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WCCUSD 4th annual Getting Ready for College & Career conference is March 17

The West Contra Costa school district will hold its fourth annual “Getting Ready for College and Career Conference” from 9 a.m. to 2 pm. March 17 at Lovonya DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave. in Richmond.

Here are more details, from a letter sent to the WCCUSD community:

“Dear WCCUSD Family and Community Partners,

WCCUSD will be hosting the 4th Annual Getting Ready for College & Career Conference on Saturday, March 17th, 2012. This conference is designed to prepare students and their parents/guardians for their futures after high school.

Please help us spread the word and encourage all 6th to 12th grades students and their parents to participate.

Reserve your space for this great event by registering online. You may also RSVP by calling the Community Engagement Department at 510-307-4526 to RSVP!


Grand raffle prize this year:

· Kindle Fire!

This year’s conference is made possible due the support of The Ed. Fund’s West County College Access Network (WCCAN).

What: 4th Getting Ready for College & Career Conference

Who: 6th to 12th grade students AND parents/guardians

When: Saturday, March 17th, 2012 from 9am to 2pm

Where: Lovonya DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave., Richmond

Morning snacks and lunch will be provided”

Here is some more information from a WCCUSD flyer about the event:

“Join us at this FREE Conference for 6-12th grade students and Parents and learn the steps you need to take to get ready for college!

Concurrent workshops will be offered for 6-12th grade students and their parents on (but not limited to):

Middle School
 Discover your destination
 Preparing for your future
 Are you ready for High School
 Adventures into testing

9th & 10th Grade
 Holy Names University Early Admit Program!
 Writing Personal Statements
 High School- Linked Learning Academies

11th & 12th Grade
 Transcript Analysis
 Concurrent enrollment: WCCUSD & Contra Costa Community College
 Applying for Scholarships & Financial Aid

Workshops for Parents
 Preparing Your Child for College
 Paying for College
 Holy Names University Early Admit Program!”

Do you think other districts should offer similar conferences for secondary students and their parents?

Posted on Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
Under: Education, West Contra Costa school district | No Comments »

WCCUSD board to meet Wednesday

The West Contra Costa school board will discuss a variety of items on Wednesday.

Here are some highlights from the agenda, related to student trips, the budget, increasing the reward for information about recent vandalism and a proposed charter middle school:

“C.9 Students from Kennedy and Richmond High are visiting the nation’s capitol April 9-13, 2012

Eleven students from Kennedy and Richmond High are visiting the nation’s capitol with the Close Up Foundation for the purpose of observing firsthand how our government functions. They will visit Congress and meet with elected representatives. They will visit the Supreme Court, the Capitol Rotunda, and the Library of Congress. Throughout the trip there are workshops to attend as well as homework. They will join up with students from other parts of the country to form a mock congress and prepare bills.

Recommend Approval

Fiscal Impact:
Not on General Fund: Sponsored by Close Up Foundation”

“C.10 Students from Richmond High going to Robotics Regional Tournament, March 6-11, 2012

Ten students from Richmond High have qualified for a regional robotics tournament with US First in Portland, Oregon. These students are learning scientific and mechanical skills that will benefit them intheir ongoing education.

Recommend Approval

Fiscal Impact:
Paid by sponsor donations: Chevron, Abbott, Google, JCPenny, Intuitive Surgical Inc., Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Brin Wojcicki Foundation”

“D.1 Budget Report Update

The Governor’s budget report issued in mid-January indicates that the district may have an estimated $14.7 million deficit in the 2012-13 school year. This would occur if the tax initiative proposed in the Governor’s budget fails to get enough signatures to qualify for the November 2012 election or if the voters fail to support the measure. In an effort to provide information to the community as well as to gather input, staff has conducted a series of Community Budget Meetings from January 25 – February 8, 2012. Staff will provide a summary report of the community meetings and any new information available from the State regarding the 2012-13 budget.

