Wednesday, January 5, 2011

School Closure Board Study Session date announced

Superintendent Lawrence has advised the PAC that the Board study session will take place on Weds 1/19 at 5:30pm.  Location will be announced by Monday.  Stay tuned.

Will you attend?

Remember you can find minutes, agendas and even the pros and cons for each scenario that the committee considered here on their webpage:  School Closure Advisory Committee - MDUSD 

And as a reminder of the 3 scenarios the board will be considering, here is a screen capture/excerpt of the December 13th minutes you can view at the link above.

Also, Theresa Harrington ( has reported that the Superintendent said the district will give parents 30 days from the date the school closures are announced to apply for transfers.  Normally, these intradistrict transfer requests are due 1/15 (which personally I'd still adhere to for now), but they will allow extra time in the event your chosen, or home school is impacted by a closure.


  1. All just window dressing. We all know that the board has already decided the outcome. The choice schools are gone. Didn't anyone read the posts by Sherry Whtimarsh which revealed her disgust for choice schools.

  2. Did you read the committee pros and cons? I do not believe the board has made up it's mind, more than half the board is new.

    Besides, I saw a question posed and I don't believe it was ever answered. "Back to Basics" was born before the new strict curriculum standards. HOW are these schools different curriculum-wise? If they're not, then is it mostly the parental involvement. I would bet, yes. My kids have always been lucky to attend HIGH parent participation schools and I can tell you that makes 100% difference. But you can do that anywhere. I do always wonder , WHAT IF, all these uber involved parents did go back to their home schools and put in the same gusto into improving their neighborhood school? I know, a pipe dream...

  3. MDUSD Parents,

    So you are one of the anti-choice school people also?

  4. Anon, no, definitely not. In fact, for a little history about me, until we moved 3 years ago my kids were always transfer students. But no, I did not choose a "choice" school but another high scoring, high parental involvement school.

    I am merely curious now that curriculum is so standardized, what is different? I'm honestly wondering. I do wholeheartedly believe though that parental involvement and an active, vibrant school community contributes greatly to the high scores.

  5. Oh and my point about telling you we were transfer students is that in truth, I wish we had the choice to go to any school in the district we wanted to! Of course, that would likely lead to overfull high scoring schools, and underfull low scoring schools, but I like choice. I wish there were more charters to accommodate more learning styles.

    I wish there were options for the high schools to take core classes at their home school and then perhaps join an academy or tech training at another. I think in the 21st century we should have a lot more choice. With technology, kids could be taking AP classes perhaps not offered at their home schools, but taught by a teacher in another school. It could happen.

  6. Does anyone know whether students that apply for intradistrict transfers due to their home school closing will still be subject to being displaced by mid-September every school year?

  7. To MDUSDParents:

    Yes - one of the differences is high parental involvement. But having choice school parents involved in a school where there is little interest in PTA/parental support won't turn the environment around.

    We have friends that have left choice schools and returned to their locally zoned school. They are very surprised at the learning environment there (many kids defy the teachers, text in class during the whole class period, don't put very much effort into their homework/classwork) - a very different environment from the choice school where they came from, and a big distraction from learning. That being said - not all schools are like this, but it explains why some parents aren't looking forward to returning to their home school.

    Some kids learn fine with any type of environment; some kids wouldn't do as well in the environment described above and would do much better in the type of environment in the choice school. That's the beauty of choice-you have options and can find what might match your kid best.

  8. Anon 9:45 , point taken. Though again, doesn't it go back to parents, family, values and expectations? I was talking to my daughter today, as interestingly she wants to go to the Athenian School. I wish ... but I digress. Anyway, she was talking that their rates to 4 year, ivy league and the best colleges is astronomical. Well, I thought, that stands to reason. Who goes to Athenian? Kids from money, kids from educated parents, kids from families with high expectations and that highly value education. Right? I'm sure there's more to it.

    Believe me I'm the first to admit, I know there are differences. I also know that scores aren't everything. I know some parents (not just Sherri) who CHOSE to work with Oak Grove and make it a better place and their kids are thriving.

    I still think first and foremost, it's parents that make the difference for their kids. We may not be able to change the world ( I wish I could) but we can shape the path for our kids the best we can.

