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MDUSD board and Walnut Creek City Council to meet on Monday

The Mt. Diablo school board and Walnut City Council will hold a joint special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Northgate High School Little Theater at 425 Castle Rock Road in Walnut Creek to discuss issues of mutual interest and ongoing partnerships.

Here is the agenda:

“1.0 Call to Order
1.1 Meeting Location: Northgate High School, Little Theater, 425 Castle Rock Road, Walnut Creek, CA 94598 Info
1.2 Pledge of Allegiance Info
1.3 Roll Call Info

2.0 Public Comment
2.1 Public Comment Info

3.0 Business/Action Items
3.1 Information Exchange Between Walnut Creek City Council and Mt. Diablo Unified School District Info

4.0 Adjournment
4.1 Adjourn Meeting Action”

Here is the detailed agenda report for the Item 3.1 discussion:

“The Mt. Diablo Unified School District Governing Board and the Walnut Creek City Council will provide each other updates on items of mutual interest and discuss current partnerships and other areas of cooperation. Discussion items may include:

Mt. Diablo Unified School District:
-District/School Supports
-Academics/Common Core State Standards
-Facilities Upgrades

City of Walnut Creek:
-Summary of City Funds allocated to School Functions
-Police Department Update on Resource Officer
-Drought Plan for City and School District
-Capital Projects Update
-Development Project Update”

What issues or topics do you think the school board and city council should discuss?

Posted on Saturday, June 27th, 2015
Under: Mt. Diablo school district, Walnut Creek, Walnut Creek City Council | 101 Comments »

Principal of Northgate High in Walnut Creek resigns

I have received the following message from the Northgate HS Parent Faculty Club in Walnut Creek from Principal John McMorris, announcing his resignation.

“Dear Northgate Community,

It is with great regret that I announce to you that I have resigned as principal of Northgate High School.

For six years, it has been my biggest honor and highest accomplishment to be your principal. Together, we have moved Northgate forward and created a strong, collaborative and supportive community between all the stakeholders of our school. We have transformed Northgate into a school that we can all be proud of — Bronco spirit pervades our community; test scores are up; AP classes have increased; football lights shine and a pool is being built; dedicated teachers have been empowered to create dynamic and collaborative professional learning communities; WASC commended us for our outstanding leadership and direction; our athletes perform at the highest levels; our performing arts continue to win awards and recognition; and our students are learning at high levels and are committed and involved in their school. We have a lot to be proud of.

There is still work to be done, and I am confident that the collaboration between students, teachers, staff, administrators and parents will continue to build on our past successes. I know you will continue to fight for the best education for all of the Northgate students.

I have too many people to thank to name them all here. And, frankly, every parent, student, and staff member who has walked through those doors over the last 6 years has helped make Northgate a better place, and I am forever indebted to everyone’s hard work, dedication, and support.

As I have said over the past six years, Northgate has the best students I have ever had the privilege to work with. I leave with countless memories of these amazing students. Your children give me great hope for our future!

It has been a great six years to be a Bronco!

Most sincerely,

John McMorris”

Posted on Monday, June 30th, 2014
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Walnut Creek | 39 Comments »

Schools mark the 75th anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath

photo 2 (3)

Northgate students were encouraged to post this photo to Instagram to mark the 75th anniversary of Grapes of Wrath

Northgate students were encouraged to post this photo to Instagram to mark the 75th anniversary of Grapes of Wrath

To mark the 75h anniversary of the publication of The Grapes of Wrath today, schools throughout the state are participating in a variety of activities as part of the California Teachers Association’s “California Reads” program of teacher-recommended books for students of all ages.

The epic struggles of the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s novel are being rediscovered and honored in classrooms, theaters and lecture halls today, this month and throughout the year, according to a CTA news release.

Northgate High English teacher Daniel Reynolds has taught the book for nine years to his high school juniors in the Mt. Diablo school district.

“The ‘Grapes of Wrath’ is relevant to students today because the struggles of the Joad family, and of all the families dispossessed by the Depression, are the struggles of millions of people today,” Reynolds said in a prepared statement. “Steinbeck reminds us that people want to work, they want to provide for their families, they want a little piece of land they can call their own, an education for their kids, they want to be healthy, and ultimately they want all these same things for everyone else too. Students feel a lot of this already, but struggle to put their feelings into words. The ‘Grapes of Wrath’ helps them do that.”