For Information Only

Fiscal Impact:

“F.1 Nystrom Vandalism – Reward for Information

On Sunday February 12, 2012 vandals committed felony level crimes in the Nystrom multi-purpose room where the construction was nearly completed. The damage to the building is estimated to be in excess of $500,000. The Richmond Police department has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator(s). Congressman George Miller’s office is offering another $2,500. Government Code section 53069.5 provides that any local agency, as defined in Section 54951, may offer and pay a reward, the amount of which is determined by the local agency, for any information leading to the determination of the identify of, and the apprehension of, any person who willfully damages or destroys any property. Under that Government Code section (53069.5), if the perpetrator is apprehended and the District has paid the reward, the District can hold the perpetrator responsible to repay the School District the amount of the reward it paid.

That the Board authorize the offer of an additional $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and authorize the Superintendent to make the award in conjunction with the Richmond Police.

Fiscal Impact:
$10,000 possible”

“G.1 Richmond Charter Academy Middle School

The Richmond Charter Academy Middle School, a nonprofit benefit corporation, submitted a petition to West Contra Costa Unified School District ( WCCUSD) on February 8, 2012, to establish an independent charter school known as Richmond Charter Academy Middle School. Pursuant to the Charter School Act of 1992 (the “Act”), Education Code Section 47600 et seq., the Legislature has charged local school boards with the responsibility of reviewing and acting on petitions for charter schools.

Education Code section 47605(b) requires the Board, within 30 days of receiving a petition, to hold a public hearing to consider the level of support for the petition. The charter school has requested to not participate in the public presentation in accordance with Education Code 47605. West Contra Costa Unified School District wishes to honor the charter school’s request. Therefore, the purpose of this agenda item is strictly for informational purposes only.

The Act also requires the Board to either grant or deny the Petition within 60 days of submission.

Staff and legal counsel are receiving and analyzing information related to the Petition, as well as the operation and potential effects of the proposed charter school, and will make a recommendation regarding the Petition at a subsequent board meeting.

Public Information Only

Fiscal Impact:

Do you support the charter middle school?

Posted on Monday, March 5th, 2012
Under: Education, West Contra Costa school district | No Comments »

WCCUSD All District Music Festival is Tuesday

Students from five different honor music groups in the West Contra Costa district will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the All District Music Festival.

Here are details from the district’s website:

“The WCCUSD Music Department Proudly Presents The Annual All District Music Festival

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 7:30 PM

Guest Master of Ceremonies

Richmond Convention Center
403 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond, CA
(at 26th Street)


- Middle School Honor Orchestra

- Middle School Honor Band

- High School Honor Orchestra

- High School Honor Choir

- High School Honor Band

Admission is free.”

Do you think it is important to offer band and choir classes in middle and high schools?

Posted on Monday, March 5th, 2012
Under: Education, West Contra Costa school district | No Comments »

WCCUSD board to consider parcel tax tonight

The West Contra Costa school board will consider approving ballot language for a new parcel tax tonight.

Here is more information, from the agenda:
“F.2 Parcel Tax Renewal / Extension Resolution No. 90-1112

In 2004, the voters approved a parcel tax that has helped to fund reduced class sizes, counselors, librarians, custodial services, and athletics. This parcel tax, which annually brings $9.6 million into the district, was renewed in 2008 with 79% of voters supporting it. Over the past four years, the District has spent the parcel revenue prudently and in alignment with the measure with fully accountability through annual audits and review by the Community Budget Advisory Committee.

Since the approval in 2008, the State of California has dramatically reduced funding for K-12 education. By statute the per pupil revenue limit for 2012-13 should be $6,742 but due to the financial crisis and the Legislature’s inability to fund public education in California, West Contra Costa Unified School District will receive only $4,911. The total loss of revenue to WCCUSD is more than $40 million. The Board has demonstrated financial stewardship in making expenditure reductions including closing schools, capping employee health benefits, requiring employees to take furlough days, raising class sizes, and reducing or eliminating many programs that had served the students of the District. In adopting a budget for 2011-12,
the Board used several one-time funding sources such as the Federal Stimulus money to keep essential programs and services. Yet, the District faces a deficit of $4.7 million for 2012-13 as well as the loss of one-time federal stimulus funds.WCCUSD Board of Education

At the November 16, 2011 meeting, Bryan Godbe from Godbe Research presented the results of a survey that the Board had authorized in September 2011. The survey results show the voters are willing to
support a renewal of the current parcel tax and small increase that would help the District continue to fund key programs and services to get through the current financial hardship.

That the Board approve ballot language and Resolution No. 90-1112 authorizing a parcel tax renewal/extension on the June 5, 2012 ballot.

