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Mt. Diablo Flex charter school has decided to wait a year before opening

NOTE: This post has been updated to clarify the date of the letter.

Mark Kushner, who heads up the Mt. Diablo Flex charter school that received conditional approval from the Contra Costa County Board of Education, sent an Aug. 15 letter to the board and county superintendent, informing them of the school’s intention to wait another year before opening (until fall, 2012).

Here’s his letter:

“Dear Board Members and Superintendent,

This letter is to update you on the progress of Mt. Diablo Flex Academy, an innovative charter school approved by your board about a year ago.

Significant Interest in Innovative Flex Model

As you may know, we were very pleased, with almost no advertising, to have received over 350 applicants for the 6th – 12th grade Mt. Diablo Flex Academy with a goal of opening with 250 students and the rest being on a waitlist. The Contra Costa Board of Education condition of approval requires that we open with at least 125 students.

For the board members who were not part of the charter process, Flex Academy will be one of the state’s first fulltime blended learning models, an onsite school combining the academic advantages of online education with the advantages of a tradition school.

Every student gets a free loaner laptop. Students and teachers are onsite five days a week with the teachers leveraging an online curriculum; this is in no way a virtual school or an independent study program.

In particular, the families told us they appreciated having 130 electives, self pacing and more attention for this children when they need it. Average class is size is designed to be five to seven students at a time, enabled because the teachers don’t have to teach all the material.

Instead, the world class interactive online curriculum provided by K12, Inc, the country’s largest provider of online curriculum (now serving students in all 50 states and now 62 countries) helps the students learn much of the material.

Flex Public Schools, the nonprofit holding the charter, already operates a Flex Academy in San Francisco (which by the way is doubling in size this Fall for its second year) and about to open one on September 6 in Morgan Hill, South of San Jose, called Silicon Valley Flex Academy.

Decision to Postpone Opening One Year Due to Facilities Challenge

However, as you likely heard, and as we were allowed to do by our charter approval, we made a tough decision to open a year from now rather than this Fall, believing that it is better to open well and in a space that works effectively rather than trying to squeeze the innovative program into a space that didn’t fit our model.

More specifically, we appreciated being offered a Proposition 39 site by the Mt. Diablo Unified School District at Glenbrook Middle School, but upon reflection decided that this site was too small (only fitting 125-150 students) and not configured appropriately for our learning lab model.

We also found a number a number of private sites that worked well in terms of size, space configuration, and affordability, but were not able to get the zoning and permits we needed to open in time. We feel confident that with an extra year we will have a wonderful space ready for the school for Fall 2012. Though disappointed, most of the families told us they would wait a year and enroll when we open.

National Attention for the Flex Model

We look forward to bringing Flex model and the latest in blended learning to Contra Costa County. As you may know, experts from Harvard believe that over 50 percent of American high schools will be partly online with nine years (see e.g. the new books ‘Disrupting Class’ by Clayton Christensen, and ‘Liberating Learning’ by Terry Moe). Flex Public Schools is leading this effort.

In connection with this, please see the attached articles about Flex:

1. A recent national Education Week article about blended Learning, describing the trend of blended learning and highlighting, among others, San Francisco Flex Academy.

2. A recent article from the Innosight Institute describing types of blended learning models, including one category called ‘Flex,’ named after our model.

3. An article from the Harvard Education Review describing blended models and mentioning San Francisco Flex Academy, among other schools.

In addition, in case you are interested, there is a recent video about San Francisco Flex Academy at and a story about the school by ABC news as well.

The proposed Mt. Diablo Flex Academy has the same model, as does Silicon Valley Flex Academy. We believe this model is one for the future as it enables more personalization by teachers. If you would like me to update the board and staff in person, please let me know.

We look forward to serving the families of Contra Costa County with this innovative model and hope that some of the local districts adopt part of our model. We have many districts and counties that have visited our San Francisco campus, as have some of you. We welcome visits from any of you to either of our Flex schools, and will work hard to open in the Mt. Diablo district area next Fall.

Very truly yours,
Mark Kushner
Executive Director, Flex Public Schools’

Ps: I have heard that the board may be reviewing charter research. I still teach at Stanford University on charter schools, and am happy to present on California and national charter school performance if that is helpful.”