Reynolds’ students at Northgate High in Walnut Creek will participate in a variety of activities during lunch today. Projects include a 75-foot multimedia timeline based on events in the book, an interactive social media experience designed by Reynolds, an Instagram scavenger hunt related to the novel, a student’s website documenting what other classmates are doing to honor the book, square-dancing instruction in the gym, birthday cake, outfits created by students similar to what the characters wore, and an art show with music.

The book tells the story of the Joad family’s migration from their farm in Oklahoma to California, where they were exploited and forced to work for starvation wages by unscrupulous growers. Reynolds said the book shows the power of working together against great and menacing odds.

“The ‘Grapes of Wrath’ evokes the American themes and progressive ideals of collective action and reasoned dissent,” Reynolds said, “and reminds us that we all do better when we all do better.”

In Fremont, American High School English teacher Deborah Thorsen recently finished teaching the book for a fifth time to her junior students.

“I tell my students that this is the kind of book that can change the way you look at the world,” she said. “It tells them that they have a chance to change the world. It shows them that society isn’t nice. They come away from the book with a sense of injustices, but wanting to do something about it.”

The book, which won a Pulitzer Prize, is on the California Department of Education’s recommended literature list. It has sparked numerous teacher lesson plans, both in high schools and colleges.

The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University houses extensive archives — including “Grapes of Wrath” manuscripts and first editions –- on the fifth floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. main library downtown, next to SJSU. The campus plans a Wednesday stage production of the novel, immediately followed by a discussion with Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw, who teaches English at the university and will speak about her new book, “On Reading the Grapes of Wrath.” An opera based on the novel will be performed May 9 and 11.

APRIL 1 UPDATE: I visited the Northgate campus after school Monday and saw some of the signs Reynolds had posted to get students thinking about themes in the book.

One sign asked: “When someone warns you about the negative consequences of an action, do you stay away (and learn from their warning), or do you do it anyway (and learn from doing things for yourself — even if that means taking negative consequences?”

Reynolds said afterward that he considered the day a success.

“The idea was to have a celebratory nature, encouraging the students to think about the quotes,” he said. “All over campus during lunch and most of the day it was everywhere for people to see.”

Do you think “The Grapes of Wrath” is relevant today?

Posted on Monday, April 14th, 2014
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Walnut Creek | 2 Comments »

Former NFL player tells Northgate students to be thankful for their talents

photo (4)As students and their families take a few days off from school and work to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I thought it would be appropriate to share some wisdom from former NFL player Honor Jackson’s recent visit to Northgate High in Walnut Creek.

Jackson visited the school to talk about concussion awareness, prevention and treatment, while also lauding staff and students for their Safe School Sports Award from the National Athletic Trainers Association. In addition, he gave students some advice to help them understand that although sports provide many wonderful life lessons, athletic activities are no substitute for a well-rounded education.

“Sports is a great, great thing in our culture,” he said. “It’s big in America, big in most cultures. One of the things that I teach all of the kids that I work with in my mentoring program and our sports camps and whatnot is sportsmanship, teamwork, and be thankful that you have the talent to play. Others have talent in math, speaking, writing, whatever it might be, being a doctor. But, be thankful for those talents, whatever you may have.”

Jackson said students should also be thankful for the education they are getting about the dangers of concussions, pointing out that he and other players didn’t know about the need to rest after getting knocked in the head back when he was a professional player.

“I wanted to get back out onto the field,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even tell the coach that I was seeing stars or that I was dizzy or that I couldn’t remember the next play. I wouldn’t do that because I didn’t know what we now know — that when we do hit someone in a jarring fashion or in a collision, that it does shake your brain. That’s education. And that’s what you all need is that education. And that’s what they’re providing here — that education for you — so you know what you’re getting into, so down the road, you won’t have the dementia and those kinds of things.”

Students should be thankful for well-trained coaches and teachers who are aware of the effects of concussions, Jackson said, since problems can develop if head injuries are not identified and students are not allowed to recuperate.

“I’m thankful I’m here and I’m thankful I can talk to you guys about these things,” said Jackson, who is 65. “What you want is — when you get to be my age — to be able to do the same thing. Take care of yourself. Take care of your body physically and mentally. You guys need to understand that this concussion thing, when I was your age, that meant nothing. Now, we understand.”

Many athletes must rely on their education if injuries prevent them from continuing to play sports, he said.

