Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'Education' Category

Do you trust your school district to spend taxpayer money wisely?

We have all heard horror stories about fraud, waste and abuse in government agencies.

But most people are hesitant to believe that such malfeasance is going on in their own communities, according to a well-respected certified fraud examiner who gave a keynote presentation earlier this week at the fourth annual California League of Bond Oversight Committees conference in Sacramento.

Don Mullinax, a former Inspector General of the Los Angeles Unified School District, told the citizen watchdogs from around the state, said that average fraud schemes last about 18 months before being detected.

“But, I’ve seen them take nine years or more,” he said. “Think fraud to find fraud.”
The best way to avoid or detect fraud is to ask a lot of questions and don’t believe everything people tell you, he said.

“I’m not saying everyone’s a liar, a cheater and a thief,” he said. “But, if you go into some sort of oversight and you don’t have skepticism, you’re going to get burned.”

Mullinax outlined several “best practices” to help ensure that districts spend voter-approved construction bond funds appropriately. These include: hiring talented people inside the district (instead of relying solely on outside consultants), doing “due diligence” reviews of contractors, providing annual fraud awareness training to staff and bond oversight committee members, performing aggressive audits and using sophisticated technology to track, analyze and report expenditures.

“We have to hire people with talent on the inside to watch the folks on the outside,” he said. “If you think it’s not going to happen where I’m at, you could be embarrassed.”

He suggested that citizen watchdogs should ask to see the same tools and tracking records that districts and construction managers use. In addition, districts should adopt comprehensive policies and procedures for tracking and authorizing expenditures, along with a fraud hotline.

However, he warned that having an ethics codes don’t make people ethical. Enron, he said, had one of the best ethics codes around. Likewise, having an audit doesn’t guarantee that your district has no fraud. Audits, he said, should be thorough and should cost more in districts with large bond construction programs than in smaller ones.

Mullinax said oversight committee members and districts should adhere to “principles of common sense.” These include: reading contracts, and checking to see if employees exist, services were performed and goods were received.

He also outlined several “warning signs” for fraud. As a general rule, these are “a set of circumstances that are unusual in nature or vary from normal activity,” he said. Problems arise when these warning signs are ignored or not adequately investigated.

Such warning signs may include: a single vendor receiving a majority of contracts, refusal to produce records and files, significant lifestyle change of people involved in bond program, refusal to take vacations (for fear someone else will look at the books), turning down promotions or transfers, no exceptions or errors (reports are “too clean”), lack of separation of duties (minimal checks and balances), successful bidders subcontracting to losing bidders, winning bidder always bids last, losing bidder cannot be located in business directories, numerous or large dollar change orders, and invoices without addresses and phone numbers for vendors, and costs billed are not consistent with progress of construction.

“Change orders are a big deal,” he said. “Contractors will bid low, then add change orders sometimes the day after they get the contracts.”

Mullinax advised citizen watchdogs and district staff not to get “SBS — or Stuck Butt Syndrome.” Instead of merely reviewing reports, they should be out looking at projects, he said.

But the buck stops, he said, with district leaders.

“It all comes back to the ethics and integrity of people in charge,” he said. “Trust is not a control.”

Do you trust you local officials to spend taxpayer money wisely?

Posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2015
Under: Education | 104 Comments »

How do you think MDUSD could strengthen partnerships with community colleges?

The Mt. Diablo school board will hold a joint meeting with the Contra Costa Community College District Board at 6 p.m. tonight in the Diablo room at Diablo Valley College, 321 Golf Club Road in Pleasant Hill to discuss issues of mutual interest. Here is the agenda:

“1.0 Call to Order
1.1 Roll Call Info

2.0 Preliminary Business
2.1 Pledge of Allegiance Info

3.0 Public Comment
3.1 Public Comment Info

4.0 Business/Action Items

4.1 Opening Remarks Info

4.2 Informational Exchange: Dual Enrollment Classes and Integration into Career Technical Education Courses Info

4.3 Informational Exchange: Middle College Info

4.4 Informational Exchange: Counseling Partnerships to Ease Transitions from High School to College Info

5.0 Adjournment
5.1 Adjourn Meeting Action”

How do you think the district could strengthen partnerships with the community college district?

Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2015
Under: Contra Costa Community College District, Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 55 Comments »

Congrats to 13 East Bay Gates Millennium Scholars!

