Celebrating our Teachers and Staff

It's time to celebrate! The Mt. Diablo Teacher of the Year sought nominations of outstanding educators from transitional kindergarten through grade 12 and adult education to be represented as the MDUSD Teacher of the Year.  Over 60 teachers were nominated, and the five finalists were: 

  • David Hunter from Bridge, 
  • Jim Keck from College Park, 
  • Chelsea Ridenour from Diablo View, 
  • Elizabeth McDonagh from Prospect High, and 
  • Elisa Mendoza from Sequoia Middle.  

The two teachers selected to represent Mt. Diablo in the County Teacher of the Year competition are Chelsea Ridenour and Elisa McDonagh.

I had the pleasure of visiting Diablo View Middle School yesterday to present Ms Ridenour her certificate in person!  It was a beautiful day to see students engaged in hands-on learning all over campus, indoors and out, amidst the beats and improvisations of band practice tunes.

Don’t miss the MDEA Academy Awards zoom event May 6th, to celebrate excellent teachers, staff, parents and administrators throughout our district! Details below.

Read on for:

  1. School Board meeting tonight April 28th
  2. Superintendent’s Friday letter 
  3. MDEA Academy Awards May 6th
  4. Vaccination Walk In Clinics
  5. Free Summer Education Academy for Student Leaders
  6. Accelerating Learning as we Build Back Better

School Board Meeting Tonight April 28th

Find the agenda here, along with information about how to watch the live broadcast as well as how to submit public comments.  Key items on the agenda include:

Superintendent's Friday letter

Click here to read Dr Clark’s April 23rd letter, full of information including: 

MDEA Academy Awards May 6th

You’re invited to this event on Thursday, May 6, 2021, from 6-8pm!

   Click here to watch the awards ceremony

         Meeting number: 145 364 5434

         Password: MDEA20210506

This celebration will be a showcase of all of the fabulous work that dedicated community members are doing all over our district. It will be an engaging opportunity for each of us to look up for a moment from the tasks we focus on each day and see the broader scope and bigger picture of successes across the entire district.  Congratulations to all!  Please see the list of nominees and finalists:  2021 MDEA Academy Award Nominees

Vaccination Walk In Clinics

Our school district has been coordinating with county health to ensure vaccines reach all families.  Here’s exciting news about more accessible vaccines here in Concord and Pittsburg:

  1. There’s a new COVID-19 vaccine clinic opening tomorrow at 1034 Oak Grove Road in Concord



  • Plus these new walk-in mobile clinics (open from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.):

    • April 26 – May 2: Albert D. Seeno Jr. Pittsburg Youth Development Center: 1001 Stoneman Ave., Pittsburg

    • May 3-6: Meadow Homes Elementary School: 1371 Detroit Ave., Concord 

Free Summer Education Academy for Student Leaders

Ed100 is hosting a summer Academy for Student Leaders - and it’s free!  Please share out and nominate students to attend.

Their chart shows that there are students from Mt. Diablo Unified School District registered so far from College Park, Northgate, and Concord High. Can you share this out to and/or nominate students from Mt Diablo High, Ygnacio Valley High, Olympic and Horizons?


Accelerating Learning As We Build Back Better 

This article by Linda Darling Hammond is a must read for us all. She says, “If we focus on remediation for “learning loss” we'll go back to the unequal and inadequate pre-COVID education system. Instead, we need to set the norm for a new age that builds on how children really learn, rather than working against it...

It is critically important that we address these concerns based not on outdated notions about remediation, but on what we now know about how people learn effectively.”

Here a key excerpt, and I do recommend reading the entire article for more detail and models of best practices.

“If we really want to support learning, the return to school should not include these staple features of an outdated approach to learning that research has found actually undermine achievement:

  • Testing students to label and track them into “high,” “average,” and “low” groups that are segregated by perceived ability — and often by race, class, and language background as well;
  • Offering regimented drill and kill remedial instruction in these segregated groups, focused on filling gaps in basic skills in the artificial ways they are assessed on multiple choice tests, which then often causes them to be taught in equally artificial ways;
  • “Personalizing” learning by putting students in front of programmed computers for machine-based instruction for long hours at a time — or piles of worksheets that offer the same decontextualized approach to learning;
  • Punishing students who disengage or express frustration and despair by excluding them from the classroom or removing “privileges” like recess and library time;
  • Placing the neediest students in remedial classes with the least trained and experienced teachers who are least likely to know how to create productive learning environments.

Instead, a supportive school return — both this summer and next fall — will seek to ensure that students:

  • Experience warm relationships and social-emotional supports achieved by redesigning schools so that they are relationship-centered, with built-in time for creating community, trust, and belonging among students and with families;
  • Engage in outdoor play and exercise, expressive arts, and collaborative activities that support brain development and learning;
  • Encounter authentic, culturally responsive learning tasks and inquiry projects connected to their experiences that allow them to understand and positively impact their environment;
  • Assess what students need both socially and emotionally as well as academically, address trauma with healing and support, and identify the next steps they are ready to take in their learning rather than labelling them;
  • Accelerate learning through additional time and high-quality tutoring rather than tracking. Intensive tutoring, found to be highly effective, both establishes strong relationships and customizes teaching directly to student readiness and needs.”
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LCAP community input

Please join us for the LCAP Input Meeting tomorrow night!

