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Sunday is the FAFSA and Cal Grant deadline!

This is your final warning: Sunday is the deadline for high school seniors to apply for federal financial aid and California state grants. Don’t delay!

Students can apply by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and submitting Grade-point Average, or GPA, information to the California Student Aid Commission.

A report released earlier this week by The Education Trust-West — a statewide education policy, research and advocacy organization nonprofit advocacy organization — found that while the number of high school seniors who complete FAFSA and Cal Grant applications across the state last year, many students still did not apply for financial aid.

The number of high school seniors who completed FAFSA applications rose from 54 percent to 62 percent from 2012 to 2013, while the number who applied for Cal Grants rose from 50 percent to 56 percent during the same time period, according to the report.

However, 44 percent — or nearly 175,000 12th graders in the class of 2013 did not complete a Cal Grant application, according to the “Equity Alert” brief titled, “Doorways to College Aid,” which is a follow-up to the group’s report from last year called, “The Cost of Opportunity: Access to College Financial Aid in California.” To view the report, visit www.edtrust.org/west and click on “New Analysis Finds FAFSA & Cal Grant Applications Rising; Too Many Students Across California Still Not Applying for Financial Aid.”

“We are glad to see the increases in FAFSA completion and Cal Grant application rates, but there are still far too many students falling through the cracks,” said Dr. Orville Jackson, senior research analyst at The Education Trust—West, in a news release. “Our research gives us a good sense of what works to get more students to apply for aid and go to college. The challenge now is to get those practices spread to schools and districts across California.”

The research shows that schools and districts using an electronic GPA verification for their high school seniors outperformed other districts by 15 percent, with an average Cal Grant completion rate of 71 percent compared to 56 percent for others. The Education Trust—West supports AB 2160, introduced earlier this month by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, which would require all public high schools to electronically submit GPA verifications to the state Student Aid Commission.

“Education is the greatest gift we can give to our children,” Ting said, in a prepared statement. “California is providing more help than ever to help families pay for college but too many students leave aid on the table. Students who apply for aid are twice as likely to enroll in college and more likely to graduate. This simple solution will ensure more students get help getting ahead.”

The report includes a list of the Top 100 high schools in the state ranked according to FAFSA completions out of 1,100 schools studied. Here are the nine East Bay schools that made the list, with their FAFSA completion rates followed by their Cal Grant application completion rates.

ALAMEDA COUNTY:
MyClymonds High, Oakland Unified: 100 percent; 76 percent
Oakland School for the Arts, Oakland Unified: 88 percent; 83 percent
Aspire California College Preparatory Academy, Alameda County: 87 percent; 91 percent
Impact Academy of Arts and Technology, Hayward Unified: 87 percent; 87 percent
KIPP King Collegiate High, San Lorenzo Unified: 83 percent; 90 percent
American Indian Public High, Oakland Unified: 82 percent; 73 percent
Leadership Public Schools — Hayward, Hayward Unified: 79 percent; 92 percent

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY:
Deer Valley High, Antioch Unified: 100 percent; 28 percent
Middle College High, West Contra Costa Unified: 81 percent; 85 percent

To see the Education Trust-West California Financial Aid Tracker, which shows how well schools and districts are doing in college financial aid applications, visit http://financialaid.edtrustwest.org.

Do you support Ting’s bill?

Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2014
Under: Education | 2 Comments »

MDUSD board to discuss Common Core spending, layoffs and new contract for Northgate HS aquatics center tonight

The Mt. Diablo school board will meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the district board room at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord. Here is the agenda:

“1.0 Call to Order
1.1 President will call the meeting to order Info
2.0 Announcements

2.1 In closed session, the Board will consider the items listed on the closed session agenda. Info
3.0 Public Comment
3.1 The public may address the Board concerning items that are scheduled for discussion during closed session only. These presentations are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers or the three minute limit may be shortened. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

4.0 Closed Session Agenda
4.1 Negotiations – The Board may discuss negotiations or provide direction to its representatives regarding represented employees, pursuant to EERA (Govt. Code Section 3549.1) Agency negotiators: Julie Braun Martin and Deborah Cooksey, Agencies: MDEA, CSEA, Local One M&O, Local One CST, MDSPA, and Supervisory. Info/Action
4.2 Jane Doe v. MDUSD Contra Costa County Superior Court Case No. C13-00342 Info/Action
4.3 Readmission of Student #E-13 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
4.4 Admission of Student # C-14 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
4.5 Anticipated Litigation – Significant exposure to litigation or claims made pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(2) Info
4.6 Anticipated Litigation – Significant exposure to litigation or claims made pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(2) Info
4.7 Anticipated Litigation – Significant exposure to litigation or claims made pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(2) Info
5.0 Adjourn to Closed Session at 6:00 p.m.

