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Mt. Diablo Unified Approves $4.3M Increase in Solar Project, Hears Complaints, Elects Officers

District addresses budget woes and more in dense Tuesday meeting.

The Mt. Diablo Unified school board met Tuesday evening with an eye toward the future: board members received a preliminary report on a three-year budget, fielded administration concerns from Mt. Diablo High School teachers, elected new officers and approved an increase in funding to solar projects which the district expects will save millions of dollars.

A Qualified Budget

The district voted unanimously to approve an interim report outlining a qualified three-year budget, showing that the district may not be able to meet its financial obligations through the 2014 school year.

The interim report, prepared by the Budget Advisory Committee, is one of two reports required from the school district each fiscal year by the California Department of Education. The report cited state “trigger cuts” to help close the California’s revenue gap, unfinished negotiations with the teacher’s union over furlough days, declining student enrollment and the possible conversion of Clayton Valley High School into a charter school as reasons for declining revenue.

However, the report was based on initial estimates that California state revenues would fall $3.7 billion short of projections; instead, the actual gap is closer to $2.2 billion.  As a result, the $1 billion midyear trigger cut to education ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday is less than the previously projected $2.5 billion. That means the amount of funding lost per student won’t be as high as expected, and the seven furlough days the district built into the budget as a safety may not need to be negotiated.

The trigger cuts are set to take effect Jan. 1. The board will receive an updated fiscal report in March, and then will vote on the final budget in June.

A Vote of No Confidence

Several teachers from Mt. Diablo High School took the podium during the meeting’s public comment portion to report that a majority of teachers have voted no confidence in MDHS Principal Kate McClatchy.

Teachers who spoke at the meeting accused McClatchy of a top-down style of leadership that places no value on student, parent or teacher input.

“Decisions are not made fairly and teachers don’t feel supported and recognized,” said Dan Reynolds, a teacher in his 10th year at MDHS. Ten other teachers stood up in support, holding handwritten signs declaring “No Confidence.”

Reynolds said that 55 of the school’s 79 teachers recently voted no confidence in McClatchy. Eleven teachers affirmed confidence in the principal, while 13 teachers abstained from the vote. 

Teachers faulted McClatchy for failing to create a master schedule that is compliant with the mandates of the Quality Education Investment Act, resulting in a loss of QEIA funding for the school.

The act, passed in 2006, allots $3 billion dollars over seven years to California schools that rank low in academic performance and have a high percentage of low income and minority students.  In order to receive state funding, schools must meet a number of goals, including reducing class sizes, achieving academic performance growth and improving the quality of instruction. High schools that receive QEIA funding typically receive $1,000 per student each year.

Teachers said that McClatchy’s failure to maintain compliance will result in a loss of $3.2 million over the next two years and a projected loss of 22-24 full time staff members.

The staff said McClatchy should be held responsible for the loss of funding and low teacher morale amid increasing class sizes, longer school days and concerns about teacher and student safety on campus.

“I was raised under the belief that the person at the top should be held accountable for the entire system,” said teacher Patrick Oliver. “Kate McClatchy has failed Mt. Diablo High School.”

McClatchy was not present at the meeting and board members did not immediately respond to staff comments.

New Officers Elected, Funding Increase Approved for Solar Contract

The board elected two new officers to four-year terms, effective in January. Board members voted 4 - 1 to elect current vice-president Sherry Whitmarsh as president and 4 - 0 to elect Linda Mayo as vice-president (Mayo abstained from the vote). The board unanimously voted to reappoint Superintendent Steven Lawrence as secretary.

The board also approved a $4.3 million increase to its contract with SunPower Corp. to bring solar power to 51 school sites in the district. The increase will bring the total cost of the solar project, approved in October 2010, to over $70 million. The contract is expected to save the district over $223 million in energy costs and solar rebates over the next 30 years.

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