De Anza HS Gates Millennium Scholar Jasmine Gill.

De Anza HS Gates Millennium Scholar Jasmine Gill.

Congratulations to 13 high school seniors attending East Bay schools who have been named Gates Millenium Scholars!

Funded by a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Millennium Scholar program was created in 1999 to develop “Leaders for America’s Future™.” One thousand students from throughout the country and U.S. and American Territories will receive scholarships through the program to pursue an undergraduate degree in any major or selected graduate degrees at accredited colleges or universities.

The program helps to remove financial barriers to education for high-performing, low-income students, according to a news release.

“We are constantly reminded that young people will need a quality education to remain competitive in the 21st century,” said Michael Lomax,president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, in a prepared statement. “Through their generous funding and program support, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation amplifies the importance of investing in the next generation of extraordinary scholars to support our country’s economic strength and competitiveness.”

Here is a list of the scholars by county and school:


Berkeley High School, Berkeley: Adrianna Valle
American High School, Fremont: Justin Chan
Life Academy, Oakland: Lucinda Perez
Lighthouse Community Charter, Oakland: Anna Bui and Jarelly Martin
McClymonds High School, Oakland: Howard Kardel
Oakland High School, Oakland: Sherry Liang and Ky Gia Pham
Oakland Technical High School, Oakland: Sydney Nguyen
Skyline High School, Oakland: Deybi Rabanales
Tennyson High School, Hayward: Paula Albizures


De Anza Senior High School, Richmond: Jasmine Gill
Miramonte High School, Orinda: Elliott Thompson

This is the third consecutive year and fourth time in five years that a West Contra Costa district student has won the award, according to a news release. This year’s winner, 17-year-old Jasmine Gill,has been accepted to UC Berkeley.

The scholarship will cover the scholars’ umet financial need. In addition, the program will provide services to encourage academic excellence, mentoring for academic and personal development, and an online resource center that includes information about internships, fellowships and scholarships.

“Being named a Gates Millennium Scholar is a testament to Jasmine’s hard work and determination to succeed academically,” said Todd Groves, President of the West Contra Costa school board, in a prepared statement. “We are proud of her for achieving this honor. That a student from our district has earned this honor for four of the last five years speaks to the possibilities and potential of each and every one of our students.”

Gill plans to pursue a medical degree and become a pediatrician after studying integrative biology at UC Berkeley.

“I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was young,” she said in a news release. “And I love working with kids.”

Gill is a member of De Anza’s Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement club and is vice president of the Health Occupations Students of America chapter. She has a 4.3 grade point average and is currently taking five Advanced Placement courses.

She also volunteers at a local Sikh temple, where she helps feed people and teaches Sikh history classes.

“In order to be successful,” she said, “dedication is key.”

Here is a story by reporter Doug Oakley about some of the winners in Alameda County:

More information about the program is at:

What do you think are the keys to success in high school and college?

Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2015
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education | 1 Comment »

Congrats to 36 East Bay Gold Ribbon schools!

Congratulations to 36 middle and high schools in the East Bay that have been honored by the state Department of Education with Gold Ribbon Awards!

These awards temporarily replace California Distinguished School awards, which are on hiatus as the state revamps its testing and accountability systems. Schools applied for the awards based on programs that include activities based on state curriculum standards, projects and practices that could be used as models in other districts.

“These schools are academically successful, vibrant, and innovative centers of learning and teaching,” said Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, in a prepared statement when he announced the awards earlier this week. “They provide great examples of the things educators are doing right — embracing rigorous academic standards, providing excellence and creativity in teaching, and creating a positive school climate.”

Ten schools in Alameda County and 26 schools in Contra Costa County earned the awards. Here is a list of the award-winning schools by county and district:


Alameda County Office of Education: Envision Academy for Arts and Technlology.

Albany City Unified: Albany High.

Castro Valley Unified: Canyon and Creekside middle schools.

Fremont Unified: John M. Horner Junior High and F. Kennedy and Mission San Jose high schools.

Livermore Valley Joint Unified: Granada and Livermore high schools.

Pleasanton Unified: Thomas S. Hart Middle School.


Acalanes Union High: Campolindo, Las Lomas and Miramont high schools.

Antioch Unified: Dozier-Libbey Medical High School.

Byron Union: Excelsior Middle School.

Lafayette Elementary: M.H. Stanley Middle School.

Liberty Union High: Freedom, Heritage and Liberty high schools.

