Sunday, May 11, 2008

'Work to Rule' and what's up with the teachers

This coming week is the "Week of the Teacher" and the teachers are ramping up their show of solidarity by conducting a "Work to Rule" action thru-out the district. MDEA's organizing team has asked the teachers to talk to parents this week and to explain the Work to Rule action with a statement similar to:

“... teachers will be demonstrating their solidarity with each other by entering campus as a group at 7:30 and leaving together at 2:30. We will also be participating in solidarity activities.

There will be no club meetings at lunch or after school and no tutoring at lunch or after school. Teachers will not be meeting with parents outside of the school day.

Working to rule highlights the many unpaid duties teachers perform. It lets the Board and the community know that they are in danger of losing this valuable asset.”

“We appreciate the support of informed parents in these difficult times.”

I know of at least one school who's staff has met and decided NOT to implement the work to rule action this week due to open house schedules and other events. Many though, are implementing this action. But regardless of whether your school is participating, it is important to recognize all the teachers do for our children, our schools and for our families outside of regular school hours. The teachers as stated above, have been asked to begin informing parents as they want the parents to be educated as to what is happening in our district now with our teachers.

Further, From the Contra Costa Times tonight: ". . . , teacher union activity has ramped up in protest of unsettled contract negotiations.

Starting today, members of the Mt. Diablo Education Association are expected to refuse to perform any unpaid duties such as advising clubs or tutoring after or before school.

Dan Reynolds, a teacher at Mt. Diablo High School, said he will stop advising the Class of 2010, suspend his lunchtime lecture program and boycott the honors English courses he teaches during zero period, the hour before school officially begins.

"I'm definitely conflicted," Reynolds said.

He wants to help his students but said that he needs a raise and district-paid medical benefits.

On top of all this, the Mt. Diablo School district is contemplating more cuts which could be announced as early as this Tuesday night's board meeting.


  1. I am disgusted by MDEA's action. I am, and have always been, a supporter of our wonderful teachers, but this is ridiculous!

    Have you ever heard the expression you can't get blood from a stone? My kids face larger classes next year and fewer electives. More teachers could be laid off, yet MDEA thinks this will help their cause?

    What can possibly be a realistic solution to this?

    I TOTALLY support teachers getting benefits, but you had an offer in November and it didn't even go to a vote of the union members. I just don’t understand this thinking. Parents were upset that MDEA couldn’t/wouldn’t support a parcel tax to help pay for programs, but now they are penalizing everyone else because there is no money for benefits?

    Does MDEA realize that this economy stinks for everyone? Loss of jobs, shrinking health benefits, higher gas and food costs, and rising college tuition is something everyone has to bear these days.

    What does MDEA really think they will accomplish? Do they actually talk to parents in the “know”, or is it their sense that they are supported? Honestly, people I talk to are fed up with the strident tone that MDEA has taken during all this. You do not win over people by holding their feet to the fire. You win them over by touching their hearts and minds.

    I think the work to rule strategy can backfire. The less you do, the less people think you deserve. Teachers who help out kids before and after school are respected by parents. We know the sacrifices you make to do that. It’s why they say teaching is a calling.

    Many children need to go for extra help after school because they cannot afford private tutoring. Yes, it is an extra, but so is it when my husband stays late at his work--uncompensated, so he can finish what he needs to. If he left because it was 5:00 quitting time, do you think he would be up for a raise? Of course not. In today’s economy, it is rare to even get a 1-2% raise in private industry. Do teachers think they will fare better in the job market? Companies are laying off thousands. It is quite competitive out there.

    MDEA runs the risk of alienating parents--not getting them on their side-- when they do work to rule. When it was done a few years ago there were such hard feelings that it tore apart our school community.

    MDEA-please realize that many parents support you and want you to have everything that you deserve, but these are not flushed times. Every district in the county is facing budget cutbacks. I just don't know where you think the money is going to come from.

    It is the children you are hurting. What could I possibly say to the district that could get them to come up with the money to pay for benefits? Fire more teachers and give us less choices so some teachers can get health care benefits?