“The reason I quit playing football was I got injured — I tore a nerve here in my leg,” Jackson said. “That’s another thing that happens in sports. But it didn’t stop me from doing anything else. The concussion part could have possibly stopped me from doing other things. If I injured my shoulder or injured my knee or my foot, I may not walk perfectly, but I could do any other job there is to do. That’s exactly what happened. When I got injured, then I had to go to another career. But I had education. I had a degree.”

Jackson worked for several years as a manager of Long’s Drugs Stores and also works mentoring youth.

Yet, he said he learned many important lessons through sports.

“Through football, I’ve learned that I could get knocked on my rear end and get up and play again,” Jackson said. “That will happen to you in life. Sports teaches you a lot about life, whether you play soccer, football, basketball, track, whatever it is. Your competitive juices are what made America what it is. We’ve got to get back to those ideals in terms of being a strong country. I think you guys could lead that charge.”

What are you thankful for?

Posted on Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Walnut Creek | No Comments »

MDUSD board to meet Monday with Walnut Creek City Council

One of Mt. Diablo school board President Cheryl Hansen’s goals has been to begin meeting again with City Councils in each of the cities served by the district. Although the board did this many years ago, it stopped the practice and has had sometimes icy relations with some city leaders, such as those in Clayton, due in part to the Clayton Valley High charter conversion.

When I covered the Walnut Creek City Council several years ago, city leaders met about once a year with the Walnut Creek School District, but complained that Mt. Diablo district officials did not seem interested in holding similar meetings.

Now, the idea is being revived and the leaders of both agencies will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Walnut Acres Elementary to discuss issues of mutual interest. The meeting is in the multiuse room at 180 Cerezo Drive in Walnut Creek.

Here is the agenda:

a. Pledge of Allegiance
b. Roll Call
c. Comments from (Board President) Cheryl Hansen, (Mayor) Cindy Silva

a. Boundaries / Enrollment (handouts)
b. Programs
c. Building Projects
d. Academic Achievement


a. Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)
b. Common Core

a. Crossing Guards and Crisis Counselors
b. After School Programs
c. Other (AAA, CAE Programs, Library Services, Aquatics, Ball Fields)



Directions to Walnut Acres
From Walnut Creek: Ygnacio Valley Rd. to Wiget Ln. Right on Wiget Ln. to Cerezo Dr. Left on Cerezo Dr.
From Concord: Oak Grove Rd. to Ygnacio Valley Rd. Right on Ygnacio Valley Rd. to Wiget Ln. Left on
Wiget Ln. Left on Cerezo Dr”

Although both agencies livestream and videotape their regular board meetings, it is unclear whether this meeting will be livestreamed or videotaped. I have been told by the Walnut Creek city clerk that the city won’t be videotaping the meeting. I have left messages with the district to find out if the district will.

As a reminder, the board met with the Pleasant Hill City Council April 15.

What issues do you think are most important for district trustees and Walnut Creek council members to discuss?

OCT. 7 UPDATE: I have been informed that tonight’s meeting will be livestreamed and videotaped.

Posted on Sunday, October 6th, 2013
Under: Mt. Diablo school district, Walnut Creek, Walnut Creek City Council | 16 Comments »

Free Asperger’s presentation tonight at Valle Verde Elementary

With permission from the Mt. Diablo school district’s Community Advisory Committee blog, I am reposting information about an Asperger’s presentation tonight at Valle Verde Elementary:

“April-Autism Awareness Month Event at Valle Verde

As part of Autism Awareness Month, Valle Verde will be hosting a special presentation on Thursday, April 26 at 6:30pm in the Multi-Use Room. Dr. Kathryn Stewart, a clinical psychologist and author based in Walnut Creek, will share information on students with Asperger’s Disorder, its effect on social and academic functioning, and implications for intervention. Dr. Stewart, founder of the Orion Academy in Moraga, published a book in 2002 entitled Helping Children with NLD or Asperger’s Syndrome: A Parent’s Guide and is an adjunct professor at The Wright Institute in Berkley. All interested parties are welcome to attend.”

The school is at 3275 Peachwillow Lane in Walnut Creek.

Do you believe the district provides adequate services for students with Asperger’s Disorder?

