Accelify Blog

Mt. Diablo School District Mulls Next Steps as Budget Woes Loom (CA)

March 30, 2011

Although the Mt. Diablo school board declined Tuesday to close a third school to save money, questions remain on how the district will meet its goal of saving $1.5 million.

In presenting alternatives to the closure, Superintendent Steven Lawrence did not show specifically how much his recommendations would save, but he said that staff members think they would add up to the target.

Trustees agreed Feb. 8 to close Glenbrook Middle and Holbrook Elementary schools in Concord, estimated at that time to save about $1 million in staff and utilities. On Tuesday, however, trustee s agreed with Lawrence’s recommendation to establish a nonpublic special education program on the closed Glenbrook site, without any details regarding what it would include or cost.

"I’d like to be able to tie up some of the loose ends and figure out some direction," trustee Lynne Dennler said Wednesday. "Then, I need details."

Earlier this month, Lawrence told the board that the district could save about $140,000 by redrawing boundary lines around overcrowded schools to minimize "overflow" busing, and $130,000 by combining small high schools. At the board meeting, he recommended the boundary change, but he did not recommend small school consolidation, saying he wanted to evaluate small high schools as part of a "vision for our high school programs and how to best utilize our current high school campuses to make this vision a reality."

Lawrence said that he wants to create a district wide "work group" in April that would explore this vision, along with the idea of building a high school in Bay Point. Finally, he recommended providing online learning opportunities to independent and home-study students, without telling trustees how much this would save.

Trustee Cheryl Hansen complained Tuesday that she did not have enough time to analyze Lawrence’s PowerPoint presentation, since she received it right before the meeting began. Lawrence said he couldn’t provide it sooner, because he was working on it until the meeting began.

Meanwhile, parents and staff at Glenbrook and Holbrook are preparing for their schools’ closure. Glenbrook likely will have to return some of its School Improvement Grant funding — which was to total $1.7 million over three years — and students from both schoo ls have less than a month to apply for transfers, if they don’t want to attend the new schools to which they are assigned.

Some parents at Silverwood and Westwood elementary schools — which had been targeted for closure — said they are ready to help the district promote tax measures to keep their campuses open, along with other programs and services.

"This isn’t over yet," said Westwood parent Chris Fehring. "We could be looking at more school closures in June if California voters don’t extend the taxes."

Many district employees rallied before the meeting to protest what they called the district’s "unfair bargaining," because they are being asked to take furlough days and other concessions as the district works toward slicing another $11 million from its $297.6 million budget to break even. Trustees also voted Tuesday to lay off 85 certificated employees, including three administrators and 82 teachers.

If the governor’s proposed tax extensions fail, board President Gary Eberhart said the district could have to cut another $25 million.