    As a parent who is heavily involved in the MDUSD, I feel like you are playing right into the hands of the district, and you will be characterized as being greedy at a time when families in every school are making tough financial decisions.


  2. I think you're wrong. I think that the district has a long standing history of putting OTHER things before the teacher.. like what was mentioned on another post somewhere, like 8 million dollars on some info system.. that without teachers would be useless anyway. DOes your husband work without any sort of respect? Your husband wouldn't stay if he wasn't respected, my thought is that most people would stay without pay after hours because they feel valued. I dont' even think parents know what is going on frankly! And many will be surprised when one day they show up and the teachers on strike. So if this is the way to raise more visibility... I'm for it. And I support them.

  3. I know my son's elementary school is not doing the work to rule action due to open house coming up next week. I couldn't see any evidence at drop off at middle school, but not sure... I do think some teachers feel that work to rule hurts the wrong people (i.e. the students).. as anonymous 8:02 has said. But I am in support of the teachers and perhaps it will take a more drastic step to make the community even notice. I've said the same thing as Anonymous 8:32. There are a lot of parents without any clue that anything is amiss. Change is never comfortable.. and the teachers have been silent all year at school .. I'm ok with a show of solidarity this week.

  4. Anon 8:32- My husband is respected at work, but so were all the other people who were recently laid off, not because they weren't respected or didn't do their jobs, but because that is the reality of the economy right now.

    I appreciate yours and Cathy's posts, and I see your point, but it is no surprise that parents are not as aware at the elementary and middle school levels. High school parents are very upset.

    Just a few years ago, teachers were on work to rule and wouldn't write letters of recommendation for students, as well as not working before and after school. Teachers at my child's then elementary school didn't attend their final DARE graduation, which was also their final ceremony as a class before moving up to middle school. It was horrible for the kids. Whether the parents talked to the district or not, it was the kids who lost out.

    When a high school student can't get the support they need from the teachers, whether it be a letter or extra help, it has much greater consequences. There is so much pressure already put on our kids to try and get into college, not having the support of their teachers, will be something that they will remember.

    Do we really want parents of high schoolers to leave the school district bitter that the teachers weren't there for their kids? These will be the student-less population you will be trying to convince to pass a parcel tax.

    I'd also like to comment on the fact that the district always seems to find money for the things they want. I completely agree with that. Unfortunately, the student information system is already up and running, so that money is already gone.

    We can chastize the district for this expenditure, and to be sure, everyone should be more watchful of the way the district allocates it's funds, but on a go forward basis there doesn't seem to be extra money laying around under the current budget conditions.

  5. "Do we really want parents of high schoolers to leave the school district bitter that the teachers weren't there for their kids?"

    Well maybe its a question of the lesser of two evils. Do we want parents to leave bitter? or do we want our teachers to leave bitter? I vote parents get off their butts and stop being bitter, and work to help our teachers get a competitive wage and benefits entice them to stay. This district isn't worth ANYTHING without the teachers.. and no teachers will want to work here at the rate we're going.

  6. I don't know if you are a parent in the district, but you certainly sound like an unhappy teacher.

    Calling parents bitter and telling them to get off their butts is very off-putting to many, especially those who have worked very hard volunteering in classroom. I can't even imagine what my children's school experience would be without parent volunteers working to raise funds and supporting our teachers.

    Right now, it is not a good market for anyone to be looking for another job. I have friends who work for other districts who have received pink slips. They had benefits, but now they don't have a job. Would the teachers in the MDUSD who were pink-slipped be happy to get their jobs back or will they turn them down because there are no health care benefits.

    The point I was making was that in tough times, people need to come together and get through them for the greater good. When the budget outlook is better, I will be on the front lines (again) fighting with the teachers for health benefits. I am sure you won't agree, but this is not the time to make a stand and denigrate parents in the process.