         On Wednesday, April 21st at 5pm, Mt. Diablo Unified will be hosting a virtual LCAP Input Meeting. 

The Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) must be updated annually, be aligned to eight areas identified as state priorities, and describe the school district's overall vision for students, annual goals and specific actions the district will take to achieve the vision and achievement targets.  This year, in addition to the LCAP, the state is requiring that districts complete several other documents describing how Mt. Diablo Unified will target support for African American students, English learners, foster youth, students experiencing homelessness, students with unique needs, and how we plan on coordinating academic and social emotional support to increase student achievement and success.

         Below is the link to the meeting and Spanish translation will be provided.

         Join Zoom Meeting  

        Meeting ID: 857 0573 9817

        Passcode: 684843

Find MDUSD prior LCAP plans and news at https://www.mdusd.org/lcap/lcapnews

  • For parents: here is a handy "what is LCAP" from Ed100: https://ed100.org/blog/lcap-hub . This explains the 8 priority areas that all LCAP plans must cover and much more about how this plan intersects with school site plans and the complexities of state funding.


And if you missed last week's school board meeting, here are the actions we took:

Actions Taken at Last Week's Board Meeting: Fall ReOpening, Intercultural Education, Outdoor Classrooms

I'm proud to share that last week our Mt. Diablo Unified School District school board unanimously approved my Motion for Fall 2021 to include choices for students of:
  1. full time 5 days a week in person school
  2. Independent study
  3. new Virtual Academy
    • (this is for students to receive 100% online instruction from MDUSD teachers)
(a non-binding parent survey will be sent out to gauge estimated enrollment in each of the 3 options, in order to plan for adequate staffing)
We also unanimously passed our first ever Resolution to recognize Arab American Heritage month, and heard from the founder of ing.org about all the free curriculum and speakers they provide to educators on intercultural understanding.
We unanimously passed an updated Climate Change resolution and heard about current efforts and success in creating outdoor classrooms throughout the district, with help from greenschoolyards.org
And we heard an excellent report from our CARES afterschool program that operates at 17 school sites to provide care both in person and online for our lowest income students.
Thank you, everyone in MDUSD for making this all possible! You are showing that even through challenging times, #TogetherWeCan provide excellent education to all students.
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Welcome back from spring break

I hope you all had plenty of time out in nature and off screens, to rest and revive. Ramadan Mubarak to those who celebrate!  I was amazed to learn that today is also Vaisakhi, Navratra, Ugadi, Khalsa Sirjana Divas and Hindu New Year. Understanding each other's traditions and values is so important to building inclusive communities. 

I invited Maha Elgenaidi, founder of Ing.org, to speak at tomorrow’s school board meeting during item 9.3 Resolution in Recognition of Arab American Heritage Month. Ing’s mission is educating for cultural literacy and mutual respect.

Here is a useful brief guide for educators about Ramadan:

Read on for:

  1. School Board meeting Wednesday April 14th
  2. Superintendent’s Friday letter 
  3. Mental Health Webinars
  4. Common Cents 
  5. Drawing on Earth’s Global Challenge

Next School Board Meeting Wednesday April 14th

Find the agenda here, along with information about how to watch the live broadcast as well as how to submit public comments.  Key items on the agenda include:

Superintendent's Friday letter

Click here to read Dr Clark’s March 19th letter, full of information including: 

  • Congratulations MDUSD student winners of Contra Costa County Science and Engineering Fair: Angello Ledesma, Elyse Contreras, Andrea Rosmarin, Jonathan Yu, John Lins, and Erin Weber!
  • Organizational Update including kindergarten registration for fall at mdusd.org/enrollnow and the opportunity to apply for the new  YVHS CCAP STEM program 

Mental Health Webinars

Don’t miss these important Mental Health webinars created by MDUSD Counselors in English or Spanish. Coming up Tuesday April 20 at 5pm is “Anxiety and Depression” - Register here.  You can also watch all past webinars such as “Recognizing When To Get Help Beyond The Homeor register for future topics at https://mdusd.org/mental-health

Common Cents

Did you know that MDUSD has a new column with answers to frequently asked questions? It is about sharing the accurate data associated with all things fiscal, budgets, data, and more!  Visit https://mdusd.org/bscc 

The March 31st post included:

  • What is the cost of a special election for a recall?
  • Why is there a deficit? 
  • Where do the funds come from for our district? 
  • Does district staff engage with legislators to try to get more funding? 

