Monday, November 30, 2009

MDUSD Parcel Tax Community Meeting

Interested in the next MDUSD Parcel Tax effort? Attend the "Local School Community Meeting" coming up on Monday, December 14th. At this meeting, you'll hear the results of a recent community polling effort as well as learn how you can help.

Each school Principal has been invited. They have each been asked to bring a parent rep and a teacher rep... if you are interested in this renewed push for funding for our local schools, please talk to your Principal and plan to attend and help the effort at your school. EVERYONE is welcome!

Local School Community Meeting

Monday, December 14, 2009 at 7pm

Willow Creek Center, 1026 Mohr Lane, Concord

Monday, November 16, 2009

MDUSD Board Meeting Tuesday 11/17 7:30pm

Here is the agenda for Tuesday's board meeting.

And a recap from Theresa Harrington of the CCTimes as to the "hot topics" to be discussed tonight. Mt. Diablo School Board to Vote on Staff Changes, Propose No Teacher Pay Increase through 2013.

Revealed in the last couple of weeks are three major Dent Center retirements including our Interim Superintendent, Richard Nicoll (which we knew), an Associate Superintendent Alan Young, and the Assistant Superintendent in charge of Personnel, Gail Isserman.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

MDUSD makes it tough for volunteers

So, we have increased class sizes, budget cuts, decreases in everything from support and aides to supplies and cleaning. NOW we have a shortage of volunteers? Why you ask? Well, because a district policy that has been in place for years, has now taken a new turn.

If you read in the
CC Times article today, you'll see that Times writer, Theresa Harrington, wrote about something many of us already knew. The district fingerprinting process is in crisis. Personally, I've volunteered in this district for 10 years and have never been pressured to be fingerprinted. The article even notes that in supervised conditions (i.e. working in a classroom, library or on a field trip), you could volunteer without the need to fingerprint. It was only the "extended contact" volunteers that needed to be printed.

Perhaps among school sites, it was also a "don't ask , don't tell" policy? Not sure. But now, in the midst of the biggest education fiscal disaster ever, they are making it harder than ever for parents to volunteer.

The article notes that schools are having to actually cancel field trips as parents can not get fingerprinted in time. They are now said to be booking fingerprint appointments into February. Imagine that? Parents can not even accompany their own student(s) on a field trip where there is teacher supervision. Unbelieveable isn't it?

And, ummm, Greg Rolen, seriously? Did he really say this (courtesy of CCTimes)?

Greg Rolen, the district's general counsel, said the stricter rules help ensure the safety of students because the district now has criminal background checks done by the state Department of Justice for all volunteers. But he did not bring the changes to the board for a public discussion and said he was not sure what was causing the backlog.

So Mr. Rolen, on his own (?) , enacts a stricter policy, doesn't even bring it to the board and actually WONDERS why this is causing a backlog? I'm sorry, I do like Mr. Rolen... but this must have been taken out of context. Parents want to volunteer. Schools need volunteers. You've got what? Over 30,000 students? With what? Upwards of 40,000 parents and caregivers? And you didn't think that having a new STRICTER policy of fingerprinting would cause any kind of a backlog? It was already backlogged months last year. Did Mr. Rolen know that? Surely not all 40,000+ parents/caregivers will volunteer. But even if only 10% do, that is 4,000 volunteers to be printed. Assuming you can do 20 a day that is 40 weeks of just straight fingerprinting. 20 a day , 5 days a week. With holidays, summer, breaks, etc we don't even have 40 weeks in the year to staff such an effort. So I ask again, did Mr. Rolen really wonder what is causing the backlog?

So yes, my math is loose and messy. I may be exaggerating that we have 4,000 parents, caregivers and community members willing to volunteer (I hope not though given the size of our district). But, I think you get my gist.

For schools to have to cancel events, when these volunteers are not left unsupervised with the students, is what is "unacceptable."

Dr. Nicoll, the interim Superintendent, released this in a memo to management:

The backlog of volunteers waiting to be fingerprinted has reached unacceptable levels. Effective immediately, we will allow volunteers to assist at school subject to the following conditions:

-The volunteer must have passed a tuberculosis screening test.
-The volunteer must have an appointment to be fingerprinted. Volunteers failing to fulfill this obligation will not be allowed to continue.
-The volunteer must be under the supervision of a certificated employee at all times.

Volunteers who have not met these conditions may work in school classrooms, pods, or outside areas when supervised. Volunteers who drive students on a field trip, tutor students in locations where no staff is present, or have any individualized contact with students in an unsupervised setting must be fingerprinted prior to performing their service.

Dr. Nicoll continues and lets us know they are working on the possibility of the County Office of Education assisting in the fingerprinting efforts. They will let us know when/if that happens though it will be more expensive per the CCTimes article.

While this interim solution seems to be an effort to relieve the stresses at the school sites, but allowing more to volunteer.. who polices this? Do the school sites have to confirm with the district EACH and EVERY parent who wants to volunteer? Confirm they have an appointment scheduled? And confirm they have a clear TB test? Does the district send a list to each school site? How does a parent "prove" they have an appointment and clear tb? Maybe someone can shed light on this aspect.

So, to conclude, if you are a parent and wish to volunteer in your child's classroom, get an appointment right away to be fingerprinted. Contact the district at 682-8000, ext. 4153 . You must also complete the attached FORM (available in english and spanish) and bring it with you. You must also bring evidence of a clear TB test result done within 60 days of your fingerprint appointment. You must also bring exact cash, or money order for $32.00. Your TB results stay valid for 4 years, and your fingerprinting stays valid for the duration of your volunteering within the district.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

No Parents at Homecoming

As many might have guessed, there were NO parents at the Richmond Homecoming. What a sad state of affairs and quite possibly it is what strikes at the heart of the issue in Richmond overall. Where I am, teachers have to have random drawings to choose parents to attend trips and assemblies as "too many" ask to attend.

From the Contra Costa Times article: "Richmond High struggles perennially to engage its families, most of them residents of diverse but poor flatland neighborhoods in San Pablo, unincorporated North Richmond and parts of Central Richmond. Three years ago, a principal even tried a doorbell campaign. It remains difficult to sustain parental commitment, Franco admitted."

Knowing the above, and knowing what was further stated in the Times article about parents and their problems with younger children at home, why doesn't the school play a more active role in TRYING to get parents out. For example, why not stagger the homecomings in the same town for different nights and ask for older student volunteers of the "other school" to babysit for parents (with adult supervision), so that they can volunteer - perhaps an onsite classroom can be set up with movies , popcorn and other activities for children. That is just one of many solutions I could see being offered. Provide solutions to the "excuses" and MAYBE you'll get more involvement. (Of course, I could be completely underestimating this community and perhaps even with solutions, they'll choose not to participate.)

So thinking of everything that went wrong in Richmond (no parents, minimal supervision, police not patrolling perimeters, no checks on non students, and seemingly no hard and fast rules about coming and going), with what happened in Pleasant Hill at College Park's Homecoming:

(again from the Times) "Such high schools as Concord and College Park call the parents of students who don't show up for a dance for which they purchased tickets. No students may leave until the dance ends without calling their parents. Those who walk to their cars in the parking lot are escorted."

So perhaps, the easiest solution for now in Richmond, is that without parent commitment and involvement in a safe school environment, dances and events like this must cease - if only for student safety. What a sad state of affairs, don't you think? I hope this was a wake up call for parents everywhere. The schools can't do it all. Though I do still place some blame on the school for this one. If they had inadequate supervision, and had no intention of monitoring students coming and going, and didn't communicate with security their expectations of perimeter patrols - then just stop until you get your act together.

What happened in Richmond should never have happened, may never have happened, if the proper safety protocol was in place. And no I don't blame the behavior of those guilty parties on the school - but it was a perfect storm of opportunity that night. An opportunity that could've been lessened or eliminated had a few more safety measures been taken. El Cerrito seems to be on the right track:

"Cameras and gates will not solve the problem. You've got to have a parent presence. You can't expect a bankrupt district to have the people to send. We have to be the people," said Michele Jawad, a longtime parent volunteer in El Cerrito schools and a member of the school district's safety committee."

"We just have to have more parents, grandparents, retired people, neighbors involved. They have to step up for the kids. There's no excuse. If kids don't have parents (available), then others should be willing to step in," Jawad said. "The days of sending kids to school and forgetting about them are gone."

It seems that Richmond needs a Michele Jawad to step up, I hope from this tragedy, Richmond gets many just like her.