Tuesday, November 30, 2010

School closure committee sort through recommendations

The Times brings us details today of which schools are being looked at for possible closure recommendations.

The list is quite large, and interestingly the article notes that beside the recommendations of the committee itself, the Superintendent's Council of district administrators prepared a scenario of their own. The official school closure Committee is expected to vote on their recommendations on Monday. Details below.

For the full Times article : http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_16744608

Be sure to read he detailed list of options here:

The list is :

Ayers Elementary, Concord; Bancroft Elementary, Walnut Creek; El Monte Elementary, Concord; Fair Oaks Elementary, Pleasant Hill; Glenbrook Middle, Concord; Gregory Gardens Elementary, Pleasant Hill; Holbrook Elementary, Concord; Monte Gardens Elementary, Concord; Oak Grove Middle, Concord; Rio Vista Elementary, Bay Point; Sequoia Elementary, Pleasant Hill; Sequoia Middle, Pleasant Hill; Shore Acres Elementary, Bay Point; Silverwood Elementary, Concord; Wren Elementary, Concord.

The school closure committee expects to vote on proposed recommendations at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Willow Creek Center, 1026 Mohr Lane in Concord. Information is available by calling 925-682-8000, ext. 4015, or by going to www.mdusd.org. Click on "community," then select "School Closure Committee."

6.5 million in fed jobs bill $$ to MDUSD salaries

According to the Times today, Contra Costa school districts struggle to stay afloat, Teresa Harrington tells us that the MDUSD will likely use the 6.5 million dollars from the Federal Jobs Act to pay a portion of employee salaries and benefits.  This money would normally be paid from the general fund per Brian Richards, our district's CFO.

The article provides some more detail about this expenditure, as well as the requirements (per the County's conditional approval of the MDUSD 2010-11 budget) that districts, including MDUSD, create a "fiscal recovery plan" and revised three year projections by December 15th.

I don't know what would be happening right now if this 6.5 million was not available?  Does anyone know?

Within the article:

Five Contra Costa County school districts are struggling to stay fiscally solvent in the next three years as they grapple with state budget cuts, declining enrollment and failed tax measures.

"We're advising districts that they need to conserve their cash," said Peggy Marshburn, spokeswoman for the Contra Costa County Office of Education. "The budget picture at the state level is much more bleak" than anticipated.

Going from bad to worse...  how much further can we go?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Superintendent's Parent Advisory Council meeting cancelled

Next week's PAC meeting has been cancelled. See the message below:

The PAC meeting scheduled for December 1 has been cancelled.   Our next meeting will held on Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.  We will be back in the Board Room at the Dent Center.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  See you in 2011.
Loreen Joseph
Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent
Mt. Diablo Unified School District
925-682-8000 ext. 4000

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

MDUSD Celebrate Dick Allen and Paul Strange

Celebrating Richard "Dick" Allen and Paul Strange

See invite

Please join the MDUSD Board of Education in honoring and celebrating Dick Allen and Paul Strange for their "Years of Service" on the Board of Education. November 29, 2010 4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. Dent Center, Board Room 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord

You may RSVP or enter messages for the outgoing board members HERE.

Questions: Contact Loreen Joseph at 925.682.8000 ext. 4000

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Recap of MDUSD's Superintendent PAC meeting

Thank you to Sherry Whitmarsh for providing the following recap of the meeting last night:

Here are my notes.  Please feel free to ask my about any questions.  I've also attached the handout that was given about school closure data.  There is one mistake.  Criteria #4 - substitute facility for family . Here is link to file.
The Curriculum Associates assessment is being used at all of the elementary schools and four middle schools with another middle school expressing interest.  The assessment is a tool for teachers to gauge how the students are progressing toward mastering the state standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math.  The assessment is giving three times a year with an option to do a fourth assessment at the end of the year.  The end of the year assessment is more like the test because it shows which how the students have done for all of the standards.  It is more like the STAR but gives immediate feedback to the teacher instead of waiting all summer for the results.  By using a standard assessment between all schools, feeder pattern schools as well as the district can look at the trends that are developing and set specific goals to help students master the standards.
For each assessment cycle, the teachers take thirty minutes each day for three – four days for ELA and then another thirty minutes each day for three or four days for Math.  For the first and second grade many schools have resources that are bubbling in the scantron.  In first grade the teacher reads the entire assessment to the students.  
The district is having data sessions with teachers to assist them in understanding how the data can be used to help them modify their lesson plan.  For those students who have mastered certain standards the teachers will look at how to enrich their learning.  For those who have not mastered a standard that has been taught, the teachers look at what needs to be reviewed and strategies for teaching it.   