    Do I care if parents are bitter or annoyed at the teacher's union--you bet I do! I live in this district and I KNOW that we will never be on equal footing with our surrounding districts until we pass a parcel tax. You just are not going to do that by alienating the community. Hearing your take on the lazy parents in the district is exactly what will polarize this community against the teachers whether it is right or not.

    You must be living in a bubble to think that parents who are going through their own struggles are going to "...get off their butts and stop being bitter, and work to help our teachers get a competitive wage and benefits entice them to stay." I am offended by your statement since I am already on your side and have worked hard for that. As much as I want you to get what you deserve, I have my own family to consider, and bigger classes and fewer options is not what I want for them.

    I hate that teachers have to go through this. Teachers are the cornerstone of education. They deserve more, certainly, but not at the expense of everything else.

    I am not going to continue to debate this. I was hoping that you would consider a point of view from a supporter who was trying to give you an honest assessment of what the mood is out there in the schools. If parents are apathetic, it is because they are tired of all the posturing from the district and the union. I know that there are as many people who want the MDEA president out, as there are who want to replace the Superintendent.

  7. Anonymous.. sorry I'm a parent.. n the schools almost every day helping my kid(s) teachers however I can. I'm on the PFC and have served on almost every position there is on the PFC at the schools. I am not bitter.. but as a parent, I want fellow parents to stop being apathetic. So maybe "get off their butts" is harsh.. but they can't keep their heads in the sand and expect anything good to happen.

  8. 8:02 Supportive Parent? Everything that we do beyond the work to rule day is what we give FOR FREE, and like the district, you clearly expect this servitude.

  9. It is amazing how hostile and "disgusted" a parent would be that you won't work for free. Something is wrong with that picture I think and perhaps it is right that the parents go thru this work to rule time as a time to REALIZE what our teachers have been doing. I know teachers do it cuz they love our kids and enjoy their jobs, but they certainly, minimally, deserve a competitive wage and benefits.

  10. I think the problem is that many, many "professionals" work after hours for no additional pay. Teachers are professionals and it just seems a little odd that they have a fixed work day. Other professionals don't complain that they have to work outside of regular hours for free . . . it really isn't free, it is part of their overall compensation. You will probably reply that MDUSD does not pay enough, and I don't disagree, my comment is directed at the concept of a limited workday for professionals (teachers) as a whole.

  11. Do the posters who are complaining about parents' expectation that they work for free wonder what their job would be like without the free labor of parent volunteers?

    I have donated countless sums of money to my children's class, not to mention hundreds of hours of my time in recognition of how hard a teacher's job is.

    I thought this was the MDUSD parents blog, but it feels more like a MDEA rant blog. The tone of the responses on this particular thread, especially Anon 6:33am saying that parents expect servitude, are so out there, that I feel you have more of an uphill battle than ever before.

    You are criticizing parents for not supporting you when it was your union who voted away your own benefits. Now we are supposed to bear the brunt of your rants and work to rule? Did you read the posts? Many parents support higher wages and health benefits for our teachers, but whoever thinks that these posts are helpful to sway the public, are completely off base.

  12. I hate to see the parent posters turn on the teachers in this post. One thing I found useful was to talk with a long time teacher. I asked what the heck happened and why in the world did they vote away their benefits. What I heard was (and I'm paraphrasing going by memory) is that it was an effort to attract good teachers. To raise the level of compensation enough such that MDUSD would be a desirable district. In a way , they were hoping to help the district recruit and retain quality teachers. Then health care costs skyrocketed, and yes, they are now stuck in the "you reap what you sew" situation. It doesn't mean that since that was done then, that we can't try to change to make things better now. Our district has gone downhill as far as desirability to new teachers. I too have and do volunteer in the classrooms, library, as a PFC board member, book fair, fundraising, room mom and more... like many of you. I'm not paid for it of course. I do it because I want to enhance the quality of my child's educational experience AND that of the other students. I think anytime the parents help, and are present. it benefits all . I also don't expect the teachers to work for free. Many teachers I know NEVER get a break. Even their lunch periods they've filled with book club, noon sports, tutoring or ... well any number of other tasks that help our kids. I appreciate them so much for their dedication.