Do you believe students in the Mt. Diablo school district would benefit from the Mt. Diablo Flex Academy program?

Posted on Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa County Office of Education, Education, Theresa Harrington | 1 Comment »

MDUSD appoints new administrators

At the June 28 Mt. Diablo school board meeting, Superintendent Steven Lawrence asked trustees for authorization to fill the following nine positions over the summer:

– one elementary school principal position,

– four Student Services Coordinators,

– two Necessary Small School administrator positions,

– Assistant Director of Categoricals and School Support, and

– Director English Learner Services.

“So, that candidates can be selected and under contract prior to August 1, for the above stated positions, it is requested that the Board authorize the Superintendent to enter into contracts with selected candidates,” the agenda report stated.

That evening, Lawrence announced that Valley View Middle School Vice Principal Joe Berry had resigned. He asked trustees to grant him the authority to also fill this position, as well as one high school vice principal position that remained unfilled at that time.

The board amended its motion to include the additional two positions, granting Lawrence authority to “enter into contracts for the above stated positions prior to the Aug. 9 board meeting.”

For the Aug. 9 board meeting, the agenda report stated: “On June 28, 2011, the Board gave the Superintendent authorization to enter into contracts with selected Administrative candidates prior to the August 9 Board meeting. The following candidates accepted positions and are being brought forward for introduction to the Board:”

However, Lawrence’s appointments included three positions that were not included in the list authorized by the board in June:

Two program specialists and one middle school vice principal.

Five of the positions filled were on the June list, while six of the originally listed positions remained unfilled.

Here’s a rundown of the appointments announced Aug. 9:

Principal, Valley View Middle School – Ean Ainsworth (former Riverview MS vice principal)

Administrator, Necessary Small High School – Rachelle Buckner

Administrator, Necessary Small High School/Vice Principal – Brook Penca

Program Specialist, Special Education – Berry Murray

Program Specialist/Extended Year, Special Education – Carolyn Patton

Principal, Sequoia Elementary School – David Franklin

Vice Principal, Middle School – Eric Wood

Vice Principal, Clayton Valley High School – Lorne Barbosa.

Here’s a video of the appointments, which includes more information about the backgrounds of the new administrators:

The following positions listed June 28 remain unfilled:

– four student services coordinators

– one director of English learner services

– one assistant director of categoricals and school support.

I asked Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent of personnel services, why Lawrence appointed three positions that weren’t listed on the June 28 agenda.

“I believe that he had the authority to make appointments during the month of July and he outlined the ones that he knew about,” she said.

The district is still interviewing for the unfilled positions, she added.

Do you agree that the June 28 board action included positions not listed in the agenda report or motion?

Posted on Tuesday, August 16th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 9 Comments »

Clayton Valley HS charter public hearing brings throngs of supporters

CVHS sophomore Sara Kommer and her mother Megan Kommer were among dozens of Clayton Valley charter petition supporters at an MDUSD public hearing Tuesday.

All five Clayton Valley City Council members spoke in favor of a teacher-led petition to convert Clayton Valley High School in Concord to a charter school during a packed Mt. Diablo school board hearing Tuesday.

Most of the roughly two dozen other speakers at the meeting also threw their enthusiastic support behind the proposal, which trustees expect to approve or deny on Sept. 13. If it is denied, petitioners plan to appeal to the Contra Costa County Board of Education and the state, if necessary.

“Our physical building and grounds are deteriorating to the point of embarrassment,” said Clayton Vice Mayor Howard Geller. “We, of the City Council, feel strongly that a charter school run by qualified teachers and members of our community would not only bring back the quality of teaching we once had, but also make our community one that people will want to live in — to attend what we are confident will become the jewel of high schools in education for our area and the Mt. Diablo school district.”

The only people who spoke against the petition were the principals of Northgate High in Walnut Creek and Ygnacio Valley High in Concord, which are also in the district. The crowd — decked out in blue T-shirts endorsing the charter — booed Northgate Principal John McMorris, after he said Clayton Valley could accomplish its goals within the district. Ygnacio Valley High Principal Bill Morones referred to a U.S. Department of Education study that showed charter schools on average don’t perform better than other schools.

