

The California School Recognition Program is now in its 25th year and honors the state’s most exemplary and inspiring public schools with the California Distinguished School Award. The 97 schools identified today join more than 5,300 public schools that have been designated or redesignated a Distinguished School since the program began in 1986.

Although participation is voluntary, the award is highly sought after by schools in all areas of the state. Elementary and secondary schools are recognized during alternate years.

Schools earning the Distinguished School title this year 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.

To view the current Signature Practices Website, please visit

The 2011 California Distinguished Schools are geographically diverse with locations in small rural communities, suburban neighborhoods, and large urban cities. Most have significant populations of students living in poverty or learning English. Regardless of the setting, all these schools have teachers and principals committed to ensuring student success.

Schools were identified for eligibility on the basis of their Academic Performance Index ( and Adequate Yearly Progress ( results, which are the state and federal accountability models, respectively.

The applicants were also identified by their success in narrowing the achievement gap that exists between higher-performing and lower-performing students. All applicants underwent a stringent selection process conducted by the California Department of Education with the help of many educators from across the state. Each applicant was required to describe two Signature Practices that have led to an increase in student achievement and a narrowing of the achievement gap. Applicants were then selected to receive a thorough site visit to validate the Signature Practices.

The 2011 California Distinguished Schools will be honored during an awards ceremony and dinner at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim on May 20, 2011. Also being honored during the ceremony will be schools selected last month as Title I Academic Achievement Awardees and California’s nominees for the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.

The event and awards are funded by donations from many of California’s most prominent corporations and statewide educational organizations.”

The complete list of 2011 California Distinguished Schools is at

Last year, Delta View Elementary in Bay Point and Hidden Valley Elementary in Martinez were named as California Distinguished Elementary Schools in the Mt. Diablo school district. Delta View has shared some of its “signature practices” with other schools in the district.

Do you think this sharing of “signature practices” is making a difference?

Posted on Tuesday, April 12th, 2011
Under: California, Education, Theresa Harrington | 5 Comments »

Three East Bay educators named to new state Superintendent of Public Instruction’s transition advisory team

By Theresa Harrington

Outgoing state Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, who will be sworn in as State Superintendent of Public Instruction on Monday, has announced the formation of a transition advisory team that includes three East Bay educators.

The team, which will provide strategic advice to Torlakson during his first few months in office, includes Mt. Diablo High School vice principal and teacher Liane Cismowski, Antioch Superintendent Donald Gill, and Tim Sbranti, who is Mayor of Dublin and teaches at Dublin High School.

Torlakson expects team members to help him identify and set goals to address key issues that affect students, schools, districts, and the California Department of Education. He has named Linda Darling Hammond and David Rattray as co-chairs of the team.

Darling Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University. Rattray is senior vice president of Education & Workforce Development for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and President of UNITE LA.

“I am delighted Linda and David have agreed to lead my Transition Advisory Team during this extremely challenging time, and that so many outstanding teachers and other stakeholders have come forward to be part of this team,” Torlakson said in a prepared statement. “I know their comprehensive knowledge of the issues facing our students and schools will be enormously valuable as we work to chart the best course for California’s schools.”

He expects his team members to join working groups to discuss key issues, such as:
– School finance reform and funding
– Curriculum and assessment
– Accountability and data
– Educator preparation and evaluation
– Early childhood learning
– Education supports for the whole child
– Secondary transformation (including linked learning, career technical education and A-G guidelines)
– Flexibility and efficiency initiatives, school facilities/construction reform and modernization.

Here’s the complete list of team members in alphabetical order by last name:

Catherine Atkin, President, Preschool California
William Barr, Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Education; former Monterey County Superintendent of Schools
Cruz Bustamante, Former Lt. Governor, State of California
Dennis Cima, Senior Vice President, Education & Public Policy, Silicon Valley Leadership Group
Liane Cismowski, Vice Principal and Teacher, Mt. Diablo High School, Concord
Yvonne de la Peña, Program Director, California Fire Fighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee
Cesar Diaz, Legislative Director, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California
Jim Dierke, Principal, Visitacion Valley Middle School, San Francisco Unified School District
Linda Galliher Vice President, Education and Healthcare, Bay Area Council
Patricia Gándara, Professor, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences and Co-Director, UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles
Abigail Garcia, Teacher, Animo Leadership Charter High School, Inglewood
Donald Gill, Superintendent, Antioch Unified School District
Jay Hansen, Chief Strategy Officer, California Medical Association
Marty Hittelman, President, California Federation of Teachers
Adam Hodess, Commissioner, California Apprenticeship Council, Division of Apprenticeship Standards. Business Manager, UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 159
Mat Holton, Superintendent, Chaffey Joint Union High School District in Southern California
Richard Jackson, Professor, UCLA School of Public Health and former California State Public Health Officer
Ann Johnston, Mayor of Stockton
Maureen Kindel, Chair of the Board of Visitors, Loyola Marymount University School of Education
Diane Levitt, Executive Director, Safe Cities Foundation
Ted Lempert, President, Children Now
Bill Lloyd, President, SEIU California State Council
Dave Long, Former California Secretary of Education
Sonia Martin-Solis, Teacher, Hillcrest Drive Elementary School, Los Angeles Unified School District
Charles McMinn, Co-Founder and Former CEO, Covad Communications
Hydra Mendoza, School Board Member, San Francisco Unified School District
Molly Munger, Co-Director, Advancement Project Los Angeles
Barbara Nemko, Superintendent of Schools, Napa County
Jeff Patterson, Teacher, Antelope Valley High School
Jennifer Peck, Executive Director, Partnership for Children and Youth
Willie Pelote, Assistant Director, Political Action Department, AFSCME International
Jose Pérez, Chair, California Utilities Diversity Council and Publisher, Latino Journal
Chet Pipkin, Chairman of the Board, Belkin International, Inc.
James Ramos, Chairman, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and Board Member, San Bernardino Community College District
Diana Rodriguez, Board Member, Sacramento City Unified School District
Alex Rooker, Government Affairs Director, Communications Workers of America Local 9400
Russ Rumberger, Vice Provost for Education Partnerships at the UC Office of the President
David Sanchez, President, California Teachers Association (CTA)
Tim Sbranti, Mayor, City of Dublin and Teacher, Dublin High School
Barry Schuler, Former Chairman and CEO, America Online
Jack Scott, Chancellor, California Community Colleges
Gregg Solkovits, Secondary Vice President, United Teachers of Los Angeles
Suzan Solomon, Board Member, Newhall School District and Vice President for Education, California State PTA
Jai Sookprasert, Assistant Director, Governmental Relations, California School Employees Association (CSEA)
Chris Steinhauser, Superintendent, Long Beach Unified School District
Lillian Taiz, Professor of History at CSU Los Angeles and President of the California Faculty Association
Diane Watson, Member of Congress, California’s 33rd District
Carl Wong, Superintendent of Schools, Sonoma County
Kristin Wright, Chair, California Advisory Commission on Special Education
Antronette Yancey, Professor, UCLA School of Public Health

Torlakson will be sworn into office by Barbara Nemko, Ph.D., Superintendent of the Napa County Office of Education. The inauguration will take place at 9 a.m. Monday at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord — where he last taught science, math and world history.

Later in the day, Torlakson will host a reception from 3-5 p.m. in the lobby of the California Department of Education in Sacramento.

Both events are open to the public. RSVPs may be made by e-mailing or calling 925-682-9998.

Torlakson remains a teacher-on-leave with the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Joe Ovick — along with all but seven district superintendents in the county — supported Torlakson’s opponent, Larry Aceves, in the November election.

Gill and Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence were among those who did not support Aceves. Torlakson beat Aceves with about 55 percent of the vote.

Do you think Torlakson’s Mt. Diablo school district roots will help Contra Costa County schools?

Posted on Friday, December 31st, 2010
Under: California, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 1 Comment »

A closer look at Contra Costa dropout rates

By Theresa Harrington

According to high school graduation and dropout rate reports issued by the state Tuesday, nearly 16 percent of Contra Costa County students dropped out of school in 2008-09, compared to almost 22 percent statewide.

Here’s a rundown of the increases and decreases in county districts from 2007-08 to 2008-09. Data from 2007-08 is listed first, followed by 2008-09, then a + or -, indicating if the rate went up or down.