Martinez Unified: Martinez Junior High and Alhambra Senior High School.

Mt. Diablo Unified: Foothill Middle School and Concord High School.

Orinda Union Elementary: Orinda Intermediate.

San Ramon Valley Unified: Charlotte Wood, Diablo Vista, Gale Ranch, Iron Horse, Los Cerros, Pine Valley and Windemere Ranch middle schools; and California, Dougherty Valley, Monte Vista and San Ramon Valley high schools.

West Contra Costa: De Anza Senior High School.

In addition to their Gold Ribbon awards, Liberty High and the Envision Academy for Arts and Technology were also honored for exemplary arts education programs.

San Ramon Valley spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich said in an e-mail that the district received the most Gold Ribbon Awards in Northern California and the second most in the state, behind Los Angeles Unified. All of its comprehensive high schools earned the awards, along with nearly all of its middle schools.

De Anza High in the West Contra Costa district reported “significant improvement” in several areas, including nearly a 5 percent increase in its graduation rate and a reduction of nearly 10 percent in its dropout rate. The school’s graduation rate rose from 77.3 percent in 2012-13 to 82.1 percent last year, while its dropout rate fell from 17.2 percent to 7.7 percent during the same time period.

“We are proud of the progress that our students and staff at De Anza have made,” Board President Todd Groves said in a prepared statement. “This award recognizes their hard work and reinforces the investments we have made in that school and that community.”

The East Bay winners were among 373 award-winning schools statewide that will be honored later this month at regional awards ceremonies.

The complete list of Gold Ribbon schools is available by visiting

What do you think makes schools award-worthy?

Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2015
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Education | No Comments »

MDUSD board to vote tonight on bond issuance of up to $77 million, creation of 23 counselor positions, increasing meal prices

The Mt. Diablo school board will meet at 7 p.m. tonight in the district office at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord. Items up for discussion and votes include proposals to issue up to $77 million in remaining 2010 Measure C bond funds, creating 23 counselor positions and raising the price of student meals next year.

Here is the agenda:

“1.0 Call to Order
1.1 President Will Call the Meeting to Order at 6:00 p.m. Info

1.2 Preliminary Business Info
2.0 Public Comment
2.1 Public Comment Info

3.0 Closed Session Agenda
3.1 (Item #1) Anticipated Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Sec. 54956.9(b), Significant Exposure to Litigation: 3 cases Info/Action
3.2 (Item #2) Discipline, Dismissal or Release of Public Employee (Gov. Code Sec. 54957(b)(1) Info/Action
3.3 (Item #3) Discipline, Dismissal or Release of Public Employee (Gov. Code Sec. 54957(b)(1) Info/Action
4.0 Adjourn to Closed Session at 6:00 p.m.
4.1 Adjourn to Closed Session at 6:00 p.m. Action

5.0 Reconvene Open Session
5.1 Reconvene for Open Session at 7:00 p.m. Info
6.0 Preliminary Business
6.1 Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call Info

7.0 Report Out Action Taken in Closed Session
7.1 (Item #1) Anticipated Litigation – Conference with Legal Counsel pursuant to Gov’t. Code Sec. 54956.9(b), Significant Exposure to Litigation: 3 cases Info/Action
7.2 (Item #2) Discipline, Dismissal or Release of Public Employee (Gov. Code Sec. 54957(b)(1) Info/Action
7.3 (Item #3) Discipline, Dismissal or Release of Public Employee (Gov. Code Sec. 54957(b)(1) Info/Action

8.0 Recognitions and Resolutions
8.1 Resolution No. 14/15-47 – Asian Pacific Heritage Month Action
8.2 Resolution No. 14/15-51 – Day of the Teacher, May 13, 2015 Action
8.3 Resolution No. 14/15-52 – Classified Employees’ Week, May 17-23, 2015 Action