But many charter supporters disagreed with McMorris and Morones, saying they want to break free of the district so they can reinvigorate the school. Rep. George Miller, D-Concord, who didn’t attend the meeting, is also in favor of the plan.

Here is an excerpt of a supportive letter Miller sent to the district:

“I believe that the proposal by the Clayton Valley Charter High School Steering Committee presents an important opportunity for the Mt. Diablo Unified School District to explore alternative educational forums and opportunities in your very diverse and dynamic district.

During my time in the Congress serving on the Education and Workforce Committee, including serving as Chair of the Committee, I have had the opportunity to witness the growth and evolution of the public charter school movement in California and across our nation.

The record of charters to date is mixed but there are many well thought out programs that are providing both learning and teaching environments with significant improvements in both school and student performance. Many of these charters also fulfill the original mission of public charters, which is to give school districts the opportunity to try different models for teaching and learning under more flexible rules and regulations and to serve as laboratories for experimentation for their districts. When done right, important feedback can be shared with districts on such topics as classroom teaching and preparation, time management, professional development, collaborative student learning, use of technology and other common academic interests.

I believe that the Clayton Valley Charter High School Steering Committee proposal has the real potential to be one of the success stories of the public charter school efforts in California. I personally met with the lead petitioners and we discussed their comprehensive research, their innovative ideas, and their plan of action. They displayed enthusiasm and commitment to the limitless potential of this movement that was inspiring. This energy, coupled with important partnerships with some of the best charter support groups in the business (California Charter Schools Association, ExED accounting firm and the law offices of Middleton, Young and Minney), should undoubtedly lead them down the right path.”

Parent Faculty Club President Alison Bacigalupo said charter organizers would post information about the election process for charter board and committee members soon on their website at The Powerpoint presented by teachers Pat Middendof and Neil McChesney is at

District staff did not make a recommendation and trustees didn’t speak for or against it. Board President Gary Eberhart asked Superintendent Steven Lawrence to post Questions and Answers about the petition on the district’s website at

After the meeting, California Charter Schools Association Vice President Nick Driver sent me a 2009 EdSource study of charter schools in the state, which shows that charter high schools in California outperformed noncharters by 8.6 points on the API and middle schools outperformed noncharters by 26 points, while elementary school charters collectively underperformed.

“Overall,” Driver said in an e-mail, “if you were to take all three levels in the aggregate, charter schools in California outperform, since high schools account for 40 percent of all charter schools.”

Do you support the charter petition?

Posted on Friday, August 12th, 2011
Under: Clayton, Concord, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 53 Comments »

New CVHS principal is trying to accommodate change

At a community meeting regarding the effort to convert Clayton Valley High to a charter last week, teachers Pat Middendorf and Neil McChesney said they’ve often been frustrated by the hoops they have to jump through to make changes on the campus.

The Mt. Diablo school board plans to hold a public hearing regarding the charter petition Aug. 9. If approved, the school would convert to a charter in 2012-13.

In the past, both the school site and the district administration seemed to quash ideas for improvement, Middendorf and McChesney said.

For example, McChesney said it took six months just to get approval from the district to paint a door for a project that students were initially excited about. By the time the permission was granted, enthusiasm had waned a bit.

Recalling a time when lots of fights were breaking out, Middendorf said athletic coaches asked if they could come on campus during the day to mentor students and help keep the peace.

“They were told, ‘No,’ ” Middendorf said, adding that it might break some union rule.

Parent Faculty Club President Alison Bacigalupo said campus beautification was also a headache.

“You cannot believe how difficult it is to plant a petunia on that campus,” she said. “It’s a lot of red tape just to plant a flower.”

Clayton Mayor David Shuey chimed in, saying he had received emails from many parents who were frustrated by not being able to do things at the school.

“They say, ‘I want to get in there without being hamstrung by the district,’ ” Shuey said. “They’re excited about getting back into it.”

Middendorf and McChesney said “on-site management” is one of the top 10 benefits of converting to a charter.

They also cited:
– a sense of ownership by students, staff and the community;
-accountable staff;
– fiscal stability and responsibility;
– ability to create a high school calendar with breaks around semesters;
– a new transition program for freshmen;
– a cleaner and safer campus;
– ability to use “leading edge” technology and social media;
– new student support programs such as tutoring; and
– professional support for staff.

