Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Superintendent Monday Memos & PAC

Some people have asked about this at the last couple of meetings. The MDUSD Superintendent's office puts out a weekly Monday Memo, you can find it here:

And, at the last few meetings there has been discussion about the Parent Advisory Council, you can read those meeting minutes here:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Clayton Valley Community Meeting Recap

The community meeting tonight was interesting. Far fewer parents than I thought I'd see, though I did see a couple of PFC Presidents and several teachers. There weren't any questions submitted before hand, so we were all able to write our questions on paper and submit them in order that they be answered by one of the several administrators present.

Questions were varied... many questions about discipline and safety including discussion about suspension, expulsion, bullying, threats and fights. There were questions about teacher compensation, benefits, discipline (teacher), the process of considering a parcel tax, student supervision, kindergarten class size changes, substitutes, the lottery money, technology, connect-ed, budget cuts, thefts on campus, library and even a transgender issue. (there were probably more, but I wasn't taking notes)

The question that Mr. Writer posed on his blog, was asked, well, by him.

What will it take for the MDUSD Board of Education to determine what the majority of stakeholders want as far as the future of the Superintendent? What kind of information will convince one side or the other to alter their viewpoint?

It was saved for last . . . I almost couldn't wait for it. Andre' will post the audio tomorrow and you can see what you think. April Treece was selected to answer this particular question, so ....

I did have a nice talk with Board of Education VP, Dick Allen, outside at the end of the meeting. I have to say, he is a very, very nice man, and it seems his heart is in the right place. He and the other board members need to hear from you if you are not happy with the status quo. If the last two meetings at Rocco's showed anything, it showed there is a lot of unrest and dissatisfaction with the administration and fear for the future of this district. So why aren't parents coming to these meetings in droves?

Are you writing to the board members or to the administration? Here are at least three Administrators you can write to:

Superintendent Gary McHenry (925-682-8000, x4009;(
Associate Superintendent-Educational Services Alan Young (
Assistant Superintendent-Elementary Education Roger Bylund (

Meeting Tonight 7pm at Pine Hollow

Clayton Valley High Feeder Pattern Community meeting is tonight (Tuesday 4/29) at 7pm at Pine Hollow Middle School.

Interestingly, the district does not have a formal agenda at this time as they did not receive any advance questions. Does the community really have no questions?

They will, however, be accepting written questions at the meeting so its not too late.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Meeting REMINDER Tuesday 4/29

Certainly this has been an exciting last couple of weeks. I want to thank April Treece and Dick Allen for attending yesterday's meeting at Rocco's. Clearly there are many opinions on the outcome of the meeting, but I was glad they came. I think our district needs to continue this open dialogue with parents, teachers, the community - and I hope they do.

To that end, the next community meeting is coming:

Tuesday, April 29th /7pm at Pine Hollow Middle School

Remember, you can submit questions for these community meetings ahead of time, or you can bring up questions at the meeting. Here is the information I received on submitting your questions:

  1. Parent leaders at the schools
  2. Superintendent Gary McHenry (925-682-8000, x4009;(
  3. Associate Superintendent-Educational Services Alan Young (
  4. Assistant Superintendent-Elementary Education Roger Bylund

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Meeting RECAP

Were you one of 40+/- attendees today? I want to hear from you all in attendance. What did you think ? Did you feel your questions were answered? Your concerns heard? What were your feelings and thoughts as you came away from the meeting today. What are the next steps toward positive change in this district in your opinion?

Update: Andre Gensburger has added the audio of today's meeting onto his blogsite:

Update 2: Andre Gensburger has posted an excellent piece about the meeting today at his site:

This meeting was a tough one to recap as the questions were flying and emotionally charged at times. There was a lot of verbiage in the answers, but not always alot of substance (in my opinion) and in many cases there was no answer within the dialogue. I know I left with more questions leaving than I did coming in. There were many teachers today with a lot of common concerns, there were many questions about the budget, the process, the Superintendent and his role, etc. ...

Friday, April 25, 2008


Don't forget! April Treece (President of the Mt. Diablo Board of Education) and Dick Allen (Vice President of the Mt. Diablo Board of Education) will be present for an informal Q&A / community forum SATURDAY, APRIL 26th starting at 9:30am at Rocco's Pizzeria on Ygnacio Valley Road and Oak Grove Road. They'll be on hand to answer your questions and concerns about our district. Come, bring your honesty, your curiosity and your questions.