6.0 Reconvene Open Session
6.1 Reconvene Open Session at 7:30 p.m. Info

7.0 Preliminary Business
7.1 Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call Info

8.0 Report Out Action Taken in Closed Session
8.1 Negotiations Info/Action
8.2 Jane Doe v. MDUSD Contra Costa County Superior Court Case No. C13-00342 Info/Action
8.3 Readmission of Student #E-13 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
8.4 Admission of Student # C-14 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
8.5 Anticipated Litigation – Significant exposure to litigation or claims made pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(2) Info
8.6 Anticipated Litigation – Significant exposure to litigation or claims made pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(2) Info
8.7 Anticipated Litigation – Significant exposure to litigation or claims made pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(2) Info

9.0 Recognitions and Resolutions
9.1 Resolution #13/14-33 determining district needs for 2014-15 and adopting criteria for determining order of seniority for those certificated employees with the same date of first paid probationary service. Action
9.2 Resolution No. 13/14 – 34 to decrease the number of certificated employees due to a reduction or elimination of particular kinds of services. Action
9.3 Resolution #13/14-35 proclaiming March 2-8, 2014, the Week of the School Administrator Action

10.0 Public Employee Appointment
10.1 Appointment of Principal, Elementary School – Hidden Valley Elementary Action

10.2 Appointment of Coordinator, Student/Community Services 9-12 – Concord High School Action

10.3 Appointment of Extended Year Summer Program Administrators Action

11.0 Board Member Reports
11.1 Board Member Reports Info

12.0 Superintendent’s Report
12.1 Superintendent’s Report Info

13.0 Consent Agenda Action
13.1 (Item #1) Items listed under Consent Agenda are considered routine and will be approved/adopted by a single motion. There will be no separate discussion of these items; however, any item may be removed from the consent agenda upon the request of any member of the Board and acted upon separately. Action
13.2 (Item #2) Recommended Action for Certificated Personnel Action
13.3 (Item #3) Request to Increase and Decrease Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2013-2014 School Year Action
13.4 (Item #4) Recommended Action for Classified Personnel Action
13.5 (Item #5) Classified Personnel: Request to Increase Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2013-14 School Year and Decrease Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2014-15 School Year Action
13.6 (Item #6) Contract with Dr. Adria Klein for professional development and coaching support at Meadow Homes Elementary. Action
13.7 (Item #7) Contracts with Staff Development for Educators (SDE) for services provided at Rio Vista Elementary and district wide for Singapore Math trainings. Action
13.8 (Item #8) Increase Independent Service contract for Deiredre Ryan-Booth, behavior intervention services provider. Action
13.9 (Item #9) Contract Extension for Eagle Software Aeries Student Information System for 2014-2015 Action
13.10 (Item #10) Kaspersky antivirus software contract Action
13.11 (Item #11) Award of Bid #1649: PE Building Renovation at MDHS Action
13.12 (Item #12) Approve Final Deductive Change Order #1652-001 (FCO) for Project #1652/C-917: Parking Improvements at Clayton Valley Charter High School Action
13.13 (Item #13) Notice of Completion for Bid #1652/Contract C-917 Action
13.14 (Item #14) Minutes for the Board of Education Meeting held on December 11, 2013 Action
13.15 (Item #15) Minutes for the Special Board of Education Meeting held on December 11, 2013 Action
14.0 Consent Items Pulled for Discussion

15.0 Communications
15.1 District Organizations – At regular Board meetings, a single spokesperson of each recognized district organization may make a brief presentation following the Consent Agenda. Items are limited to those which are informational. Info

16.0 Community Input Meeting
16.1 Public Hearing Regarding the Common Core State Standards Spending Plan Action

17.0 Reports/Information
17.1 Representatives from the Student Services Department will provide an overview of the department to the Board of Education. Info

18.0 Public Comment
18.1 The public may address the Board regarding any item within the jurisdiction of the Board of Education of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District that is not on this agenda. These presentation are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers, or the three minute limit may be shortened. If there are multiple speakers on any one subject, the public comment period may be moved to the end of the meeting. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

19.0 Business/Action Items
19.1 Concord High School’s Spring Break Hawaii Performance, Educational and Cultural Tour Info/Action

19.2 Mt. Diablo Adult Education/Surgical Technologist Training Students Attendance at Association of Surgical Technologist Association Conference in Denver, Colorado. Action

19.3 2014-2015 School Calendar Action

19.4 WSCA Procurement of Microsoft Software and HP Computers for Technology upgrades at various schools. Action

19.5 Contract Extension of CALNET II State Contract to June 30, 2015 Action

19.6 Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP – Legal Services Contract Action

19.7 Award of Lease-Leaseback Agreement to Taber Construction, Inc. for the Construction of New Aquatics Center at Northgate High School Action

19.8 Approve Intermediate Change Order 1645-001 to Taber Construction, Inc. on Bid 1645 – Sports Field Lighting at Ygnacio Valley High School Action

19.9 CMAS Procurement of Extron Pole Vault System for New Classrooms Action

19.10 Renewal of Charter for Eagle Peak Montessori School Info

19.11 Student Representative Info/Action

19.12 Minutes for the Board of Education Meeting held on February 12, 2014 Action

19.13 Meeting Extension Action

20.0 Future Agenda Items
20.1 Future Agenda Items Info

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

22.0 Adjournment
22.1 Adjourn Meeting Info”

How do you think the district should spend its Common Core funding?

Posted on Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
Under: Education | 92 Comments »

New statewide Common Core field tests coming in March

Many school districts are still adjusting their instruction to implement new Common Core standards that require more rigor, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. But, starting next month, 3 million students throughout the state will be tested on the new standards in pilot assessments that are being called “tests of the tests.”

No scores will be released for students, schools, district or counties. Instead, the Smarter Balanced test developers will use the results to work out the kinks before they are administered in earnest next year.

To help prepare the community for the radical testing changes ahead, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson outlined plans for the assessments slated to take place in every district from March 18 through June 6, in a recent news release.

