Saturday, April 30, 2011

Interested in the Clayton Valley Charter High School? Sign a petition this weekend

This weekend (April 30, May 1), at Clayton's Annual Art and Wine Festival, there will be parent supporters of the proposed new charter school out with petitions to sign.  They will have a table near Canesa's Deli and will also be walking around.  They need volunteers if you want to help, or just go down with your friends and sign the petition.  They are hoping to get 2000 signatures before the charter is presented to the board for consideration.

You can get more information, FAQ's, model charter examples and view their full slide show from both their FACEBOOK PAGE and their WEBSITE.

Canesa's Deli is also where you'll find Cup O' Jo's coffee shop, at 6054 Main Street, in Downtown Clayton.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Strategic Planning - your input is requested

Sherry Whitmarsh has posted information about upcoming dates for strategic planning community meetings .

You can find the dates on Sherry's website:

She's also got links to a model plan. We know you all have a lot to say, so hopefully you will all participate in the process.

The dates are also in this district email:

The Mt. Diablo Unified School District is beginning a strategic planning process.  A straw model of strategic intents has been developed.  Each strategic intent has been defined and a list of potential goals has been identified.  Our next step is to review the work with the community and get feedback.  To this end, fifteen community input sessions have been scheduled for May and June.  Each session will review the strategic intents and definitions.  The community will give input on the goals: should any be changed, are any goals missing, and what are the concerns or issues for the goals. 

You are invited to attend one of the community input sessions listed below:
·        Monday, May 2, 7:00 p.m., Clayton Valley High School Multi Use Room
·        Tuesday, May 3, 7:00 p.m., Mt. Diablo High School Multi Use Room
·        Thursday, May 5, 7:00 p.m., Northgate High School Multi Use Room
·        Monday, May 9, 7:00 p.m., College Park High School Multi Use Room
·        Wednesday, May 11, 4:00 p.m., Monte Gardens Elementary Multi Use Room (geared for staff input)
·        Thursday, May 12, 7:00 p.m., Ygnacio Valley High School Multi Use Room
·        Saturday, May 14, 9:00 a.m., TBD
·        Monday, May 16, 7:00 p.m., Concord High School Multi Use Room
·        Tuesday, May 17, 7:00 p.m., Dent Center (geared for Community Advisory Committee)
·        Wednesday, May 19, 7:00 p.m., Riverview Middle School Multi Use Room
·        Wednesday, June 1, 7:00 p.m., (geared for Parent Advisory Committee)
·        Thursday, June 2, 7:00 p.m., Willow Creek Center  (geared for Foundations)
·        Wednesday, June 15, 7:00 p.m., Dent Center (geared for Measure C Oversight Committee)
·        Wednesday, June 15, 7:00 p.m., Willow Creek Center
·        Thursday, June 16, 7:00 p.m., Dent Center (geared for Measure C Oversight Committee)

MDUSD Salaries are online at CCTimes

What do you think about public employee salaries being available to all?

At this link you can see salaries for every individual, not just general position salaries, but every individual's name and position is posted for all to see.

You can also look at some of the surrounding districts if you've been interested in comparisons.

Now keep in mind, I'm pretty sure this is not a true depiction of what teachers get in their pocket as possibly factored in are their benefits, etc and not factored in are their out of pocket insurance, union dues, etc.

It's probably not a real fair release as there is no qualifications on the numbers....  From MDEA's facebook page, "Unfortunately, they relied on a single source and did no confirmation of the gross numbers...."

Monday, April 18, 2011

CVHS Charter conversion meeting standing room only

The meeting tonight at the Clayton Library was standing room only and had quite a few good pieces of information.  I will link later to articles as both the Times reporter, Theresa Harrington, and the local Concord Patch reporter(s) were present.

Some information:

WEBSITE for charter: Clayton Valley Charter High School
FACEBOOK page for charter: Clayton Valley Charter High School on Facebook

Priorities would be 20:1 class sizes
Sports would be maintained
Teachers/organizers hope to have charter written and presented to MDUSD Board by end of May
Charter could/begin for Fall 2012 semester

See more at Theresa Harrington's twitter feed at as she's doing a "play by play."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Possibilities . . . Clayton Valley Charter High School

The meeting this afternoon was very interesting.  It was packed, with standing room only.  It was short, to the point, and left a lot of questions, but they said that the next meeting MONDAY evening, April 18th at 7pm (Clayton Library, not CVHS), will have more time for Q&A and will also offer some guests - "charter school experts."

The committee at the school spearheading the idea is working with a paid consultant to work through the details of writing up a charter.  The presentation was led by Pat Middendorf (Athletic Director and Academic Literacy/Special Ed) and Neil McChesney (English, Leadership and Public Speaking). 