  9. This is Anon 9:45.

    Thanks for your reply. Just to add to the differences, our friend's comment about the defiance, texting in class, etc. was "that never would have happened at choice school, the principal and teachers would never have permitted it." - meaning everyone had the same expectations - teachers, administrators, parents, students.

    The other telling comment from our friends was that the students made fun of our friend for having good grades.

    Again, for some kids this would not even phase them. But many kids are impressionable and influenced by their surroundings and peers. It's a shame that an academically strong kid is made to feel like an oddball & outsider.

    Again, it explains why some parents feel strongly about having the choice school option.

  10. You're right 9:45/9:58. It is a shame. It'd be nice if expectations, rules of respect and attitudes were more strictly enforced at the administrative level at each school site. But I guess each school has it's own "culture." Since we always did a transfer I kind of feel we always did have choice, and you can still choose to do an transfer request to any school in the district. There's no guarantee and all that, but there isn't with the Seq/MG lottery either.

    I don't know the answers. But the committee didn't pick my option, so what do I know?

  11. MDUSD Parents,
    I agree we should have more choices. I am working on a technology survey tonight for my son's school. I asked him some questions. He is a sophomore and yesterday was the first time all year he had been on a computer at school. Many of the classroom computers are running on outdated operating systems and outdated software. The computer lab is rarely open because budget cuts have severely limited library time. Two of his teachers have Smartboards but use them like whiteboards. VCRs and projectors were the most used technology and those aren't used by students.

    We have a long way to go to provide families 21st century choices. We should have a district-wide podcast library with relevant lectures by subject, we should offer webcasting between schools, we should provide a wide breadth of electives and advanced classes by providing online learning programs, we should restructure education and free up teachers to be mentors, facilitators, and tutors not disseminators of information. We should have curriculum that culminates into a student portfolio by their senior year with requirements along the way that include public speaking, research projects, global interaction, and community service. Our kids should learn skills they will need in the workplace. Studies have shown that today's employers find new hires deficient in skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration.

    I don't think this district has the resources or the will to move in that direction as a whole. Choice will come from outside district options, like charter schools.

    I understand the budget cuts are deep and time consuming. I only wish our district had a strategic plan so that closing schools could be part of a more innovative overall strategy. Imagine closing some schools while at the same time creating more school choice with innovative magnet programs. Closing schools the way it is being done currently feels punitive and desperate, which it is. If it were being done in conjunction with an overall strategy maybe it would be more positive and exciting. Maybe it would be perceived as a good thing.

    I too moved so that my children could attend a high performing school but I think all kids should have that choice. Sending parents back to neighborhood schools from schools like SES, SMS, and MG and expecting them to make their neighborhood schools better would be quite a challenge. It takes an army of committed and involved parents to make a true difference not just a handful.

    I truly hope our board does not decide to eliminate schools that offer parents a choice. I do believe it would be a step in the wrong direction.

  12. I agree 10:24 it takes an army vs a handful, however, as long as the highly committed parents leave their home schools, is there any hope? For instance, take Oak Grove, would it get better if not for the parents who chose to stay? Or would it keep going down? I guess a ripple, can become a wave in my nirvana.

    And I get it, I do, and I agree with you and the other anon. I just wish more parents thought more globally and not just with their tunnel vision, but I also guess it's our job as a parent to focus on our kids, our school, our environment and our choices. I did it too, so I know the pull to do the right thing for our kids. I just see that nothing will ever change for these other schools until there is a huge cultural shift in how we view education, or how some view education.

    And I also agree they should not close Seq or MG, not because they are "choice" schools but because they are good schools. Rather than sending the well scoring kids out in the community, why not take the lower scoring kids and disperse them amongst higher scoring schools. It just seems backwards to me to contemplate closing the highest scoring vs. the lowest, but I get there's more at play than "common sense."

  13. MDUSDParents
    This is Anon 10:24
    I agree, it does not make sense to close the high performing schools. As for Oak Grove that is exactly where I moved from. It went something like, "Over my dead body will my children go to that school." I know that that comment will not be well received by some but that is how I felt looking at my 7 year old and telling my husband we needed to move before middle school.
    It was purely selfish. I wanted better for my children. If I could not have moved I would have been on the Sequoia list. I respect parents like Sherry who have made that choice but it was not what we wanted. The decision was no different than many of the parenting decisions we have made throughout the years.