  13. I'm a longtime MDUSD teacher and I'm also a parent. It's sad to see people turning against each other here.

    Economic times are tough, to be sure. But does this mean that teachers shouldn't ask for benefits?

    Does the fact that the union voted benefits out of the picture a few years back mean we shouldn't ask for them now? Does telling teachers "I told you so" help the cause?

    The acrimony and low morale of this district are disheartening, and the last thing we need is anyone telling parents or teachers to sit down and shu* up, times are tough, hunker down, don't complain, grit your teeth. Those idioms have too long been used to justify unacceptable conditions.

  14. I don't think there is an MDUSD parent out there who is not aware of how important teachers are to the education of our children. Those of us who post on these blogs are typically involved parents looking for change... willing to work toward change.

    It is a documented fact that the overwhelming majority of people supported a parcel tax if it meant teachers would receive a comprehensive and competitive compensation package. This tells me we all want the same thing.

    With that said, teachers will alienate me, and I am assuming many other parents, if they start using our children in this battle. I am a parent of a high school student and these kids work hard and are under a great deal of pressure to get into college. If teachers withhold support at this critical time, the wrong people will be hurt.

    We should be united on this issue, don't make the mistake of taking an action that would divide us. I would rather have a plan that unites parents and teachers to fight for a parcel tax, to fight for a competitive compensation package, and to make sure the educational needs of our children remain a high priority.

    MDEA come up with a different plan, ask us to come fight with you. We should have been shoulder to shoulder with our teachers at the last community meeting... let us know next time. Use us, not our children. We will support our teachers.

  15. Linda , I do agree with your statement that we parents should be given more opportunities to unite with our teachers. I've said that on the blog... teachers, MDEA, please tell us where you'll be - there are parents that will come with a show of support for you and as Linda said, stand shoulder to shoulder with you. I've asked Mike Noce to put me on his mailing list... he hasn't responded. I do have a few teachers that keep me somewhat informed of what is happening at THEIR schools, but I wish there was more available information for parents who want to know. This blog would be a good start. MDEA could post, or email me, with actions they're taking where more numbers would help. They could let us know where we could come and hold signs in support of our teachers. There are many who will do that.. but we need to be informed. So MDEA, that is an invitation.. please let us know. We can post on the blog and spread the word.

  16. In my posts on this thread, I have said over and over that I support the teachers and that I want them to have benefits. I am not turning against the teachers, I wanted to let them know what parents are feeling about the work to rule action.

    The only divisive posts I see are the ones telling parents to get off their butts and that they expect teachers to be in servitude to the district. If a post mentions tough economic times for all, that doesn't mean that teachers are the only ones who have to bear it.

    I saw no post that told teachers "...the last thing we need is anyone telling parents or teachers to sit down and shu* up, times are tough, hunker down, don't complain, grit your teeth." Someone speaking to the reality of the situation doesn't meant that teachers don't deserve more. It just means that the reality of the situation is that is stinks for everyone, RIGHT NOW.

    Can someone please tell me where the money for benefits will come from at this time? Should parents say it is OK for more teachers to get laid off and class sizes to rise so some can get benefits?

    I have never sided with the district on any teacher issue and I don't expect to now, but I don't appreciate being criticized for asking teachers to take a look at what is going on in the world today and perhaps deferring what they deserve until the budget settles, we have new board members or a new Superintendent...or all three!

    I also saw no reference in any other post to Anon 12:10 saying "I told you so" about voting away benefits. I only saw a mention that parents and kids are now having to deal with the consequences of a decision that they didn't make.

    I too hate to see parents and teachers on different sides of this issue, but like LindaL, I have invested 12 years in this district as a volunteer at all levels. Teachers who know me, know I support them. I didn't think it was possible for me to feel this angry at MDEA, but after reading these posts, I feel that I will not be able to support those who cannot/will not hear what others are saying.