“It’s an exciting time for our students and our schools as California prepares to usher in assessments that reflect more of the real world than a bubble test ever could,” Torlakson said in a prepared statement. “From individual classrooms to school district offices and certainly at the state level, the preparations that have gone into this have been immense, and I’m looking forward to incorporating what we learn from this year’s field test into next year’s inaugural assessments.”

Assembly Bill 484, authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, ended most of the state’s Standards Tests and other assessments that made up the California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR program, over the last 15 years. The new tests are aligned with the Common Core standards in English-language arts and mathematics, adopted by the California Board of Education in 2010.

Administering the tests on computers will allowing for a broader range of questions than the previous multiple-choice STAR exams. New questions will emphasize critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving, reflecting the kind of learning necessary to prepare students for college and 21st Century careers.

The California Department of Education has worked with the Educational Testing Service testing contractor, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and other in the education community to develop school and parent outreach and resources.

These include:

- A Smarter Balanced website with information on the pilot test, including practice tests, at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/Sa/smarterfieldtest.asp.

- A clearinghouse of testing information for local school and district testing and technology coordinators, with forms, instructions, videos, and a schedule of workshops about administering the tests at http://californiatac.org/index.html.

- A Smarter Balanced Field Test Questions and Answers website, which is often updated with frequently asked questions and answers touching on issues such as whether a paper-and-pencil version will be available and what technology is required, at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/smarterftqa.asp.

n A technology readiness tool to help schools determine the status of their computers and bandwidth is at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/sbac-itr-faqs. asp.

n Assessment workshops for schools and districts are at http://www.startest.org/workshop.html.

n Information about the K–12 High Speed Network created for the test is at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/et/st/highspeednetwork.asp.

For middle and high school students, two new videos provide information about the test, including the role they will play in helping to prepare for the real deal in the 2014-15 school year. The high school video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXXd451e580&feature=youtu.be

The middle school video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKerb7NsDUE&feature=youtu.be.

More information about Common Core standards is available by visiting: www.cde.ca.gov/re/cc.

Do you think your school and students are ready for the pilot tests?

Posted on Saturday, February 22nd, 2014
Under: California, Education | 1 Comment »

Bay Area News Group reporting prompts calls for mandatory training in identifying and reporting child abuse

Nearly a year after Bay Area News Group published a survey of 94 school districts that showed more than half didn’t train their employees in spotting and reporting child abuse, state and national leaders are calling for mandatory training.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said last month that he asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to survey school districts throughout the nation about their sex abuse reporting policies, in part based on reports he read in this newspaper about abuse of children by school teachers that was not reported to police or Child Protective Services as required by law. Miller stressed that Title IX also requires schools to keep children safe from sexual harassment or abuse.

He was particularly troubled by the fact that teachers in these cases often “groomed” students for abuse by befriending them first, then paying special attention to them outside of school hours. Miller said school employees should be trained to spot grooming behavior and report that to authorities, in order to prevent sexual abuse from occurring.

Last week, state Superintendent Tom Torlakson announced his support for AB 1432, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, which would require formal training for all school employees on the identification and reporting of suspected child abuse.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our children at school,” Torlakson wrote, in a letter to Gatto. “California has had child abuse reporting laws on the books since 1963 — for more than five decades. And yet, even as changing state laws have expanded the number and nature of ‘mandatory reporters,’ never have they required any accompanying training in these duties. This does a disservice to both school employees and to the children these laws are meant to protect.

Our efforts to make our schools safer and help prevent crimes against children must also include giving educators and others who work with children the very best training and guidance available.

According to a recent media report, fewer than half of 94 school districts surveyed actually train employees on the identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect. School districts that do not provide training are required — under existing law — to notify the California Department of Education (CDE) of their reasons for doing so. Despite our best efforts to make districts aware of these responsibilities, we have received no such notifications. Clearly, current requirements fall short.

That is why I am pleased to see AB 1432 take a step forward by requiring that all school employees receive training at the beginning of every school year in their legal obligation to report child abuse and neglect. But it also ensures that the local educational agencies providing this training have assistance, by requiring the CDE, in consultation with the Office of Child Abuse Prevention in the California Department of Social Services, to provide information and guidelines on mandatory reporter training. Importantly, this training would also now be required to include the fact that failure to report constitutes a misdemeanor punishable with jail time and a fine.

Across California, educators and school communities feel a genuine responsibility toward the children they serve — for their education and their safety and well-being. They do not believe their job begins when the bell rings and ends at the schoolyard gate, and they know that we cannot expect a fearful child to learn …”

The failure of school districts to adequately train employees in identifying and reporting suspected abuse or grooming behavior can have tragic results. In the Mt. Diablo school district, former Woodside Elementary teacher Joseph Martin has been charged with 125 molestation counts involving 13 former students at the Concord school.

Two lawsuits filed last Tuesday on behalf of nine students allege the abuse could have been prevented if district officials had alerted police or Child Protective Services of suspicions that first came to light in 2005-06.

Here is a Guest Commentary by Carol Carrillo, executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa, regarding the need for better training in schools: http://www.contracostatimes.com/opinion/ci_25136650/training-is-designed-make-children-safe-from-abuse

She notes that her agency is now offering training in MDUSD. But, back when we did our survey, I e-mailed Julie Braun Martin about this training and she responded that the district’s legal department was pursuing different training. This was before the Martin case came to light. As Carillo states, MDUSD obviously needed a “wake up call” before it was willing to take this training seriously.