Clayton Valley High School Feeder Pattern Community Meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 29th starting at 7pm at Pine Hollow Middle School. You may submit your questions in advance to any of the following:

  1. Parent leaders at the schools
  2. Superintendent Gary McHenry (925-682-8000, x4009;(
  3. Associate Superintendent-Educational Services Alan Young (
  4. Assistant Superintendent-Elementary Education Roger Bylund

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The coverage is everywhere on this . . .

There is coverage everywhere about the budget mess of MDUSD and the recent quote by our Superintendent that he has ". . . no active role in budget development." Well, all except for any coverage at the Times. The Contra Costa Times reported about the fence at Mt. Diablo High School and talked about the backtracking of some layoffs, but that's all that we could find this week other than in Jackie Burrell's aPARENTly Speaking Blog.

We could however find much coverage about the recent district events in other publications and all over cyberspace, so read up:

Mr. Writer Lives - Northgate Blog to McHenry: its time to go!

MDUSD Blog - Budget, Budget, Budget, Who's in Charge of the Budget?

Mr. Writer Lives: MDUSD Looking for the person responsible for being responsible for the budget

Northgate High School Blog - No Accountability! Then No Confidence! "It is time for the Superintendent to go." - MDUSD Grills Their Superintendent

Clayton Pioneer - Parents Drive MDUSD Changes

aPARENTly Speaking - Mt D Parent Meetings this week KPIX Eye on Blogs: Quote of the Day (April 23)

Halfway to Concord - Who's in Charge of the MDUSD Budget?

Patagonia Finance Mike's Mortgage Minute: Mt. Diablo School District

If you feel that the board majority should be asking tougher questions and for some accountability, tell them:

Email each of the board members directly, or click here for more info: - Linda Mayo - April Treece (President, Mt. Diablo Board of Education) - Dick Allen (Vice President, Mt. Diablo Board of Education)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"... I don’t have an actual role in budget development.”

Yes, those words were spoken last night at the MDUSD Board Meeting by our MDUSD Superintendent.. the guy in charge... the man at the top. What? If I hadn't heard it with my own ears, I might have thought "no way." But I did hear it, I listened live on KVHS last night. Who are the people that say "let's all just get along?" Can we really? If the Superintendent has no role in the budget, the fiscal oversight of our district, what is his role? I want you to read more about this at the MDUSD BLOG and comment there. is also covering this. This is a biggie folks. If you didn't realize yet we have a problem, it should be clear now. I'm also hopeful that there is an audio file available for this exchange as you will find it as unbelievable as I did.

I sure hope you'll be at the meeting on Saturday with April Treece and Dick Allen. Certainly we need to hear their thoughts. By reading the MDUSD blog, we'll know Paul Strange and Gary Eberhart's thoughts. But is the board majority letting this slide? Are they asking the tough questions? Come Saturday and find out.

Update: Audio now available - for this exchange, check about 90 minutes into the meeting (the budget discussions start at about 1 hour 25 mins in):

Teachers DO deserve a fair wage

There are many parents out there not realizing what is going on behind the scenes or that our teachers have been without a contract since last year. The teachers in the MDUSD are the absolute best and certainly deserve a fair wage. We would all hate to lose our favorite teachers to neighboring districts. The District teacher appreciation event is coming, and there is discussion of that on Andre' Gensurger's blog. I know personally that at the schools my children have attended, Teacher Appreciation Week was one of the most exciting weeks all year. We love our teachers and hope there will be a successful resolution soon!
Teachers, what can parents do to support you during this time?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

MDUSD Board Meeting tonight

MDUSD Board Meeting tonight, Tuesday, April 22nd
You can read about the meeting and agenda at the site. If you can't make it to the meeting, you can also listen to the board meeting at KVHS 90.5 live on the internet, or on your radio of course.

Upcoming Meeting Reminders:
Saturday, April 26 at Rocco's 9:30am meeting with April Treece and Dick Allen

Tuesday, April 29 at Pine Hollow Middle School COMMUNITY MEETING for the Clayton Valley Feeder Pattern 7pm.

(if you are a Clayton parent and wish to meet in person before the Community Meeting with a couple of board members to learn more about the issues facing the schools, the call for change, budget and/or fiscal matters of the district, let us know and we'll set it up: emailto: )

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Two more Board Members to meet - This Saturday

We have April Treece and Dick Allen confirmed for a Saturday meeting, April 26th starting at 9:30am. Like the meeting last weekend with Paul Strange and Gary Eberhart, this too is scheduled at Rocco's Restaurant at Ygnacio and Oak Grove. Thanks Rocco.