Drawing on Earth’s Global Creative Challenge

Join Mark Wagner this Earth Day in his Global Creative Challenge.  Mark is the amazing artist who led The Largest Illustrated Story chalk drawing project for Mt. Diablo Unified School District at nearly all of our elementary school sites!  

(This flyer features the Wren Avenue Elementary School of the Arts chalk project)

Join him online or in person for his next Guinness World Record attempt! #STEAMforStudents

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MDUSD is Back

What a beautiful day to welcome students to our Mt. Diablo Unified School District campuses. 

I enjoyed this morning as a volunteer with Ygnacio Valley High School PTSA, handing out treats to staff and posting welcome back signs for students.  Thank you to all our Mt. Diablo Unified School District teachers and staff for your hard work to make this all possible! #MDUSDisBack


Read on for:

  • COVID vaccine appointments

  • MDUSDisBack photos

  • Cesar Chavez & Dolores Huerta Days, Larry Itliong

Our school principals are working closely with the health dept to expand vaccine outreach in Bay Point and Monument with Spanish speaking ambassadors.  Plus, great news on vaccines...

Contra Costa Residents 50+ Encouraged to Request Vaccine Appointment Now - Thousands of Appointment Slots Available

People who are currently eligible are strongly encouraged to beat the rush by requesting appointments as soon as possible, using the online request form at cchealth.org/coronavirus or calling 1-833-VAX-COCO (1-833-829-2626). People currently eligible for appointments in Contra Costa include: 

  • Anyone who is 50 or older and lives or works in the county

  • Anyone who is 16 or older and has a high-risk health condition, disability or illness and lives or works in the county 

  • Essential workers who live or work in Contra Costa, including healthcare personnel, emergency services workers, education and childcare workers, agriculture and food workers, transportation and logistics workers, and anyone who lives or works in a congregate living space in the county

CCHS expects this week to expand eligibility to:

  • Anyone who lives or works in the county and is 16 or older

Invitamos a los Residentes de Contra Costa de 50 Años de Edad y Mayores a que Soliciten la Vacuna Hoy Mismo - Miles de espacios para citas disponibles

De ser posible, pedimos que las personas programen sus citas utilizando el formulario de solicitud en línea en vez de llamar por teléfono, ya que esto les ahorrará tiempo. La página de Ayude a su Vecino incluye consejos que le servirán para ayudar a un amigo o un ser querido a programar una cita en caso de que se le dificulte utilizar el Internet o un teléfono inteligente.

Las personas actualmente elegibles para programar una cita de vacunación en Contra Costa incluyen:

  • Cualquier persona de 50 años de edad o mayor que viva o trabaje en el condado

  • Cualquier persona de 16 años de edad o mayor que tenga una condición de salud, discapacidad o enfermedad de alto riesgo y que viva o trabaje en el condado

  • Los trabajadores esenciales que vivan o trabajen en Contra Costa, incluyendo al personal de salud, los trabajadores de los servicios de emergencia, los trabajadores de la educación y del cuidado infantil, los trabajadores del sector agrícola y de alimentos, los trabajadores de transporte y logística y cualquier persona que viva o trabaje en una instalación de vivienda congregada del condado

MDUSD is Back

It was a joy for me to see smiling faces last week at our elementary schools, including Ygnacio Valley Elementary, Meadow Homes, and Walnut Acres! 


Cesar Chavez & Dolores Huerta Days, Larry Itliong

Don't forget that our school district has this Friday April 2nd off in honor of Cesar Chavez Day. Here is a Learning for Justice resource on Cesar Chavez for educators and families.  

California also has designated April 10th as Dolores Huerta Day. Chavez and Huerta together launched the National Farm Workers Association, though some history recognizes primarily Chavez. Both have compelling stories as effective community organizers, and Dolores Huerta is still alive and organizing today. Here is the Dolores Huerta curriculum toolkit all about civic engagement and her signature rallying cry "Si Se Puede".  You can learn about this curriculum on April 1st, 6:30pm with "Teaching the Life of Activist Dolores Huerta." Register at: http://bit.ly/TeachingDoloresHuerta

Organizing is always most effective in coalition, even though our American stories often feature one person instead. In fact, Larry Itliong was the person who started the Delano Grape Strike with more than 2,000 Filipino farmworkers, that Huerta and Chavez later joined.  Their organizations later merged to become what we now know as United Farm Workers (UFW).  Be sure to read his story here to learn the full, true history of their journey together for justice. 

I hope you all enjoy a safe and relaxing spring break April 5-9th!

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Happy St Patrick's Day

As my family cooks corned beef & cabbage for St Patrick's Day today, I wish you all and your families much luck and good health.  

