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.



  1. So, if my daughter turns three this year, should I get an appointment say, two years out?

    Trying to make light of this overwhelming situation. Best of luck to all those who are trying!

  2. As soon as they started this, I stopped volunteering. I used to help out with the book club at my son's school and usually went on several field trips per year for with children's classes.

    However, I won't be treated like a criminal.

  3. Anon 2:04. I should make it clearer that I absolutely agree with the policy itself. It is troubling to hear you would stop volunteering? I don't understand that. But I do agree it is a policy meant to keep our students safe, and I am in agreement with it. I am just not in agreement with "all of a sudden" making it a requirement to volunteer without some sort of phase in, or at least the manpower available to get it done on a timely basis.


  5. What to make of this? I am having a hard time taking this seriously.
    How can Mt. Diablo Unified School District complain of not enough volunteers? The ones they do get they tend to run off.
    I have known parents who have given hundreds of hours over the years.
    We've supervised field trips, chaperoned parties, attended after school carnivals and parties, and, like many parents, get consumed with the candy fundraisers at school.
    Well, that has changed since last year.
    A friend of mine was volunteering at her son's school, Clayton Valley high, when she was kicked off campus because she spoke out against a teacher for speaking in a condescending tone to a student. The actions of the vice principal were unecessar and he was rude as he always is when dealing with situations he doesn't want to deal with.
    Due to a lack of training in the area of conflict resolution he and the teacher completly mishandled the situation. My niece who attends school there says the teacher is known as the leadership teacher at the school.
    Is this what they teach the students there about leadership?She involved the vice principal who, according to his statement to the district, "lost his cool."
    As a result, an ugly incident occured that could have easily been avoided.
    Her son was later accosted in the heat of the vice pricipal's rage.
    The incident is still unresolved and now the boy's father is trying to address it. The district is refusing to meet or talk about it to anyone.
    We, as parents need to "unite" as the MDUSD board has and let them know that we are aware of their double standard and we don't approve, and also send them the resounding message that "change is a comin"!!!

    MDUSD Parent For Change

  6. I personally believe they shoud be checking the pyschological "frame of mind" of the teachers. Especially the administrators. Some of the "disgruntled teachers" come to school with their grudges about their precious contracts and substandard leadership from the school board they take it out on the kids and co-workers.
    I've seen it happen more than a few times.
    Not to mention, MDUSD is so "desperate" to obtain and keep "good teachers" they may have already hired child molesters and sexual predators to work in the schools.
    What about drug testing? That's one they should do on employees, especially the hot headed ones. The ones that seem to always have a "personnel issue."

  7. The fingerprinting WAS phased in. Six years ago, they only fingerprinted parents who went on overnight trips. The next year, it was parents who went on field trips. The following year, it was parents who regularly volunteered on campus. Only in the last year has it been all volunteers, and only this year has the district had to charge for the fingerprinting.

    It's a small price to pay, to keep children safe. If you're not willing to do this little thing, then by all means stay away from volunteering. We don't want you.

    Signed, a parent more concerned about the safety of children than your poor widdle feelings

  8. Yes, let us all march in lockstep toward the nanny state.

    Soon we will be like Britain, where adults (including parents) are banned from taking photos of children in public places -- schools, playgrounds, etc..., and parents who watch each others children in their own homes (babysitting coops) must be vetted by the state.

  9. I have NO problem with the policy. In fact, it is a good idea, ESPECIALLY if you have parents supervising children away from the supervision of others. So, I'm all for it. Having said that, THIS was the first year they said "NO volunteering unless this is done" and they had NO way to get it done, so schools have had to cancel field trips and turn volunteers away. This is what I would mean by "phase in." If they had the ability to actually fingerprint everyone in a timely manner, it's no problem. But they don't. So I think the Superintendent's message calls for a good interim solution. But I just have to wonder who will police this. The already overworked school sites are going to have to monitor everyone's appointments? Confirm they have one? Confirm they have the negative TB screening. What they should've done is discussed it, and made a plan for the implementation of this "zero tolerance" policy before it reached this "unacceptable" level.

  10. 8:12.. you do realize that even "parents" can be bad people, or molestors, or felons, or drug addicts, right?

  11. Everyone should know that this policy is State Law, this law was brought about when a Janitor (with previous felony convictions) raped and murdered a high school student. This is intended to stop scum like that Corrido jerk from getting access to our children not to insult parents.

  12. Can you point me to the law as I am truly curious about that. The CCTimes seems to indicate it is not a law:

    "Although no law requires that all volunteers be fingerprinted, school districts are allowed to require it, Rolen said. In the East Bay, the Orinda school district does not require any fingerprinting, the Moraga district requires it for volunteers who are not related to students, Acalanes requires it for volunteers who work independently with students and the Oakland district requires both Department of Justice and FBI background checks. "

  13. Yes, this is good policy because in the U.S. you are guilty until proven innocent.

  14. 1:12. You've got it backwards. This is looking for people ALREADY GUILTY with no business working around kids. So yes, if you're guilty... you suck.. and you deserve to be found out and banned from working with MY kids and yours. This isn't about flushing out innocent people.. that doesn't even make sense.

  15. "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    Benjamin Franklin

  16. MDUSD is not making it tough. They are the last to lay the blame on. The blame starts with sickos that hurt kids. That being said, I have no problem with requiring criminal background checks for volunteers, but I do have an issue with relaxing the rules for this period of time. All it takes is one person who will take advantage of it. Yes, they will be under the supervision of employees, but no one can see everything all the time.

    Parents have been aware of this requirement for over a year. Not all those trying to get appointments are Kindergarten parents. The K parents at our school were given the information at registration LAST February! Procrastination on their part is not cause for an emergency on the district's part!

    In reading the article, it states that 647 parents were processed between July 1 and October 27. Loosely, that works out to about 7.6 parents per day. Is that just because not many took advantage over the summer? It seems they should be able to process at least 30 per day.

    Stop blaming the district for the back log.

    It is sad that trips are being cancelled, but that is a small price to pay for the safety of all the students at MDUSD.

  17. The Ben Franklin quote sure made me rethink this issue and is worthy of policy debate (which is something that does not seem to have happened).

  18. I suppose I am naive (sp?) but I for one was misled on this, this is not a 'fingerprint/tb test' this is a background check for parents. I am not saying I am opposed to it, but I wish the district would make this a little clearer. You are simply not 'getting fingerprinted' Your prints are being used, along with all your other info, for a background check of exactly what, no one could tell me at the district office.
    Also, I think there should be a card issuer, or something at least somewhat official, issued to people who have passed this and are all clear. I understand the school's get the notifications, but are they checking every person who says 'Oh yeah, ive been cleared' in every classroom for every function? Wouldn't it make sense to have some sort of paper/badge/something that says you have been cleared?

  19. You are right, this is a background check. Not just a bottomless file for fingerprints. What extent of a background check, I'm not sure. And what crimes would preclude you from participating with the schools? Personally, I think they should know that when you call. I'm surprised they didn't. I think this is all the more reason there should be more discussion about this.

    The idea of a badge or card is a good one. I saw the file of paperwork at my school's site.. and it is another layer of organization for that office to confirm and cross reference everyone.

    I don't agree everyone knew last year. Last year it was "extended contact" parents. Where was it ever published that ALL parent volunteers, in ANY capacity had to be printed and tb tested or they could not volunteer period? I sure haven't seen any kind of policy like that distributed to parents, until right now. I've been around this district for 10 years. And this is the first time I've heard you can't volunteer unless it's all done. (or now that you have an appt)

    I totally agree with the idea on principle. But this policy has not been well though as evidenced by the lack of resources the district has to even implement it.

  20. The district does not have the resources because staffing has been cut back to the bare bones, just like in our schools. This is the trickle down effect of Measure D not passing and the over $48 million in budget cuts to MDUSD from our State. It will get worse too as I am sure our State is still looking at more funding cuts to education. This is what I heard a lot of people say they wanted, cut at the district level, and now they find something new to gripe about. So what if field trips are cancelled or post-poned. Bottom line is the safety of our children. This is what todays world is like and I glad to see our district take a strong stance on making sure all volunteers pass background checks and TB tests. I believe everyone should be TB tested every 3 years, then maybe I would not have been exposed to TB while working in a school district and then had a severe reaction to the 6-9 month drug treatment that could have killed me.

  21. Anon 10:29
    I am not being sarcastic when I ask what you thought the fingerprinting was for?

  22. We have already all had our fingerprints taken for our California Driver's Licenses, and our U.S. passports, if we have one.

    Why can't the MDUSD access those prints instead of inconveniencing thousands of volunteers, not to mention costing them money?

  23. I am also on the board of a soccer club. We fingerprint all of our coaches and I wanted to see if parents who were already fingerprinted had to be done again. The answer received from the Department of Justice was that they do not share information across organizations.

  24. I work at an MDUSD school, and no one pays attention to this policy. This is the same deal as the no candy policy from a couple of years ago. We stuck to it for about a year, maybe less, and now no one pays attention to it.

    a few years ago the district came out with a memo saying that swim parties were no longer allowed. Our school got rid of ours. Seems that other schools still do it though.

    We spend so much time worrying about ridiculous and ill-thought out policies, then ignore the important ones. How about campus security? So many of the schools are wide open for just about anyone to walk on with no check in. How about a policy for this?

  25. To Mt. Diablo the following link shows the bill from 1998 outlining the law. you were right Volunteers are not required by the law but the law allows the District to require it.

  26. I agree with a policy, but it must be enforced uniformly and all parents need to be informed about it at the beginning of the school year. From what I have seen, it has been rather hodge podge. It is also a common courtesy to let peopple know what exactly their prints will be used for and who excatly would be excluded - not only a courtesy, but an act that would lend some validity to the whole thing. It's just crazy that they picked NOW to go after all of it and then not be ready. WTH?