Four-year estimated drop out rates for Contra Costa County school districts:

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY: 16.0%; 15.9% (-)
Acalanes Union High: 3.5%, 3.3% (-)
Antioch: 25.9%, 25.7% (-)
John Swett: 25.8%, 16% (-)
Liberty: 6.5%, 5.4% (-)
Martinez: 6%, 7.6% (+)
Mt. Diablo: 23%, 22.2% (-)
Pittsburg: 26.4%, 30.7% (+)
San Ramon Valley: 3%, 3.7% (+)
West Contra Costa: 21.3%, 22.2% (+)

For most of the districts, the rates didn’t change much. Notable exceptions are John Swett and Pittsburg.

John Swett reduced its dropout rate by nearly 10 percentage points, while Pittsburg’s grew by more than 4 percentage points, making it the district with the highest percentage of dropouts in the county.

You can find school results here:

Here’s a rundown of the 2007-08 to 2008-09 dropout rates for the Mt. Diablo district’s six comprehensive high schools:

Clayton Valley High: 12.6%, 6.1% (-)
College Park High: 13.5%, 10.8% (-)
Concord High: 14.3%, 10.8% (-)
Mt. Diablo High: 35.9%, 27.7% (-)
Northgate High: 9.5%, 3.3% (-)
Ygnacio Valley High: 26.1%, 31.4% (+)

District: 23%, 22.2% (-); (includes continuation high schools)
County: 16%, 15.9% (-)
State: 18.9%, 21.7% (+)

As you can see, all schools except Ygnacio Valley reduced their dropout rates fairly substantially, but the district’s overall dropout rate is higher than both the county and state averages. Northgate has the fewest droputs, with just over 3 percent.

Mt. Diablo High had the highest dropout rate in 2007-08, but fell below Ygnacio Valley in 2008-09. Mt. Diablo slashed its dropout rate by nearly 9 percentage points, while Ygnacio Valley’s climbed by 5 percentage points, making it the comprehensive high school with the highest percentage of dropouts in the district.

What do you think districts should do to prevent dropouts and help students graduate?

Posted on Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Under: California, Contra Costa County, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 4 Comments »

Know a Jewish teen who’s making the world better?

By Theresa Harrington
“Tikkum olan” is a Hebrew phrase that means “repair the world.”
In this spirit, Bay Area philanthropist Hellen Diller created the “Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award” to help identify, reward and encourage the next generation of Jewish leaders to give back to their communities and improve the world around them.
For the fifth year, the Helen Diller Family Foundation is seeking nominations to award five California teens who are committed to social action an honorarium of $36,000 each.
Teens ages 13-19 can nominate themselves, or be nominated by anyone else except a family member, by Dec. 17. They must identify themselves as Jewish, but their community service projects can benefit the general community or world.
The online nomination form is at More information is at or 415-512-6432.
The Helen Diller Family Foundation is a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties (SFJCF).

Posted on Monday, November 29th, 2010
Under: Awards, California, Education, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