Interestingly, Carillo also talks about training for students. Perhaps if MDUSD offered the “Speak Up, Be Safe” program, Woodside students would have spoken up sooner about Martin’s behavior and would have realized that it was wrong.

Do you think the state should require districts to train employees in spotting and reporting abuse?

Posted on Monday, February 17th, 2014
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 51 Comments »

MDUSD board to discuss adult ed and Local One successor agreement

The Mt. Diablo school board will meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the district office, 1936 Carlotta Drive, in Concord. Below is the agenda:

1.0 Call to Order
1.1 President will call the meeting to order Info
2.0 Announcements

2.1 In closed session, the Board will consider the items listed on the closed session agenda. Info
3.0 Public Comment
3.1 The public may address the Board concerning items that are scheduled for discussion during closed session only. These presentations are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers or the three minute limit may be shortened. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

4.0 Adjourn to Closed Session at 6:00 p.m.
5.0 Closed Session Agenda
5.1 Negotiations – The Board may discuss negotiations or provide direction to its representatives regarding represented employees, pursuant to EERA (Govt. Code Section 3549.1) Agency negotiators: Julie Braun Martin and Deborah Cooksey, Agencies: MDEA, CSEA, Local One M&O, Local One CST, MDSPA, and Supervisory. Info/Action
5.2 Anticipated Litigation – Significant exposure to litigation or claims made pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(2) Info
5.3 Anticipated Litigation – Significant exposure to litigation or claims made pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(2) Info
6.0 Reconvene Open Session
6.1 Reconvene Open Session at 7:30 p.m. Info
7.0 Preliminary Business
7.1 Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call Info

8.0 Report Out Action Taken in Closed Session
8.1 Negotiations Info/Action
8.2 Anticipated Litigation – Significant exposure to litigation or claims made pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(2) Info
8.3 Anticipated Litigation – Significant exposure to litigation or claims made pursuant to Gov’t. Code Section 54956.9 (d)(2) Info

9.0 Student Representatives
9.1 Student representatives will report on activities at their schools. Info

10.0 Recognitions and Resolutions
10.1 Resolution #13/14-31 Women’s History Month Info/Action
10.2 Resolution #13/14-32 Arts Education Month Info/Action

11.0 Board Member Reports
11.1 Board reports Info

12.0 Superintendent’s Report
12.1 Superintendent’s Report Info

13.0 Consent Agenda Action
13.1 (Item #1) Items listed under Consent Agenda are considered routine and will be approved/adopted by a single motion. There will be no separate discussion of these items; however, any item may be removed from the consent agenda upon the request of any member of the Board and acted upon separately. Action
13.2 (Item #2) Recommended Action for Certificated Personnel Action
13.3 (Item #3) Request to Increase and Decrease Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2013-2014 School Year Action
13.4 (Item #4) Recommended Action for Classified Personnel Action
13.5 (Item #5) Classified Personnel: Request to Increase Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2013-14 School Year Action
13.6 (Item #6) Position Control Program Changes Due to Implementation of Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) effective 2013-14 Action
13.7 (Item #7) Business Plus Vendor Warrant Report and Business Plus Vendor Cancellations Warrant Report for the month of January 2014. Action
13.8 (Item #8) Williams Quarterly Summary Report Action
13.9 (Item #9) Approval of Provisional Internship Permit (PIP) Request Action
13.10 (Item #10) Approval of additional contract with Resource Development Associates, Inc. to revise and administer the Title I Parent/Family Involvement Survey for the 13 Title I schools. Action
13.11 (Item #11) Memorandum of Understanding between the University of San Francisco Nursing Program and Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
13.12 (Item #12) Approve contract with Marin County Office of Education (COE) Outdoor School of Walker Creek Ranch for Valhalla Elementary School Action
13.13 (Item #13) Minutes for the Board of Education Meeting held December 16, 2013 Action

14.0 Consent Items Pulled for Discussion

15.0 Public Comment
15.1 The public may address the Board regarding any item within the jurisdiction of the Board of Education of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District that is not on this agenda. These presentation are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers, or the three minute limit may be shortened. If there are multiple speakers on any one subject, the public comment period may be moved to the end of the meeting. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

16.0 Communications
16.1 District Organizations – At regular Board meetings, a single spokesperson of each recognized district organization may make a brief presentation following the Consent Agenda. Items are limited to those which are informational. Info

17.0 Reports/Information
17.1 Minutes for the Board of Education Meeting held January 29, 2014 Action

18.0 Business/Action Item
18.1 Adult Education Consortium Planning Grant intents to participate as a member. Action

18.2 Opportunity for public response to the Initial Successor Agreement Proposal for Public Employees Union Local #1 Maintenance, Operations, and Facilities/Transportation/Landscape/Warehouse/Food and Nutrition Services/Technology and Information Services/Substitute Custodian and School Bus Driver Units (M&O) and Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action

18.3 Meeting Extension Action
19.0 Future Agenda Items
19.1 Future Agenda Items Info
20.0 Closed Session
20.1 Items not completed during the first Closed Session will be carried over to this closed session. Action
21.0 Reconvene Open Session
22.0 Adjournment
22.1 Adjourn Meeting”

What items are of interest to you?