    Please realize that there are many who read these posts, who may not write, and that how you present yourself here carries beyond the internet.

  17. Anon 1:26
    You make a good point when you ask, "Where will the money come from?" I believe we are in a painful transition period. We need new leadership on the board and at the district, we need to educate our communities about the revenue disparities in our district versus other surrounding districts, and we need to unite together and pass a parcel tax. I don't care about the semantics of how the parcel tax is allocated but I will not fight for a parcel tax unless it means our teachers will receive a comprehensive and competitive compensation package. MDUSD's inability to attract and retain teachers is a crisis and has to be fixed. Nothing is going to happen quickly but if we don't work through this, nothing will happen... period!

  18. "What could I possibly say to the district that could get them to come up with the money to pay for benefits?"

    Why don't you ask them to cover it from the fund that they use to cover every other groups benefits and benefit increases. Reprioritizing will be necessariy and could avoid a a strike. We're tired, but we're ready if we must.

  19. "As a parent who is heavily involved in the MDUSD, I feel like you are playing right into the hands of the district, and you will be characterized as being greedy at a time when families in every school are making tough financial decisions."

    Perhaps it is you that is falling prey to the district's tactics. Fact-finding will help clear the air of the confusion regarding the district's budget mess. It will be very appropriate that we get assistance getting the district's financial house in order, whatever the outcome.

  20. Would the teachers in the MDUSD who were pink-slipped be happy to get their jobs back or will they turn them down because there are no health care benefits.

    Pink slips aren't the greatest district concern at this point. Nearly every pink-slipped teacher has beenreinstated...just a couple are still being watched. So that IS great news! Let's get back to the benefits/compensation issue and this mismanaged district, please.

  21. School Board meeting tonight! Be there! 7:30! EVERYONE IS WELCOME!!!!! :) :) :) :)

  22. Anon 1:26,

    You responded to my post. You attempted to put the health benefits issue for teachers into context by implying that economic times are tough for all. Frequently, that has been a method used by institutions to justify withholding benefits - a way of forcing people to settle. Forgive me for assuming that was your intent.

    I am a teacher. I am also a parent. I adore the parents who have come to work in my classroom, many of whom I've befriended over the years. I have also volunteered in my own child's classes. So I see both sides. My intent was not to stir up additional tension - heaven knows there's enough around here. I just think it's worth mentioning again that work to rule is only one week long. Come Monday the 19th, we'll all be back on the proverbial bus, doing what we can.

  23. Anon 7:58- I really appreciate your comments. I was reading through the new posts wondering how I could even be perceived as not being supportive of the teachers after all my years of working with them.

    That is the danger of the written word. It's hard to know the tone someone is writing with. When MDEA instituted work to rule at my child's school three years ago, it lasted for a couple of months. I was reacting to that possibility.

    I hope we can all work together to get the district to pay teachers what they deserve and give them the benefits that they desire.

  24. I'm a parent and (gasp) a teacher. I'm also a very active member of MDEA. Just wanted to state all the dis-qualifiers up front. Yes, I do feel that because I'm a teacher in this district my opinion is often not heard. However, I digress from what I wanted to say. . . .

    Districts in the area ARE currently hiring. In fact, already two of our teachers (that I know of) have been offered positions in surrounding districts. I doubt that they are the only two. One of these teachers does not wish to leave our district and the relationships he has built with co-workers and students. However he currently cannot afford health insurance for himself, his 2 year-old daughter, and his wife. The job offer in the near-by district has a higher salary (not by much) PLUS benefits. I'm sad to see him go, but does he really have another option?

    So, the reason that teachers are making more noise (thus the reason for the week of work to rule) is to remind the community that this very real, very serious problem has not gone away. (It was also supposed to show that teachers are united.)

    It's not just a problem for individual teachers, it's a problem for the district. We keep leaving, and leaving, and leaving. . . .I am teaching students who had subs in science for 2 years in middle school. Just ask the Northgate parents how disruptive long-term subs are to the education of our students.

