Friday, May 29, 2009

Devastating cuts to begin at MDUSD - among other catastrophic cuts, closing schools is ON the list

So it begins, it is shocking to see what is on the proposed BUDGET CUT LIST. It is a sad day indeed. In addition to the things already cut and NOT returning, the next list is even more devastating and shocking.

Here is just a partial proposed cut list. There are a total of 41 items proposed to be cut. If you want to read all of it, please go to page 72 of the Agenda for June 2nd:

  • Eliminate class size reduction in 1-3 (third grade will be staffed at 30:1)
  • 5th grade Instrumental Music (now NO elementary instrumental AT ALL!)
  • Librarians for Middle and High (not sure how many, but libraries may have to close)
  • Close ALL remaining resource centers at the schools, eliminate resource teachers
  • Eliminate funding for the GATE science center
  • Eliminate 9th grade reduced class size (may go to 30.5:1)
  • Proposed 1% pay reduction to all employees

They aim to cut approximately 28 million over 3 years. They must submit a balanced budget by June 30th. Will you be at the next board meeting? Will you be caught off guard when there is no elementary music? What about if your school is on the closure list?

Sports gone. Librarians substantially effected and reduced in some cases. Summer School gone. Music in elementary gone. Resource centers gone. VP's gone. Campus supervisors gone. GATE science center gone. Class size reduction gone.

It surprises me that some who voted NO on Measure D are now surprised by these cuts. Unbelievable.



  1. Many people voted no on Measure D after reading uninformed comments from very negative people. If more people attended the board meetings and got involved, rather than just believe what they read on a blog, maybe Measure D would have passed. Those of us who have been truly paying attention, knew that passing Measure D was truly necessary and not some ploy or scare tactic by the district/board.

    Informed teacher in MDUSD

  2. Unbelievable is right. Which schools are on the cut list? I assume the smaller ones? Does anyone know?

  3. What can we do? Are there grants we can apply for? Can we propose that people who voted for Measure D still give their schools that money? I can't sit here and do nothing, but not sure what and where to start.

  4. I don't think there much that can be done now. Both the state propositions and Measure D had to pass to keep this from happening. It's too late now. Perhaps we could try to pressure the Republicans in the legislature to approve new taxes, but I think that would just be spitting into the wind. If I remember correctly, with the failure of the propositions, the tax increases that were approved will soon expire.

    Of course we can all donate our $99to the district or a particular school, but it will just be a drop in the bucket.

    The state has run off a cliff and there is no way to stop the fall.

  5. I think all we can do now is to support our schools, PTA's and PFC's the best we can. Of course as parents get stronger in some schools it will leave other schools completely destitute with no ability to supplement the programs many pfc/pta clubs can do. Maybe the higher performing and funded schools should think about 'adopt a school' programs and adopt one in their community less fortunate.

  6. The schools to be cut have not been named. I think the school board wants staff to come up with criteria to be used in determining which schools should be closed. I'm guessing it will be the smaller elementary schools.

  7. Anon 9:15 is right. Supporting your PTA or PFC is probably the best way to help your school.

  8. word on the street is the mt. diablo high will be closed and those kids will be bussed to Northgate. should be an interesting clash of "cultures". Good times eh?

  9. where can someone see the number of students at each school? What are the smallest elementary schools? Silverwood? Woodside? Holbrook or Sun Terrace? Anyone have ideas? We could get a rumor mill going anyway.. but I'd love some facts.

  10. No on D!

    No on D!

    No on D!

  11. I had been looking at that earlier - from Great Schools (I don't now an easy way to search on the district, though there might be). I'm sure the decision of which to close (if it happens) is not based just on enrollment. I'd imagine some schools have important programs and/or special ed programs that would be hard to move or replace. But, not sure.