Posted on Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 10 Comments »

County education trustees seek more power over superintendent

Some Contra Costa County trustees are attempting to flex their muscles by pushing for a ballot measure to convert the superintendent from an elected to an appointed position. But they’re being told by county’s legal counsel that they may be too weak to call for an election themselves.

The issue came to a head Wednesday, when Trustees Daniel Gomes and Pamela Mirabella challenged the legal opinion and said they want to seek advice from an outside lawyer. The pair also expressed frustration that they couldn’t move forward with that vote on Wednesday because Gomes’ proposal was listed on the agenda as an “information” item instead of an “action” item, as he had requested.

Gomes alleged that Superintendent Joseph Ovick and his staff appeared to be trying to stall the item, which could potentially prevent the board from voting on it by the March deadline to get it on the 2014 ballot. Bill Clark, associate superintendent of business services, and Mary Ann Mason, assistant county counsel, said they could not find a legal precedent giving the Board of Education the authority to call an election.

Instead, they said, it is the County board of supervisors’ role to decide whether or not to place a measure on the ballot. Or, an initiative could be created and placed on the ballot if it received enough voter signatures.

Both Gomes and Mirabella said they want to convert the position because they were dissatisfied with Ovick’s decision in 2009 to give raises to top administrators during lean budget years, when other employees made sacrifices during union negotiations. Some of those district leaders ended up retiring soon afterward, Gomes said.
“In two cases,” he said, “this resulted in a spiking of their pensions.”

Mirabella said she felt powerless because the board had no authority to reject the raises approved by Ovick. She would have preferred to have given the money to new employees who would work in the county for many years, instead of to top administrators who were about to leave, she said.

Trustee Richard Asadoorian, who was not on the board when the raises were approved, said he has previously believed that voters should have the ability to choose the county superintendent. But, after seeing Ovick run unopposed for years, he has begun to question whether voters understand the complex issues the superintendent oversees. Trustees, he said, might be able to solicit many qualified candidates if the position were appointed.

The frustration expressed by Gomes and Mirabella regarding their lack of power over the elected superintendent is similar to the recent controversy in Pleasant Hill, where council members have admitted they could not compel the elected city clerk to produce minutes. In school districts, however, elected trustees have the authority to hire and fire their appointed superintendents.

This is the kind of power Gomes, Mirabella and Asadoorian appear to want. But Board President Ellen Elster, a retired deputy superintendent who worked for Ovick, said she did not want to be associated with the ballot proposal. She scoffed at Gomes and Mirabella’s concerns, interrupting them at times.

Trustee Cynthia Ruehlig said there are other ways to communicate dissatisfaction with a superintendent’s decisions.

“It’s so drastic,” she said. “It’s like throwing a grenade at a rat.”
Ovick plans to retire in December and he was not present at the meeting. Deputy Superintendent Karen Sakata, one of the administrators who received a hefty raise from Ovick, has announced her candidacy for his position.

Gomes suggested that another unopposed election could, in effect, allow Ovick to groom Sakata for his job.

“Is this some kind of fiefdom the superintendent runs for himself,” he said, “and hand picks his successor?”

Gomes and Mirabella directed Clark to bring a list of attorneys to the board at their next meeting so they can hire one to render a second opinion about the board’s ability to place a measure on the ballot.

They plan to hold a special meeting two weeks later to hear that attorney’s opinion and vote on placing the measure on the ballot, if they get a green light.

Do you think the County Superintendent should be elected or appointed?

FEB. 10 UPDATE:

Please note that the raises were given in 2009, not 2010, as originally stated. I have corrected that information above.

Here is the story I wrote about the raises at the time:

PAY-RAISE OUTRAGE NOT JUST NATIONAL
COUNTY EDUCATION SUPERINTENDENT GIVES THOUSANDS TO ASSOCIATES, ANGERING WORKERS WHO SAW NO WAGE INCREASES

Publication: CONTRA COSTA TIMES
Reporter: Theresa Harrington Contra Costa Times Staff Writer
Published: Friday, 3/20/2009

Section: News
Page: 1A

Dateline: Dateline: PLEASANT HILL

Calling it “AIG all over again,” a union leader for Contra Costa County education workers says administrators should not receive pay raises while other employees get none.

Teachers, instructional assistants and general classified employees laid into the Contra Costa County board of education and Superintendent Joe Ovick on Wednesday, after learning on March 1 he had raised pay for three associate superintendents by thousands of dollars.

The pay hikes – including one raise of nearly $33,000 – became effective four days after members of Public Employees Union Local 1 agreed to no salary increases because of the state budget crisis, said James Jones, a union representative. Members agreed to sacrifice pay raises to save positions, he said.

“We’re mad as hell,” Jones told the board. “We were told there was no money whatsoever for raises and increases. We were told there would be no layoffs. … This is AIG all over again.”

Ovick said the raises were based on the difficulty of recruiting an associate superintendent of business to replace Deputy Superintendent Ellen Elster, who is retiring this month.

Instead of recruiting another deputy superintendent, Ovick decided to seek an associate superintendent at a lower pay level, who would do essentially the same job, said spokeswoman Peggy Marshburn. When no qualified applicants sought the $134,000 position, Ovick advertised it at $155,000.

Although this is just slightly less than the $156,478 Elster was making and exceeds the maximum $134,530 base salary for associate superintendents, Ovick did not bump the position back up to deputy superintendent or create a new position such as chief financial officer.

