Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MDUSD in the news tonight

MDUSD, and specifically the rally outside Monte Gardens and an interview with Gary Eberhart, was in the news tonight.  Both on Channel 7 and Channel 5.

Here's the video from CBS5:  School Cuts Protest

And from Channel 7 KGO:  Parents rally to  keep high performing schools from closing

Good job Monte Gardens, and Gary!

Gary made certainly made an interesting point.  We used to have 50,000 students in the district, and now only 32,000 with declining enrollment.  Certainly seems school closures make sense, and it's hard to imagine just 3 schools will be enough. 


  1. Great job by the Monte Garden crew! Even though it is under difficult circumstances, it is great to see the community rally around the schools.

    I, along with several other Monte Gardens parents, attended the Board meeting last night. I was impressed by the Silverwood parents who turned out last night to support their school - they are obviously just as attached to their school as we are to Monte Gardens. It will be very difficult for the families of whichever schools do get closed.

    I'd like to briefly address some of the misconceptions I've heard about Monte Gardens.

    It is a fallacy to state that the choice schools lack community. Geography is not the only factor that makes a community.

    I was not at today's rally because my son was undergoing surgery to repair an injury suffered at school last week. We've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the Monte Gardens community. It started with the the principal, Ms. Peters, immediately contacting my wife and then bringing my son directly out to her when she arrived on campus. His teacher checked in with us repeatedly over the weekend to see how he was doing. Parents of classmates continually asked how they could be of assistance. We've only been at Monte Gardens for five months and are grateful to have found such a wonderful, diverse community.

    I've also heard that Monte Gardens is "elitist". This doesn't square with my experiences. I don't see many expensive cars in the pickup lines nor do I hear many discussions about expensive vacations. Most of the families are working hard to make ends meet, struggling to pay mortgages for homes that have steeply declined in value while providing the best education that they possibly can for their kids.

    There are may fantastic neighborhood schools in our district and they play a vital role in it. However, I believe that choice schools such as Monte Gardens also play a valuable role.

    As Gary Eberhart pointed out, MDUSD has declined in enrollment from 50,000 students- on average we lose about 300 per year. Monte Gardens has been at full enrollment and has a waiting list to get in. It wouldn't make much sense to close a school that people are waiting to get in to. We'd be delighted if we were able to expand our capacity and welcome in more students to Monte Gardens.

    Regardless of which schools get closed, I hope that the passion and energy stirred up by this process can be focused on improving the district. We continue to face daunting challenges but the stakes are too high for us fail.

  2. Well said! I couldn't agree with you more! I'm sorry about your son, I hope he recovers quickly! The rally was great!it was great to see our community supporting our school.

  3. Well said Brian. This is clear logical thinking. We should have elected him to the school board. Hopefully he will run again and put an end to the reign of Gary and Sherry.

  4. Regarding the size of the district, the 50,000 number must be from a long time ago?

    Here are the numbers from the SCAC analysis (page 5):

    Since 2002, Mt. Diablo Unified School District’s enrollments have declined from 36,891 to 34,512, an overall decline of 2,379 students or 6.89%.

  5. Really nice Monte Gardens! Publicize it like it is a love fest for all schools, ("lets all come together and keep them all open"...Bonner), get the crowd, and only mention your own woes. NOW Who is throwing whom under the bus????

  6. I assume the point of the 50k number is that this same number of schools housed 50k, now we have far less. For that, it makes sense to close schools as we have so many nowhere near filled to capacity.

  7. 50k is not the right number to be citing.

    36 or 37K should be the reference number (enrollment decreased by 2379 over the last 8 years).

    And yes, it makes sense to close schools based upon the 2379 enrollment decrease.

    It is interesting that other districts in the area are increasing during the same period? SRVUSD gained 1000 students this past year and another 1000 students the year before.

  8. Thanks for the concern about my son- he is recovering nicely.

    The 50k peak was in the 70s- I am unsure of the exact year, but the long term trend is clear. The 2379 decline over the last 8 years is right inline with the recent trend of 300 student reductions per year.

    San Ramon has been adding housing, but they have also been attracting families with kids from other parts of the East Bay. Several families in our neighborhood moved to San Ramon specifically for the schools. It is especially unfortunate because these parents were very involved in their children's education and would have been great additions to our schools.

  9. Is there a way to know how many students, or what percentage of local MDUSD go to private schools and how that compares with SRVUSD? I grew up in the SRVUSD and always knew kids in private, so I'm curious if the number is about the same.

  10. Oops and I meant local area MDUSD students meaning the students zoned to MDUSD but not in public school.

  11. MDUSD has closed schools before: Pacifica High (Bay Point), Pleasant Hill High, Castle Rock Elementary, Rancho San Miguel Elementary, and there should be more. Some were closed in the 1970s. Some of those were mistakes, the Pacifica closure damaged the Bay Point community, and we should learn from those mistakes.

  12. I have been involved in reviewing enrollment at a local private school. Last year, and this year, there has been a significant increase in kids applying from Concord, Walnut Creek, and Pleasant Hill.

    Last year our Board claimed the decline in enrollment was due to an aging population. That may be the case but our population is aging because young families do not want to send their kids to school in this district. One Board member claimed it could not be due to an increase in private school enrollment because those schools have always been full.
    However, think of the fact that Northcreek was built in the last 8-10 years and has a huge waiting list for Kindergarten. Non-secular schools have been hit by the economy and parents in communities like Lafayette or Alamo may decide their public schools are good enough right now. These private schools have been able to accommodate MDUSD students and have also taken a page from the private college book and have made significant commitments to increase their endowments in order to offer financial aid.