Here are two important items I wanted to be sure to share with you before I go offline:

  • Next steps for in-person student opportunities at MDUSD Schools
  • Board President Statement in Solidarity with Asian Americans

Next steps for In-Person Student Opportunities at MDUSD Schools

Last night we held a special board meeting about the ReOpening of Schools Timeline.
The majority of us chose to attend the meeting in person in the board room, which has been rearranged with COVID spacing and precautions.  The public for now needs to still access our meetings online, but eventually I'm hopeful that we'll end up with a combination of in-person and online access for all.   It was wonderful to be back in the board room again!
With fresh news of a tentative agreement between MDEA and MDUSD on a hybrid MOU that had been agreed upon at 5am Tuesday morning, our board unanimously voted in favor of the timeline as described in the MOU (pending approval):
  • Beginning March 25, preschool through 2nd grade and SDC classes will have an option to return to their school to attend In-person Learning Support sessions.
  • Beginning March 29, students in grades 3-12 will have an option to return to their school to attend In-person Learning Support sessions.
  • A 100% distance learning model will continue to be an option for all families.
MDEA members will vote this week on approval of the agreement, and we’ve set a special board meeting this Friday for the school board to then vote to ratify the agreement. (We will also ratify any agreements from other employee groups that are ready)

The agenda, with tentative agreements attached, will be posted at mdusd.org/boardmeetings at least 24 hours in advance of the special meeting.

I am so thankful to all who spent countless hours ensuring agreement on the safety and logistics of hybrid learning, and I look forward to seeing the smiling faces of students on our campuses very soon!


Board President Statement in Solidarity with Asian Americans

My heart goes out to our AAPI students, staff, administration and community in the midst of unconscionable hate and violence.  We posted this message today on the district website.

A special thank you to the over 70 caring MDUSD teachers, staff and community members who signed a letter to share this information and resources that are so important at this time.

Dear Mt. Diablo Unified School District Staff and Community,

     The dramatic increase in the violent and disturbing crimes and incidents toward the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities during this pandemic, and especially toward the elderly, is disheartening and deserves acknowledgement and denouncement. These events are antithetical to our organization’s beliefs and cultural aspirations, and they serve as a reminder that progress in these areas requires tremendous diligence, especially from educators, who bear a great responsibility to lift up our next generations ever higher. 

     Our MDUSD students and staff deserve to learn and work in a community and world that is free of racism, discrimination, and violence. Everybody deserves to feel safe in their neighborhoods and communities. 

     It is clear that the AAPI community has been experiencing discrimination and violence motivated by racism. The recent attacks on Vicha Ratanapakdee, Noel Quintana, Yik Oi Huang, Grandmother Duong from San Jose,  Mauricio Gesmundo, just to name a few, are both horrifying and sickening. The shootings in Atlanta just this morning, wherein six AAPIs were murdered, has stirred speculation about racist motivations. Truly, these events impact all of us in our communities, and we condemn all forms of racism and scapegoating of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the Bay Area and beyond. 

     Education is inseparable from the ideals of justice, equity, and inclusion. We believe equity is a student, staff and community right, and every student is provided with what they individually require to learn and succeed to fulfill their academic and social education. We stand firm on ensuring equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist policies and practices. We are committed to holding each other responsible for respectful conduct and treatment of one another.

     We stand together with our AAPI students, staff, administration and community. We support restorative justice models that break the cycle of violence, Ethnic Studies to teach people about racial solidarity, community mediation efforts to not only hold people accountable, but to work together to resolve issues. 

     Here’s how you can help: 

  • Save the MDUSD Campus Safety Hotline contact: (925) 709-4847. This hotline is available for students and parents/guardians to leave a confidential, taped message about anything occurring at school that is causing students to feel unsafe—this includes virtual classroom environments.
  • For educators: visit this Learning for Justice response resource.
  • For families: Use this resource guide to help you discuss current events with your family. Here is another parent guide to help Prevent and also Respond to Prejudice.
  • Report incidents, read through reports, and news releases at stopaapihate.org  
  • Oakland Chinatown created this list of how to help support the AAPI communities, report hate crimes or get mental health or legal support.

     As MDUSD continues to do our part in diversity, equity and inclusion work as a community, we hold hope as people from different cultures and communities rise together to condemn hate. A community of belonging does not happen at the expense of the oppression of others. Let us continue to do this work together. 

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Special Board meeting March 16th

At last night's Mt. Diablo Unified School District board meeting, we voted to set the target date of March 22nd for PreK, K, 1, 2, SDC, Bridge students to return to campus.

Understanding that we need safety and logistics for this agreed upon with employees, negotiation dates were added for March 11,12,13,14,15 to complete the hybrid MOU.

I called for a special Board meeting for Tuesday March 16th, where we plan to approve the MOU or take any necessary steps to move forward to ensure our students begin to be allowed on campus for the in person relationship building that they have been asking for and desperately needing.

We have 13,000 students who requested in person hybrid this spring from throughout the district.

That is why we advocated so strongly for education staff to get priority vaccinations, and we must now follow through.