Instead, he decided to raise the pay of all the other associate superintendents to put them on par with the new hire.

The associate superintendents, however, were not earning equal salaries before the decision.

Associate superintendent for student services Karen Sakata was earning $122,022. Michael Bowers, associate superintendent for human resources took home $134,530. And associate superintendent for educational services Susan Magnone earned $145,687.

Together, the three associate superintendents gained 6 to 27 percent raises at a total cost of $62,758.

Marshburn said the money came from savings due to reorganization after the retirement of two business service directors.

Ovick did not recruit a deputy superintendent because that position that is typically earned by someone promoted from within, Marshburn said. Board members did not need to approve the decisions, because Ovick is the employer, she added.

Employees and union reps were scalding in their criticism of what seemed lavish expenditures at a time when they were being told to freeze spending on vehicle use and field trips. Some said they could not buy paper or pencils and were concerned about preliminary layoff notices sent earlier this month.

Marshburn played down the layoff concern, saying most of the positions that received the notices ultimately will be retained.

She said Thursday that the county sent 15 notices to certificated managers whose salaries are paid with special funding that has not yet been renewed, seven to teachers on probation who will not be rehired and one to a classified instructional assistant because the student she worked with is no longer attending school.

The teachers will be replaced with new hires and the 15 managers may stay on if their funding comes through, she said.

Posted on Friday, February 7th, 2014
Under: Contra Costa County Board of Education, Education | 41 Comments »

School districts seek parent input for spending plans

MDUSD administrator leads parent discussion about engagement.

MDUSD administrator leads parent discussion about engagement.

Now that the state Board of Education has adopted emergency regulations and a template to help guide school districts in creating plans for spending their money, parents throughout the state should be hearing about community meetings asking for their opinions.

The Mt. Diablo and West Contra Costa districts started holding meetings in January to explain the state’s requirements for the plans, which must focus on eight priorities.

Nellie Meyer, Superintendent of the Mt. Diablo school district, told parents during a Tuesday meeting at Ygnacio Valley High that the priorities fall into three basic categories: conditions of learning, student outcomes and engagement.

Conditions of learning include: proper teacher assignments and student access to instructional materials; implementation of the state’s new Common Core standards; and student access to a variety of courses.

Student outcomes are: pupil achievement and other measures of student success, such as reclassification of English learners as fluent.

Engagement includes: parental involvement, student engagement, and school climate indicators such as suspension and expulsion rates.

Based on these priorities, districts must decide how to divide their money in ways that will best serve their students. The money includes base grants that can be spent on districtwide needs, along with supplemental grants intended to help narrow the achievement gap for students who are English learners, low-income or foster youth.

Districts with more than 55 percent of students in these categories receive concentration grants for their additional disadvantaged students.

Mt. Diablo does not qualify for a concentration grant because its percentage of disadvantaged students is not high enough, Meyer said. However, she said some schools have a much higher percentage of disadvantaged students.

“In my humble opinion, the formula is flawed,” she said. “It should be by school.”

Parents at the meeting broke into three groups and offered suggestions for improvement in each of the three basic categories, such as ensuring high-quality staff, providing parents with more information about students’ progress and inviting families to fun activities on campus such as potlucks.

Meyer gave a similar presentation about the spending plan Wednesday to the school board. But some public speakers said the presentation included too much hard-to-understand education lingo, while leaving out information about how much money the district is receiving in base and supplemental grants.

Resident Willie Mims said the district needs to ensure that supplemental funding will help the students for whom it is intended.

The Mt. Diablo district will hold more meetings before finalizing its plan in June. Community meetings are at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ygnacio Valley High in Concord, at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at Diablo View Middle School in Clayton, at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Northgate High in Walnut Creek, at 6:30 p.m. March 18 at Concord High, and at 6:30 p.m. April 8 at Mt. Diablo High.

The West Contra Costa district held four community meetings in January and plans to establish a special committee comprised of parent representatives that will vote on its plan. The district has posted notes from its meetings online, including suggestions for programs or services that could help disadvantaged students.

Suggestions from El Cerrito High meeting participants included: better promotion of district resources, hiring certificated teachers for after-school programs, hiring writer coaches, reintroducing music and art, lowering class sizes at all grade levels, creating newcomer programs at schools, offering full-day kindergarten and early intervention preschool programs, eliminating classes with split grade levels, providing more alternatives to suspensions, offering writing support to English learners and additional reading and writing programs for all students, year-round schools, and more counselors.

How do you think districts should spend money earmarked for disadvantaged students?

Posted on Friday, January 31st, 2014
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, West Contra Costa school district | 84 Comments »

MDUSD board to meet Wednesday to make interim appointments permanent, sunshine Local 1 contract proposal and discuss leadership

The Mt. Diablo school board will meet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday 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 Info
2.0 Announcements
2.1 In closed session, the Board will consider the items listed on the closed session agenda. Info

3.0 Public Comment
3.1 The public may address the Board concerning items that are scheduled for discussion during closed session only. These presentations are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers or the three minute limit may be shortened. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