    Next year we will have a new charter high school. It will be a school that will offer choice, individualized student pacing, a wide selection of electives, science labs, small group discussions and projects, along with sports and clubs. Instruction will be delivered online and teachers will be free to act as mentors, facilitators and tutors. There will not be a discrepancy between what you learn in Mr. Jones class versus Ms. Smith’s class. No need for pointless movies if the teacher is absent. No need for large scale assessments because students are assessed daily through their normal coursework and teachers use the data to customize the lessons for each student. All students will be provided a laptop for their use. Best of all the school is FREE.

    I tell you all of this because our district needs to stop whining about Sacramento and start looking at the reforms being made across the Country. They need to think out of the box and use innovation and not rely on the status quo educational model. Closing schools is the right thing to do but doing so outside of a plan for reform is wrong. I recently saw a recap of the most recent teacher negotiations. They are still talking about pay and work time. I get that but I hope they are also addressing the intangible issues that limit reform in this district. None of this can happen without a strategic plan. Gary and Sherry both have blog sites now. Why not use those sites to start to source stakeholders about what is working and what is not working in our schools? Why not use those blog sites to have a discussion on reform and what it might look like? WE NEED A PLAN AND WE CAN NOT KEEP WASTING TIME, MONEY, AND THE EDUCATION OF OUR CHILDREN WITHOUT ONE. The decisions being made right now are too important.

  13. Ah, yes, the long overdue STRATEGIC PLAN.
    Promises, promises, promises and still no plan. More wandering in the wilderness without a compass.
    Doctor J

  14. We have 5 board members - not just Sherry and Gary. Everyone should also engage Lynn Dennler, Linda Mayo and Cheryl Hansen.

  15. Anon 11:48

    Don't get me wrong, I agree that all five should be involved. I just am looking for a vehicle to get the discussion started.

    I don't believe a blog site reaches the majority of parents either.

    The idea was to start a dialogue not have Gary or Sherry pontificate in a post. Cheryl, Linda, and Lynne would not be precluded from joining the discussion.

    The goal was to just suggest that something is better than this NOTHING.

  16. The decreasing enrollment figure is an important one. But what no one is willing to stand up and say is the reason it's decreasing: Prop 13.

    Simply put, Prop 13 makes it nearly impossible to move after you've been in the area for any length of time. Think those folks who have been here for 20 years can afford to pay the property taxes on a similar home now?

    No way.

    So what we wind up with - all around the state - are cities that age and don't turn over. The natural equilibrium of our cities has been upturned and this is what we get in return.

    Why has SRVUSD gained? They built more homes, condos and apartments during the boom. They'll be in the same situation (albeit less so with a smaller district) in 20 years time if Prop 13 continues as is.

    Yeah, I'm grabbing the third rail and talking taxes - we owe it to our kids to have the discussion.

  17. Hey Concerned Parent,

    I grab the third rail of taxes with you, when you are willing to grab the third rail of the State of CA getting out of the business of educating ILLEGAL aliens and their children.

  18. Anon 8:36 Have you written your State Government? The change has to begin there. Until then our schools are mandated by law to educate all children and they can not ask about immigration or citizenship status.

    Crazy huh? I think that for every person and politician that believes that the schools must educate illegals then you move to these neighborhoods and put your children or grandchildren in these schools. I am sick and tired of people (mostly liberals that I know that say this) that want to keep the status quo but they would never dare to have their children attend a school that has a high ELL population. Put your children where your mouth is.

    I have no problem with the children of illegals, but it is hard having my children at a school with a high population of ELL. We feel our student is left out because so much effort and work must go into educating and trying to keep these kids in school, in which a majority of them are ELL. It is especially hard in a high school setting because these kids feel so out of place and they just want to leave. Thus the higher truancy and drop out rates. Then people start blaming the school and stating "No way in Hell will my child go to that school". So again, put your child where your mouth and political views are.

  19. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  20. Our posts are censored?

  21. Yes, I've had to censor some and I've enabled moderation right now as some people can't seem to behave themselves.

    However, it's also been a very slow weekend for any comments...

  22. This feels more like a pro-Monte Gardens blog and less like a MDUSD parents blog

  23. This post was about Monte Gardens, the actual blog has plenty of different topics....

  24. I read that Monte Gardens has been successful because of the "Diablo Basics" program, and I found it right on the MDUSD web site:
    Wow, why can't we have this at every school in the district? Why can't we hire teachers who take "great pride in their consistent and ongoing effort to maintain two-way communication between home and school regarding academic and behavioral expectations"?
    Communication is one-way in most schools - the parent must contact the teacher. I've spoken with parents in other areas of MDUSD who are not contacted by teachers, even when students are failing. Why not? The teachers can set up Homelink to email parents automatically and immediately, even if a student misses just one homework assignment. Why not use this easy mathod of communication? What's their excuse this time?
    WHEN will the administration and the board discuss strategies like "Diablo Basics" to improve every school in the district?

  25. Anon 8:18,

    Haven't you read the blog posts from Sherry Whitmarsh? She makes it sound like the MDUSD is trying to get rid of the choice programs.

    Don't be so silly about spreading it further.

  26. 1:01

    You are getting tiresome. You read into the blog reply something that I did not. You post over multiple blogs to talk about. Have you have called Sherry to talk about it or emailed her?