    Ayers 404
    Cambridge 676
    El Monte 463
    Highlands 708
    Holbrook 468
    Meadow Homes 846
    Monte Gardens 586
    Mountain View 409
    Silverwood 411
    Sun Terrace 566
    Westwood 383
    Woodside 485
    Wren 359
    Ygnacio Valley 510

    Mt. Diablo Elem 841

    Walnut Acres 682
    Bancroft 403
    Valle Verde 546

    Pleasant Hill Elem 606
    Fair Oaks 350
    Gregory Gardens 456
    Sequoia Elem 602
    Strandwood 542
    Valhalla 510

    Hidden Valley 680

    Bel Air 462
    Rio Vista 428
    Shore Acres 531
    Delta View 585

  12. I would think the board would also have to take into account the neighboring schools that would have to absord the students. Some are probably already full while others have room.

  13. No, they're not closing Mt. Diablo. It's two elementary schools.

  14. and they'll have to temper the cost of closing with the cost of absorption of those students and need for staff and facilities. It may end up being a wash.. but I guess we'll find out more later.

  15. I don't believe that school closures can actually happen in the 09-10 school year. There are certain legal requirements and hearings that must be held. They may discuss this at the June 2 meeting, and decide to close schools for the following year, but I don't think it will/can happen next year.
    but don't think that's the end. The cuts coming are going to hurt. They will hurt students first, their parents, teachers, and even local businesses and homeowners.

    If it's not reading, math, science, history, or p.e. related, it might be cut.

    I've been told that there are many factors that are used to decide which schools to close. Student population, physical size, age of the campus, district boundaries (who goes to which high school, etc...)

    My guess would be that Wren and/or Westwood would be a good choice. These are both small in population, and their students could be sent to other elementaries fairly easily. they are both small schools, and are both very old as well. Westwood could be used as an extension of the El Dorado campus too, and then there wouldn't be little kids in the high school area as well.

  16. I also posted my comment on the mdusd blog. On the potential budget reductions list for June 2, I'm wondering who has recommended the cuts that ARE being recommended. Then take a look at the wording of proposed (but not recommended) cuts that have to do with administration? All those items would have "severe and detrimental" results according to the list. Class size reduction doesn't seem to have detrimental results....according to this list. That doesn't make any sense to me.

  17. Well believe whatever you want to, but I heard the Mt. Diablo is shutting down and its students will go to Northgate.

  18. It's not good that any school closes but wouldn't it be classic if Mount closes and the kids actually go to Northgate. Ironic because back in the day the uppedy ups with money opened Northgate and Pleasant Hill High School had to close. If you know your local history you would know that Mount wasn't always a bad school. It had a lot of tradition. But then some schools closed in West Pitt and kids were sent to Mount and problems started. Unfortunately they would never let students from Mt. D go to Northagte. Money talks and face it, Northgate/ Foothill/ Diablo View/Mt.Diablo Elementary are like private schools. They don't have to deal with the problems that the other schools have and they have the money/power to keep it that way.

  19. Are there going to be cuts in the District office? Hopefully some curriculum specialists. There's a lot of fat that can be trimmed there. How about the maintance people and I'm not talking about custodians because they work their butts off. I'm talking about the guys that show up to a school around 8am and sit in the truck for almost 30 min. before getting out of the truck, only to look at something and "oh I must of forgot a tool" and leave for an hour or so and then come back to the school, sit in the truck for awhile to take a break, and do nothing. I love it when 4 guys show up (all in seperate trucks) and they stare at the grass or open a electronic sprinkler box and stare at that for awhile.

    What's up with the Willow Creek Center? Do we really need that place? Is it more important to keep that place up and running while they are cutting programs that will hurt our kids at actual school sites or even close schools?

    Why are we paying administrators and teachers to go to these conferences? Do we have the luxary to do that right now? Not only that but we have to pay for subs when the teachers are gone and there's not enough subs so teachers HAVE to cover during their prep period.

    I voted for Measure D but I can see why people voted against it. There's no trust because there has been a lot of mismanagement. Thank goodness we got a new school board and got rid of that vampire McHenry (who we still are paying his salary). We should legally go after him for all the shady stuff he's pulled so we don't have to pay him anymore (and those damn board members who actually supported him).

    There's a lot of cuts that are hurting kids and teachers and it's just getting worse. Let's start cutting things that are far away from the kids and teachers.