Different schools are using different strategies.  One school has created academies that will work with the students at the different learning levels, other schools develop small groups and divide the groups between the teachers, and others are working within their own classroom.
In schools were the assessment has been given in previous years, teachers discussed how they meet to share the results of the assessment.  Teachers who students have mastered areas of the assessment can do professional training with the other teachers to demonstrate how the standard was taught.

Examples of the results of the assessments were shown.  Sample letters that could be sent home to parents about the assessment were also shared.  The letters allow parents to see how the student is progressing towards the end of year grade level standard.
For students who have accommodations, the schools are meeting those.  Examples were presented where resource teachers were bubbling the scantron for students, students were using a typing device to record their answer, and students were verbally saying their answer.
Parents were concerned with the assessment creating a heavy focus on ELA and math and not enough time being spent and science and social studies.  The teachers stated that the assessments allowed them to have focus, targeted instruction in ELA and math and actually allowed them to spend more time in science and social studies.  Last year both teachers stated that they were able to get further in science and social studies than in past years.  Curriculum Associates does have assessments for science and social studies but the district is not using those at this point.
Does the assessment mean teachers are instructing to the test?  The assessment allows the teachers to focus their assessment on what standards the students have not mastered for the grade level.  It allows them to individualize their teaching based upon where the students are.
There were comments about how the assessment make the students feel inadequate, especially the early assessments.  The teachers and principals present stated that it is their responsibility to ensure that students understand that the assessment is a tool to help the teachers know how to target the instruction.  It is not a test to grade the students.  Students become excited about learning and eagerly wait to see how much they have learned from the previous assessment cycle.

The cost of the material is approximately $60,000.
School Closures
The demographic study was also discussed.  The attached material was reviewed.  The school closure committee is meeting every week and is preparing to meet present a recommendation in December to the board of education.  The board of education will then have a study session to review the data and ask questions. 
The district is looking at saving about $1.5 million from school closures.  The savings is a result in centralized staff – principals, office managers, secretaries, custodians, food services – and not teachers.  Closing an elementary school saves about $300,000 and a middle school saves about $700,000.  Closing a middle school may not save quite as much as thought because a vice principal may be needed at schools that the children are being sent.
The school closure committee has reviewed all of the data and divided into groups based upon the eight criteria.  Each group ranked all schools on a scale of 1 – 20 based upon the criteria.  The groups have now reconvened into the large group and the discussions have begun.  These are not easy discussions.

The committee is also looking at how the closures will affect school boundaries and how those may need to be changed.

Remember, you can find committee information, minutes, meeting schedule etc at http://www.mdusd.org/Community/Pages/scac.aspx

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MDUSD's Superintendent PAC meeting is tonight

So they rescheduled the Superintendent Parent Advisory Council meeting. Last week it "might have been" a World Series Game, so they changed it to tonight. Weds, November 10th, 7pm AT WILLOW CREEK. All are welcome. I encourage ALL of you to start attending these meetings. If you have a complaint, and I know MANY of you do if I look at the blogs, then why not go to a meeting where you can actually TALK TO the Superintendent and Administrators? Just do it.

I believe one of the items on the agenda is the Curriculum Associates testing that some people have been discussing around the blog-o-sphere locally. Some people feel it's too much testing, too soon. Some feel it is a great way to gauge student progress and to help shape where the teachers may need to spend some more time in their instruction. It can also perhaps help in the differentiation between students who "get it" and those who still need some time. A biggie for administrators it seems is test scores. There appears to be some data to support it does increase the STAR test scores.

Anyway, I saw someone else posted in the comments on another thread that there may be something controversial on the agenda, and I do not believe that to be the case, unless you consider the above, controversial.

The PAC members were polled regarding this change just in case you have some conspiracy theory brewing for this date change. They've said it was a "landslide" decision that wanted this changed, but I do question the attendance tonight due to the 4 day weekend . I guess we'll see.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 7:00 p.m.