While I understand the call from some to delay any students entry to campus until all staff are fully vaccinated, I'm also aware of how fast vaccine efficacy grows. See this chart: 7 days after dose 1 you are 68.5% covered. 14 days after dose 1, that is 92.6%. Waiting til 2 more weeks after dose 2 only moves that from 92.6% to 94.8%.

Vaccines opened to education staff in our county on Feb 18th, then Dr Clark received and sent out individual priority codes to front line staff as they came in over the last few weeks, and Kaiser opened to education staff. Yesterday MDUSD held a J&J one shot vaccine clinic at Concord High with 350 doses, and only 300 people came (it was filled in by employees from PUSD since so many of our district staff already had their first shot).  If you find anyone in MDUSD who still need a vaccine, we have individual priority codes to give them - email [email protected] 

We are already successfully and safely providing in person testing and sports with safety protocols in place including masks, PPE, and spacing. (see photo of this week's ELPAC testing at Oak Grove Middle School)

Plus, let's all remember that our current plan to bring students onto campus is for only a few hours, and gradually starting with PreK-2. It is not a full hybrid, nor crowded hallways of kids passing from class to class.  Many principals, teachers and parents are creatively tapping into the free resources and ideas for learning outdoors at https://www.greenschoolyards.org/covid-learn-outside.

Let's be safe while also attending to the needs of our students, the biggest need of which right now is a chance for time off-screen with a real person who cares about them.

I truly believe we can and must, together & safely, take this gradual next step of providing a few hours a day for students in person as soon as possible.

#TogetherWeCan #MDUSDProud

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Outdoor Learning and ReOpening of Schools

Happy Women's History and Arts Education Month!

Many have also recently celebrated Lunar New Year, and I want to thank the over 70 caring MDUSD teachers, staff and community members who signed this letter to us with a statement condemning racist and violent actions against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). President Biden’s administration acknowledged the dramatic spike in anti-Asian incidents occurring throughout the country during the pandemic, and said "inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric...has put Asian American and Pacific Islander persons, families, communities, and businesses at risk." 

Our MDUSD students and staff deserve to learn and work in a community and world that is free of racism, discrimination, and violence. Everybody deserves to feel safe in their neighborhoods and communities. We stand firm on ensuring equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist policies and practices in our school district.  All are welcome to join the new Anti Bias Anti Racism (ABAR) committee that launched last week to design ways to move our Equity Board Policy into practice. Email [email protected] to attend their next meeting on March 25th.

Read on for:

  1. School Board work towards reopening
  2. School Board meeting Wednesday March 10th
  3. Superintendent’s Friday letter March 5th
  4. Outdoor Learning Resources
  5. Congratulations Olympic High!

School Board Work Towards ReOpening

It’s been a busy and productive past few months on the Mt Diablo school board, working diligently and carefully towards safe school site reopening. We have:

  • approved Dr Clark’s reopening timeline aiming for mid March (county health had estimated mid-March as Red Tier for contra costa), including the parent survey that provided each principal now with a specific list of students to plan for in-person on site,
  • approved the Reconnect Safely, Return Strong plan,
  • approved the CSP (COVID safety plan) which includes the CPP and checklist and is due 5 days before reopening (State has approved),
  • approved free COVID testing for staff at MDUSD sites via agreements with 2 companies,
  • clearly stated the Board is unanimous that we will follow county & state metrics for hybrid,
  • set 5 negotiating days with MDEA focused on the schedule & logistics of hybrid,
  • stated we are ready to call a special board mtg within 24hrs of a hybrid MOU agreement.

In the meantime we have also been advocating for vaccines. MDUSD partnered with County Health to open a vaccine site at Riverview Middle School in Bay Point, and now with Walgreens to bring 500 J&J vaccines this week specifically for MDUSD staff. (**sign up here for J&J by 5pm March 8th)  

Board members have hosted a town hall in Spanish to be more accessible to those families, and held Q&A at parent meetings throughout the district.

We are also visiting sites to see health & safety readiness. **Thank you to amazing principals, office managers, teachers, & staff working to ensure spaces & systems are ready for students, all the while continuing to provide distance learning.**


Plus on March 5th Governor Newsom signed State Bill 86, which provides financial resources and incentives for public schools to open by April 1.

This Wednesday we will consider Dr Clark’s proposed timeline to begin to gradually bring students onto campuses starting March 22nd.

Next School Board Meeting Wednesday March 10th

Find the agenda here, along with information about how to watch the live broadcast as well as how to submit public comments.  Key items on the agenda include:

Superintendent's Friday letter

Click here to read Dr Clark’s March 5th letter, full of information including: 

Outdoor Learning Resources

Repurposing outdoor spaces is a cost-effective way to reduce the burden on indoor classrooms while providing fresh air, hands-on learning opportunities, and the health benefits associated with increased access to nature.

Are you interested in exploring how to use outdoor spaces for learning at your school?

The COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative provides free strategies and case studies to the public at: https://www.greenschoolyards.org/covid-learn-outside  It doesn't have to be complicated. Here is their list of simple ways to consider which activities teachers can bring outdoors, along with basic supplies. Who else remembers Girl Scout situpons - using recycled materials to make insulated, waterproof outdoor seating?

Did you know that MDUSD has many outdoor learning spaces already on our campuses that are ready to use?  Thanks to grant funding, many of our schools already have outdoor garden spaces and garden educators who provide hands-on science. (e.g. Sun Terrace Elementary has 3 outdoor garden areas and rolling white boards that teachers can use.)  You can follow the MDUSD Science & Garden Education Program on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MDUSDGardenEducation/

Congratulations Olympic High!

Mt Diablo’s Olympic High School was recognized by State Superintendent Tony Thurmond as one of the Model Continuation High Schools (MCHS) in the state of California for 2021!  This is thanks to the strong leadership of Principal Lynsie Castellano, and the hard work of her amazing teachers and staff.

“Student attendance and engagement in distance learning during the school closures has been difficult—especially for students who struggled with attendance issues before the pandemic,” said Thurmond. “These model schools have been able to keep at-risk students on track using social and emotional learning, mentorship programs, restorative justice practices, and other innovative methods. Through the work of dedicated teachers and administrators, model continuation schools provide the students they serve with new academic opportunities that can change the course of their lives in high school and beyond.”

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Student Initiatives

Our students never cease to amaze me. This week I want to highlight 2 student initiated projects that are making a difference. Let me know of any others you'd like me to share out in future blogs too:
First up, LEAP MDUSD. They are specifically seeking spanish speaking tutors, so check out Seena's program and spread the word!
Hi Everyone! My name is Seena, I’m a Junior at Northgate High School and the founder of  Learning Enrichment and Assistance Program (LEAP). I am working with MDUSD's Homeless Outreach Program for Education (HOPE)--a program that provides educational services to the nearly 700 homeless and foster students in MDUSD--I match up HOPE and Foster Youth students in need of support with volunteer tutors to have a 1 on 1 weekly tutoring sessions. If you are interested please fill out this form. This is a great way to give back to our community, earn volunteer service hours, and make a difference. 
Visit us at www.leapmdusd.org or on twitter or Instagram @leapmdusd 
Secondly, Music Enrichment Program (MEP). Here's their announcement from Clare Kim, a violinist in Northgate High School’s Orchestra:
Recently, I launched the MEP as an addition to the MDUSD Community Mentors (MCM) with senior Jordan Taqi-Eddin. It is a district-wide program for any student musicians districtwide who would like to receive help over Zoom, as well as any high school mentors districtwide who are willing to share their passion for music (volunteer hours included).
Here is the website link for students to sign up:
After signing up, please click on “Groups” under the “More” tab. From there, you can join the “MCM Family” and “Music Enrichment Program” groups. These groups are important and contain further details.
Previously, during the beginning of 2021, I had mentored students privately in hopes that they would remain engaged with music. Because of the struggles of following along over distance learning, many students have not enrolled into instrumental groups and some have even dropped the class mid-year, one of my students included. While helping these students over Zoom, I was able to be convinced that these lessons were indeed effective and students were receiving the help they needed. I am very excited for the start of this program and encourage you to take part in helping the young student musicians of our district grow!
Way to go, students! 
Read on for:
  1. School Board meeting Wednesday February 24th
  2. Vaccines Open for School Employees & in Bay Point!
  3. Superintendent’s Friday letter Feb 19th
  4. Parent Survey FAQ

Next School Board Meeting Wednesday February 24th

Find the agenda here, along with information about how to watch the live broadcast as well as how to submit public comments.  Click here to see summaries of board action from prior meetings.

Do you have questions about curriculum content or adoption?  There will be a presentation under item 11.1 Update on Materials Adoption Calendar.  Some additional key items on the agenda include:
  • Agreements with labs for COVID testing
  • Approval of COVID19 Prevention Program
  • Update on Hybrid Learning Plan

Vaccines Open for School Employees & Clinic Opens in Bay Point

Thank you to all who advocated for school employees in contra costa county to be vaccinated! I have heard from many MDUSD educators and staff who are relieved to have this layer of protection before more students arrive on campus.

On Feb 18, Contra Costa County Health Services announced: 

Teachers, grocery workers and other frontline essential workers who live in Contra Costa County can now sign up to get vaccinated as defined by California’s vaccination plan Phase 1B.

Residents in these groups, as well as county residents who are 65 years and older who have not yet been vaccinated, can sign up to access state and federal sites through MyTurn or by calling 1-833-422-4255.

Essential workers and residents 65 years and older can also request immunization appointments through CCHS and join the county waiting list for COVID-19 vaccine. 

Los maestros, los empleados de las tiendas de comestibles y otros trabajadores esenciales de primera línea que vivan en el Condado de Contra Costa pueden programar una cita para vacunarse, de acuerdo con la definición de la fase 1B del plan de vacunación de California.