9.0 Board Member Reports
9.1 Board Member Reports Info

10.0 Superintendent’s Report
10.1 Superintendent’s Report Info

11.0 Reports/Information
11.1 Next Generation Science Standards(NGSS)Presentation Info

12.0 Public Employee Appointment
12.1 Appointment of Assistant Superintendent for Middle School 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) Mt. Diablo High School’s trip to Big Basin State Park 5/16-17/2015 Action
13.3 (Item #3) Mt. Diablo High School’s trip to Los Angeles 5/16-20/2015 Action
13.4 (Item #4) Ygnacio Valley High School’s Independent Contract with Events to the T, Inc. Action
13.5 (Item #5) Independent Service Contract with Ygnacio Valley High School and Marzano Research Laboratory Action
13.6 (Item #6) Contract between Mt. Diablo Unified School District Bel Air Elementary and Soul Shoppe Action
13.7 (Item #7) Independent Service Contract between Exploring New Horizons Loma Mar and El Monte Elementary for Outdoor Education Action
13.8 (Item #8) Increase to YMCA Camp Arroyo and Meadow Homes Contract for Outdoor Education Action
13.9 (Item #9) Independent Services Contract with November Learning, LLC and Mt. Diablo Unified School District Action
13.10 (Item #10) Contract with Angela Barra for professional development services provided at Oak Grove Middle School through the remainder of the 2014-2015 school year. Action
13.11 (Item #11) Cyber High Use Licenses & Service Agreement 5/15/15 – 6/30/16 Action
13.12 (Item #12) Increase in Contract for California Translation International (CTI) Action
13.13 (Item #13) Non-Public School Adjustments Action
13.14 (Item #14) Increase to Master Contract with Non-Pubic Agency, Community Options for Families and Youth (COFY) Action
13.15 (Item #15) Continued Funding of the Nutrition Education & Obesity Prevention Grant with Contra Costa Health Services Action
13.16 (Item #16) Continued Funding for the Pleasant Hill/Concord Health Care District Grant Action
13.17 (Item #17) Request ratification of submission by Riverview Middle for the Keller Mitigation Grant for 2015-2016. Action
13.18 (Item #18) Recommended Action for Certificated Personnel Action
13.19 (Item #19) Request to Increase Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2015-2016 School Year Action
13.20 (Item #20) Recommended Action for Classified Personnel Action
13.21 (Item #21) Classified Personnel: Request to Increase/Decrease Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2014/15 and 2015/16 School Year Action
13.22 (Item #22) Field Trip Board Policy and Administrative Policy #6153 Action
13.23 (Item #23) Award of Bid for RFQ #1702; Fire Alarm Testing Action
13.24 (Item #24) Award of TCPN Contract #R141703: Office Supplies and Classroom Supplies-District Wide Action
13.25 (Item #25) Minutes for the Special Study Session Board of Education Meeting held on March 30, 2015 Action
13.26 (Item #26) Minutes for the Special Closed Session Board Meeting on March 30, 2015 Action

14.0 Consent Items Pulled for Discussion

15.0 Communications
15.1 District Organizations Info

16.0 Public Comment
16.1 Public Comment Info

17.0 Business/Action Item

17.1 Contract with Dale Scott & Company, Inc. for Financial Advisory Services Action

17.2 Bond Sales Action

17.3 Resolution No. 14/15-45 of the Board of Education of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Authorizing the Issuance and Sale of its General Obligation Bonds, 2010 Election, 2015 Series F in an Aggregate Principal Amount Not to Exceed Thirty-Eight Million, Five Hundred Thousand Dollars and No Cents Action

17.4 Creation of 23 School Counselor Positions Action

17.5 Creation of Job Description for Program Specialist, Career Pathways/Linked Learning Action

17.6 Create 1.0 FTE Program Specialist, Career Pathways/Linked Learning position Action

17.7 Appointment of Summer School Administrator for Olympic High School. Action

17.8 Athletic Field Turf Info

17.9 Price Increase for Student Meals Beginning 2015-2016 School Year Info/Action

17.10 Proposal for Base Camp Agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Action

17.11 Application to Quest Foundation for New Funding to Implement the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Launch Action

17.12 Application to Chevron for New Funding to Implement Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Launch Action

17.13 Adoption of DSA approval and award of Lease/leaseback contract to Robert A. Bothman Construction, Inc., for all work necessary to support Athletic Facility Improvements at Mt. Diablo High School for a guaranteed maximum price of $2,115,898.10. Action

17.14 Meeting Extension Action

17.15 Execution of Documents 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 to Open Session and Report Out Action Taken in Closed Session Info

21.0 Adjournment
21.1 Adjourn Meeting Action”

Do you think the board should agree to issue more bonds?

Posted on Monday, May 4th, 2015
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 80 Comments »

What do you think makes a great teacher?