MDUSD administrator responds to questions about principal moves

By Theresa Harrington
The substantial number of moves by principals and other Mt. Diablo school district administrators during the past few months has prompted one big question in the community: “Why!?!”
Superintendent Steven Lawrence and Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent for personnel, have said they were trying to find good matches for schools where principals have retired or have been promoted to new positions.
Today, I spoke with Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for Student Achievement and Support, to get more clarification on this process.
She said Lawrence made a Connect Ed phone call message to Mt. Diablo Elementary parents a couple of days ago updating them on the status of their principal search. The message informed parents that interviews were being conducted and explained that the district’s candidate screening procedure now includes Internet searches, she said.
When I asked about the multiple administrative moves, Lock said: “There hasn’t been that many people moving around.”
She said the main reason for the moves is that four elementary principals resigned (Bel Air, Silverwood, Valle Verde and Wren Avenue) and five principals were promoted to positions in her department (Delta View Elem., Hidden Valley Elem., Monte Gardens Elem., Riverview MS, and Sequoia MS).
“We did move a couple of principals who are interested in looking at different assignments,” she added. “It’s not like we’ve been playing musical chairs. Nothing like that at all.”
Lawrence has said the swap of principals between Mt. Diablo High and Olympic continuation high was based on those administrators’ preferences. (Cheryl LeBoef is moving to Olympic and Kate McClatchy is moving to Mt. Diablo High.)
To fill the Bel Air and Delta View positions, Lock said the district needed principals who were experienced. Both Nancy Klinkner (at Highlands Elementary) and Nancy Baum (at Ayers Elementary) had expressed interest in new assignments, Lock said.
Klinker was placed at Bel Air (which has a large English learner population) because she is bilingual. The Bay Point school is one of the district’s lowest achieving campuses and Lock said Klinker was also a good fit because her background had been entirely in Title 1 (low-income) schools (with the exception of last year at Highlands).
The district placed Baum at Delta View to keep the campus moving in the right direction, Lock said.
New principals are also expected at Mt. Diablo Elementary in Clayton, Shore Acres Elementary in Bay Point and Glenbrook Middle School in Concord.
Lock said Mt. Diablo Elementary’s previous Principal Bob Dodson has not yet been reassigned. Shore Acres Principal Kari Rees told me she expects to be replaced as part of that low-achieving school’s reform plan. Glenbrook Principal Jonathan Eagan found another position closer to his home, Braun-Martin told me last week.
Lock said Lawrence won’t attend the upcoming meeting with Sequoia Middle School parents in Pleasant Hill. Instead, she and Braun-Martin will likely ask staff and parents what kind of new principal they would like.
Lawrence normally doesn’t attend parent meetings, Lock said. He attended the Mt. Diablo Elementary meeting because she was off on furlough leave, Lock added.
However, Lawrence attended the Bancroft Elementary meeting with both Braun-Martin and Lock, to respond to parent concerns about his decision to transfer their principal to Valle Verde. He later reversed that decision, based on parents’ concerns.
Lawrence decides who to recommend for specific positions, with input from her, Lock said. She has been more involved in elementary hires than those at middle and high schools, she added. (Lock was previously the assistant superintendent for elementary education and principal of Walnut Acres Elementary in Walnut Creek).
Lock said Curriculum and Instruction division was eliminated — and replaced with her Student Achievment and Support division — to focus more on the demands placed on the principals districtwide, including high expectaitons for student achievement.
“We have to do a better job of supporting all of the schools,” she said. “In the past, the Curriculum and Instruction department supported all of our Program Improvement (low-performing) and Title 1 schools. Others didn’t get same level of support. But, others are also going to be expected to improve.”
Lock also emphasized that principals are hired for the entire district, not necessarily for specific schools.
“We want to make sure they are equally proficient and competent,” she said. “We want to develop them (through coaching and professional development), because we could be moving them around as needed.”
She acknowledged that the district does, however, try to match principals to schools where they would best fit.
“We certainly are sensitive to the needs of each school,” she said. “We do ask for (community) input, to make sure we have the right person.”
No principal should expect to remain at the same school for his or her entire career, she added.
“Principals don’t stay at schools for 20 years,” she said.
Does this explanation ease your mind about moves taking place before school starts?

Posted on Friday, July 9th, 2010
Under: Bay Point, California, Clayton, Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Pleasant Hill, Theresa Harrington, Walnut Creek | 10 Comments »

State takeover of school districts explained

By Theresa Harrington
Mt. Diablo school district Superintendent Steven Lawrence recently sent a memo to parents informing them the state could take over control of their schools if unions do not agree to furloughs and benefits cuts.
I called the state Department of Education to get clarification about this process and received an article written in 2009 by Joel Montero, who heads up the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team that works with struggling districts.
I am posting it below, with permission from School Services of California, Inc., which originally published the article Oct. 30, 2009.