  14. Interesting to read your comments Anon and MDUSD Parents. I did like the suggestion of moving lower performing students to multiple schools in our district with higher performing students. That way they are not all attending the same schools. What about a magnet school or several in elementary, middle and one for high school for ELL students? Then once proficient in reading, writing and comprehension they have the choice of which school to transfer too. Have each of our high schools become a special performing school, like a technology based school, performing arts based school, etc...

    We choose to send our oldest to OGMS and his sibling 5 years later to SMS. Both were good decisions and both did really well. We stayed in our feeder pattern and our children attend YVHS. Yes it is frustrating as an involved parent to hear of disruptive kids in class, etc. It is sad because parent involvement is less at YVHS than other high schools. But it might surprise you who those kids are that are causing problems in the classroom, not necessarily the lower performing or ELL students. However you have higher drop out rates among the ELL students and keeping them in class is a challenge. They are the ones who are truant or ditching all together. I do have experience with other high schools and all the schools have issues to deal with from defiant students to severe drinking and drug problems.

    I do agree with both of you, if you as the parent are involved and show your children how important their education is, they will be successful anywhere. It is up to them as students to succeed. Our older son had many friends at private school (DLS) and several at Acalanes and Las Lomas. I am proud to say he is the only one of his friends who has stayed in College and our son will be graduating this year. I struggled with the "did we do the right thing by staying with our local school". But today I absolutely believe it was the right thing. My children are doing well, have a great appreciation of what they have, are very comfortable with diversity and enjoyed their high school days. Our older ones have learned, where you go (and the name of your schools) to school in K-12 means nothing once you are in College. It is what you did to educate yourself that matters.

    As for which schools to close? This is not going to be an easy decision for our BOE. As for the first post by an Anon, it is not factual nor correct. This is someone's assumption and this harms our children. If people truly care about the process of the SCC they could have attended the meetings, if they could not they can read all the agendas and minutes on the MDUSD website (hit community link), they can attend the study session, they can write all the BOE constructive emails or letters and also we need to write our State Legislatures, no more cuts to Education!

    There is no easy solution and unless the new Governor makes a big change in his new budget next week, school closures have to happen.

  15. Hi Anon 7:46 am

    You have a good story and your kids sound like they can do well in a variety of environments. You should feel fortunate and I'm sure you are proud of your kids.

    But not all kids are naturally strong academically, nor are all kids suited to excel in distracting environments. You speak of "where you go means nothing once you are in college." For your kids, they made it successfully through their high school. But there are a lot of "borderline" kids, for whom a stronger learning environment in high school might be the difference in going to a 4-year college or not.

    Every family situation is different. It's good to remember that situations aren't "one size fits all" and that families struggle with choosing the best options for their situations and for their kids strengths and weaknesses. Families shouldn't feel embarrassed about wanting the option for a pro-learning environment for their kids, IMO.

  16. Does anyone know why it would cost 3.5 mil to close Seq El, Seq Middle and MG? On the pros and cons sheet that was a con. And certainly that sounds like a "con" to me, and it's the only one on the list with such a big price tag in the "con" side. Why ARE they considering something with a 3.5 million dollar price tag?

    I still like my option (#7). Sure, I see they don't like the closing of a Bay Point school as population is rising there, so fine, don't, take that off the list, but why not save the most money in one full swoop and that option has schools from around the district so it's not impacting only one feeder pattern.

    I see the "point" of the choice schools as on paper it sounds easy to just send them back to home schools, but that option has significant "cons" spelled out. I'm not sure why it's on the list.

    I'd love to know why certain schools were lumped together, how did they come up with particular scenarios? Very odd pairings.

  17. To MDUSDParents - you ask why it would cost 3.5 mil to close SES, SMS, MG?

    I'm not sure if this is the reason, but there is some interesting info in the SCAC report from 12/6
    - On page 39, the analysis indicates that 10 additional classrooms are needed to accommodate displaced MG students, 6 additional classrooms are needed for displaced SES students and 3 additional classrooms are needed for displaced SMS students.