Over 85% of the over 40 respondents to the poll that was posted here said they'd want to attend this meeting. So hope we have a good turn out.

I encourage everyone to attend. It was clear at last Saturday's meeting that there are many issues at the district, and many of you asked questions about accountability, mistakes, budgeting, future planning, teacher negotiations and overall, who's watching the coop? Some noted that at least one of the board members coming this time has been defensive in the past when asked questions about accountability and the leadership of Gary McHenry. Some noted "blind devotion" to the Superintendent. What will we learn next weekend? I hope you will be there.

My invitation to attend this open forum/Q&A was accepted without any conditions. I described the open forum feeling of the last meeting and expressed my desire for a similar format. They have agreed. To be fair, Linda Mayo can not attend with the other two attending due to rules of the board. Linda Mayo did respond to me after Ms. Treece and Mr. Allen had accepted my invitation to meet.

If you can not attend this meeting, please send questions to I will ask them for you and I will post a recap of the meeting like I did last week. What will you want to know from these board members?

Andre Gensburger has also posed the same suggestion on his blog, you can send him questions to be asked too if you can not attend.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Agenda for Tonight is Available - MDUSD Community Meeting

Sue Berg of Superintendent Gary McHenry's office, has provided me with an advance copy of the AGENDA FOR TONIGHT'S MEETING AT OAK GROVE MIDDLE SCHOOL 7pm.

Hope you will all be there. Also, if you submitted a question to be asked at tonight's meeting, it is hopefuly on the agenda. If not, please note Ms. Berg's explanation of the goal of these meetings (the underlined emphasis below is mine):

"Interestingly, Superintendent McHenry initially set up these six community meetings to be an open format, with parents bringing their questions and concerns to the session. In meeting with his Parent Advisory Counsel (a group of reps from District schools that meets with him once a month), the parents strongly encouraged him to let parents suggest topics ahead of time. Knowing what was on the agenda, they reasoned, would make them more interested in attending. Even with topics suggested beforehand, participants at the meetings are able to bring up any topic they wish."

Also, for future meetings, please note the following information from Linda Mayo, MDUSD School Board Member who did write today:

"Questions and suggestions for the meetings may be directed to parent leaders at the schools or to Superintendent Gary McHenry (925-682-8000, x4009;(, Associate Superintendent-Educational Services Alan Young (, or Assistant Superintendent-Elementary Education Roger Bylund ( Information gathered at these sessions will help in the District's continuing efforts to improve education programs and services for students."

We look forward to hearing your feedback after the meeting tonight.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Reminder: Community Meeting and Update: MDUSD Board

Reminder of the MDUSD Community Meeting tomorrow night (Thursday night, April 17th) for the Ygnacio Valley High feeder pattern - but all are welcome! It is at Oak Grove Middle School starting at 7pm. Even if you don't want to speak yet at a meeting, we need to start showing up. Only 30'ish parents or community members were present at the last meeting at Foothill. So we hope to see you *all* there! Parents need to start being visible. If parents don't come, the district may begin to feel we don't care.. or that we're satisfied with the status quo? Are you?

Also, as a follow up to the meeting we're hoping to have with 2 of the other MDUSD School Board Members.... I have committments from both April Treece and Dick Allen at this time. I never heard from Linda Mayo. We are trying for a similar time and day (Saturday morning), so stay tuned, details will be coming in the next day or so.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another Opportunity with MDUSD Board Members

Paul Strange and Gary Eberhart will be present at another parent led gathering of concerned community members within our district.

From their MDUSD Blog:

"A parent has set up another meeting in Pleasant Hill. We will once again be answering questions posed by attendees and we will also be discussing the need for change in MDUSD. "

From the organizer:

The meeting will be held:
Monday, April 21
7:00 - 9:00 PM
First Christian Church
2115 Pleasant Hill Road
Pleasant Hill

Please come and ask questions about:
  • Why Eberhart, Strange, and others are seeking positive changes in MDUSD culture
  • The effect of State budget cuts on MDUSD
  • MDUSD's recent fiscal missteps
  • A possible attempt to launch a parcel tax campaign in 2009
  • Any other topics you might want to discuss

The church is on Pleasant Hill Road between the Gregory Lane/PH Road intersection and Pleasant Hill Elementary.

Please note: no food or drink is allowed into the sanctuary where we will be meeting.