Fiscal Impact:
Provide $13.6 million each year for 5 years for programs and services to students.”

Do you think the board should place a parcel tax on the June ballot?

Posted on Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
Under: Education, West Contra Costa school district | 6 Comments »

West Contra Costa district to hold community budget meetings

Like many school districts throughout the state, the West Contra district wants to prepare for possible budget cuts that may be necessary if voters don’t approve the governor’s proposed tax measure.

To involve the entire community in budget discussions, the district has set up several meetings, according to the following news release, which I received Friday:

“West Contra Costa Unified School District
6:30PM – 8:00PM

The January Governor’s Budget proposal includes the potential for “mid-year trigger” budget cuts to our schools during 2012-13 if a tax initiative is not successful in November of 2012. Schools in our community are another year of uncertainty and reductions to services for our students and schools.

Parents, community members and local business leaders are invited to learn about what the Governor’s Budget proposal means to our schools and what we can do about it.

Wednesday, January 25 2012
Hercules High School
1900 Refugio Valley Road, Hercules

Thursday, January 26, 2012
Murphy Elementary
4350 Valley View Road, Richmond

Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Helms Middle School
2500 Road 20, San Pablo

Thursday, February 2, 2012
King Elementary School
4022 Florida Avenue, Richmond

Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Harding Elementary School
7230 Fairmont Avenue, El Cerrito

Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Pinole Middle School
1575 Mann Drive, Pinole”

Do you think the Mt. Diablo district should hold similar community meetings to discuss possible budget cuts?

Posted on Saturday, January 14th, 2012
Under: Education, West Contra Costa school district | 16 Comments »

Education reform advocate touts charter schools, online learning

Many education reformers focus their attention on low-income schools with a high percentage of English language learners and students who are in ethnic minorities.

But, Lance Izumi — an author and senior director for education at the Pacific Research Institute public policy think tank — says suburban campuses that don’t at first appear to fit the profile of low-performing schools can also benefit from education reforms.

During a recent speech to the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association in Pleasant Hill, Izumi highlighted Clayton Valley High School in Concord as an example of such a campus.

“At Clayton Valley, less than two out of 10 students are socio-economically disadvantaged, which means that the large majority of students are not from low-income families, and probably most are middle class,” he said. “Many people would therefore assume that the school would be higher performing. If you look at Clayton Valley test scores, however, one sees some real problems.”

He said 42 percent of 11th-graders failed to score proficient in English last spring.

“It was much worse in math,” Izumi said, “with a combined 68 percent of 11th graders taking the Algebra II and summative math exams failing to score at proficiency.”

Here is a link to a video of his speech:

Izumi also referred to a Global Report Card at, which shows how students in districts in the United States compare to students in countries such as Singapore, Canada and Switzerland.

He touted online learning as a good way to reach all types of students — from remedial to advanced, including English language learners and children with autism — saying programs adjust to students’ learning levels.

Some in the audience were receptive to his message, while others were skeptical.

Rene Maher, of Pleasant Hill, said she sent her children to parochial schools because she wasn’t satisfied with local public schools. However, she was encouraged by statistics cited by Izumi about improvement achieved at some schools in California with charters and online programs.

Some West Contra Costa district parents, on the other hand, told me they would have preferred that Izumi focus on improving teaching in the classroom. They questioned whether one purpose of his speech was to sell his books, which he referenced a few times.

Do you believe charter schools and online education offer suitable alternatives to traditional public school programs?

Posted on Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
Under: California, Clayton, Concord, Contra Costa County, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, West Contra Costa school district | 1 Comment »

DonorsChoose helps make teachers’ dreams come true

By Theresa Harrington

Ever wanted to help local schoolchildren, but didn’t know how?

DonorsChoose.Org takes the guesswork out of contributing to schools by giving teachers the opportunity to list projects they’d love to do in their classrooms, if only they had the money.

The website lets potential donors read about the school, class and project, then decide how much to contribute. It keeps track of how much has been collected and how much more is needed to make the teachers’ (and students’) dreams come true.

For example, Mrs. F. at Oak Grove Middle School in Concord is trying to raise about $186 to buy six videos for her class to help make history come alive for her students. She wants to purchase: “Inside 9/11,” “Schindler’s List,” “America: The Story of Us,” “Slavery and the Making of America,” “Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad,” and “Murder in Mississippi.”