Here are some key points related to the "possibilities" of a Clayton Valley Charter High School, please feel free to add if I missed anything you felt was important:

  • Started discussions in September in the "Staff Senate" meeting which is a body of staff members elected by fellow staff and includes some of the most involved staff of the school i.e. the teachers who run leadership, music, etc. - "the heart of the school."
  • They need 50% + 1 of all teachers to vote for the charter, the charter is then written, and then they have a year to implement and plan. This means the earliest this "new" charter high school could be implemented would be the fall of 2012.
  • A charter would have its own governing board and instead of "superintendent" type titles, one may see titles such as CEO, CFO, COO, etc.  The leadership of the school is ON campus.  The school could run independent of the layers of the school district.  The school would make its own decisions.
  • The school would run its own budget and initial estimates are that funding would go up.  Not only would the funding come straight to the school at the high school rate (vs. a blended elementary/high rate), but the school would be eligible for specialty charter grants and other state and federal funding - funds that would go direct to the school, not the school district as it looks today. The discussion of the budget crisis and the possibility in the future of a state takeover was briefly touched upon.
  • Right now the MDUSD is responsible for the budgets and financials for 56 schools.  A Clayton Valley Charter High School would be soley responsible for only their own budget.  This charter would offer "fiscal independence" and could result in a "ton of money" from grants and other charter funding.
  • There is a BIG difference between a new, start up charter and a conversion charter.
  • Clayton Valley Charter High School would have the same attendance areas, it would still be a public school and must adhere to same accreditation standards and testing requirements.
  • An analogy was brought forth of renting a home vs. buying... Clayton Valley Charter would be a owner.  The district would have to give up the site to the charter per law.  The charter would have a lot more autonomy and freedom, but also more responsibility.
  • Employees at the site would have 3 choices; stay with MDEA, create their own bargaining unit, or create a specific contract for the charter within MDEA.
Ideas of "good" things that could happen at a Clayton Valley Charter High School included:
  • Increased API by stopping the brain drain (top kids moving to other or private schools), bringing the top performing kids/families BACK to Clayton Valley.
  • Instituting a Freshmen Summer Transition Program.  Could run 1-4 weeks during the summer and could be enrichment, evaluation, remediation or all of the above.  Pathways for individual students could be carved in order to best serve the individual needs of each student. Discussion of a very successful charter conversion program was brought up here and sounded very exciting actually.  Check out Granada Hills Charter High School as a very successful nationwide model for charter conversions.
  • Emphasis on the goal to "look at every student individually." 
  • Bring back summer school.
  • Work collaboratively with local higher education; colleges, CSU, etc. to bring college level coursework and curriculum on campus.
  • The discussion of dress code and possible UNIFORMS brought the crowd to a loud cheer. It seemed most were in agreement that the sagging pants, alcohol/drug/sex messages on shirts and exposed midriffs (among other things) are a distraction and division within a high school campus and as it stands now there is no support for staff to enforce the supposed dress code.  The school, as a charter, could institute its own dress code and/or uniforms.
  • The school could create its own calendar.  As an example, starting earlier in August so the first semester is finished at winter break.  This too brought many nodding heads and sounds of agreement amongst the audience.  Though a comment reminded that with kids in other district schools, we'd need to be mindful of the coordination of calendars.  It was acknowledged that much still needs to be discussed.
  • Could hire own custodial service to give the school the attention it deserves
So, what else did you get out of it?  Personally, I think it is very , very interesting and I like what I see when I look at the Granada Hills website.  Check it out! Join the facebook page for ongoing information:!/pages/Clayton-Valley-Charter-High-School/123874797687533

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

As schools convert . . . ?

It seems that Clayton Valley has created a groundswell of interest in the charter idea.  I've gotten a TON of emails asking who to contact for information, asking already who might be ready to mentor other schools, etc. Seems to have struck a cord. I don't think it's just the idea of a charter in and of itself, as we know we have Eagle Peak here already, and the new Flex Academy coming to the district soon - but the idea of teacher or parent trigger charters - converting a school to a charter vs a new idea, new school.  It's very interesting, indeed.

The folks involved in the exploration of the CVHS charter have started a new facebook page, they say "to disseminate information to staff, students, parents and community members of Clayton Valley High School as we research and explore the option of becoming a conversion charter school."

So, check it out and join the discussion Clayton Valley Charter High School on facebook.  There are links to charter school information, as well as links to other successful charter conversion schools. Something tells me a lot of eyes will be on this process, and if successful may not be the only high school, joining the ranks of charter within our district boundaries.

Don't forget the meeting Thursday, April 14th, in room E-1 at CVHS at 12:30pm.  There is also a meeting on Monday evening, April 18th at 7pm at the Clayton Library.

Monday, April 11, 2011

CVHS Charter conversion meetings

Want more information ?

A couple of meetings are taking place this week if you are interested in the possible charter conversion.

Monday (today) , April 11th at 12:30pm
Thursday, April 14th at 12:30pm

Meetings at Clayton Valley room E1.

There will also be a couple of community meetings one day next week at Endeavor Hall in downtown Clayton, so stay tuned for details on that.

They will present a PowerPoint informational slide show.

Message from the CVHS PFC President 4/12/11:

Friends—As you may have heard, Clayton Valley High School is currently and actively pursuing a charter school conversion.  This means that CVHS will convert from a traditional public school (governed by a school district and a school board) to a CHARTER school public school (governed by a site-specific governing board comprised of teachers and staff, administrators, parents and community members).