Richard Ault wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Richard Ault wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Many teachers who would otherwise have been grading papers after work on Thursday instead got dressed up for the San Ramon Valley Education Association’s first Excellence in Education awards ceremony.

Held at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum, the event included 31 awards to educators, administrators and parents.

About 130 people were nominated for the awards, which culminated in Lifetime Achievement recognition for San Ramon Valley High English teacher Richard Ault, whose students shared touching reflections about his impact on their lives. The things that stood out in their minds reflected attributes that many people believe great teachers share.

Here are a few of their comments.

Senior Taylor Cunin said Ault inspired her not to work for the grade, but to make him proud. She also thanked him for pushing seniors “to go out with a bang, not a whimper.”

Student Regan Leach said Ault was by far one of the most passionate people she had met.

“He instills in his students a way of thinking and learning that will carry them very far into the future,” she said. “He truly cares about everybody’s success — not only in school — but in life. He is wise, happy and, best of all, kind.”

Their classmate Whitney Johnsonl said she appreciated the way Ault challenged students with difficult assignments, such as a 15-page paper.

“Great teachers don’t just teach you how to be a great student, but a great person,” she said. “Mr. Ault was able to do this because he is a great man.”

Senior Zachary Baker called Ault “a phenomenal teacher.”

“The reason why I and everyone else care so much about him is he’s also a friend,” he said. “He’s a mentor. He cares about things far beyond the walls of a classroom, such as respect and compassion. But the thing I appreciate most about Mr. Ault is his willingness to pour his heart out for us and to live life to the fullest.”

Jimmy Mitchell, a student from the class of 1999, said Ault gave him confidence in his academic abilities when the teacher praised a paper Mitchell wrote as a sophomore to the rest of the class. Mitchellalso recalled a time when Ault compared creating a good thesis to climbing a mountain.

To demonstrate his point, Mitchellt recalled Ault saying he could easily stand on a table to reach the ceiling. But, instead, he used a more difficult strategy by climbing the wall and then slamming his head into the ceiling, earning a place in historical lore at the school.

Kerri Pike, who previously taught at San Ramon Valley High, said she and the rest of Ault’s colleagues also appreciate his masterful teaching. Pike said she was mesmerized as a new teacher when she sat in on Ault’s class about the play “Waiting for Godot.”

“We all hung on your every word as you explained the decisions that we all have to make in life,” she said. “You taught us all that there’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s our jobs as citizens of the world to know when and how to make important judgment calls. As a teacher, these were words of wisdom that I’ve never forgotten.”

Here are the other awards and winners:

Dedicated Parent: Laurie Horn and Kevin Wiedeman

Outstanding Classified Educator: Kim Cummings, Catherine Grijalva and Andy Kallick

Incredible Community Involvement: Janet Willford

Amazing Committee-a-holic: DeeDee Judice

Sensational Substitute Teacher: Tom Dunlap, Erica Glaser and Elaine Johnson

Shining Golden Apple (new teacher): Analyse George, Christopher Madrid and Kimberley Tretten

Outstanding Administrator: Chris George, Daniel Hillman and Christine Huajardo

Outstanding Leadership: Jamie Brindley, Shirley Convirs, Jana Johnson and Teresa Marohn

Making a Change: Elizabeth Campos, Allison Gardiner and Shea Hunter

Outstanding Creativity: Penelope Davis, Pamela Jarvis and Maria Pan

Fantastic District Administrator: Carol Loflin

Truly Inspirational Teaching: Courtney Konopacky, Heather Russell and Kelsey Wengel

The complete list of nominees is at:

What do you think makes a great teacher?

Posted on Friday, April 17th, 2015
Under: Education, San Ramon Valley school district | No Comments »

Mt. Diablo school board to hold board governance workshop on Monday

The Mt. Diablo school board will hold a board governance workshop at 3:30 p.m. Monday in the district office at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord. Here is the agenda:

“1.0 Call to Order
1.1 President Will Call the Meeting to Order at 3:30 p.m. Info
1.2 Preliminary Business Info

2.0 Public Comment
2.1 Public Comment Info

3.0 Business/Action Items
3.1 Governance Workshop Info

4.0 Adjournment
4.1 Adjourn Meeting at 5:30 p.m. Action”

Here is the agenda report for item 3.1, the governance workshop:

“3.1 Governance Workshop

Summary: A Governance Workshop will be conducted in order for all governing Board members and the Superintendent to participate in ongoing updates and review of the Brown Act. Our goal will be to stay informed and current, as well as to reflect upon the specific role and responsibilities of School Board members to ensure effectiveness.