    I imagine the cost to construct or lease temporary classroom space might be some/much of the cost?

  18. Anon 7:46
    This is Anon 10:24. I am happy to hear that your kids did well at OGM, YV, and SMS. I do believe parents make a difference. Who knows my kids may have excelled at OGM and YV. However, my husband and I believed the opportunity for moving on to a four year university was better if our children were surrounded by more kids likely to do the same. Call it peer pressure. It was a calculated decision based on the odds. It worked for us.

    I like your suggestion of magnet high schools. I hope in the next round of teacher contract negotiations the district will negotiate away the union's approval over the bell schedule.

    If they can align the bell schedules the district could even provide more opportunities for students to benefit from classes offered at other high schools.

    None of this will happen successfully without a strategic plan. There are many great examples of innovative changes occurring in districts across the country. I hope MDUSD will choose to make strategic planning a priority. It affects the budget, school closures, reform, negotiations, etc.... and if done correctly will unite all stakeholders under a common vision and goal.

  19. MDUSDParents asks Does anyone know why it would cost 3.5 mil to close Seq El, Seq Middle and MG?

    I'm not sure I know the reason, but does it have something to do with the cost to accommodate students returning to their locally zoned school?

    Page 39 indicates that 10 additional classrooms are needed to accommodate MG students, 6 additional classrooms are needed for SES students and 3 additional classrooms are needed for SMS students.

    Building out or leasing 19 additional classrooms may be some/much of the 3.5 mil cost?

  20. MDUSDParent
    Is option 7 the option that saved $2.7 mil? If yes, I like that option as well. I wonder why it did not make the recommendation list?

  21. Anon 9:23
    So does that mean the other choices on the recommendation list move kids to schools that already have the capacity to accommodate them?

  22. MDUSD Parents,

    Your question about why the choice schools are on the list is easily answered.

    Unfortunately, it is an unpopular answer that no one wants to talk about, kind of like the elephant in the room everyone is trying to pretend isn't there.

    The choice schools were targeted by an over zealous and possibly jealous parent committee member.

  23. To Anon 9:37 am -

    In reading the report, it looks like page 39 shows that 2 classrooms would be needed for the Glenbrook/Silverwood/Wren option and and 3 classrooms would be needed for the Glenbrook/Silverwood/Holbrook options.

    If you have time, I recommend that you review the report for yourself.

  24. To Anon 9:37 am -

    My apologies!!! I cited the wrong page number - please look at page 13 for the information showing 2 classrooms would be needed for the Glenbrook/Silverwood/Wren option and and 3 classrooms would be needed for the Glenbrook/Silverwood/Holbrook options.

    Again, my apologies for list the wrong page number.

  25. 9:38am- Please grow up. If you are the model for your childrens' future, then I fear no school will help them.

    It has been discussed ad nauseum how the groups were broken up and rearranged many times so that no one person had too much sway. Your insistence that one jealous parent was responsible for putting those schools on the list is ridiculous and childish, but mostly just plain wrong.

    The reason why SMS, SES and MG were on the list makes sense to many people who don't only see things in terms of just their kids.

    It is perfectly legitimate to have an option that would not close neighborhood schools for fairness sake. It's an option at this point, not a decision.

    Personally, I don't think that the board will close those schools, but am glad that the committee had the sense to look at that as an option.

    MDUSDParents- The reason that option#7 wasn't considered despite the savings was that it was too disruptive to too many students. There may come a time when more schools have to be closed, but to close that many schools and have to rearrange personnel and students at one time would be a staggering task.

  26. Anon 9:49
    No worries I skimmed through the entire report. I did not attend the meetings but if you did could you please tell me if the district considered a district-wide boundary change? What I mean by that is that if we need to close schoools due to a declining enrollment district wide wouldn't that mean we should have the capacity to accommodate students without building any new classrooms under any scenario.
    If the district tweaked all school site boundaries would we have enough classes to accommodate all students?
    I will have to study the report in more depth to get a feel for that question. I was just curious if it was discussed.