“What State Receivership Means and Why It’s Best to Avoid It
[School Services of California, Inc. Editor’s Note: It is probably just coincidence, but we have had quite a number of inquiries recently about the consequences of just turning over the keys to the district to the state if the state doesn’t stop cutting education. Since the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) has responsibility for assisting districts in their efforts to avoid or deal with financial problems, we asked Joel Montero, FCMAT’s Deputy Executive Officer, to author this article.]
Last spring (of 2009), California had the highest number of districts ever with qualified or negative certifications on their Second Interim budgets, reflecting the growing number of districts in fiscal distress. (Blog note: The number rose in 2010).
When a district gets to the point where it no longer has the cash to pay its bills, it must apply for a state loan, which means state receivership. Unfortunately, as a sign of the times, we have received many questions from districts about what state receivership looks like. What follows is some information on current law and, for a practical matter, what we have seen most recently in the districts that have required a state loan.
Budget Reserves vs. Cash Reserves
A school district receives a qualified or negative certification generally because of its inability to maintain the state-required level of reserves in all three years of its multiyear projections. Running out of reserves by itself, however, does not cause a school district to require a state loan; running out of cash does.
The distinction between reserve levels and cash levels becomes clearer when looking at your General Fund balance sheet. Reserves are the (hopefully positive) difference between assets and liabilities, some of which are cash and some of which are not. On the assets side, there are several cash accounts that are obviously cash—Cash in County Treasury, Cash in Bank, Cash with Fiscal Agent, etc. Not all cash is accessible to pay bills—for example, Cash with Fiscal Agent is set aside for a specific purpose and the district may not have the legal authority to draw on that cash to pay for operations. Other assets are not cash—for example, Stores Inventory and Prepaid Expenses. Most liabilities are not cash, but one notable exception is Deferred Revenues, since this represents cash that has been received by the district. It is set up as a liability because it cannot be recognized as revenue until it has been spent on the specific purpose of the grantor agency.
It has generally held true that low reserve levels are an indicator of low cash levels and vice versa. However, with the recent state cash deferrals, this has become less true. School districts with prudent reserves are still having to manage their cash actively and borrow to get through the negative cash months. And districts with inadequate reserves are having an even tougher time ensuring that the cash is there to meet the obligations when due.
Cash Borrowing Options
There are several options available to a school district to borrow cash locally—from its other funds, using tax and revenue anticipation notes (TRANs), from the county office of education, or from the county treasurer (Education Code Sections [E.C.] 42621, 42620). However, all of these options are temporary, short-term borrowing—they generally require that the district pay back the borrowing within a year or less. For each of these types of borrowing, the district is required to prepare a cash flow projection that indicates that the borrowing can be paid back from the district’s future revenues in the time frame required.
If the cash flow projection, however, shows that the district will be unable to pay back the local borrowing, it means that the cash balance is trending downward with no end in sight—that the future revenues are not enough to keep up with operational obligations plus pay back the borrowing. If the district is unable to borrow locally, then the only other option is to request a loan from the state.
State Loan
A loan (technically referred to in the Education Code as an emergency appropriation) from the state requires that one of the district’s local representatives to the State Legislature sponsor a bill through the legislative process. This is typically an urgency bill, meaning that it requires at least a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature so that it can become effective upon the Governor’s signature. The legislative process takes many months, so a state loan should be initiated early enough to ensure that the cash is there when the district needs it, and the timing needs to work within the legislative calendar. Typically, the bill has to be introduced in January in order to work its way through all of the legislative committees and the floors of both houses by the summer or early fall.
A loan from the state results in the state taking control of the school district. The degree of state control is determined by the size of the loan relative to the district’s budget. Specifically, per E.C. 41326(a), if the loan is less than twice the size of the district’s required reserve level, a State Trustee is assigned and assumes authority over the financial aspects of the school district’s activities. If the size of the loan exceeds twice the size of the district’s required reserve level, the following takes place:
• The school Board loses its powers and becomes advisory only [E.C. 41326(c)(1)]
• The Superintendent is no longer employed by the district [E.C. 41326(c)(2)]
• A State Administrator is assigned and assumes the powers of the Board and Superintendent [E.C. 41326(b)]
State loans are typically set up for repayment over 20 years. In both situations above, state control remains over the school district until the loan is fully repaid. The State Trustee or State Administrator reports directly to the Superintendent of Public Instruction—the state of California—not the local school Board or community.
The state loan is sized to accommodate the anticipated shortfall in cash that the district will need during the life of the loan in order to meet its obligations. In addition, all of the costs of ensuring a fiscal recovery are the responsibility of the district (E.C. 41328) and are added to the amount of the state loan. The cost of recovery when a State Administrator is assigned includes:
The cost of the compensation package for the State Administrator (E.C. 41326[(b)][(8)]
The cost of additional staffing as determined by the State Administrator to be necessary for ensuring fiscal recovery (E.C. 41326[(b)][(9)]
The cost of management reviews and developing a recovery plan, including the cost of the initial comprehensive review and follow-up reviews every six months encompassing these five areas of the district (E.C. 41327.1):
Community relations and governance
Pupil achievement
Financial management
Personnel management
Facilities management
Any other expenditures deemed necessary by the State Administrator to help ensure fiscal recovery
On the natural, a state loan will be much larger than what the district would otherwise need to borrow locally if it had been able to solve its own fiscal crisis. Therefore, a district that receives a state loan needs to make more expenditure cuts and/or take longer to pay the loan back.
The comprehensive review and six-month follow-up studies measure the district’s progress in meeting the standards established. In the areas where the district has progressed enough in meeting the standards, the Board receives its powers back and a Superintendent is hired to administer those areas. It normally takes several years before the Board regains any of its powers. State control remains, either in the form of a State Administrator or State Trustee, with stay or rescind power over certain Board actions until the state loan is paid off.
The State Administrator’s mission is to restore fiscal solvency as soon as possible so that the loan can be paid back to the state. This will be done by reducing expenditures to a level that is lower than revenues so that the reserves can be rebuilt over time while the state loan is being paid back. This means that all possible avenues for balancing the budget are pursued. The State Administrator cannot set aside any contractual obligations that the district has already entered into, including vendor contracts and bargaining unit contracts, without renegotiating them. If modifying provisions of these contracts is critical to gaining fiscal solvency, the State Administrator has the power to invoke the timelines available in the contracts or by law, including the ability to use the impasse/factfinding process to unilaterally impose changes in collective bargaining agreements.
A district in financial trouble will regain fiscal solvency. If the district and the Board, while it has the power, do not take the necessary actions locally to restore fiscal solvency, the same actions and more will be imposed by the state. The typical state loan is established to be a 20-year payback. The district remains under some level of state control until that payback is complete. Generally, recovery costs more and takes longer if a state loan is required.
In the long term, taking the necessary actions locally and avoiding a state loan will result in greater local control, less outside intervention, and better long-term outcomes for students, employees, and the community.
—Joel Montero
posted 10/20/2009”