The Governance Meeting will be conducted in two parts:

Part 1: Marilyn Cleveland, attorney with the law firm of Dannis, Wolliver and Kelley, will present an update on the Brown Act. Time has been provided for questions and discussion.

Part 2: The Board, in collaboration with the Superintendent, will participate in discussion and review the following areas:

1. Preparation for meetings
2. Seeking information for agenda items
3. Seeking information from Staff for other issues
4. Responses to Public Comment
5. Speaking as an individual/Board
6. School visitation process

Recommendation: Information and discussion.”

How do you think the board could improve its governance practices?

Posted on Friday, April 17th, 2015
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 59 Comments »

Three Contra Costa County districts struggle to prioritize construction projects

Three school boards in Contra Costa County are deciding how to prioritize construction projects to complete with remaining money from their districts’ voter-approved bond measures.

The Martinez school board’s discussion of about $17.3 million left from its $45 million Measure K bond passed in 2010 made the news last week when an edited video of Trustee Denise Elsken’s comments about air conditioning proposed at two schools went viral. Elsken said she supported air conditioning at John Swett Elementary, but not at Las Juntas Elementary, in part because she believed Las Juntas students are more “acclimated” to heat than students at John Swett.

Elsken based her conclusion on the assumption that about 95 percent of John Swett students have air conditioning at home, while about 95 percent of Las Juntas students do not. However, the video did not include Elsken’s further comments explaining her position.

Unfortunately, the Martinez district’s audio recording of the meeting is of such poor quality that Elsken’s comments about air conditioning cannot be clearly heard. It appears the district placed microphones in front of some trustees and public speakers — but not all — resulting in a recording that is not an accurate record of what happened.

However, based on another recording obtained by a colleague, Elsken reminisced about attending Las Juntas herself and sitting under shady trees on the “eight to ten hot days a year.” She also pointed out that Las Juntas did not rank air conditioning as a high priority.

Elsken said staffers instead preferred other upgrades, including “teaching walls.” The Martinez agenda report listed field renovation at Las Juntas as the only staff priority for the school, with a note from the principal stating: “Field/track has holes that are major tripping hazards.”

Besides discussing specific projects, the Martinez board spent considerable time discussing values, including safety, integrity, education and communication. Trustees plan to continue discussing “equity” on Monday, along with the projects they informally agreed to support March 30, including air conditioning at John Swett Elementary, which was listed as a staff priority.

Equity has also been a hot topic in the Mt. Diablo and West Contra Costa school districts. The Mt. Diablo school board may vote April 20 on several different proposals for issuing $77 million in remaining Measure C bonds voters approved in 2010.

At two study sessions last month, several Mt. Diablo trustees who were not on the board in 2010 said they needed to see updated project lists before they would agree to spend the money. A consultant suggested the board might also want to consider issuing less than $77 million now and waiting until 2016 to ask voters to pass a new bond measure.

The Martinez and West Contra Costa school boards have also begun talking about asking voters to approve new bond measures to finish additional projects.

In an email to some community members after she was widely criticized for her comments, Elsken said that she believes Las Juntas should be torn down and rebuilt within the next 10 years, which would require a new bond measure.

Similarly, the West Contra Costa school district is planning to rebuild several schools, even though the remaining approximately $592 million from $1.6 billion approved by district voters in six bond measures will not be enough to complete them all. The school board recently agreed to update its Facilities Master Plan and to set up a committee to rank projects based on factors such as age, condition and enrollment.

Although the West Contra Costa district has told voters in the past that it wanted to pass new bond measures to provide equitable facilities for all students, it still has a long way to go to meet that goal after 16 years of construction. It has spent millions to provide top-notch facilities for some, while others are still waiting for their turns.

How do you think school boards should prioritize projects?

Posted on Friday, April 10th, 2015
Under: Education, Martinez school district, Mt. Diablo school district, West Contra Costa school district | 17 Comments »

WCCUSD contentious community engagement led to more open and constructive dialogue over district plan

TThe West Contra Costa school district’s attempt to create a plan showing how it would spend its state money got off to a rocky start last year, according to a study.

But the case study, released recently by the nonprofit Education Trust-West student advocacy group, found that contentious community engagement at the beginning of the process eventually led to more open and constructive dialogues between district officials and the community.