  20. I can't believe someone is trying to blame the current budget situation on Gary McHenry. This is not his fault or the fault of the board.

    Had the teacher's union not been so intent on getting rid of McHenry and deciding to show their dislike by not supporting the original parcel tax a few years ago, that tax most likely would have passed.

    If you want to blame McHenry, then you need to also hold the MDEA leadership accountable.

    Regardless of what the superintendent, board members, and MDEA leadership did or did not do, the majority of this current situation is due to the State of California's budget.

  21. 12:29
    I know we are all tired of hearing Gary McHenry's name, I am for one. But you better know right now that the union was not the ones spending money in this district. They were there to represent the teachers and their salaries. That's it. This district is one of the lowest paying districts and the union had every right to represent their teachers. Certainly no one else in the district will.
    The union did not hire the overload of administration, the superintendant's council, or the many rediculous programs and ideas shoved down teachers throats over the last 10 years by people trying to justify their jobs. The union had no control over the waist that has gone on over there. Please, try to blame someone else who at least had a hand in the mess that has been created. The union is not big on my list either, but give me a break. McHenry was the captain of the ship, he's the one who takes responsibilty and goes down with the ship, oh wait, he jumped ship didn't he?

  22. I no longer have children in MDUSD. But it really has irked me that in spite of everything that went on, NO ONE is being held responsible. This might have gone a long way in getting Measure D to pass. I supported it though, because I have so many friends who have small children in this district. And our kids shouldn't suffer for other's mistakes. Also, have we cut the fat at the administrative the top best we can? Or are a bunch of overpaid secretaries still drawing their exhorbitant (sic) salaries and now the best we can come up with is closing down elementary schools?

  23. Anon 12:29

    McHenry DID NOT jump ship. If you want to use the ship as a metaphor, He was pretty much pushed overboard and very strongly asked to leave.

  24. MDUSD will accept your $99 tax deductible donation, despite the loss of Measure D: .

  25. I am disgusted. I am thinking I need to get my teaching credentials and teach my kids at home.

  26. I grew up in southern Louisiana (49th in the nation at that time, with only MS being worse in education), in rooms without A/C - only fans - and with always more than 30 kids in a class (usually 32-34).

    Still, me and my running buddies went on to be corporate lawyers, doctors, and more.

    We had PE, band, drama, and other extras.

    What has failed us between then and now?

    How has the educational system (not the teachers, not the classrooms, but the surrounding system and methodologies) gone on to be so crippled? Don't we have more electronic aids, more educational research and understanding into teaching methods, and more (I think) parent concern about what kids are learning?

    Is the answer really throwing more money at it? I don't think so. I think that the answer is partly in the administration, partly in the classroom, and partly in our homes.

  27. Note to person who wants to homeschool - you do NOT need a teaching credential to teach your own children at home.

  28. Remember, "Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair". Teaching you teachers to tighten your belt will be great for everyone in the long run.

  29. I have stated many times that at this point a radical change to education is required. No more is the old model of districts and top down school managment able to work. There is no valid reason why several levels of mgmt can be removed from local to county districts, streamline schools to act as their own authority with a parent faculty council - they do this to some degree already. At most sites the principals can go - it is the office staff and teachers who make sites work. Teachers can rotate the role of principal to offset local issues. It is time for change and as the board agenda shows there will be lots and lots of bleeding. Instead of crying about the death of the old way, why not develop a plan for the future. Change is good.

  30. Misterwriter,
    I can not agree more with your statement that it is time for radical changes to education however leadership by committee (rotating teachers as principal) rarely works. I do believe it is time to decentralize school districts and put the decision making and power at the site. It is time to rid this district of a teacher's union that protects the weakest teachers, lays off the youngest, and breeds mediocrity through an antiquated protectionist system called tenure.