After attending the meeting, I called newly appointed Principal Sue Brothers, who started her job July 1, to get her reactions.

Unlike the charter organizers, Brothers was optimistic about campus beautification, which she said is under way. She has already met with teachers and parents about some changes, she said.

“We have several projects in the works to take care of some of the issues that parents, teachers and students have brought up,” she said.

Brothers said she is working with the district’s director of maintenance and operations to replace a shed and get some construction quotes for new paving.

“We’re going to do some parent painting,” she said. “But we’re going to get a pro to add some picnic tables with umbrellas so kids have more places to eat lunch.”

She has also begun working on improving the campus dress code, she said.

“That was a big issue with parents and teachers,” Brothers said. “I’ve clarified it by putting out a visual dress code.”

Although she said she has shown her idea to a few parents, it hasn’t yet been distributed yet.

I also asked Brothers about an idea Middendorf told me about after the meeting: assigning each student to a “home room” with a teacher responsible for mentoring them throughout their four years in high school.

Brothers said she is trying to connect freshmen to “link leaders” — successful juniors and seniors who help mentor freshmen. She said she thought this program was already in place, but wasn’t sure if it had been completely implemented.

When I asked Brothers about “red tape” from the district, she said: “I’m not running into that same thing.”

Regarding complaints about lack of cleanliness on campus, Brothers said she and the new assistant principals plan to make it very clear to custodial staff what is supposed to get done each night so that teachers know what to expect. If it doesn’t, Brothers said they would “follow up relentlessly.”

Brothers also said athletic coaches are always welcome on campus and she couldn’t understand why anyone would tell them they couldn’t provide mentoring.

“That’s odd,” she said. “I can’t think of what might get in the way of that.”

She’s enjoying her job so far, she said.

“I’m thrilled to be here,” she said. “I’ve had a few students drop in and I really enjoyed talking to them.”

Are you optimistic that some positive changes can be made at Clayton Valley this year?

Posted on Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 20 Comments »

CBCA backs Clayton Valley HS charter petition

Members of the Clayton Valley HS "800 club" celebrate the school's participation in the Clayton "Do the Right Thing" campaign

Members of the Clayton Valley HS "800 club" celebrate the school's participation in the Clayton "Do the Right Thing" campaign

Both the city of Clayton and Clayton Valley High School have embraced the theme “Do the Right Thing” as part of a character-building campaign.

Last month, the Clayton Business and Community Association (CBCA) overwhelmingly decided to support an effort to convert the school to a charter, which had already been unanimously endorsed by the Clayton City Council.

The association voted to allocate $8,500 to the effort, reimbursing the city for an unsecured loan, which council members approved in a 3-2 vote to help pay for upfront legal costs to draft the petition.

Mayor David Shuey told me in an e-mail today that the city had only spent $2,500 on the initial retainer before the CBCA voted and approved its contribution. So, the CBCA funding will reimburse the city’s payment, then the city will forward the rest to the Clayton Valley HS charter fund, he said.

“So we ‘did the right thing’ and took bold decisive action when necessary and it all works out in the end like we anticipated,” Shuey wrote. “As you know, I and the city took some heat for doing the unsecured loan so this is nice vindication.”

CBCA President Ed Hartley said in a phone interview that only three members voted against the expenditure, compared to more than 40 who were in favor of it.

Hartley said he and others voted for it, in part, because they feel it is worth a try to improve the school.

“I think that given the state of the school — how the teachers and students feel about it and how the parents feel about it — that there’s nothing to lose by trying this,” he said. “If it works, it could work well.”

If it doesn’t work, the school would revert back to the Mt. Diablo school district.

“So that it can turn it out good,” he said, “in enough members’ minds, it was a wise use of our money.”

Charter supporters will hold an informational meeting about the petition at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Clayton Library at 6125 Clayton Road in Clayton. Shuey invites those who can’t make it to e-mail questions to him at

The school board expects to hold a public hearing regarding the petition from 5:45-7 p.m. Aug. 9 at Monte Gardens Elementary in Concord. Trustees plan to approve or deny the petition at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at the district office in Concord.

