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May 15, 2020 Friday Letter Volume 1, No. 36
Posted 5/15/20

#TogetherWeGrow. . . #JuntosAprendemos…#TogetherWeLead. . .

#JuntosCrecemos…#TogetherWeLearn…#JuntosLideramos!

#LeadWithResilience…#LiderarConResiliencia

 

Creative Graduation Ceremony Planning Underway

     At Monday’s virtual Board Meeting, we had the wonderful opportunity to hear from our student leadership from almost all of our secondary schools about how they were doing and what their recommendations were for potential graduation ceremonies. The student leaders certainly represented the larger student body when they described that they have been making the best of this difficult time. They are engaging, they are trying to connect, and they do feel supported, even as many of them have taken on additional responsibilities within their homes during these times. These student leaders shared a consensus perspective that they, “want something,” to mark their graduations and culmination of their time in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, even knowing that it will not be traditional graduation ceremony.

     I am proud to report that all of our secondary schools have been arranging for timely drive-through graduation ceremonies with their own special touches. School sites have collaborated, and are leading the way with site-specific planning, while the district has collaborated with local health officials to ensure that our ceremonies will comply with the guidance on best-practices for safety and security. While it may be that not all students will be able to collectively gather for a group ceremony, they will be together in school spirit, camaraderie and hopefully will have a ceremony that they will never forget.

     We knew our ceremonies this year would not be traditional, yet it remained so very important for us to acknowledge and recognize the achievement of our graduating class of 2020. I will be writing a and delivering a personal message to our graduating class at the beginning of June, and I would prompt us all to offer messages of encouragement for our graduating seniors and to our continuing students as they complete their school year—all of whom have truly been through so much!

Understanding the State’s Budget: the Governor’s May Revision

     As a leader of the Mount Diablo Unified School District, I maintain the responsibility to communicate with you about how changes in the budget for the State of California will affect our district. In my previous Friday Letters, I have striven with diligence to communicate with you about our budget and the shortfalls that have come mostly from a lack of state funding, and now a national and global pandemic has dramatically created significant material differences to our state budget, which has added to the fiscal instability for school districts. Dollars allocated to districts through the Proposition 98 process directly translate to services for our students, and simply put, when our state does well, it is much easier for our state budget to enhance services for public education. Unfortunately, when the state finds itself in fiscal despair, public education often suffers hand in hand.

     California Governor Gavin Newsom’s May Revision, submitted on Thursday, has solidified the idea that there is a significant need for increased funding from the Federal Government. In fact, he confirms that he is advocating for the passage of the HEROES ACT, which was to be taken up by the House of Representatives today.  As an aside, I wrote and submitted a letter of support for the HEROES Act on Thursday, May 14, 2020.

     While the Governor is affirming that some of the initial Federal dollars received by the state due to the impact of Covid-19 will be sent onto local school districts, he has also confirmed that these current dollars will not prevent the state’s need to reduce the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) by an anticipated 10%. While the Governor has dipped into the Education Stabilization Funds to support services to students, he has also reduced anticipated dollars to state preschool programs and early intervention programs. While it is good that the current spending plan does call for some continuing level of increased funding for Special Education Services, he has also confirmed, unfortunately, that funding to public education is expected to have no increase for Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA).  The state legislators will now take up the Governor’s May Revision for consideration, and will work to pass a state budget prior to the June 30, 2020 deadline.

     District leadership will continue to closely analyze and monitor any revisions and projections to the state’s budget, and work with fiscal experts from across the state to further determine the financial impacts on our District on the current revision. Then, we will be using this data to provide our Governing Board with the best projections to our District budget based on this data so that we may continue our Budget Development process for the 2020-2021 school year.

Considering the Opening of School in the Fall

     The safety and security of our MDUSD students, families, and employees is ever present in my mind, especially as we continue to and work on providing a meaningful and powerful education for each student. These are our guiding parameters for our conversations about the possibility of opening schools to on-site instruction. To this end, we are formulating no less than three task-force groups to consider the extensive information that is being provided by experts in the field as we examine the data and make plans for potentially advancing the ideas of on-site education.