This conversion charter school affects everyone in the Clayton Valley area.  Even if you don’t have children in our local public schools, charter schools can be a boost to area real estate prices, safety, and the overall connection of a community.

As we are just in the beginning stages, there are many questions and points of clarification that still need to be researched and worked out, however the process is exciting and underway.  We have begun holding community information meetings and hope that everyone will take the opportunity to either go to one of the meetings to have all your questions answered or call me directly (redacted) to talk about what this might look like and how it might affect your child’s educations.

Our next meeting will be held this Thursday, April 14th at 12:30.  We will meet on the CV campus in room E-1.  Additionally, we are planning an evening meeting for (we hope) next week.  The dates and location are being worked out now so stay tuned and please forward this on to anyone you think may be interested.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Strategic Planning in MDUSD takes a leap toward reality

In some good news coming out of the MDUSD, the "plan" for strategic planning is starting to take shape.  In case you missed item 14.11 at the last board meeting, it was all about strategic planning.  First, on the agenda was posted an Input Session plan, and a draft of a 2010-2015 strategic plan itself.  The timelines for public input on the document shows public input will begin with meetings at the various feeder pattern high schools starting in May, and continue at a middle school, then with the various district committees, community groups, foundations, seniors and staff. 

In correspondence with Brian Lawrence, a Concord father, he has some ideas of what a strategic plan should address and his thoughts.  It is worthy of sharing and I hope we can begin an open discussion about what a strategic plan should be for our district.  Below are his thoughts and questions.  What do you think?

On Feb. 23, the Mt. Diablo School Board voted unanimously to refrain from closing any additional schools at this time. School closure is unfortunate and it has certainly been a painful process here in MDUSD. We do, however, have the opportunity to consider and remedy the cause of school closures- a steady decline in student enrollment. If we don’t deal with this problem, we will inevitably be faced with closing even more schools in the future.

The District states that declining enrollment in MDUSD has not resulted in an increase in private school enrollment over the same period. It has been argued that declining enrollment is merely reflective of a low birth rate. This neglects the fact that in adjacent school districts, such as San Ramon, they are actually seeing an increase in student enrollment.

Parents of school age children are voting with their wallets and their feet—they are moving out of MDUSD. Many parents calculate the cost of private school tuition and decide the money would be better spent on a mortgage in a different school district. The number-one factor in purchasing a home for most parents of school-aged kids is the school system—the negative perception of MDUSD has a huge impact on every homeowner in the area. In aggregate, it is tens of millions of dollars in lost home value.

So how do we solve this problem? There have been past attempts to pass a parcel tax to provide more funds for the district. A parcel tax requires 2/3 approval in order to pass. There is zero chance that will happen without the District doing a better job of articulating how the money will be spent and restoring trust in the District.

Several people have offered a strategic plan as a first step towards a solution, but there has not been very much discussion about what that plan might actually look like. A strategic plan is only as good as the people who create and implement it.

In order for a strategic plan to be successful, people have to buy in to it. All of the different stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, staff, business leaders, etc.) need to have a voice in the process. It needs to be something that drives all of the decisions made by the District. It cannot merely become a forgotten document in a dusty binder that sits on a desk.

If we had a strategic plan tomorrow, would it eliminate the need for school closures? No. If we had a strategic plan a year ago, would it have changed the need for school closures? I have no idea, but it is a waste of time to point fingers and rehash the past.

We can, however, avoid closing schools in the future. Mt. Diablo can become a  district that families are running towards, not running from. We need to have a clear, common vision of how we get there and the strategic plan can play a vital role in that.

The strategic plan must address questions such as:
  • How do we best measure student achievement?
  • How do we attract and retain top teachers?
  • What role, if any, do choice schools play in the district? Charter schools?
  • What infrastructure is needed to execute the strategic plan?
  • How can we best serve the needs of Special Education students?
  • What percentage of graduates are expected to go to a four- year college? How do we best prepare them for that?
  • What role does technology play in the District?
  • Is vocational training needed for students who may not go on to college?
  • How long will it take for English Language learning students to become fluent?
  • What consultants are needed for the district to succeed? What should we expect of full-time employees?

These are just a few of the types of questions that a strategic plan will address. Part of the process of strategic planning is to actually decide on the questions that need to be answered.

Some people say that strategic planning is expensive and will require high-paid consultants. I disagree.

The best example of a strategic plan is the Constitution of the United States. It has been a framework for our government for over 220 years. It did not require high-priced consultants—no one from Bain or McKinsey was needed to facilitate the discussion. All that was needed was a group of concerned, passionate citizens to come together and develop a shared vision.

The MDUSD Board took a step in the right direction at the March 29th meeting by laying  out a format for a strategic plan. It will take a lot more than just the five board members to make this a reality.

What is your vision for a strategic plan for MDUSD? What questions should it answer? Are you willing to work together to develop it and move this school district forward?