I hope this answers some questions that have arisen in response to Lawrence’s memo.
Now, the Contra Costa County Office is reviewing the Mt. Diablo school district’s budget, said spokeswoman Peggy Marshburn.
“The county Office of Education has been monitoring the district’s financial condition for the past two years,” she said. “Based on careful consideration of their budget and subsequent interim reports, a decision will be made regarding the level of county Office of Education or possible state intervention.”
In a phone interview today, Lawrence said the district anticipates approving its first interim report by December.
“We created a budget that we just adopted,” he said. “But, it’s all based on the (governor’s) May revise, which is fiction, until the state adopts the budget.”
Meanwhile, the district is at impasse with two unions representing noncredentialed employees such as campus supervisors and maintenance workers. Deb Cooksey, lead negotiator for the district, told me the Clerical, Secretarial and Technical unit of Local 1 has contested its declaration of impasse and has filed an unfair practice action against the district.
The Personnel Employee Relations Board declared an impasse with the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) unit of Local 1, she said. A mediator has been assigned and she anticipates meeting soon.
“M&O Local 1 has said they don’t think the district is really at impasse and they’re still wanting to talk,” she said. “So, this will be our opportunity to talk with a mediator and hopefully resolve the difference.”
Mark York, executive director of the Mt. Diablo Education Association teachers’ union, told me the district has filed an unfair labor practices complaint against his bargaining unit.
“They claim that we persistently refused to bargain,” he said. “But, we told them that the authorization we have is to do a rollover (of our previous contract).”
The union surveyed its members regarding the district’s proposals and plans to come to the table in September.
The Mt. Diablo school district projects a small surplus in 2010-11, but it must make at least $12.2 million in ongoing cuts in its 2011-12 budget of $261.3 million to maintain fiscal solvency, according to its chief financial officer. Its required reserve is 2 percent.
Are you worried about a state takeover?