Here’s her project description:

“These videos will help to capture my students’ passion and curiosity about the topics we study. Coupled with our textbook and other primary and secondary texts, they will help build interest and understanding of U.S. History. And ultimately, they will be the jumping off point for further assignments incorporating writing and artwork about the topics.

My students rarely have the chance to travel to historical places or go to museums. Your help to provide these videos for my classroom will allow me to bring the world to them. In addition, these videos will be shared among several teachers to reach as many students as possible.”

So far, she has received about $60 from seven donors.

You can search the project database by state, county, district, city or school. In West Contra Costa County, Mrs. Q. at Riverside Elementary in San Pablo is hoping community members will donate a little more than $900 to purchase writing journals, puzzles and other hands-on activities to make learning fun for her students.

“By providing writing journals and mail boxes, students will be able to write in a variety of meaningful ways,” she wrote. “While using the phonemic awareness, sight words and CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) word games and puzzles, my students will be learning these important skills and concepts while working in small groups. The patterning and simple addition activities will help improve my students’ understanding of basic math concepts. These games and puzzles help make learning kindergarten skills more interesting, fun and accessible to all learners.

Young children learn best by doing. With your support, my classroom will be filled with many different activities that allow my students to learn a variety of skills and concepts by playing games, working puzzles, writing stories and having fun.”

Unfortunately, no donors have contributed to this project since it was submitted Sept. 6.

Chevron is sponsoring a “Fuel Your School” program this month that could help fund these and other projects. Every time a consumer in Alameda or Contra Costa counties puts at least 8 gallons of gas from a Chevron station into his or her car, the company will donate $1 to DonorsChoose.Org projects in those two counties, up to $1 million.

You can see how much has been raised in your city at As of September 19, Chevron was over halfway to the total $1 million and had funded 291 projects expected to help 33,902 students in the two counties.

In addition, the company is sponsoring a “Chevron Classroom Challenge” by offering an additional $25,000 to 10 different public schools with the “most innovative” Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) projects, as determined by a team of judges.

To be eligible, projects must be submitted and entered in the “Chevron Classroom Challenge” on during the Fuel Your School promotion through Sept. 30. Details are at

Matt Lonner, who oversees Chevron’s partnership with and the Chevron Classroom Challenge, told me the company is proud to help support education in the community.

“One thing that we’ve come to realize is that there’s no shortage of great ideas to engage students,” he said. “But teachers require resources to bring those ideas to life.”

The company employs many engineers and is encouraging STEM projects in part because it wants to make sure tomorrow’s workforce is well-prepared by local schools, he said.

“Chevron is, at its core, a company of engineers and scientists,” Lonner said. “And so, STEM education in particular is not only vital to the long-term success of Chevron, but it’s also critically important to the long-term health and competitiveness of the state.”

Another Chevron-sponsored engineering program, called “Project Lead the Way,” introduces high school students to STEM curriculum.

“STEM programs provide the problem-solving and technical skills necessary not only to succeed in college,” Lonner said, “but in life.”

Other companies and foundations also help support DonorsChoose.Org programs. Recently, the Claire Giannini Fund donated over $1.3 million to fund every DonorsChoose.Org school project in California that had been posted by the time the donation was made (around Aug. 30).

Teachers and donors can communicate online regarding the contributions.

“I gave to this project because I believe in the benefit of using media to help students learn,” wrote Jenni B. in Walnut Creek, after contributing to the Oak Grove Middle School project. “History sets the precedent for our future!”

“Thank you Jenni!” responded Mrs. F. “Your donation is greatly appreciated.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
Under: Education, Mt. Diablo school district, West Contra Costa school district | No Comments »

A closer look at STAR scores in lowest-performing schools

By Theresa Harrington

The state released 2010 STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) program results today, showing overall improvement, despite falling far short of student proficiency goals.