    Regarding several comments about being disgusted with MDEA. Please understand that when you say that, it is read that you are disgusted with teachers. MDEA is NOT a separate entity for many of us. It is hard for teachers to stand up for what they need--in part because of the fear of being branded uncaring and selfish. Poster, you illustrated my point beautifully with that comment.

    The offer in November was not put to the union membership because it never would have passed. I say this with 100% certainty based on my conversations with many people at my site. It did include SOME monies towards benefits, but the only pay raise was a 1% in January of 2009. The offer by the district was begging for a counter, which was made, which still has not been officially responded to.

    In fact, as I understand it, all monies towards benefits, salary, bonuses, whatever, are currently off the table, even for the 2007-08 school year.

    Parcel tax was never NOT supported by MDEA. It was not actively supported either. There was a fear that the district would use it to say that they could not provide benefits UNTIL the parcel tax was passed. Much easier to pass a parcel tax when it's for special programs than for teachers' benefits.

    Finally, the hours that I put in are over and above the extra hours that I have ever put in for a salary job. Fine, I signed up for it. I essentially teach all day and then do ALL my planning and grading at home (evenings and at least one day on the weekend).

    What work to rule is MAINLY about is all the extra work, above and beyond what is needed to get the job done. The volunteer aspect to the job. For many teachers it's the best part of the job. And it has been very challenging to convince teachers that they have a right to say 'no' (even for just week). Many feel that it just hurts the kids or makes their own life more difficult.

    Yet, what other ways can we get the public's attention? And support? Any ideas?

    I like MDUSDparents idea to be informed of activities that the teachers do via this site.

    Thank you to everyone who has read this long post. And thank you to everyone who supports both our teachers and our students.

  25. We as parents recognize that when MDEA speaks out that it is not always a reflection of the general membership. I for one do not judge teacher's based on their leadership, I hear good things and bad things from a variety of teacher's.

    About a year ago a group of parents who were trying to start the parcel tax met with Mr. Noce and a State level Teacher Union Rep. Both Teacher representatives said that teacher's would not support a parcel tax especially if it was tied to teacher salary and benefits. They suggested that the district should cut all extras (sports, music, etc) and give the teachers what they want. Then the community would probably support a parcel tax to get the programs back. I and many other parents took this as MDEA was NOT supportive of a parcel tax. As a parent I do not want to see extra's cut for teacher's. Plus many teacher's could lose their jobs because of such drastic cuts.What happens if a parcel tax still does not pass? Many students stay in school for those extra's and it gives them the incentive to keep up their studies. I fear that many more families will leave the district or leave for private school. Many of my students friends have done this.

    This appears to be a big commuication issue. The district needs a parcel tax to support its programs and its teacher's, like the surrounding districts. We should work together, instead it looks like a further divide is happenning. As a parent that is not what we want to see and hear.

  26. I will jump in on the parcel tax issue and MDEA. Bottom line, MDEA should support a parcel tax to pay for benefits and salaries (or anything else). The objections that MDEA had to the parcel tax really don't hold water. The two objections were that a parcel tax could end (and then the teachers could lose the salary or benefits) and that a parcel tax does not grow like the other revenues in the district (it also does not shrink at the will of the governor).

    The first objection does not fly because once the district agrees to an increase in teacher compensation, the district is contractually bound to pay it. If the revenues go away, then the district would be forced to cut programs to fund the teacher (and other employee) salaries and benefits. In essence, there is no difference in the impact if a parcel tax ended. Either way, programs get hit.

    Our polling showed the highest level of support for teacher compensation. This is an unusual result (usually voters won't support compensation), but I think it is a reflection of our community's awareness of our compensation problem.

    The second objection does not fly because parcel taxes can grow. They probably can't be tied to COLA, but they can grow at whatever rate the voters approve.

    It seems very short sighted to take away the purpose for the tax that has the highest support among voters. We should have had MDEA's support and we should have put the parcel tax on the June 3 ballot, but things just didn't work out and the support was not there.