More information is at

CVHS teacher Pat Middendorf said organizers are holding the meeting because some people in the community still don’t understand how the charter would operate.

“There’s still some confusion,” Middendorf said in a phone interview.

Some people, she said, believe the school might not be accredited or might refuse to serve special education students, she said. Those are both false rumors.

“So,” she said, “we thought, ‘Gee, if that (kind of rumor) is still out there, maybe we’d better go (back to the community) one more time.'”

Do you think the CBCA did the “right thing” by contributing $8,500 to the charter effort?

Posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011
Under: Clayton, Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 6 Comments »

Mt. Diablo school district does about-face on new drinking water requirement

Several Ygnacio Valley HS students said they would prefer water dispensers in the cafeteria because drinking fountains are sometimes dirty or inoperable and dispense warm water that doesn't taste good.

Several Ygnacio Valley HS students said they would prefer water dispensers in the cafeteria because drinking fountains are sometimes dirty or inoperable and dispense warm water that doesn't taste good.

Last month, Mt. Diablo school district trustees unanimously passed a resolution stating the district couldn’t afford to comply with a new state law that requires free, fresh water for students where meals are served.

Trustees said it would cost the district more than $300,000 (or $30,000 per campus) to install drinking fountains in the 10 school multiuse rooms that don’t have them:

Bancroft Elementary in Walnut Creek
Delta View Elementary in Pittsburg
Diablo View Middle School in Clayton
Glenbrook Middle School in Concord
Highlands Elementary in Concord
Mt. Diablo Elementary in Clayton
Shore Acres Elementary in Bay Point
Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill
Valley Verde Elementary in Walnut Creek
Ygnacio Valley Elementary in Concord.

Today — just nine days after the board adopted its resolution — I learned that the district has reversed itself. It will comply with SB 1413.

And, contrary to what trustees said last month — it won’t cost more than $300,000 to do it. Instead, the district will do what many other districts are doing: set up inexpensive water dispensers.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said in a statement last year, that he hoped the bill he introduced would help students make healthy decisions in the school cafeteria.

“As we all know, young people are constantly bombarded by advertisements and pressure from their peers to consume junk beverages that are high in calories and sugar,” he said. “Yet many students do not have access to free, fresh drinking water at lunch time.”

The bill was supported by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Before the new law took effect July 1, schools were only required to have one drinking fountain for every 150 people, which could be located anywhere on the campus, according to Leno.

“This is unacceptable given that studies show adequate water consumption by students improves cognitive function, boosts academic performance and fights obesity,” he said in his statement.

When trustees decided to bypass the state law last month, no one mentioned a similar federal law that goes into effect at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year: “The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010,” which requires districts to provide free water to children in the National School Lunch Program. That law doesn’t give trustees the option of claiming they can’t afford to comply.

Ironically, the district originally planned to install drinking fountains at all the schools that are out of compliance, according to Pete Pedersen, Measure C project manager. At the Measure C Bond Oversight Committee meeting last month, Pedersen said some principals asked that drinking fountains not be included in their new multiuse rooms, because they thought water would spill onto the floor.

“When we did the programming, the site administrators at that time said, ‘We don’t want them,'” Pedersen said. “So, we deprogrammed them.”

When district officials learned of the state law, they apparently jumped to the conclusion that the only way to comply would be to install costly drinking fountains. Yet, the state lists several other options on its website, including chilled/filtered drinking stations and water dispensers.

District officials also didn’t seem to think they had an extra $300,000 in construction funding available to spend on water fountains, even though they have only spent a fraction of the $348 million Measure C bond money approved by voters in 2010.

“If your district is modernizing existing schools,” the California Department of Education wrote on its website, “work with your district facility staff early in the planning stages to identify ways to provide new drinking fountains and refurbish existing ones.”

Are you satisfied with the district’s newest plan to comply with the drinking water requirement?

Posted on Thursday, July 7th, 2011
Under: Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 24 Comments »

MDUSD internal administrative transfers revealed

Since no announcement was made at Tuesday’s board meeting regarding internal administrative transfers, I contacted Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent of personnel services, to find out what assignments have been made so far.

Here’s what she told me in an e-mail:

Terry McCormick (former Oak Grove MS principal) is assigned to Pleasant Hill Middle School.