Here is a sampling of proficiency scores for East Bay districts. The first number is for reading and writing and the second score is for math:

Reading/writing Math


Acalanes 84% 58%
Antioch 47% 38%
Brentwood 64% 65%
Byron 58% 59%
Canyon 87% 70%
John Swett 46% 37%
Knightsen 64% 71%
Lafayette 84% 85%
Liberty 51% 20%
Martinez 62% 62%
Moraga 89% 89%
Mt. Diablo 57% 50%
Oakley 53% 49%
Pittsburg 38% 40%
San Ramon 84% 78%
Walnut Creek 81% 81%
West Contra Costa 39% 35%

Reading/writing Math
Alameda 67% 58%
Albany 75% 75%
Berkeley 59% 52
Castro Valley 70% 64%
Dublin 73% 68%
Emery 37% 35%
Fremont 73% 67%
Hayward 39% 35%
Livermore 66% 57%
New Haven 54% 47%
Newark 50% 44%
Oakland 41% 44%
Piedmont 87% 80%
Pleasanton 83% 72%
San Leandro 44% 35%
San Lorenzo 43% 37%
Sunol Glen 80% 80%

In Contra Costa County, two school districts have been singled out by the state because of persistently low achievement in nine schools.

They are the Mt. Diablo district (for Bel Air, Meadow Homes, Rio Vista and Shores Acres elementary schools; and for Glenbrook and Oak Grove middle schools) and the West Contra Costa district (for Lincoln Elementary, Helms Middle School and DeAnza High School).

Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence sent me the following statement regarding the test results:

“STAR testing is an annual standardized testing instrument which allows public school districts to assess student academic progress, strengths, weakness and determine areas of focus for continued improvement. Despite the impact of the State cuts to education, Mt. Diablo USD is pleased to report that through the efforts of parents, teachers, administrators, and support personnel, we showed strong improvement in second through eighth grade math scores while maintaining our scores in other subject areas. 

While we are proud of all the schools that showed gains, we want to highlight some shining examples of what we can be accomplish if we continue to work together:

Elementary:  Ayers, Cambridge, Fair Oaks, Holbrook, Monte Gardens, Shore Acres, Silverwood, Sun Terrace, Ygnacio Valley

Middle School: El Dorado, Foothill, Glenbrook, Oak Grove, Pine Hollow, Pleasant Hill, Riverview

High School: College Park and Mt. Diablo

Alternative Education:  Sunrise, Crossroads, Summit 

In order to build on this positive news, we are in the process of reviewing district-wide goals and objectives.  Guided by our overarching goal of ensuring that all students graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in their chosen path, these goals and objectives will help us focus all time, talent and resources on key goals for our students.     

Student test data is important information for our all schools, as it guides professional development, focuses collaboration time for teaching staff, and ensures the organization is in a mode of continual improvement. However, I want to stress that test scores, while critically important, are only one measure of student achievement. The Mt. Diablo USD is committed to help all students achieve their academic and social, emotional potential, and to measure the latter we observe student interaction, look for involvement in activities, and interested, engaged students in classroom and school activities.”

In reviewing the test results, I see that math scores for second- through fifth-graders definitely improved. However, scores for sixth-through eighth-grades were not as stellar.

Here’s a breakdown showing the 2009 math score followed by 2010:

2nd gr: 66 to 68%
3rd gr: 65 to 69%
4th gr: 69 to 74%
5th gr: 59 to 65%
6th gr: 49 to 49%
7th gr: 48 to 42% (Algebra: 52 to 51%)
8th gr: 35 to 10% (gen); 43 to 38% (Algebra); 55 to 49% (geometry)

You can find complete 2010 STAR test results here: You can compare these to 2009 results found here:

Here are the California Standards Test Summary scores for the district’s six lowest-achieving schools. The 2009 score is followed by the 2010 score and + or – to show if it went up or down. (Lawrence highlighted three: Shore Acres, Glenbrook and Oak Grove.)

Elementary schools were tested in English, math and science. Middle school scores also include history/social studies.