Los residentes de estos grupos, así como los residentes del condado de 65 años de edad y mayores que todavía no se hayan vacunado, pueden registrarse para acceder a los sitios de vacunación estatales y federales a través de MyTurn o llamando al 1-833-422-4255.

Los trabajadores esenciales y los residentes de 65 años de edad y mayores también pueden programar una cita de vacunación a través de los CCHS.

Thanks to CCHS and our county board of supervisors for opening a vaccination clinic at MDUSD's Riverview Middle School.  This is walking distance to so many in the area, and sharing information in Spanish there will go a long way towards ensuring equity in vaccine distribution. 


Please spread the word!  If we can vaccinate our elders and school employees, especially those in high COVID areas, then together we can really get this virus under control. 

Superintendent's Friday letter

Click here to read Dr Clark’s February 19th letter including: 

Parent Survey FAQ

The MDUSD parent survey is out now, due March 1st, with a goal of identifying #s of students per site who would like to access in-person learning this spring. I've been asked a number of questions about it, and so I attempted to answer multiple questions in one place by posting an FAQ on Facebook.  More questions may be answered this week when Dr Clark gives his update on Hybrid Learning at the school board meeting. Here is what I wrote. I hope it is helpful to some. 

1. Is this survey binding?
No. This survey is an opportunity for parents to let their school site know if they might want in person learning, so the school site has numbers to design the structure of 4th quarter in person opportunities.
2. How can I decide now without a specific schedule?
The schedules have not been set, those shown are just samples. The general idea is that students stay with their teacher and class via distance learning in the morning, and then come in for extra help and in-person opportunities in the afternoon. (E.g. Reading groups, math tutoring, extra language learning time, optional science labs/experiences, student hands-on art/robotics/leadership)
Each site would take that idea and adjust the schedule to their own student needs and programs (e.g. dual language site could look very different from others.)
Each site needs to know now which students are really interested in coming back in person this spring, so they can plan how to staff the offerings.
3. What if I work and cannot bring my child in the afternoon, but I really want them to have in-person learning? What if my child normally takes county buses to school?
There is an open question on the survey about additional needs. The school and District will do their best to meet as many needs as feasible. So please do write in there what any of your specific needs are.
4. What if a parent has no email or cell phone?
School sites will be reaching out to families in additional ways to help them answer the survey - on paper or by phone. Each site needs to hear from as many families as possible in order to plan.
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School Board mtg February 10, 2021

Over the last two weeks, we on the board have heard loud and clear that many in our community want to see reopening plan details that are clearly delineated as their own agenda item in our school board meetings, rather than in the Superintendent’s report. This week's board meeting does exactly that, including details of reopening preparedness and protocols as well as the required sharing of the CPP draft before it is finalized. 
While we continue to plan for a hybrid schedule, I also remain very concerned about students who are not able to access distance learning right now.  If you are a teacher, parent or staff, did you know that 1:1 in person meetings are allowed?  This has been true since November, and yet I keep finding people who did not know that.  Also extra curricular activities in small groups are allowed right now, following the same protocols as sports conditioning.  Is extra curricular happening in person at your school?  Please let me know how it is going.  Each of these if implemented are a step in the right direction to address concerns of student isolation, depression, anxiety and disconnection.
Read on for:
  1. School Board meeting Wednesday February 10th
  2. Vaccinate School Employees
  3. Superintendent’s Friday letter

Next School Board Meeting Wednesday February 10th

Find the agenda here, along with information about how to watch the live broadcast as well as how to submit public comments.  Click here to see summaries of board action from prior meetings.

Under item 11.4 there will be information provided on the recent MOU agreement with the teacher's union around small groups.
I share in the frustration that many of you have expressed to the board in response to this agreement, that it does not go far enough to do what our Board directed in December: to start small group learning hubs on our campuses ASAP.
Here is the state guidance on small groups, sent in September 2020. Notice it does not recommend waiting until red tier +20 days, nor limiting to 10% of any campus. To me those are barriers to equity, and barriers to student learning access & opportunity.
I hear the term "equity" used as a reason to delay the reopening of our schools. But I do not hear those same people advocating for the "equity" of ensuring a safe place on campus now for our students who need it most.  We have successfully provided in-person sports conditioning on high school campuses throughout all levels of COVID, and I believe we can and should do the same for non-sports activities now.
Item 17.1 will include a presentation, discussion and vote to approve the Safe ReOpening Plan. This will provide board members the opportunity to ask questions and provide their perspective on the many aspects of reopening our schools to students in person.

Vaccinate School Employees

The Contra Costa County School Boards Association sent a joint letter along with 14 school board presidents on Feb 1st with a collective call for the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and Health Services Department to: (1) immediately ensure that all education workers in Contra Costa County school districts, particularly those reporting to work in-person, have priority access to COVID-19 vaccines and (2) provide clear and consistent communications about how education and childcare workers are to receive their vaccines. 