Posted on Thursday, April 26th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Walnut Creek | 2 Comments »

Northgate HS hosts jazz festival today and Saturday

High school jazz musicians will converge at Northgate High in Walnut Creek today and Saturday for a jazz festival hosted by the school. Here are the details, which I’m reposting from the Times:

“Walnut Creek’s Northgate hosts jazz festival starting Friday

By Elisabeth Nardi
Contra Costa Times

School bands from all around Contra Costa County will gather at Northgate High School over the next two days for the California Association for Music Education Jazz East Festival 2012.

The two-day school jazz band festival starts at 3 p.m. Friday with a performance from Acalanes High School’s Jazz Band. Following them, bands from various schools around the county play for about 25 minutes each, the day ends with Albany High School Jazz Band at 9:25 p.m.

Then on Saturday the day kicks off at 8 a.m. with Rancho Medanos Junior High Jazz Ensemble. Saturday ends with the Pittsburg High Jazz Ensemble at 4:25 p.m.

The schools compete against one another to win awards at the festival, which will be held at Northgate High, 425 Castle Rock Road in Walnut Creek.

For more information go to

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at”

Here is a link to the complete schedule:

Posted on Friday, January 20th, 2012
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Music, Walnut Creek | 5 Comments »

State Senator, Assemblywoman and Walnut Creek Councilman urge quick resolution to Clayton Valley High charter issue

Today, state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and Walnut Creek City Councilman Kish Rajan sent the following letter to the Mt. Diablo school board regarding the Clayton Valley High charter petition:

“October 25, 2011
The Honorable Gary L. Eberhart
and Members of the Mount Diablo Unified School District Board
1936 Carlotta Drive
Concord, CA 94519

Dear President Eberhart,

We are writing to urge the Board to take action on the Clayton Valley Charter High School (CVCHS) conversion petition on November 8th so that teachers, parents and students can adequately plan for the 2012/13 school year. We want to applaud the tireless efforts of the CVCHS Steering Committee and District staff as they have met repeatedly to address all of the outstanding issues necessary for approval. We understand that almost all of the conditions have been met and that District staff is finalizing their analysis and preparing to make a recommendation to the board.

As elected officials representing many students throughout the Mount Diablo Unified School District, we also encourage the Board to request a district wide financial impact analysis by a respected independent organization, such as the Financial Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), independent of the approval of the CVCHS conversion process, so that the Board and the community better understand how to prepare for the financial future of the District.

We are proud of how passionately our community continues to support our teachers and students. We know that this has been a difficult process and have been encouraged by the work completed by the CVCHS Steering Committee and District staff.

As we all work together to support the teachers, parents and students in our community, we believe that a transparent district wide conversation regarding the future of the entire community is essential to a responsible way forward.

Mark DeSaulnier, Senator, 7th District
Susan Bonilla, Assemblymember, 11th District
Kish Rajan, City of Walnut Creek, Councilmember”

Do you agree with the letter’s recommendations?

Posted on Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
Under: Clayton, Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Walnut Creek | 53 Comments »

Defense secretary highlights Walnut Creek woman in POW/MIA Recognition Day speech

Today is POW/MIA Recognition Day.

During his speech at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta highlighted Kathy Strong, a Walnut Creek resident who wore an MIA bracelet for 38 years, as an example of someone who lived up to the words: You are not forgotten.”

Strong removed the bracelet before the funeral of James Moreland, whose name it bore, and it was buried with his remains.

Here is what Panetta said:

“Distinguished guests, veterans, wounded warriors, senior leaders of the Department, let me express to you how I honored I am to be here on this solemn day. This is my first opportunity as the new Secretary of Defense to pay tribute to the POW/MIA community.

I’d like to especially recognize the representatives of that community, former prisoners of war, and the families of the missing in action, all of whom have joined us here this morning. Today as we honor those who have been imprisoned and those missing while defending our nation, we also honor their family members, the brave men and women who have kept those memories of their loved ones burning bright and who have never stopped, never stopped, pushing this nation and its leaders for the closure that they deserve.

Forty years ago, during the Vietnam War, it was the wife of a missing service member, a young woman named Mary Hoff, who realized that a symbol was needed to remind us of his plight; to remind us of all our service members who were missing or suffering at the hands of foreign captors. She developed the idea of a flag, with a haunting image designed by a World War II pilot, that would eventually become a national emblem.

It is the only flag, aside from Old Glory, that has flown above the White House. In 1989, it was installed in the Capitol rotunda as a symbol of this nation’s commitment to fully account for those that are still missing. I was a member of Congress at that time, and was so inspired by the flag and by what it stood for that I introduced legislation to require that it be flown at U.S. diplomatic posts and military installations worldwide.