This spring, the district is again engaging the community in meetings as it prepares its second Local Control Accountability Plan, which determines in part how education dollars are spent to boost achievement. And a presentation to the board Wednesday surprised some board members.

The presentation showed only 27 percent of high school students were considered ready for college in English last year and 37 percent were prepared for college in math, and the district’s goal this year is to raise those levels by a mere 2 percentage points.

“We need to better than that,” said Trustee Liz Block.

But Nicole Joyner, director of accountability and chief data officer, said the Contra Costa County Office of Education advised the district to set goals that were achievable.

Ryan Smith, executive director of Ed Trust-West, said his organization is concerned about low-performing districts setting goals that are not high enough, especially those with large percentages of low-income students, English learners and foster youth.

“The resources that were given to districts like West Contra Costa were explicitly (intended) to improve their outcomes and it should not be over a century that we’ll see these students become proficient,” he said. “It should be within this lifetime. That’s sad if only 2 percent (improvement) is all we can do for these students.”

Only 36 percent of West Contra Costa third-graders and 45 percent of ninth-graders are proficient in English language arts, and about 75 percent graduate from high school, the report found.

The district received $23.2 million in supplemental and “concentration” funds through the state’s Local Control Funding Formula in 2014-15 because 75 percent of its students are low-income, English learners or foster youth. The district also received $189 million in “base grants” for every student, according to the report.

Ryan said low-performing districts “have a disincentive to empower parents to ask the critical questions and to hold them accountable.”

The report said tensions mounted last year when the district began meeting with parents about the plan because district officials didn’t explain that they wouldn’t have enough money to implement all the ideas people suggested. The district also initially failed to hold a town-hall meeting in the Iron Triangle area of Richmond, but later made up for it by opening its parent advisory and English learner advisory meetings to the public, the study said.

It also found that Superintendent Bruce Harter did not initially embrace community involvement by organizations such as CCISCO, which offered to help train parents about the plan. Although Harter eventually agreed to include the groups, the report said the district would not sponsor the meetings and required the groups to pay for janitorial services and a sound system.

As parents became more empowered, they asked why the district hadn’t translated information into Spanish as required by law. The district then began translating its meetings and materials, the report said.

“By the end of the community engagement process,” the study said, “community advocates felt that WCCUSD leaders seemed humbled by the experience and ready to build stronger ties to the community.”

Is your district reaching out to parents to create its plan?

Posted on Friday, April 3rd, 2015
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 7 Comments »

MDUSD board tonight to hold study session regarding issuance of remaining $77 million in Measure C bond funds

The Mt. Diablo school board will meet at 5:30 p.m. today in the district office at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord to vote on a Concord HS Choir trip to New Orleans and hold a study session regarding a proposal to issue the remaining $77 million remaining from the district’s 2010 Measure C.

Here is the agenda:

“1.0 Call to Order
1.1 President Will Call the Meeting to Order at 5:30 p.m. Info

1.2 Preliminary Business Info
2.0 Public Comment
2.1 Public Comment Info

3.0 Business / Action Item
3.1 Concord High School Choir Trip to New Orleans April 22-26, 2015 Action

4.0 Study Session
4.1 Study Session to Discuss Future Bond Sales Info

5.0 Adjournment
5.1 Adjourn Meeting Action”

Here is the agenda report for the study session:

“Subject: 4.1 Study Session to Discuss Future Bond Sales

Summary: Dale Scott and Mark Ferrell of DS&C, will make a presentation during this Study Session to consider a potential future resolution authorizing Issuance and Sale of General Obligation Bonds, 2010 Election, 2010 Series F. Aggregate Principal Amount not to Exceed Seventy-Seven Million Dollars as authorized by the June 8, 2010 bond election. The proceeds of the bonds would be used to fund capital improvements/modernization work as previously deemed by the Board of Education to be essential to the maintenance and improvement of educational programming. Work includes, but is not limited to: Classroom technology improvements, roof replacements, restroom renovations, and kitchen improvements (Priority 1 projects). Also, next steps to meet ongoing needs of the District through a Bond Program will be discussed.

Fiscal Impact : No impact to the General Fund. All costs of a future bond sale would be paid from monies raised through the sale of the bonds.

Recommendation: Study Session”

Do you support the proposed bond issuance?

Posted on Monday, March 30th, 2015
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Uncategorized | 90 Comments »