Cindy Matteoni (former principal of Sequoia Elementary in Pleasant Hill) is scheduled to be at Mountain View Elementary in Concord.

April Bush (former Glenbrook MS principal) is assigned to Foothill MS in Walnut Creek.

Toby Montez (former Meadow Homes Elementary principal) will supervise El Monte Elementary in Concord while Principal Christina Boman is out on a leave.

I also asked her to specify where the vice principals appointed June 14 will be working.

“Assignments can still be adjusted over the summer,” she wrote.

Tentative assignments are:

Jose Espinosa: vice principal at Clayton Valley HS in Concord

Aline Lee: vice principal at College Park HS in Pleasant Hill

Julene Robert: vice principal at Concord HS

Julie Park: vice principal at Mt. Diablo HS in Concord

Lawrence intends to fill the following positions over the summer:

One more high school vice principal

Principal of Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill

Principal of Sequoia Elementary in Pleasant Hill

Four high school student services coordinators (to replace those who were promoted to vice principals)

Two Necessary Small School administrator positions — at the Gateway School and Nueva Vista/TLC/Summit

Assistant Director of Categoricals and School Support in the SASS Dept.

Director English Learner Services

Do you think district officials should announce internal administrative appointments at board meetings?

Posted on Thursday, June 30th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 27 Comments »

Mt. Diablo school board welcomes new administrators

To help the public get to know the new administrators appointed by the Mt. Diablo school board on Tuesday, I videotaped their introductions and comments to the board.

Vittoria Abbate-Maghsoudi was appointed as Assistant Director of Adult, Continuing and Career Education. She replaces Susan Passeggi, who was appointed as assistant principal of adult and career education in the Castro Valley school district June 9. Abbate-Maghsoudi was promoted from her position as vice principal of adult education in the Mt. Diablo district:

Lisa Oates was appointed Principal of Oak Grove Middle School in Concord, replacing Terry McCormick, who was transferred to Principal of Pleasant Hill MS. McCormick told me she volunteered to leave her leadership post at Oak Grove so the school could apply for a $4.5 million School Improvement Grant.

According to a May 29, 2003 LA Times article, Oates was ousted from her position as assistant principal of Antelope Valley HS in 2003, when a state audit found the school’s leadership was unable to improve students’ academic performance for two years. Oak Grove Middle School has been named by the CDE as a “persistently lowest-achieving school,” determined to be in the lowest 5 percent of campuses in federal Program Improvement based on its average three-year proficiency rate for English-language arts and math over a three-year period.

Mary-Louise Newling was appointed Principal of Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord, replacing Toby Montez. The staff report states that the incumbent (Montez) is retiring. However, Montez told me that he expected to be assigned another position in the district, after officials asked him to leave his post so Meadow Homes could apply for a $5.1 million federal School Improvement Grant. Newling was previously a curriculum specialist for Alameda County’s multilingual/multicultural children’s literature center.

Stephen Brady was appointed vice principal of Ygnacio Valley High. Although the staff report states that the incumbent is retiring at the end of the year, former vice principal Joseph Alvarez actually resigned.

Doing a basic google search, I found a declaration by Brady as part of the Williams v. state of California lawsuit nicknamed “Decent Schools for California.” In it, he complained about the lack of textbooks and substandard facilities at Balboa HS in San Francisco, along with detrimental staff turnover.

Finally, the board appointed Gary Peterson as vice principal of Mt. Diablo High School in Concord. The staff report states that the incumbent has been transferred to another position in the district. According to the school’s website, one vice principal position is vacant. Vice principal Abyslom Sims has resigned.

Peterson received mixed reviews from students at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, where he taught prior to teaching at Riverview MS in Bay Point.

Are you happy with the above appointments and are you comfortable with the board’s decision to allow Superintendent Steven Lawrence to appoint eight more administrators over the summer without its approval?