4.0 Adjourn to Closed Session at 6:00 p.m.
5.0 Closed Session Agenda
5.1 Negotiations – The Board may discuss negotiations or provide direction to its representatives regarding represented employees, pursuant to EERA (Govt. Code Section 3549.1) Agency negotiators: Julie Braun Martin and Deborah Cooksey, Agencies: MDEA, CSEA, Local One M&O, Local One CST, MDSPA, and Supervisory. Info/Action
5.2 Readmission of Student #03-11 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
5.3 Readmission of Student #24-12 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
5.4 Readmission of Student #A-14 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
5.5 Readmission of Student #B-14 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
5.6 Readmission of Student #17-13 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action

6.0 Reconvene Open Session
6.1 Reconvene Open Session at 7:30 p.m. Info

7.0 Preliminary Business
7.1 Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call Info

8.0 Report Out Action Taken in Closed Session
8.1 Negotiations Info/Action
8.2 Action on readmission of student #03-11 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
8.3 Action on readmission of student #24-12 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
8.4 Action on readmission of student #A-14 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
8.5 Action on readmission of student #B-14 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action
8.6 Action on readmission of student #17-13 into the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Action

9.0 Recognitions and Resolutions
9.1 Recognition of National Board Certified Teacher – Teresa Mejia, Meadow Homes Elementary School Info

9.2 Resolution #13/14-29 African American History Month Info/Action

10.0 Board Member Reports
10.1 Board reports Info

11.0 Superintendent’s Report
11.1 Superintendent’s Report Info

12.0 Reports/Information
12.1 LCAP Presentation Info

12.2 Minutes of the Board of Education Meeting of January 15, 2014 Info/Action

12.3 Board Committee Assignments Info/Action

13.0 Consent Agenda Action
13.1 (Item #1) Items listed under Consent Agenda are considered routine and will be approved/adopted by a single motion. There will be no separate discussion of these items; however, any item may be removed from the consent agenda upon the request of any member of the Board and acted upon separately. Action
13.2 (Item #2) Recommended Action for Certificated Personnel Action
13.3 (Item #3) Recommended Action for Classified Personnel Action
13.4 (Item #4) Classified Personnel: Request to Increase Positions Action
13.5 (Item #5) Request to Increase Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for the 2013-2014 School Year Action
13.6 (Item #6) Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA)Induction Program Support to Private School Teachers Action
13.7 (Item #7) Approve increase to independent service contract with Kristin Obrinsky, Physical Therapist Action
13.8 (Item #8) Approve contract increase with Independent Contractor Dr. Sherry Burke, School Psychologist Action
13.9 (Item #9) Increase purchase order with Speech Pathology Group. Action
13.10 (Item #10) Adjustments to Non-Public Agency (NPA) Contracts Action
13.11 (Item #11) Approval of Non-Public School (NPS) Adjustments Action
13.12 (Item #12) Request for increase in funding of a previously approved contract and purchase order with My Therapy Company. Action
13.13 (Item #13) Approval of Independent Service Contract with St. Vincent’s School for Boys, Catholic Charities CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) Action
13.14 (Item #14) Independent Services Contract for Concord High School and Events to the “T” Inc. Action
13.15 (Item #15) Approval of Extension of 2012-2013 Single Plans for Student Achievement (SPSA) through May 2014 Action
13.16 (Item #16) Request for Replacement of Outdated Warrant Action

14.0 Consent Items Pulled for Discussion
15.0 Public Comment
15.1 The public may address the Board regarding any item within the jurisdiction of the Board of Education of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District that is not on this agenda. These presentation are limited to three minutes each, or a total of thirty minutes for all speakers, or the three minute limit may be shortened. If there are multiple speakers on any one subject, the public comment period may be moved to the end of the meeting. Speakers are not allowed to yield their time. Info

16.0 Communications
16.1 District Organizations – At regular Board meetings, a single spokesperson of each recognized district organization may make a brief presentation following the Consent Agenda. Items are limited to those which are informational. Info

17.0 Business/Action Item

17.1 Change Interim Appointments to Regular Permanent Status Action

17.2 Request approval for submission by Mt. Diablo Adult Education of an application for Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA): Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Title II, Section 231 and the English Literacy and Civics Education (EL Civics) supplemental funding for 2014-2015. Action

17.3 Public presentation from Mt. Diablo Unified School District’s Initial Successor Agreement Proposal for Public Employees Union Local #1 Maintenance, Operations, and Facilities/Transportation/Landscape/Warehouse/Food and Nutrition Services/Technology and Information Services/Substitute Custodian and School Bus Driver Units (M&O). Info

17.4 2012-2013 Audit Report Action

17.5 Approve contract increase to 2012-2013 Interagency Agreement #28-325-2 between MDUSD and Contra Costa County, Mental Health Services Division Action

17.6 Approval of Master Contract with 1-on-1 Learning with Laptops, a State-Approved Provider of Supplemental Educational Services (SES), to provide tutoring services to the eligible students at the 10 Title I schools, as follows: Bel Air, Cambridge, Fair Oaks, Meadow Homes, Rio Vista, Shore Acres, Sun Terrace, Ygnacio Valley Elementary; and Oak Grove and Riverview Middle Schools. Action

17.7 Leadership Development Info

17.8 Northgate’s Model UN Trip to New York City. Info/Action

17.9 Mt. Diablo High School’s IHTA Sustainable Tourism Field Trip to New York City Info/Action

17.10 Mt. Diablo High School’s Field Trip to the 2014 Northern California Western Nevada Jr. Science and Humanities Symposium Info/Action

17.11 Proposed date change for June 11, 2014, Board Meeting Action

17.12 Meeting Extension Action

18.0 Future Agenda Items

19.0 Closed Session
20.0 Reconvene Open Session
21.0 Adjournment”

What agenda items interest you the most?