Willow Creek Center
1026 Mohr Lane, Concord

I. Welcome and Introductions

II. Assessment Data

III. Demographics Data

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Free vaccine clinic

In these difficult economic times, this represents a $35 savings or more, as well as good health in the future. Promoted by MDUSD nurses and CCHealth Services. :)

Contra Costa Health Services will hold a free one-day, flu vaccination event in nine Contra Costa cities. 
The Public Health Division of Contra Costa Health Services plans to hold the free flu clinics from 1:00 to 7:00pm on Wednesday, November 10 to "Vaccinate Contra Costa." Only one vaccine is needed this year to protect against H1N1 and two other flu strains expected to be circulating this year, said Contra Costa Health Services Immunization Coordinator Erika Jenssen. People need this vaccine even if they received seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccine last year, and some children will need two doses, she said. 
Clinics in our area will be held in Concord (5298 Clayton Road), Martinez (30 Muir Road), Lafayette (952 Moraga Road), and Pittsburg (200 Marina Boulevard). 
Flu vaccine is also available from health care providers, local pharmacies, grocery stores, and community clinics. A podcast and video answering commonly asked flu questions is available on the CCHS Web site: cchealth.org/topics/flu/. 
To find out more about the flu or to locate a clinic near you, visit cchealth.org/topics/flu/vaccination.php or call the CCHS Health Emergency Information Line at 1-888-959-9911 for information

Friday, November 5, 2010

Drug use on high school campuses

So who thinks drugs aren't a problem in our high schools?

I say they're a huge problem.  Kids that say they not only smell drugs being smoked in corners at school, to shutting down wings because the teachers smell it - is a problem.  I say that kids smoking pot out in the open BEFORE school - is a problem.  I say that kids posting photos of themselves drinking and doing drugs - is a problem.

Now to the facebook issues of posting their photos.  Now, these are photos/statuses I have seen. And I am not "friends" with these kids, which means their profiles are completely public.  I have to ask - parents, when is the last time you looked at your kid's profile?  Ever?  Some kids talk about can't wait to get f&#$ed up this weekend.  Where are we going to get the sh#&?  And guess what folks, these aren't just at one high school.  They're at all of them.  Oh, and guess what more... these are also cheerleaders and kids in sports.  Not just the "thugs" or "trogs" as we used to call them in my day...

So, it's just a question.

In a day that not much gets done around campus because administrators are all so "overwhelmed" with budget cuts and other BS, it seems it's just easier to turn the other way on drugs.  Is it a victimless crime?  No way.  Smoking pot before school can't possibly be good for the attention and care needed later in the school day.  Hearing of middle school kids drinking vodka out of water bottles during PE does not instill too much confidence that today's kids, despite all the education, are any smarter than the kids of yesterday (or my day).

More young people are now in treatment for marijuana dependency than for alcohol or for all other illegal drugs combined.

I know, I know, I'm looking at this TOTALLY differently now that I'm a parent.  But isn't that a normal progression?  I hope so.

And believe, GREAT THINGS HAPPEN at the high schools every single day.  There is no denying there are more good things than bad, BUT I'm not going to be quiet about the bad just because it makes the school look bad.

THE SCHOOLS NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  They have the power to EXPEL any kid caught with drugs.  They have the power to SEARCH lockers if it smells like POT!  

Parents , you need to be watching homelink.  Are your kids tardy to school each day when you KNOW you dropped them off on time?  Or that they left home early enough?  Are you checking in?  Are there consequences?   Just asking.  Do you know where the local "hang outs" are for the perpetually late? 

So, there, I'm done with my rant.  But there's a story I've been dying to do, but I'm not a reporter and I don't get enough readers to do it justice, so I sent some info to the Mayor of Claycord - hopefully he'll shed the light. 

Parents, what can we do ?  I ASSUME most parents aren't ok with kids smoking dope on school grounds.  So if that's true?  What are we going to do about it?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Our New MDUSD School Board

With 133 of the 197 precincts reporting, it's a close race. So far it is Linda Mayo in the lead, with Cheryl Hansen literally on her heels. Lynne Dennler is starting to pull away ever so slightly from Brian Lawrence.

So if these numbers hold, it will be Mayo, Hansen and Dennler. What do you think?

11:30pm update. Still the same 3 leaders, however, Cheryl Hansen has emerged as the current leader. 165 of the 197 precincts reporting. Its still very close though the three are pulling away.

See www.cocovote.us for up to the minute results.