    Maybe we should consider banding together and pushing for a parcel tax immediately to soften the blow of the governor's cuts.

  27. What would be the potential downside of pursuing a parcel tax too soon? How much would it cost? If we tried and failed would our second attempt be hurt or helped through the process of a failed first attempt? I know there has been a lot of talk about a parcel tax but what is actually happening right now?

  28. Linda,

    Depending on the timing of the attempt, it would cost the district between $500,000 and $1,000,000. We have to share in the cost of the election. The community group pushing the parcel tax would need to raise a minimum of $150,000 to fund the campaign.

    If we don't have the support of all of our employees (and I mean extremely active support, phone banking, walking neighborhoods, etc.), we don't have a good chance of getting it passed and the effort and dollars could be wasted.

    There are several schools of thought on the impact of losing a parcel tax effort on subsequent attempts. The effort certainly would provide additional education for the community, but we need to recognize that maintaining the employees' and volunteers' focus and dedication to the effort is difficult to do over a long period of time and the loss could certainly impact the level of excitement among these groups.

    I think we should consider going for an emergency parcel tax now. San Ramon is extending their parcel tax in June and using the state budget crisis as a selling point.

    I truly wish we had been able to pursue the parcel tax for June because I think it would have passed given the cuts to education at the state level, but we are where we are.

    Right now, there are many who believe that June 2009 is too early given the problems with our leadership, our split board and the lack of community support.

    I should mention that although it is very expensive to pay for the election, if we get a parcel tax of $200 per parcel, we would generate $14 million per year. Obviously the payoff is quite substantial.

  29. I don't know why my last comment was anonymous. I was logged in. That was me, however.

  30. What is the difference between an emergency parcel tax and a regular parcel tax? If we pursued an emergency parcel tax are we talking about the November election?

  31. It certainly seems that if ever there was an emergency it is now. Just look at the negotiation news. Possible strike looming after summer. And I've heard rumors it could be the first week of school... I dont' want to come home from vacation only to see our beloved teachers outside with signs.

  32. I think a parcel tax to secure specific items that are desired would be supported by the community, however asking for a parcel tax to pay for what can be considered "the basics" (employee compensation and benefits) is suspect. It raises the question of what poor decisions did this district make that prevented them from achieving the basics? Tax payers feel we have already paid for our district workers with our state and federal taxes. Leadership is certainly in question. How can we trust that our money will be spent wisely if we are asked to give MDUSD more $$? A true leader will steer us through this. This is clearly an opportunity, MDUSD!
    Rayna B.

  33. Rayna,

    I appreciate the sentiment, but your assertion assumes that funding is equal for all districts. Do you realize that in 05-06 (the latest analysis available), Mt. Diablo had the LOWEST per student funding in Contra Costa County? The main reason we struggle to provide competitive compensation is that we don't have enough revenue. Does this fact change your view?

    MDUSD's difficulties are compounded by declining enrollment. Our school district is largely built out and we are not adding a significant number of homes in this area (San Ramon is). I will paste here a write-up I did on declining enrollment:

    Anyone who has had a conversation about Mt. Diablo and Mt. Diablo’s revenue compared to other districts has probably heard that other surrounding districts (notably San Ramon) are increasing in enrollment, while Mt. Diablo is decreasing in enrollment. Setting aside the absolute revenue differences between the two districts, it would seem that the increase or decrease in enrollment would not impact the district’s ability to manage the district because less students equals less cost, so the lower enrollment and lower revenue would balance out. Although this sounds like the right answer, the facts are very different. In fact, declining enrollment has a huge impact on the district’s ability to compensate employees, fund programs and manage the district.

    Let's say the District lost 25 students all in the same grade and in the same school. The District would lose about $140,000 in revenue that accompanies those children. The district could then cut that class' teacher. But since no teacher makes $140,000, the District would have to cut about another $80,000 because of the lost revenue.

    Imagine the opposite effect this funding formula has on districts whose enrollments are growing. Using the same example, a district gaining 25 students receives $140,000 but only requires a third of that revenue to hire a teacher for those students.