     These three task force groups will be the Logistics Team, Educational Program Team, and Fiscal Implications Team. Several components and concepts on which they will be asked to focus are identified below (and yet these are not considered exhaustive lists):

Logistics Team: This team will be crafted to review, study, and make recommendations regarding the following and other components that will need to be considered and embedded into our plans: comprehensive pandemic safety protocols, parameters and protocols for classrooms, parameters and protocols for school sites, cleaning and sanitization protocols, days of potential service, and time parameters.

Educational Program Team: This team will be focused on reviewing, studying, and making recommendations for the educational structure that will be delivered to students. Of course, we understand that based on the safety components above, the best educational delivery plans may need to be modified in stages of delivery to account for the logistics and variables that will be mandated by the safety and security considerations of all.  The components of, “mixed learning,” will be discussed, considered, and created. Components of, “mixed learning,” might include: on-site instruction, distance learning, home learning, experiential learning, and other innovative designs and protocols. What we know for sure is that if we are planning to have a more extensive and consistent form of distance learning for all students across the grade levels to meet their needs, then we must ensure that each child has the tools (devices), opportunities, and access (strong internet connection) to support the planned learning for them. This is of paramount importance for us to consider and ensure is part of our District plan. On this subject, if your family has not taken our quick District Technology Survey, please find the English and Spanish versions here.

Fiscal Implication Team: This team will focus on the fiscal needs of our program. We are often left to use the resources that we have left to provide the most high priority services that are warranted, which means that we are often reducing services that might make a meaningful impact to some students. We must work to not only live within our budget structure, but we must also work to identify the full funding need that we have to provide the level of education that our students deserve and require. Building the type of educational program that will needed should not be limited by the abysmal level of funding that we will be left with due to Covid-19, so we must work to analyze the true cost of our needed programs to be able to quantify our need, and share that information with our public and governmental agencies. Our students deserve the best programs that we can create, and we must then work to find the appropriate funding for those programs.

     The design of these three teams is intended to include representation from across the District. It is anticipated that these individuals will work over the next several weeks as teams, and with District staff, more than likely via virtual connections, to support the build of a broader comprehensive plan that will take into consideration ideas and recommendations from each team. Again, the broad plan will need to consider potential stages of return to a new education paradigm depending on the overall and or continuing impact of Covid-19.

     While I know that there are many individuals who would like to have input into the process, I am mindful that if the teams become too large, they could become unwieldy. However, I anticipate the teams and District staff will continue working to engage our students, parents, employees, and community members in additional meaningful ways to gather input, and ideas, to fold into this broader plan. The more input, the more ideas, the more support we have, and the ability to work together and collaborate, will be essential to ensure that our plans follow the mantra of keeping students safe and secure as our paramount issue, while providing meaningful and powerful educational opportunities.

     I hope that you are all continuing to stay safe, and know that our intent is to continue to connect, engage, and support each of our students and their families during these most difficult times.

Several Activities in My Calendar This Week

Monday, May 11, 2020

  • Met virtually with Contra Costa County Superintendent Lynn Mackey and Contra Costa County School District Superintendents for continued coronavirus response coordination
  • Participated in the regularly scheduled virtual Governing Board Meeting

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

  • Met virtually with my Cabinet
  • Met virtually with leaders from the Capitol Advisors Group
  • Met virtually with Board Member Linda Mayo
  • Met with Dr. Michael Gardner, Interim-Director of Human Resources
  • Met with Dr. Lisa Gonzales, Chief Business Officer
  • Met with Cesar Alvarado, Associate General Counsel

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

  • Met virtually with school site Principals
  • Met with Jennifer Sachs, Executive Director of Instructional Support
  • Met with Dr. Wendi Aghily, Executive Director of Special Education
  • Met virtually with leadership from the Mount Diablo Education Association (MDEA)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

  • Met virtually with advisors from the California Collaborative on Educational Excellence
  • Met with Board Member Cherise Khaund
  • Met virtually with leadership from MDEA
  • Met in person with several Executive Cabinet Members

Friday, May 15, 2020

  • Participated in the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA) leadership meeting
  • Met virtually with Board Member Joanne Durkee

 

-Superintendent Dr. Rob Martinez-

 

-Sent by email to all staff and to the MDUSD community through School Messenger, Facebook, and Twitter-