Anyone who lives within the MDUSD boundaries is welcome. I hope you and your friends/neighbors can attend.


Will you be attending?

Calling MDUSD Board Members...

I invited April Treece, Dick Allen and Linda Mayo to schedule a sit down with parents and the community much like we had with Gary Eberhart and Paul Strange on Saturday at Rocco's. So far, no response. (I have however heard from Sue Berg, from the Superintendent's office.) So I've added a poll - see the side bar to the right . . .

Many told me they wanted equal time with the other board members, to pose the same questions, and to air the same concerns that were answered by the two board members in attendance on Saturday.

Update Tuesday 3:20pm. I have now heard from both April Treece and Dick Allen. Both have said they are willing to meet with parents and the community in an informal open forum discussion like we were able to have last Saturday with Gary Eberhart and Paul Strange. Stay tuned for details.

Here is board contact information here:

Folks, they need to hear from us if we want any change . . .

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Letter Writing Campaign Monday April 14th

from the MDUSD blog:

Mount Diablo Unified School District Parents for Progress is sponsoring a letter-writing campaign on Monday, April 14 in the Monte Gardens Elementary School library (3841 Larkspur Drive in Concord, off of Willow Pass and Landana).

Come to the MG library any time between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. to learn more about state budget cuts that will impact our School District, and personalize a template letter from you to our Governor and State Senators, letting them know how important it is to fully fund education in California. We'll help you personalize the letter, print it and address it for you! Just bring a few stamps. We hope to see you there - every letter will make a difference.


Recap of the meeting April 12th

Well, if the thank you's I received after the meeting were any indication, I'd say our informal Q&A time at Rocco's was well spent. There were parents there who, until recently, had no idea anything was amiss in the district. Present at the meeting, was representation of every single high school feeder pattern in our district - over 40 parents, teachers and concerned community members were in attendance and filled just about every seat in the room.

There was frank and open discussion about a myriad of issues. From teacher contract negotiations, staffing at schools, budget cuts, boundary lines, fiscal matters, morale, testing, budget concerns, strategic planning to the parcel tax, district culture, compliance issues, management style and more.

But you'll see from the list below, there was no shortage of topics, and no topic was off limits:

  1. Reminder of the feeder pattern meetings and that all should attend.
  2. General consensus that the problems at the district need to be addressed honestly and openly. Parents are tired of hearing the cheerleeding at the community meetings. We need an action plan to real change and recovery.
  3. General discussion that the board needs to listen to the community. The distrust is growing .
  4. Question was asked about the top level of management, and how much of the budget goes toward the administration at the Dent Center. (Answer was that about 8% of our personnel goes to administration which includes admin at dent, student services, principals, vice principals, maintenance, etc and that 43% went to teachers).
  5. Noted that there are about 50 people at the Dent Center, and that comparing to other districts we do have a lower percentage of administrative costs overall.
  6. Question about why there are so many administrators at some school sites with the lesser enrollment?
  7. Some discussion about categorical monies coming in and a chunk of money approved at the district level 2 years ago so that some of the underperforming schools could make local decisions. Those monies have now been cut due to budget constraints.
  8. Gary Eberhart noted that they need to look at the expenditure priorities. That McHenry provides a list of cuts to choose from. That there is no ability for the board to look at other options and that process takes the ability to prioritize and provide input away from the board, and thus, the community.
  9. Question that since we are a declining enrollment district, why do we now have so many more Associate and Assistant Superintendents than we did with much higher enrollment?
  10. Question and discussion of the compliance issues.
  11. There are 7 board contracted employees plus general counsel. The issue may not be are we top heavy, but rather are the people in those positions effective at their positions?
  12. Comment that the curriculum folks at the district are out of touch and that maybe instead teachers could be used on special assignment?
  13. Need to leverage any categorical monies in a better way, i.e. library, etc.
  14. Question about why there is a general counsel on staff and then still paying outside counsel.
  15. Why is there a separate attorney for teacher negotiations? And why must there be an attorney present at every sit down meeting? Difficult to schedule and creates an adversarial climate.
  16. Teachers have not had a contract since July 2007. There is a need to just sit down and talk, an attorney doesn't always need to present. Opinion was that if there were 3-4 sit down meetings with an open and honest discussion, negotiations may have been done by now.
  17. Teacher average experience in our district has now dropped below county average.
  18. There is a fundamental lack of support for teachers. Need to sit and agree to what to strive for. First step, open and honest communication.
  19. Questions about credit to McHenry and the top administration for making schools distinguished. Attendees felt it was the teachers, students and parents that make the schools distinguished, and frankly became distinguished despite McHenry and the upper level administration, not because of it.
  20. Concerns of non supportive principals. Concerns of principals just reciting the district party line. General lack of support at some school sites.
  21. Paul Strange noted that we must recognize we have a revenue problem. The goal needs to be more revenue, and we must fix that.
  22. In discussion of a specific IEP incident a high school, it was again reiterated that there is a fundamental problem with how the district handles legal counsel.
  23. Concern of the near/approx 9 million dollar ending fund balance, and that McHenry will spend that money on non-teacher issues given he spent money on a multi-million dollar communication system that was not supported by many.
  24. General comment: What good is anything without teachers?
  25. There is a non collaborative management style at the district.
  26. Parents voiced their distrust of McHenry's handling of any parcel tax and that they would not support any parcel tax with McHenry as Superintendent.
  27. Discussion of a possible parent led no confidence petition drive
  28. Discussion of the MDUSD schools in Walnut Creek petition to move to the Walnut Creek School District.
  29. The larger issues were discussed as to what got those parents to this point in the first place and the general problems at Northgate and the district level that led to the unrest.
  30. Also, discussion of the past Crystyl Ranch permanent decision to attend Northgate.
  31. Discussion about the 2 open board positions in November and resounding agreement amongst attendees that the board members need to listen to their community. Some cited instances of defensiveness when talking to one of the board members not in attendance. Some noted blind devotion for McHenry. The attendees were reminded that until these board members hear from us, nothing will change. It was stated that this may well be one of the most important board elections in years.
  32. Board members have had to write public request letters just to get information that should be available to them.
  33. Board members have requested, but have not yet seen the full, complete budget.
  34. General discussion of some public show of support to our teachers on May 14th. Wearing a certain color was discussed, and walking out was mentioned by one attendee. (if I hear any more details on this I'll be sure to post it)