People have been asking me if vaccines are a requirement for MDUSD school reopening, and the answer is no.  Neither the district nor our teacher's union have said that vaccines should be at all connected to the metrics required to reopen our schools. However, I know that the many of our staff who have been on site this whole pandemic, and the teachers and staff that hope to soon join them will all feel much less fearful if they can get vaccinated soon.  So I joined these groups in signing the letter and advocating for prioritizing vaccinations in our county for education workers. 

Meanwhile, the OUSD superintendent shared this about how the Tier 1B is planned to work in next door Alameda County, where they have decided to vaccinate education employees at the same time as the 65+ population. Districts will provide each employee with a letter to hand the vaccinator that states which priority level they are in.  

So far it appears that our contra costa county is planning to wait until most 65+ are vaccinated before starting to allow education workers to sign up. If you want to take action to support these efforts, you can email the Board of Supervisors asking them to prioritize school employees like Alameda is doing: 

Superintendent's Friday letter

Click here to read Dr Clark’s February 5th letter including: 

  • Message on reopening
  • Negotiations update
  • National School counseling week - thank you Counselors!!
  • MDUSD's Sean Donelan (Northgate) Wins 2020 Congressional App Challenge
  • Black & African American History Month
  • STEAM-4-Students by MDUSD Education Foundation
  • Organizational Update
  • County Science Fair judges needed
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MDUSD Mental Health Webinar tonight

I hope that you and your families are staying well. Did you know about tonight's launch of the Open Conversations about Mental Health Webinar Series from 5-6:30pm?  Attending is easy—simply register in advance, and you will receive a confirmation email with all the information you need.

 When: Monday, January 25, 2021 at 5:00PM Pacific
 Topic: Open Conversations about Mental Health Webinar (#1)

Details from Dr Clark:

"To promote wellness, answer questions, and address common student and family mental health concerns, MDUSD is assembling a panel of mental health professionals who will host this webinar that is free and open to all. The panel will consist of MDUSD mental health staff, including school counselors, school psychologists, social work specialists, behavioral health specialists, and college and career advisors. Audience members may choose to participate and interact virtually, or watch only.

Our professionals are here to help. The stress and responsibilities of ordinary life are already difficult to manage, and this pandemic has created conditions that challenge our mental health and wellbeing even more so. Still, there are practical skills, remedies, and tools that can make all the difference. Tune in on Monday night to ask your questions, express your concerns, and hear from our mental health professionals."

Read on for:

  1. School Board meeting Wednesday January 27th
  2. Superintendent’s Friday letter
  3. "The Hill We Climb" lesson plan
  4. DVC DREAMers Conference
  5. Cash for College

Next School Board Meeting Wednesday January 27th

Find the agenda here, along with information about how to watch the live broadcast as well as how to submit public comments.  Click here to see summaries of board action from prior meetings.

Please note: this year our board meetings have been moved to Wednesdays instead of Mondays.

A resolution will be presented in Recognition of February as Black and African American History Month.

Here is an excerpt: 

WHEREAS the History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve states appropriately that the history curriculum of community, state, region, nation, and world must reflect the experiences of men and women and of different racial, religious, and ethnic groups and must be integrated at every level; and
WHEREAS Black and African American history is continuously being made, and concurrently, classroom discussion that is courageous is encouraged in our institution as an essential function of student-centered wellness and education;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Governing Board proclaims the month of February as Black and African American History Month, and encourages all schools to commemorate this occasion accordingly with appropriate instructional materials, discussions, presentations and projects.

There will be two key reports:

  • California Collaborative for Excellence in Education (CCEE) will present on Systematic Instructional Review
  • Capitol Advisors will present on Key State & Federal Budget Issues

And a key business item will be the approval of a contract for online tutoring for English learners.

Superintendent's Friday letter

Click here to read Dr Clark’s January 22nd letter including: 

  • Updates on negotiations and status of reopening
  • new "Ask the CBO"
  • Organizational Update
  • T-Mobile Project 10 Million - free hotspot & data to families who have a student enrolled in the National School Lunch Program

"The Hill We Climb" Lesson Plan

I was amazed by National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb,” at the 2021 inauguration.  Were you?  Here is a resource about how her poem "presents a great opportunity for educators and students to discuss the ways creative expression can help us think about the meaning of democracy."


DVC Dreamers Conference

Are you an undocumented student, or do you know someone who is?  Diablo Valley College is holding it's 10th Annual DREAMers conference Feb 3rd-5th, and Mt Diablo alumni are some of the presenters on these panels. Learn how to access college, scholarships and more.  Visit dvc.edu/dreamers for "a safe place that supports education for all members of our community, we created this website as a resource for undocumented students, their families, and their allies."

Cash for College

Join a Cash for College Webinar by the California Student Aid Commission to learn how to apply for CA Dream Act or FAFSA. Register at http://bit.ly/cashcollege21

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