    Educators must realize that student's needs for the future have dramatically changed in the last five years. The kids growing up today use technology that will continue to change their lives in ways we can't comprehend. We need to educate these kids using this technology in way that shares our most valuable resources... a teacher that motivates, inspires, mentors, and tutors. The old ways of instruction and assessments in a bricks and mortar classroom must be reevaluated, there are better options that can reach more students, less expensively, and with greater individual attention.

    MIT has changed their entire teaching structure to include podcast lectures (reaching many students) and small group discussions. They found student success rose 50%.

    Why aren't we aligning bell schedules in high schools? Why aren't we using technology to offer classes across school sites? Why are we duplicating efforts at every school site and struggling to provide classes that are desired by a student but where the interest isn't high enough at every individual school site to offer that class? We could do so much better by our students and for less money. This district needs to think outside the box...soon.

  31. I wanted to ensure that I answered some of the reoccurring questions that are out there.

    Just so we are all on the same page, MDUSD has cut $30 million in two years – 35% of these cuts were made at non school sites. The project is that we will now be making another $28 million in cuts over the next three years. This is a little more than $9 million per year. State funding levels are expected to drop to 06/07 school year level and not increase until 13/14 school year.

    Now to answer some of the prevailing questions I have read and been receiving:
    • Willow Creek maintains minimal staff. However, it is also home to Diablo Day School
    • The federal stimulus money is included in our budget. At this point we are not yet sure what cuts the state will continue to make in the education budget.
    • Giving salary cuts to MDUSD employees is difficult, especially given that we are at the bottom of the total compensation package compared to many of the surrounding districts
    • Using technology to reach our students would be great – however, we cut the technology budget in March and the bare bones staff we have will be busy keeping our student information system and special education system up and running for staff and parents. Also for those suggesting students can study from home, we have to look holistically at access issues for them.
    • All high school classes must have at least 20 students enrolled in order to maintain the class. If an elective does not have at 20 in the class, it is not offered. Several of our high schools have asked that students list several electives so that they can get into one that they have selected.
    • Athletics is being voted on as a pay to play on Tuesday.
    • Eliminating Class size reductions are tough because I have read the studies that show the increase in student learning. However, when we look at next year having sustainable cuts of $39 million, there are not many places to look.
    • Administrators to student ratios. The state suggests 8 administrators for every 100 students. Our current level is 4.2 administrators to 100 students.
    • Pink slips – this is part of our bargaining unit contracts. If staff is unhappy with the process, I suggest they bring it to their bargaining unit.

  32. Anon 8:33

    Don't your last two paragraphs argue AGAINST local site management? Wouldn't aligning bell schedules be more difficult with local management? You question why we are duplicating efforts at schools sites in an attempt to offer classes where not many students are interested. Wouldn't the effort to provide a technology-based solution be a district-level endeavor? I would think technology as a whole is something that could be addressed much more economically at the district level rather than having each site try to reinvent the wheel.

  33. Dmax, I grew up in the south, too. The way my district managed to provide us with a good education with minimal money was by running a "separate but equal" segregated school district. Blacks had a separate school system that was given minimal money by the district. The white system was given the bulk of the money. So yes, we had it relatively good, but only because others had it much worse.

  34. Sherry,
    Your answer to the question specifically regarding technology is coming from "within the box". If MDUSD continues to look at cuts without reform and innovation, eventually you won't be able to pay for anything. The cuts you are making now WILL affect ADA.

  35. Anon 12:34: What is your "outside the box" solution for using technology without spending any money on it? Hardware costs money. Software costs money. IT professionals cost money. The district has no money.

  36. When is the vote for measure D again? I want to make sure I support the children by making my Yes vote count.


  37. Has there been an outside audit of the School District in the past three years? Budgets are great, but they are really just estimates and guesses. Have our actuals in the past few years been legit? Another question is where will the $99 really go and who will manage the Play to Pay funds. I am not comfortable continuing to give money to anyone without seeing the results with my own eyes in a manner that I can understand and trust.

  38. Anon 4:57,

    There is an "outside" audit of the school district each and every year. The books of a school district are audited more thoroughly and by more entities than most books.

    To the comments indicating that Mt. Diablo High School will close are inaccurate. I have heard no such thing.