  27. "The reason why SMS, SES and MG were on the list makes sense to many people who don't only see things in terms of just their kids."

    I am not Anon 9:38 and that comment is a bit unfair. There are many people who have an opinion on this scenario and their kids will not be affected one way or another.
    This is an option that benefits the adults because it is easier. I question whether it is better for the kids.

  28. 10:13am- Many people bought homes in specific neighborhoods because of the schools. That is for the kids.

    Having a choice school is a nice thing for the district, but it affects only a small percentage of the MDUSD population.

    The district should IMMEDIATELY implement standards that will bring every school up to SES, SMS and MG standards so this discussion will be moot.

  29. I am also not Anon 9:38 and do not have a student at any of the choice schools. But I am concerned for the district. MDUSD has declining enrollment (fewer students enrolling translates to reduced revenue which can result in more budget cuts). If we have to close what are perceived as "high performing schools", it makes the district less desirable to families. My concern is that fewer families will consider moving to the area, which then result in further declines in enrollment and more budget cuts (a downward spiral).

    Other districts have fairly flat enrollment (WCUSD) or rising enrollment (San Ramon) so it's a tough position for MDUSD to be in.

  30. All I can say is "YIPPEE...Looks like Glenbrook will be closing". My child currently attends Glenbrook because we thought if good kids went there, they could help improve the schools API scores. Well, it's the worst thing I could have done for my child. The absolute WORST SCHOOL EVER!!!!!!!! Yes, the Intra-District transfer has already been submitted but it will be interesting to see however, what school will become my child's home school and whether or not we will be able to transfer within the District under NCLB.

  31. Anon 10:23

    Of course MDUSD should bring every school up to the level of SMS, SES, and MG. That is a wonderful goal and could be part of a comprehensive strategic plan.

    We are not going to improve MDUSD by closing high performing schools. That makes no sense and MDUSD will be a laughing stock of a district if they did. Show me one district across the nation that is choosing to close a high performing school(or three) when presented with the choice of closing high performing or low performing.

    In addition, we are not going to fix low performing schools by removing high performing school options for our students. We will simply have more declining enrollment.

    In these times where mediocre public education is the norm I can not even fathom the idea of closing something that works. We should be copying it and repeating it district wide.

  32. Does anyone else have a bad feeling about either of these 2 news items?

    Superintendent of Public Instruction declares California schools in 'state of emergency'

    Gov.-elect Jerry Brown told education leaders in Los Angeles "fasten your seat belt" for dramatic spending cuts to schools, while not rejecting their appeals for tax-revenue relief.

  33. 1. Our schools ARE in a state of crisis. Torlakson is declaring an emergency to set the stage for a battle for more money. That is probably a good thing.

    2. Jerry Brown has no choice but to cut the budget dramatically because this State has an 18 billion dollar deficit. During the election he promised no new taxes without voter approval. He is setting the ground work to convince the voters to support a tax hike and renewal of taxes set to expire.

    I have a bad feeling about anything regarding the budget and the State of California. However, these two items might end up helping education we will see.

  34. This is Anon 1:01
    One clarification...
    When it all shakes out, I hope Brown will make dramatic cuts where they are needed. I hope in turn that if we are asked for new taxes that they will benefit education.

  35. It looks like this has been answered, but yes the high cost of closing SES, SMS and MG is that the home schools the students would be sent to, do not all have capacity to accomodate them, thus the high cost of constructing new classrooms. All the while several other schools sit only 2/3 full, at most. Makes sense, right? Not at all!!! Choice aside, academics aside, there are neighborhoods that simply do not have the population to justify operating schools that are nowhere near close to full. There is no way around it. This decision is about stopping the MDUSD from hemmoraging money. It's about money!!! They cannot in any scenario justify closing schools that result in the spending of millions of dollars!!!!

  36. Does anyone else find it odd that the Principle for Monte Gardens and the Principle for Sequoia Middle School chose to leave their schools at the end of last year's school year .... odd timing .....

  37. I assume you mean princiPAL right? It was a shell game last summer, I got confused and lost track. Where did those principals go? Didn't most just get transferred around or transferred up to the district office? I'm pretty sure the sequoia principal is at the Dent center now (a promotion). What about MG's?