2009 to 2010 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced:
Bel Air Elmentary in Bay Point:
English 20.9% to 21.2% (+)
Math 41.3% to 40.5% (-)
Science 15.7% to 11.5% (-)

Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord
English 23.3% to 24.9% (+)
Math 39.1% to 41.9% (+)
Science 31.1% to 15.1% (-)

Rio Vista Elementary in Bay Point:
English: 29.0% to 25.6% (-)
Math 38.8% to 42.7% (+)
Science 41.8% to 8.7% (-)

Shore Acres Elementary in Bay Point
English 18.0% to 23.9% (+)
Math 32.2% to 41.6% (+)
Science 21.8% to 13.2% (-)

Glenbrook Middle School in Concord:
English 35.0% to 35.8% (+)
Math 9.4% to 17.7% (+)
History 24.1% to 32.9% (+)
Science 27.3% to 42.9% (+)

Oak Grove Middle School in Concord:
English 27.0% to 29.6% (+)
Math: 20.1% to 16.9% (-)
History 18.3% to 26.9 (+)
Science 26.3% to 24.0% (-)

The school board recently approved reform plans for each of the above schools. The Meadow Homes plan focuses more time on English and less on science and social studies.

Although some parents complained about this approach, Lawrence defended it, saying data shows students need to master the English language before they can absorb science and social studies in textbooks. However, the data above shows that science scores went down at some schools where English scores went up.

The parents who complained about cutting science said it is a “hands-on” activity that engages kids and makes them want to come to school. The district has submitted applications to receive School Improvement Grants for reform at Bel Air, Rio Vista and Shore Acres elementary schools and at Glenbrook Middle School.

It did not seek grants for its reform plans at Meadow Homes and Oak Grove middle schools, in part because the grants would have required the district to replace the principals at those sites.

West Contra Costa’s lowest performing schools were a mixed bag, according to reporter Shelly Meron, who covers that district. Here are their scores, showing percent of students proficient:

Lincoln Elementary School in Richmond:
English 21.3% to 18.4% (-)
Math: 24.4% to 39.5% (+)
Science 7.8% to 16.9% (+)

Helms Middle School in San Pablo:
English 22.8% to 26.7% (+)
Math: 22.0% to 21.6% (-)
History: 14.2% to 16.4% (+)
Science 18.1% to 20.2% (+)

DeAnza Senior High School in Richmond:
English: 23.8% to 28.4% (+)
Math: 3.0% to 4.9% (+)
History: 16.6% to 19.1% (+)
Lilfe Science: 30.2% to 29.6% (-)
Advanced sciences: 19.3% to 24.9% (+)

Meron interviewed Nia Rashidchi, assistant superintendent for educational services, about the schools.

Lincoln Elementary saw a slight drop In English, but growth in math and science.

“Their overall proficiency was down a little bit,” Rashidchi said. “We’ve done some very significant things this year to address that. We had a very targeted summer school this year with half the population from every teacher’s classroom. We basically have a new staff.”

This reform is part of the “turnaround” effort that is included in its School Improvement Grant application.

“(Students have) been in school for three weeks (at Lincoln),” Rashidchi said. “We will have an extended day, a full day kindergarten, extended learning center program (an intervention program focused on literacy and math).”

Rashidchi said Helms Middle school “had some growth — slow and steady growth. But some is better than no growth. We have new leadership there this year. The teachers are dedicated to making sure that even though they’re on that (persistently low performing) list, they’re making strides.”

A group of Helms teachers signed up to be part of the national board certification program. This summer, staff has been working to plan day-to-day instruction through collaboration, “so that everybody is on the same page — the alignment piece being really important. We’re making sure that their assessment, pacing guides, curriculum, (are) all lined up across departments and grade levels.”

Rashidchi said DeAnza has had slight growth as well.

“Moving in the right direction, slow and steady,” she said. “But kids need more than slow and steady.”

De Anza also has new leadership.

“Our teachers and administrators are dedicated to our students, and honing their skills to make sure they’re effective with our students,” Rashidchi said. “We’ve got limited resources. We’ve been hard hit. It impacts us with larger class size, decreasing programs that we know have been effective. Regardless of that, we still have dedicated professionals who are working hard to make students prepared for graduation and life beyond graduation.”

Are you satisifed with you school district’s test scores?

Staff writer Shelly Meron contributed to this report.

Posted on Monday, August 16th, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Shelly Meron, Theresa Harrington, West Contra Costa school district | 3 Comments »

State Board of Education delay of grant awards causes frustration

By Theresa Harrington

There is no new information today from Sacramento about whether the U.S. Department of Education supports the state’s method for prioritizing which districts should be awarded School Improvement Grants.

“The department is still in conversations with the U.S. Department of Education and there’s been no word as to what their decision is or rescheduling of a date for the state board to take action,” department spokeswoman Maria Lopez told me late this afternoon. “The point of the grant is to get the money to the schools, so it’s very important that they act quickly.”

