Petition to Create Separate School District Found Deficient by School Services of California

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Concord, CA – School Services of California, Inc., an independent consultant retained by the Contra Costa County Committee on School District Organization to analyze the petition by Northgate Community Advocacy for our Public Schools (Northgate CAPS) and its proposed transfer of territory carving out five schools to form a new school district, has concluded that the petition does not meet all nine of the criteria required by California law to form a new school district.  All criterion are required for approval.

 

School Services of California is a business, financial management, and facilities resource for school districts and county offices of education throughout California.  Established in 1975, its role is to offer third-party expert guidance for facility and financial and business operations.  In its independent review, the organization determined that Northgate CAPS failed to substantially meet specific criterion for equitable division of district facilities and no substantial increases in school facility costs.

 

“The findings of School Services support our position that the separation of the Northgate-area schools from Mt. Diablo Unified School District is not, in any way, a benefit to the community. We believe these findings will be very compelling for the County Committee,” said Dr. Nellie Meyer, Superintendent for MDUSD. “And while we feel the consultant was conservative in its review, we believe our further study and data will show that the proponents of a new school district also fail to substantially meet several additional required criterion.”

 

Previously, MDUSD had raised concerns that the petition for the proposed Northgate Unified School District territory – which would encompass Northgate High School, Foothill Middle School, and Bancroft, Valle Verde, and Walnut Acres elementary schools – also includes additional schools physically located within the proposed Northgate district boundary but with separate MDUSD attendance boundaries.  Northgate CAPS’ proposed transfer of territory also attempts to take Oak Grove Middle School and Ygnacio Valley High School but it appears to do so without retaining the corresponding student population. To this point, the School Services report stated that the proposed division of school sites would be deemed inequitable and result in significant increases to the cost of providing school facilities to the new district.

 

The inclusion of the two additional schools but not their students would mean the disruption to and displacement of approximately 2,000 students, the majority of whom are minority.  Of Oak Grove’s approximately 700 students, 84.1% are Hispanic or Latino; 1.7% are African American.  Of Ygnacio Valley’s nearly 1,300 students, 71.8% are Hispanic or Latino; 5.2% are African American.

 

The District notes the state’s education code is very clear on this: “a school district shall not be formed or reorganized to include territory which is separated from other portions of one or more other school districts.”

 

At the previous public hearings conducted by the Committee, public testimony was provided to make clear the proposed NUSD boundaries would also include attendance areas for Highlands Elementary, impacting 53% of that school’s current student body and prompting associated staff reductions and program changes or losses.

 

The petitioners have not offered any clarity on their intention for these additional schools.

 

The proposal would also impact Eagle Peak Montessori Charter School, a so-called “dependent” charter school, which remains a school of the District.  It is located on District-owned property at the former Castle Rock School adjacent to Northgate High School and enrolls approximately 200 students.  The school has stated clearly it does not wish to be part of a new district. 

 

As part of its independent study, School Services determined that Criterion #3 – Equitable Division of Property/Facilities – one of nine criteria required by the State to form a new district – would not be “substantially met.”  School Services determined the “reorganization petition specifies the proposed Northgate USD as encompassing all of the territory within the attendance boundaries of five Mt. Diablo USD schools, which, although inadvertent, also includes Oak Grove MS and Ygnacio Valley HS. As drafted, the reorganization proposal would deprive Mt. Diablo USD of two school sites which are needed to accommodate its current enrollment.”

 

Additionally, the analysis determined the petition failed to meet Criterion #7 – No Substantial Increase in School Facilities Costs. The study found this criterion would not be substantially met because “school facilities cost increases would not be insignificant or incidental to the reorganization. In the absence of significant policy changes, facilities will be needed by both districts to accommodate enrollment at specific grade levels and by the proposed Northgate USD in order to house its district staff and operations. The construction of new facilities or the modification of existing facilities to accommodate students would constitute a significant expense as a direct result of the reorganization.”

 

Mt. Diablo Unified, from the beginning, has come out strongly in opposition of the attempt to have the Northgate-area secede from the District; the unanimous board expressed united sentiment and voted 5-0 on a resolution opposing the petition.

 

“As a District, we regularly assess and analyze our programs and progress, and have effectively leveraged our budget to align services and resources so we can continue to serve families at the highest level and with excellent outcomes for all students,” noted Meyer.

 

A recent presentation at MDUSD’s joint meeting with the Walnut Creek City Council outlined centrally-provided resources for schools, highlighting programs at the five Northgate-area schools included in the NUSD territory.  Many of the programs would be moved to other MDUSD schools or discontinued if a Northgate district were to be approved. Special Education programs would be especially hard-hit, with programs like the magnet autism and mild/moderate Special Day Class moving to other MDUSD sites.  Students who remain part of MDUSD would continue to be able to access them.

 

“We have made tremendous progress as a community, in partnership with the community, our families and regional business and workforce development leaders, making innovative improvements in academic and career training programming, expanding valued student support services, and offering more opportunities than ever before for high-quality teacher professional learning and development,” said Meyer.  “We want our Northgate families to remain part of this exciting momentum.”

 

The County Committee will conduct a public hearing on the petition on August 29, 2017, beginning at 4 p.m. at Pleasant Hill Middle School, 1 Santa Barbara Rd. in Pleasant Hill. The meeting is open to the public.

 

The District unequivocally opposes the petition for several key reasons, including the following:

  • The proposed division results in a new school district that is far more racially and socioeconomically segregated, depriving students in both districts of an integrated educational experience.
  • The proposed division results in an inequitable distribution of assets and assessed property values.
  • The proposed division separates communities and would result in increased negative traffic impacts community-wide.
  • The proposed division would reduce the size of both districts, resulting in the disruptive shuffling of teaching and staff assignments, including likely necessitating layoffs and the elimination of key District programs.
  • The proposed division has a negative impact on both potential districts’ financial health and educational programs.
  • The District has made great strides over the last few years that are now paying dividends in student achievement, teacher recruitment and retention, and the provision of innovative educational programs and opportunities for every student throughout the District.  This petition would derail this progress and negatively impact the District’s students, families, teachers and staff.

 

RESOURCES:

 

California Education Code sec. 35511.

 

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Mt. Diablo Unified, located in Contra Costa County, is honored to serve approximately 32,000 students at one of more than 50 school sites in the cities of Clayton, Concord, Pleasant Hill; portions of Martinez, Pittsburg and Walnut Creek; and the unincorporated communities of Bay Point, Lafayette, and Pacheco. As part of a richly diverse community, MDUSD families represent numerous ethnic groups, speaking nearly 50 different languages and dialects. MDUSD offers innovative programs in Career Technical Education; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); extensive visual and performing arts programs; and foreign language and dual immersion programs. MDUSD is also pleased to have launched its first middle college program, College Now, and will open its first International Baccalaureate program and three new regional magnets in 2017.  Learn more at http://www.mdusd.org/.

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