Posted on Monday, January 27th, 2014
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 87 Comments »

Now is the time to complete the FAFSA for college financial aid in the fall

If your child plans to attend to college in the fall, now is the time to start working on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to determine eligibility for grants, scholarships and loans.

The California Student Aid Commission is offering workshops throughout the state to help high school seniors and their families learn how to qualify for college financial aid and fill out the online forms by the state’s March 2 deadline.

Such meetings are coming up from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 in the Antioch High library, 700 W. 18th St. in Antioch; from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 25 in the library and computer labs at Mt. Diablo High, 2450 Grant St. in Concord; and from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 3 in the Deer Valley High theater at 4700 Lone Tree Way in Antioch. I attended a similar meeting earlier this month at Ygnacio Valley High in Concord, where parents and students received a brochure entitled “Funding your college future,” along with a “FAFSA on the Web Worksheet” and information about the California Dream Act Application for undocumented students.

More information about these workshops and FAFSA resources is available by visiting www.calgrants.org. “Click on Cash for College.”

The brochure highlighted Cal Grants and Middle Class Scholarships, which are available to students whose families earn up to $150,000 a year. The Cal Grant program guarantees financial assistance based on need to every qualified student who applies, according to the brochure distributed by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord. Similar information is being disseminated by assembly members in other districts statewide.

The new Middle Class Scholarship is being phased in starting this year to help students who do not qualify for Cal Grants because their family income is too high. It is expected to reduce student fees and tuition at University of California and California State University campuses by up to 40 percent, after it is fully implemented.

Last year, the West Contra Costa school district helped boost college attendance for its graduates by partnering with the Ed Fund on a FAFSA campaign to ensure that students had the opportunity to complete the FAFSA or the California Dream Application. The West Contra Costa school board will receive a report on this campaign during its Wednesday meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at Lovonya DeJean Middle School at 3400 MacDonald Ave. in Richmond.

“As indicated through national studies, paying for college is the number one barrier keeping kids out of college,” the staff report states. “Recent studies indicate that increasing the FAFSA completion also results in increased college-going rates for districts.”

Only 33 percent of West Contra Costa students completed the FAFSA by the March 2 in 2012, before the districtwide campaign began. The following year, 56 percent of seniors completed the FAFSA, which was a 23 percent gain, according to the report.

To help streamline the application process, the district also uploaded grade-point average data for every eligible senior directly to the California Student Aid Commission. These efforts resulted in 596 seniors from the district receiving Cal Grants, or an estimated $3 million in state aid during their first year of college, the district reports.

All told, the campaign made more than $20 million in state and federal aid available to students to help fund tuition and fees. This translates into more money that their families were able to invest in the local economy, according to the staff report.

This year, the district has set a goal of a 70 percent FAFSA completion rate by March 2.

“We know that the increase in financial aid received by WCCUSD students enables more students to afford to go to college and dramatically increases their likelihood of graduating from college,” the staff report says.

The Ed Fund recognized the work of the College Access Foundation of California for supporting the College Access Initiative, along with partners in the West County College Access Network, including the West Contra Costa school district.

“They are to be commended and held high for their singular focus on college access and success for all district students,” according to the staff report.

The Ed Fund plans to ask the school board to institutionalize the completion of financial aid applications for all district students and to declare January “Financial Aid Awareness Month.”

What steps do you think districts should take to increase their FAFSA completion rates for college-bound seniors?

Posted on Friday, January 24th, 2014
Under: Education | No Comments »

Nine Contra Costa County high school teams to compete in Regional Science Bowl on Saturday

The public is invited to watch teams from 24 Bay Area schools — including nine from Contra Costa County — compete in a free regional Science Bowl competition on Saturday at Las Postas College in Livermore. Winners will advance to the National Science Bowl in April in Washington, D.C.

Below is a list of the teams that have signed up to participate (including some who are on the waiting list). Those from Contra Costa County include: Acalanes, California, Campolindo, Dougherty Valley, Las Lomas, Miramonte, Monte Vista, Mt. Diablo and Northgate high schools.

Acalanes High School
Lafayette

Alameda High School
Alameda

Albany High School
Albany

Amador Valley High School
Pleasanton

American High school
Fremont

Benicia High School
Benicia (waiting list)

California High School
San Ramon

Campolindo High School
Moraga

Chinese Christian High School
Alameda

Dougherty Valley High School
San Ramon

Dublin High School
Dublin

Foothill High School
Pleasanton

Granada High School
Livermore

Irvington High School
Fremont

James Logan High School
Union City

John F Kennedy HS (waiting list)
Fremont

Las Lomas High School
Walnut Creek

Livermore High
Livermore

LPS Hayward (waiting list)
Hayward

Milpitas High School
Milpitas

Miramonte High School
Orinda

Mission San Jose High School
Fremont

Monte Vista
Danville

Mount Eden High School
Hayward

Mt Diablo High School
Concord

Northgate High School
Walnut Creek

Stevenson
Pebble Beach

Valley Christian High School
Dublin

Here is a video clip from last year’s National High School Finals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgZ7js-Whhs

More information about the National Science Bowl is at: http://science.energy.gov/wdts/nsb/.

Posted on Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
Under: Education, science | No Comments »