What moved me and so many others about this flag was not only the stark design, but the message inscribed across the bottom of that flag: ‘You are Not Forgotten.’ Today, we reaffirm that sacred pledge: ‘You are Not Forgotten.’ We voice an entire nation’s unending support and our undying promise that, no matter how long it takes, no matter what it takes, we will not stop until we have brought every American home. We pledge that we leave no one behind.

Over the years, slowly, methodically, we have been making progress in this effort. Six hundred men and women of this Department – military and civilian, investigators and scientists – work tirelessly around the world to fully account for the more than 80,000 American service members who remain unaccounted for from last century’s conflicts. This is painstaking work, carried out in the field and in laboratories here at home.

Because of these efforts, the remains of 98 missing American service members have been identified in the past year – 25 from the Vietnam War, 36 from the Korean War, 36 from World War II, and one from World War I. That’s 98 more families who now have closure, and the knowledge that their nation did not forget them, did not let the passage of time dampen our resolve to locate and identify their loved ones.

No other country, no other country, has devoted so much energy and so many resources to account for our fallen. We do this because we believe that every life is precious, and because those who put their lives on the line for this country need to know that we will spare no effort to bring them home. Today I make to you the promise, as Secretary of Defense, we will do everything we can to bring them home. A promise I make not only to the families of the missing and captured, but to all of our men and women serving in harms’ way around the world.

In the wars of this century, we are blessed by the fact that fewer Americans are missing, fewer have been taken as prisoners, and fewer families have had to wait for their return. Still, as we gather here, three DoD contractors are missing and two soldiers are being held captive in Iraq and Afghanistan – Staff Sergeant Ahmed Altaie, captured in Iraq in October 2006, and Sergeant Bowe Bergdalh, captured in Afghanistan in June of 2009.

This morning, we gather here and again call for their release and reiterate our commitment to bring all missing Americans home. That commitment, simple yet sacred, is fundamental to the values of our nation and, in turn, to our military. And as we raise the POW/MIA flag in communities across America, we pledge to live by its creed, You are Not Forgotten, not only today, but every day.

Around the time that flag came into existence so did POW/MIA bracelets, each bearing the name of a soldier being held as prisoner or missing in action in the Vietnam War. In 1972, a 12 year-old from California named Kathy Strong got one of those bracelets in her Christmas stocking. On it was the name of Sergeant James Moreland, an Army Green Beret who had gone missing four years earlier. And on that Christmas morning, that 12 year-old girl decided she would wear that bracelet until James Moreland came home, until she could hand it to him in person.

Kathy Strong wore that bracelet for 38 years, unsure if she would ever take it off. Then, early this year, 43 years after he went missing, James Moreland’s sisters got word that their brother’s remains had been found and that, at long last – through the tireless efforts of DoD personnel – he had been identified. Sergeant Moreland’s sisters invited Kathy to the funeral in May. And there she took off her bracelet and put it on Sergeant Moreland’s uniform.

Kathy Strong should inspire us all. For it should not just be a few among us that help families carry the torch year after year, decade after decade for those who are missing; it needs to be all of us. It should be all of us who as one family, and one nation pledge on this day, and every day, that for as long as it takes to bring every American home, we will never stop working, we will never stop searching, and we will never stop thinking of those lost warriors. We will never forget those who have sacrificed for our freedoms and our values. That is why this country is the greatest country on earth.

May God bless those who have lost their dear ones, may God bless their families, and may God bless this great nation of ours. Thank you.”

What is your reaction to Panetta’s speech?

Posted on Friday, September 16th, 2011
Under: Walnut Creek | 2 Comments »

Fundraiser for Walnut Creek student July 31

Walnut Creek reporter Elisabeth Nardi has posted the following News Brief about a fundraiser to benefit a local student:

“The Indian Valley and Walnut Creek Intermediate community is coming together to put on a flea market and bake sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 31, to benefit the Taylor Brown AVM Charity Fund, set up assist the Brown family with medical expenses.

Taylor, an 11-year-old girl, will be attending Walnut Creek Intermediate in the fall. Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is an abnormal connection between veins and arteries, usually congenital.

The flea market and bake sale will be held in the school district parking lot, 960 Ygnacio Valley Road. For more information on the event, contact Tari Peckham at”

Posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
Under: Walnut Creek | No Comments »