Posted on Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
Under: California, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 11 Comments »

Nine school measures in Contra Costa, Santa Clara counties


School bond mailer
School bond mailer

By Theresa Harrington
Two Contra Costa County school districts and seven in Santa Clara County are hoping voters will approve bond or parcel tax measures today.
In Contra Costa County, the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Measure D is seeking a $380 million bond for facilities upgrades that would increase property taxes an estimated $48 per $100,000 of assessed value. The Mt. Diablo Unifed School district is asking voters to approve Measure C, which would provide $348 million in bonds to fund solar projects and other upgrades.
The Mt. Diablo measure would extend the $60 per $100,000 of assessed value tax rate approved when voters passed the district’s 2002 Measure C, extending payment for the 2010 measure 42 years at an estimated cost of up to $1.8 billion.
Both bond measures require 55 percent voter approval to pass.
Here’s what the San Jose Mercury News says about the South Bay measures:
In Santa Clara County, there are three measures for construction bonds at Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, Los Gatos Union School District and Campbell Union Elementary School District that would pay to expand facilities, fix roofs and wiring, and modernize libraries. They require 55 percent.
Four other districts are seeking to increase parcel taxes: Alum Rock Union Elementary School District; Milpitas Unified School District; Oak Grove School District; and the Mount Pleasant Elementary School District. The measures, which require two-thirds majority to pass, range from $68 to $160 a year, and would fund music, science, art, counseling, libraries, and other services.
You can get election results throughout the night at or on the Contra Costa County elections office website at
How did you vote?

Posted on Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
Under: California, Contra Costa County, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, West Contra Costa school district | No Comments »

California needs much stronger buy-in to win Race to the Top funds


By Theresa Harrington

When California submitted its Race to the Top application, state officials were confident that sweeping legislation and promised district support gave them a fighting chance at winning the much-needed funding.

But today, they learned that California’s application ranked in the bottom half of the 41 submitted to the U.S. Department of Education — far below where it needed to be to make the first round of finalists — and woefully lacking enough statewide support to persuade federal officials to invest as much as $700 million for massive reforms in the state.

Like all the other states that lost out, California has the opportunity to reapply for a second round of funding by June 1.

But lukewarm support from teachers’ unions may doom any chance of receiving the funds. Little more than a quarter of teachers’ unions in the districts that signed onto the application endorsed the plan.

In Tennessee, on the other hand, 93 percent of teachers’ unions supported the state’s application, which won up to $502 million in the competition. California teachers don’t like provisions that could tie teacher evaluations to student performance, jeopardizing their tenure.

State officials are still reviewing comments from five reviewers who praised some elements of the application, but criticized it in other areas. The complete results are at:

Here’s how California, which ranked 27th, stacked up against its competition. Applicants are listed by rank, state and score out of 500 possible:


1 Delaware: 454.6 — won as much as $107 million

2 Tennessee: 444.2 — won up to $502 million


3 Georgia: 433.6

4 Florida: 431.4

5 Illinois: 423.8

6 South Carolina: 423.2

7 Pennsylvania: 420.0

8 Rhode Island: 419.0

9 Kentucky: 418.8

10 Ohio: 418.6

11 Louisiana: 418.2

12 North Carolina: 414.0

13 Massachusetts: 411.4

14 Colorado: 409.6

15 New York: 408.6

16 Washington, DC: 402.4


17 Arkansas: 394.4

18 New Jersey: 387

19 Utah: 379.4

20 Minnesota: 375.0

21 Michigan: 366.2

22 Hawaii: 364.6

23 Indiana: 355.6

24 Iowa: 346

25 Connecticut: 344.6

26 Wisconsin: 341.2

27 California: 336.8

28 Idaho: 331

29 Kansas: 329.6

30 New Mexico: 325.2

31 Virginia: 324.8

32 Wyoming: 318.6

33 Missouri: 301.4

34 Oklahoma: 294.6

35 Oregon: 292.6

36 West Virginia: 292.4

37 Alabama: 291.2

38 New Hampshire: 271.2

39 Nebraska: 247.4

40 Arizona: 240.2

41 South Dakota: 135.8

Do you think California should apply for Phase 2 funding? If so, how can it improve its application? If not, why?


Posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010
Under: California, Education, Race to the Top, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »