Monday, September 20, 2010

Message from the MDUSD campaign trail - Jeff Adams

Thank you to Jeff Adams for coming here to introduce himself. Again, I'm hopeful candidates who post here will come here to answer your questions if you post them in the comments. If you are a candidate who would like to have a post of your own - email me

Thank you for the opportunity to provide a post to your readers. Here is a report of some recent activities.

This past Thursday, I attended the critical MDUSD Board of Education meeting concerning expenditure of the first $65 million or so of the Measure C funds. Of the candidates running for the MDUSD school board, only Linda Mayo and I were present. Four contractors are competing for a solar panel installation contract, an important plan of action was presented in connection with the requests for proposals each submitted, and financial projections were disclosed. In sum, there are a web of complexities connected to this project and, in my view, it is imperative that board members and candidates remain informed and involved in Measure C oversight.

I am also a founding board member of the United Mount Diablo Athletic Foundation which was formed to save after-school athletics in our school district after the Board of Education voted last year to cut ALL funding of after school sports. Last year, we raised over $100,000 in our 5-K run and substantial work has been accomplished for the event this coming year. We again ask for the support of the community in connection with our second annual 5-K run scheduled on October 10, 2010 at Newhall Park!

I have been privileged to meet with, and been endorsed by, many in the community in the past week or two. This includes Mayor Hank Stratford of Clayton, Mayor Sue Rainey of Walnut Creek, Concord City Council Member and former Mayor Bill Shinn, Bay Point Council member Gloria Magleby, MDUSD school board members Linda Mayo (Pleasant Hill), Dick Allen (Concord)and Sherry Whitmarsh (Concord), eight MDUSD school teachers, two retired MDUSD school teachers, a retired teacher for the County Office of Education, members of the Community United for Excellent Schools, parents and other community members from Pleasant Hill, Clayton, Concord, Walnut Creek and Bay Point areas. It has been a pleasure to meet with these folks and an honor to receive their endorsements.

This evening, I intend to meet with individuals in support of MDUSD music programs. As some of you may know, I help form the Mount Diablo Music Education Foundation last year, created to seek grants and other financial assistance in support of music programs in MDUSD given the music funding cuts in our school district.

Tomorrow evening, I plan to first attend a portion of the Clayton City Council meeting at which a "Do The Right Thing" resolution will be considered. This resolution stems from meetings of representatives (both administrators and faculty club members) from Mt. Diablo Elementry, Diablo View Middle School and Clayton Valley High School, along with leadership from the Clayton Business and Community Association, the Clayton Police Department and other community members to encourage responsibility, respect kindness, self-discipline, integrity and courage in the lives of our youth.

I then intend to participate in part of the Foundation for Pleasant Hill Education Restaurant walk.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to post.

Jeff Adams

P.S. from MDUSDParents: Jeff Adams also has a website:


  1. Hi Jeff,

    Maybe you have the guts to answer the following question:

    If you were on the current board and the board president accused a well respected community member of and I quote, "being an enemy of the children of MDUSD" would you request that the board president apologize publicly? Or would you continue to be a lapdog to him like the current board members?

  2. Dr J, drop it. You're boring. That's a crime worse than being an arrogant jerk.

  3. Anon 10:59
    That's not my post.
    Doctor J

  4. Jeff, I am asking all the candidates these questions.
    What did MDUSD do to allow six of its schools to be named "persistently underachieving schools'? What can MDUSD do to correct these schools ? What is your feeling about the recent reorganization of the curriculum department and new support department, assigning administrators to "coach" prinicipals ? How involved should the Supt be in the "solar project" ?
    Doctor J

  5. Dr. J - I would like to know your thoughts on what you would do to improve schools that are named as persistently underachieving schools? Please be specific as to your ideas on the root cause(s) and how you would address them.

    I would be thrilled to hear your specific improvement ideas and know that you are working to help improve the situation. Given your extensive knowledge and sincere desire for improvement for the students sake, please share some possible solutions.

  6. 4:55pm- As clear as you have asked (as I have also), I have a feeling we won't be getting any specifics from Doctor J.

    How about it Doctor J? Without spinning it or blaming someone for attacking your noble motives, what are your specific ideas and actions?

    Your crusade is getting tiresome because it's not going anywhere. Are you waiting for others to act on the things you write?

    Good Luck with that.

  7. Anon 4:55 & 8:38
    You anon posters forget to read my prior posts -- is there an archive ? You are quick to shoot the messenger, and short on memory. My questions were posed to the candidates so we can see who we want to vote on -- not with generalities, but with specific questions on specific issues.
    Have you forgot that I answered a similar question about a week ago ?
    1. A year ago I suggested the district hire a "turn around specialist" instead we got a Supt not only without any "turnaround" experience, but a failed record of turnaround of low performing schools.
    2. A good Strategic Plan will address these concerns from ALL stakeholders -- not just a few or head nodding to top down goals/objectives.
    3. I concur with the Federal requirements for SIG funds that include: replacing the principal and replacing half the staff. Nothing like a good shake up to bring in fresh ideas, fresh enthusiasm, and let administrators and teachers know that performance is important to give every child the opportunity to excel.
    Now, Anon 4:55 & 8:38 what are your ideas ? And the candidates have disappeared with specific questions -- they only want generalities.
    Doctor J

  8. That's funny that you think that suggesting things or asking questions on a blog and making vague statements like Strategic planning is good for all stakeholders, is considered doing something.

    Here are my ideas.
    * Make parents accountable for their children
    * Create a partnership with the student, the school and families to ensure that kids take school seriously
    * Implement school uniforms
    * Bring every child up to proficiency in reading and math
    * Eliminate tenure after two years and make teachers go through a probationary period of at least three years with peer and parent review
    * Make every family contribute in some way to every school--whether it is financial or some other time commitment
    * Fire principals that are not effective instead of shuffling them around
    * Try as hard as humanly possible to give teachers health care benefits like the rest of the MDUSD employees get
    * Start the school day later and end it later

    Those are just a few ideas. Now I will wiggle my nose and make it all happen. What? That doesn't work?

    According to Doctor J- posting ideas on a blog is the same thing as doing something. If only that were true!

  9. Anon 3:23
    You accuse me of making vague statements -- that's the pot calling the kettle black. You really suggest very little action just pie in the sky dreams:
    You:* Make parents accountable for their children. Reply: Tell us how ? Your idea is just a dream.
    You: * Create a partnership with the student, the school and families to ensure that kids take school seriously. Reply: You must have never had children. Forcing children to do anything is counterproductive.
    You:* Implement school uniforms. Reply: Not a bad idea, but why will that improve student academic performance ?
    You: * Bring every child up to proficiency in reading and math. Reply: Of course the ultimate dream. How do you do that ? You want specifics: give us some.
    You: * Eliminate tenure after two years and make teachers go through a probationary period of at least three years with peer and parent review. Reply: Ok, that's a specific, but how is kissing up to parents indicitive of student performance ? Right now Principals are supposed to be weeding out the bad teachers before tenure. When was the last time that happened ?
    You: * Make every family contribute in some way to every school--whether it is financial or some other time commitment. Reply: How ? Specifics ? And if the parents don't, you punish the children ? Please. All parents do contribute to the schools by payment of taxes either as owners or renters.
    You: * Fire principals that are not effective instead of shuffling them around Reply: I guess you liked my idea, and the NCLB standard.
    You: * Try as hard as humanly possible to give teachers health care benefits like the rest of the MDUSD employees get Reply: MDUSD teachers voluntarily gave them up in a union vote for higher wages.
    You: * Start the school day later and end it later Reply: Its a specific. How will that improve student performance ? How will that help working parents to get their children to school on time ?
    Anon 3:23 -- can you fill in the gaps ?
    Doctor J

  10. Doctor J- Sorry that you missed the satire. My point was that just because I came up with an idea doesn't mean that it's going to magically be put to use.

    There is a new movie coming out called "Waiting For Superman" which show successes in charter schools that are in neighborhoods where public schools are failing.

    With the same demographic, why do the charter schools succeed? It's because the parents and kids are held to high expectations. There are lotteries to get into these schools and parents have to agree to all the rules and expectations or their kid doesn't get in.

    It is life changing for kids to get into those schools. The schools highlighted in the movie have almost 100% acceptance rates to good colleges. Students have expectations, directions and consequences. They have goals and they have adults actually there to help them achieve those goals.

    Not all charter schools operate like this, and that is the problem with charter schools. The good schools are already implementing most of the ideas I cited. That's where I got my list from.

    It's not complicated.

    You want to deride my ideas as simplistic, but I wasn't prepared to write a treatise on how to implement them. There are models out there already that work. It's not like we have to reinvent the wheel.

    To me, a strategic plan that is based real action is better than one that looks good on paper. You keep saying that the district needs a strategic plan like Seattle's. Who cares what plan it's like?

    Let's focus on making real changes to the district. There are great minds around here who can iron out all the details.

    The fact that you had to prove each idea wrong or weak makes me think that you are a wonk who cares more about the process than the outcome.

    Just sayin'.

  11. Anon 5:56

    MDUSD turned down a charter school that was proposed last spring. It was a charter high school being proposed by an organization with leadership that is well established and successful in operating charter schools.

    What do you mean by a strategic plan based (on) real action is better than one that looks good on paper?

    A strategic plan ON PAPER is the blueprint for reform and improvement and should be the basis for real action.

    But more importantly you are proving you are on the same side as Dr. J and want many of the same changes, as do I. This blog isn't where the change happens. It is here to get people talking about the need for change.

  12. Linda- The charter school that the district didn't approve is light years away from the ones featured in the movie.

    As I said. Not all charters are the same.

    We can get really wrapped up in the process of a strategic plan instead of actually coming up with solutions that are quick and accessible.

  13. Anon 10:59

    Really? Light years away? In what way is it light years away? I'd like to have that discussion. Please explain.

    I respectfully disagree on your comment about a strategic plan. A strategic plan that is well done and well executed should be a high priority in this district. We have had years of "quick and accessible"... how's that been working for us?

  14. Linda- What makes you think the Flex Academy isn't light years away from the schools in the movie "Waiting For Superman"?

    I don't want to make this personal, but there is something in your post that always seems to challenge. Do you already know what those schools in the movie are like, because your post sounds almost incredulous that charter schools could be different.

    You wrote:
    "Really? Light years away? In what way is it light years away? I'd like to have that discussion. Please explain."

    Flex Academy--according to your MDUSD Voices blog--offers the majority of it's instruction online. That in itself differs greatly from the charter models I was referring to.

    That doesn't mean that it's good or bad. It's just different. I was making the point that it was light years away from the schools I was discussing. I actually read up on the Flex Academy before the board vote and I have seen parts of the movie Waiting For Superman as well as other stories on successful inner city charter schools. That was the basis for my comment.

    Another difference is that the charter schools in the movie are meant to go into struggling areas to change the mindset of the students and families who will attend. There is much more emphasis on personal responsibility, expectations, and input from teachers and administration. In some of the schools, there is no tracking--all kids take the same classes and the results are amazing.

    We need to look at best practices across the nation and implement the best of those ideas. There are models out there that are working.

    While Flex Academy might offer something for kids who need an alternative education, they don't have a long enough history to measure their success. The schools that I am referring to do.

    When you see the pride and success of the kids who attend the charter schools in the movie, you will understand how that model can work in the district's failing schools.

    I am not saying that this is the end all. It's a starting point. The movie comes to PH at the CineArts theater on Oct 8th and I hope everyone interested in education will go to see it and form their own opinions.

    Today's Oprah is also doing a follow up show on the movie.

    As to your comment that the district has tried "quick and accessible", I find that kind of funny. I have served on many board committees, and in no way was anything done by the district in a quick and accessible manner.

    Under Gary McHenry, the district felt that it didn't want to lead from the top down, so the "collaborative" effort that ensued when evaluating a program or making any change was painfully slow. In two recent cases, the process was extremely tedious and and in the end, there still wasn't buy in from the teachers. I saw this over and over again.

  15. Anon 8:44am

    Typically when someone says something is light years away it implies that it is not as good. If I misunderstood that, I apologize.

    I too have seen portions of the movie. While Flex is different than the charters you speak of, it should not be seen as a school where children "need" an alternative. In addition, Flex may be a new concept but those who lead the program are well respected in the charter school environment and the curriculum is award winning with a track record of kids going on to major colleges and universities.

    As for strategic planning, you said-
    "We can get really wrapped up in the process of a strategic plan instead of actually coming up with solutions that are quick and accessible."

    To me "quick and accessible" in this context means not well thought out and not part of a greater cohesive plan. And that we have had plenty of.

  16. Linda- Per your statement that "typically light years" away means that something is not as good...

    How about this?
    Republicans are light years away from Democrats.

    It's a true statement, but to say that one is not as good is a matter of perspective, so I have no idea where you get your typical statement.

    Also, your comments about Flex are your perspective. Clearly the board had a different opinion.

  17. Anon 12:08

    Did you miss my apology?

    As to the Board's opinion...clearly!

  18. Linda- Your apology really wasn't necessary. I just wanted to point out that you don't need to go off with guns blazing.

    BTW, I agreed with the board on their decision about Flex Academy. I read through all their literature and was not very impressed.

    You wrote about Flex "...with a track record of kids going on to major colleges and universities."

    Could you point me to this data? I wasn't able to find their breakdowns of how long they have been tracking their students and the percentage of those students who went on to colleges and universities.

    Also, could you provide me some things that the district did that was quick and accessible? I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that concept when it comes to the MDUSD.