The state Board of Education decided to postpone awarding about $311 million in grants Monday, after some trustees and district representatives said the selection process was unfair.

Districts that sought money for all of their lowest-achieving schools were given priority over those that only applied for some of their campuses, according to the state Department of Education recommendation. This means some districts with highly rated applications could be aced out of funding by others with applications that scored lower, but include all low-performing schools.

Here’s a breakdown of the recommendations for East Bay schools:

Priority One
San Lorenzo: Score: 96.00.
Requested: $1.6 million. Recommended: $1.6 million
School:  Hillside Elem. 

Hayward: Score 88.41.
Requested $25 million. Recommended: $10.3 million
Schools:  Burbank Elem., Longwood Elem., Tennyson High (funded)
Harder Elem. (not funded)

Priority 2

Mt. Diablo: Score:  97.50    
Requested $15.4 million. Recommended: $0
Schools:  Bel Air Elem., Shore Acres Elem., Glenbrook Middle School, Rio Vista Elementary
(Schools not included: Meadow Homes Elem. and Oak Grove Middle)

West Contra Costa: Score: 95.50
Requested: $6 million. Recommended: $0
School: Lincoln Elem.     
(Schools not included: De Anza High and Helms Middle School)

Oakland: Score: 92.78
Requested: $9.5 million. Recommended: $0
Schools: Elmhurst Community Prep., United for Success Academy and Explore Middle (closing)
(Schools not included: Alliance and ROOTS academies)

As you can see, Mt. Diablo’s application scored higher than San Lorenzo’s and the West Contra Costa and Oakland district applications were rated more highly than Hayward’s. Some trustees and district representatives argued districts shouldn’t be penalized for failing to include all their low-performing schools in their applications and should be prioritized by scores alone.

Even though they knew they wouldn’t get top priority, they argued, they weren’t under the impression the suggestion to include all schools was a mandate that would end up excluding them from receiving awards. Some trustees and members of the public suggested reducing the awards so they could be spread to more districts.

A few trustees seemed especially concerned that the Los Angeles and Oakland districts were not recommended for any funding. Los Angeles representatives argued that if they had included all of their lowest-performing schools, there would be very little money left over for anyone else.

Instead, they said, they chose schools that would benefit the most from reform and submitted applications that were well thought-out.

Confusion over how the grants should be distributed is causing frustration among districts recommended for funding, as well as those that aren’t.

Dennis Byas, Superintendent of the San Lorenzo district, wrote in an e-mail today that it appears small districts are undervalued by some.

“I’m not exactly sure when the needs of a school in a smaller school district became less significant than that of a larger school district,” he wrote. “Speaking on behalf of many smaller districts; we do not have a problem with the weighing of funds; however we do have serious concerns when the entire process is thrown out because a larger district didn’t apply, misapplied or simply doesn’t like the results.”

He said his community worked extremely hard on its grant application and is still hoping to receive funding before school starts.

“I would suggest that the State Board of Education call for Special Board meeting ASAP and resolve this issue quickly so children don’t lose out because of politics,” he wrote.

Lopez said the board will likely call a special meeting when the state Department of Education decides whether to amend its recommendations.

Mt. Diablo trustee Gary Eberhart told me today that it makes no sense to require districts to include all of their lowest-performing schools in their applications, if they don’t believe it’s in their best interests.

“In my opinion, it should be based on the merits of the programs that they’re in applying to fund,” he said. “So, it would make sense to me that grant dollars be provided to programs that have an action plan that is the highest rated, so that dollars are being spent on programs that are going to be successful.”

Eberhart said this is just another example of the state’s failure to adequately fund schools.

“It shouldn’t be a lottery as to whether a school district is provided dollars,” he said. “Our kids need those dollars and to put us at the back of the line is an abomination.”

The complete list of recommendations is at under item 4 in attachment 8.

Do you agree with the state’s recommendations?

Posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010
Under: Education, Hayward school district, Mt. Diablo school district, Oakland school district, San Lorenzo school district, Theresa Harrington, West Contra Costa school district | 8 Comments »

Nine school measures in Contra Costa, Santa Clara counties


School bond mailer
School bond mailer

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

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