    To further complicate this issue, imagine that the District loses 180 elementary school students in one year. If these students are equally distributed across grades, then the District would lose 30 students per grade. If they are equally distributed across the District’s 30 elementary schools, then there would be a loss of 1 student per grade, per school. There would be absolutely no reduction in costs (teachers, administrators, energy, transportation, food, etc. costs would be exactly the same), but the District would lose almost $1 million in revenue.

    The 2007-08 Adopted Budget projects a loss of 627 students, for a total revenue reduction of $3,466,512. This would reflect a loss of approximately 170 elementary students, 225 middle school students, and 232 high school students. These losses will, generally speaking, be spread out across the district. This would mean that that the District is losing about 1 student per grade, per school in elementary school, about 7.5 students per grade, per school in middle school, and about 10 students per grade, per school in high school. None of these losses are significant enough to reduce the number of teachers, staff or other costs in any given school. Although over time there may be some reduction in costs, this will not occur until more revenue is lost.

    Obviously, declining enrollment impacts the bottom line in a major way. As a result of declining enrollment and the overall lower levels of revenue that Mt. Diablo faces, Mt. Diablo must pursue alterative revenue sources such as a parcel tax.

    I hope this is helpful - there are huge inequities in school funding. The right thing to do is to change it at the state level, but I believe that changing the funding formulas significantly has little chance of success (there are too many haves compared to us have-nots).

    We need new leadership so that our community will provide a parcel tax.

  34. With so much declining enrollment, why haven't we closed any schools? Seems like that may save a lot of $$.

  35. Anon 6:28,

    Thanks for your question. There are several reasons why we have not closed schools.

    First, closing schools does not actually save much money. The vast majority of the cost of a school transfers with the students to whatever school they end up with. The teachers, assistants, etc. are still needed. Typically closing a school will increase transportation costs. As a result, the cost savings is really very minor.

    Second, over the past 10 years or so, the district (funded largely by restricted state dollars) has implemented class size reduction in a number of grades, particularly in elementary school. Class size reduction results in the use of more classrooms to support fewer students, making it impractical to close schools (you would need to build more classrooms at the school the students are transfered to).

    The only real "savings" comes as one-time money when the school is sold. That process is difficult to say the least and other governmental agencies have the right to purchase the property first, keeping the value down. In fact, we are still trying to sell property at the Oak Park Elementary School site, which closed decades ago.

    I hope this answers your question, let me know if you have others.

  36. Here's a general comment/question:

    As a MDUSD teacher, I have felt unappreciated, and in general, overlooked. Why is it that teachers in the district always have the feeling that the administration and the people in the Dent center are working AGAINST us? From the superintendent making derogatory comments, or just sitting there in board meetings looking like he would rather be somewhere else, to the countless mistakes and problems with paychecks and personnel issues. What can the board, teachers, or parents do to resolve such a huge issue? When people who work together have no trust, or respect for each other, things will never work out well for the organization. In my opinion, unless this issue is resolved, things will not improve over the long run.

  37. Anon 7:00 am

    The culture of this district is broken.

    The three major indicators of the health of a school's culture are collaboration, collegiality, and efficacy.

    1. COLLABORATION is characterized as the degree to which people work together, share information and instructional strategies, and are encouraged to have constructive discussions and debates.

    2. COLLEGIALITY is about a sense of belonging, emotional support, and inclusion as a valued member of the organization.

    3. EFFICACY, for the purpose of this process, tends to focus on how stakeholders' view themselves. Do they feel as if they have control of their destinies or do they view themselves as helpless victims of "the system?" Do they respect research-supported evidence about good teaching or are they rigidly attached to the status quo?

    These three indicators come from the Center for Improving School Culture web site. There are many publications that address the issue of school culture.

    In order for things to change you must have leadership that recognizes the problem, embraces the concept of school culture and has the courage and insight to lead the district through the changes that are necessary.

    In evaluating the leadership at MDUSD this mindset should, in my opinion, be a top priority.