So, as you can see, this meeting was well rounded, and certainly spirited at times. It showed there are real issues that are not going to go away any time soon, and certainly aren't going to go away by hushing the only 2 board members with children in our school district. I did find that fascinating... that the only 2 board members bringing any of this to our attention, and willing to discuss with us openly, are the 2 with children attending our schools.

My next invitation for a meeting will be to the three other board members, I understand due to some rules they may not all 3 be able to attend, but I (personally) would appreciate hearing their side of the issues and their plan of action for our district looking forward. I'll keep you all posted on that. April, Dick, Linda... please email me with your availability to meet, and I'll be emailing you shortly.

Andre' Gensburger, local writer, journalist, blogger and Clayton Pioneer contributor was in attendance and took copious notes and some photos. See his blog entry about this meeting here:

Stay tuned...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Parent Open Forum/Meeting: April 12th

You are invited:

In anticipation of the upcoming community meetings, come join other parents, community members and our special guests, Paul Strange and Gary Eberhart, (MDUSD Board Members) to ask questions, get information and develop questions to ask at the upcoming MDUSD community meetings.

Saturday, April 12th
10am - 11:30am

Rocco's Ristorante and Pizzeria
2909 Ygnacio Valley Road
Walnut Creek, CA

If you are a MDUSD parent, or concerned community member, this meeting is for you. Ask your candid questions of two MDUSD Board Members, Gary Eberhart and Paul Strange. Want to get involved in the push for change at the district, now is the time to find out how. Have questions about the budget cuts and how it will impact your students and their schools? Come ask. What about the parcel tax? The fiscal concerns? The teacher contract negotiations? Gary and Paul will do their best to field our questions and to tell us more about how we can push for change. Come to gain the knowledge you need to frame your questions and concerns at the public community meetings. We need to rally now for the change needed to push our district forward, toward an optimistic future.

There are still three community meetings coming soon.

Ygnacio Valley HS area: Thursday, April 17th at Oak Grove Middle, 7pm
Clayton Valley HS area: Tuesday, April 29th at Pine Hollow Middle, 7pm
Mt. Diablo HS area: Tuesday, May 6th at Mt. Diablo High School, 7pm

For more information on the district and on the past community and board meetings, please see the MDUSD blog: for up to the minute information and news.

So that we may assure space for everyone coming, you may RSVP to the parent coordinator for this event. All are welcome, even if you don't RSVP, just come:

Please feel free to forward this invitation to your fellow district parents, teachers, friends and family.