Posted on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 6 Comments »

Mt. Diablo board appoints administrators, agrees to allow superintendent to appoint more

At Tuesday’s Mt. Diablo school board meeting, trustees made the following administrative appointments:

Assistant director of adult education: Vittoria Abbate-Maghsoudi

Principal, Oak Grove MS: Lisa Oates

Principal, Meadow Homes Elementary: Mary-Louise Newling

Vice Principal, Ygnacio Valley HS: Stephen Brady

Vice Principal, Mt. Diablo HS: Gary Peterson

The board also renewed a post-retirement contract for Measure C manager Pete Pedersen and agreed to a post-retirement contract with Mary Scott for adult education.

Trustees also agreed to allow Superintendent Steven Lawrence to hire additional administrators over the summer, including another high school vice principal and a middle school principal, to replace the Valley View Middle School principal, who is taking a job elsewhere.

Trustee Linda Mayo thanked Jennifer Sachs, a SASS administrator, for her years of service. Sachs has accepted a position in Pittsburg.

In addition, the board adopted its 2011-12 budget of about $270 million.

In a split vote, the board also agreed to spend more than $112,000 on a contract with Norm Gold for a Master Plan for English language learner services. Trustee Cheryl Hansen voted against it, saying she thought a plan could be drafted by staff using Gold’s findings from his $92,000 audit.

Hansen reminded the board that Superintendent Steven Lawrence said in December that the Student Achievement and School Support staff would draft the master plan, based on the audit. Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh said she didn’t remember Lawrence saying that.

The minutes from the Dec. 14 meeting say:

“…Superintendent Lawrence also stated that with the work of Ms. Lock’s team, there will be a strategic plan developed and finalized with Dr. Gold’s input.”

Unfortunately, the MDUSD Blog has been shut down, so it is impossible to review the videotape of that meeting.

According to my notes from December, Hansen and Trustee Lynne Dennler expressed concerns about the lack of a plan at the end of the audit.

Rose Lock, assistant director for school support and student services, said Gold would do a number of site visits and make recommendations.

“Obviously, we have to follow through on those recommendations,” Lock said. “The hope is that we are going to get enough information to guide us in the next 10 years. This is an area we have struggled in as a district as long as I can remember.”

After Dennler asked about the creation of a plan, Lawrence responded: “We will make sure with Ms. Lock’s team that we have a plan.”

He mentioned a plan Gold had developed in Hayward.

“There is a cost,” Lawrence said.

Hansen said that Gold works with boiler plate templates.

“So,” Hansen said, “you can do it yourself.”

Lock said Gold would deliver a report at the end of the audit and provide the district with 30 copies.

“He better,” Hansen said. “Expensive paper.”

Lawrence said: “Ms. Lock and her team have clearly heard this.”

He said that Gold would speak with stakeholders in the district and provide a lot of information.

“We do need to bring in teachers and our parents and we will create a thorough process, where at the end of this, we willl have a strategic plan.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board agreed to create a new Director of English learner services. Hansen said it would make sense for this person to create the master plan.

Lock said no one currently on staff was available to draft the plan. But she acknowledged that the district already has an English learner corrective action plan that it intends to implement, while the Master Plan is being drafted.

Last year, Lawrence announced internal transfers he had made to the board. On Tuesday, Lawrence did not announce any transfers he has made.

However, I have confirmed that former Oak Grove Principal Terry McCormick is the new principal of Pleasant Hill Middle School.

Do you think Lawrence should have announced transfers he has already made to the board and public on Tuesday?

Posted on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | 5 Comments »

Governor’s budget proposal puts schools on financial life support, state schools chief says

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson issued the following statement today regarding Governor Jerry Brown’s 2011-12 state budget proposal:         

“The financial emergency facing California’s schools began long before the debate over this year’s budget.

“While I strongly supported the governor’s proposal to extend the temporary revenues, I accept his judgment that no bipartisan agreement could be reached.

“I am grateful that the governor and the Democratic leadership have crafted a budget that — for the time being — avoids a new round of deep cuts to education.

“This budget means another year with California’s schools on financial life support. The risk of $1.75 billion in mid-year reductions, as well as $2.1 billion in added deferrals, will force some districts to make cuts that will harm our students and their schools.

“I welcome the Governor’s call for an initiative to help put our state’s finances back on solid ground. We must seize the opportunity to bring Californians together around a shared vision and a common goal of making our schools great again.”

Do you think mid-year cuts will be necessary?

Posted on Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
Under: Education, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »