Happy Classified Employees Week

Happy classified employees week! I hope you’ve given lots of love to your classified staff, such as classroom aides, food servers, bus drivers, and custodians. We celebrated our district classified employees of the year at our last board meeting:

  • Pamela Filstrup, Clerical and Administrative Services
  • Patrick Reed, Custodial Services
  • Loretta Hurlbut, Paraprofessional
  • Jay Morrow, Technical Services 
  • Ronald Rivett, Transportation Services

Kudos to Morrow and Rivett who were also chosen as County Classified Employees of the year!

Performing Arts Abound

This time of year is such a joy, as students at every school perform in music, drama, and dance. 

Our student board member Anahi Nava Flores emceed the Mt Diablo High School Multicultural Rally, which was a beautiful display of students expressing cultures, dances, and music from all around the world. The audience of students cheered enthusiastically for every single group, small or large.


I was blown away by the talent of our Northgate jazz bands who performed at Yoshi’s in Oakland last week. The place sold out, as it did for Concord High Jazz bands the following week as well. Northgate orchestra, winds, and concert band also were fortunate to play at the Lesher Center for Performing Arts. 


Thank you to Mt Diablo Music Education Foundation for sponsoring Music in the Park at Todos Santos for all MDUSD instrumental and choral music students, and thank you to our passionate music teachers!


Black Excellence

I'm so proud of our district for hosting our first annual Black Excellence Awards to celebrate students and staff.

More than 400 people attended MDUSD’s First Annual Black Excellence Awards Night on May 16th at Concord High to recognize and honor over 150 student award winners in grades K-12. Awards were also presented to members of the Black Educators Association and the Parent of the Year for the African American Parent Advisory Council. It was an empowering evening full of celebration for the amazing accomplishments of our Black and African American students! 
A KTVU report about the event called it "a joyful night." 


May 10th School Board Meeting Highlights

We recognized June as PRIDE month, encouraging all school sites to fly the rainbow flag and proudly show their support for and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ students. 


At the recommendation of the student advisory committee, we were pleased to vote to appoint Susana Barrios from YVHS as the Student School Board member for 2023-24!  We also voted in:


  • Students presented on the Concord HS proposed mascot change
  • Growing Healthy Kids shared photos and results of their program, and 
  • Parents presented on the very real dangers of fentanyl and how to prevent them. (these parents here in our community were each affected personally, either with a child who died from fentanyl or who was saved by Nalaxone). I highly encourage everyone to view their presentation (here at 2:55:30) and share the following resources from them:
    • May 9, 2023 was Fentanyl Awareness Day.  Fentanyl deaths have increased at an alarming trajectory across the state and nation.  It is now reported to be involved in 80% of drug related deaths for people under 21 and it impacts youth from all racial, ethnic, socio-economic, religious and other backgrounds.  
    • Education and prevention programs are  effective in reducing the number of deaths related to fentanyl.  Naloxone is readily available to community members and will save lives of those overdosing on fentanyl if administered in time.


Adopted Curriculum: 

We approved Standards Aligned History-Social Science Materials for Elementary History-Social Science Instruction, which included Spanish materials for dual language schools and emerging bilingual students. This completes our curriculum adoptions TK-12 for History-Social Science, which has been a goal of mine for many years. Look for these textbooks and online materials this fall when school begins!

The complete meeting agenda is here

Next School Board meeting 

The next school board meeting is Wednesday, June 14, 2023. We welcome your input via email or in person! See details at mdusd.org/boardmeetings 


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Day Of The Teacher 2023

Happy Day of the Teacher!

Spring is a wonderful time of year to celebrate everyone who makes a difference in the lives of our students.  Last week was Administrative Professionals Day: a chance to recognize those in our offices who do so much to make sure our families feel welcomed, informed, and respected.

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day, and California also celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week May 8-12th. We get to celebrate Classified School Employee Week May 21-27th, and don’t forget School Lunch Hero Day this Friday May 5th

I hope to see you on Thursday, May 11th at the districtwide MDEA Awards of Excellence event, at Centre Concord from 6 PM – 9 PM. Tickets are available for purchase through Eventbrite

View the Award Nominees here

Coffee Meetup this Thursday

I’ve been hearing from the public about many crucial issues lately, especially around safety, literacy, and mental health support. 

Stop by Coffee with your Trustee: this Thursday May 4th, 8:45am-10am at Contra Costa Coffee, for a relaxed local setting in which to share your ideas and concerns with me.

On Safety: Last week’s violent assault on Northgate High’s campus was horrific, and my heart goes out to the victim and her family.  Deepest gratitude to the school staff, police and emergency personnel who whisked her to the hospital while ensuring the rest of campus was secure, all the while doing their best to communicate with families & media. 

We must do more to prevent the violence and bullying that we are encountering throughout our schools and community. For the last year I’ve been advocating for MDUSD to follow the best practices of How to Prevent Gun Violence in Schools, and our district is now contracted to have the Sandy Hook Promise Say Something Anonymous Reporting System in place by this fall. Please share your perspective and ideas on this important topic.

Next School Board meeting 

The next school board meeting is next Wednesday, May 10, 2023. We welcome your input via email or in person. See details at mdusd.org/boardmeetings 


We have so much to be proud of. Here are a few current highlights:

Congrats to MDUSD's two District Teachers of the Year, who have both been named as County Teacher of the Year Finalists - Joseph Alvarico of Ygnacio Valley HS and Danya Townsend of Olympic HS!

Congratulations to two of our District Classified Employees of the Year that were selected as Contra Costa County Classified Employees of the Year: Bus Driver Ronald Rivett (Transportation Services) and IT Network Systems Admin Jay Morrow (Technical Services), who are now California Classified School Employee of the Year nominees! 

Congratulations to Dana Tarantino, Northgate High math teacher, recipient of the prestigious Warren Eukel trust award for excellence in teaching!

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Congratulations Teachers of the Year

Congratulations to our Mt Diablo Teachers of the Year nominees and finalists!

Our students are so fortunate to benefit from your passion, expertise & mentorship. Read more about them here.


Literacy Initiatives

I’m very excited about the progress Bel Air Elementary is making in early literacy, as part of the Early Literacy Support Block Grant - which includes 70 schools from districts across the state. They are training all teachers on the Science of Reading, and purchasing materials accordingly. 

The state leaders of this grant ask every school to use an assessment tool called DIBELS to monitor and benchmark literacy growth in early grades. Bel Air started with a paper/pencil version of DIBELS, and will now be piloting a digital version this spring: https://amplify.com/programs/mclass/  Based on over 30 years of research, mCLASS® is the gold-standard K–6 assessment and intervention suite for early literacy that helps every child learn to read confidently.

In Spanish: https://amplify.com/programs/mclass-lectura/  

The development of mCLASS Lectura also involved a team of nationally recognized experts representing a range of regions (Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean), along with focus groups featuring classroom teachers, special education teachers, specialists, and administrators

“It's incredibly important we attend to the Spanish language alongside English in assessment practices, to make sure we're not underestimating the ability of a really significant percentage of our nation’s school population.” –Dr. Lillian Durán, Co-developer of mCLASS Lectura, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Education, University of Oregon

Other districts such as San Ramon use mCLASS for their tiered intervention plan to help students learn to read.

What do we mean by Science of Reading? Here’s an excellent Science of Reading handbook that is useful for teachers and parents.

Feb 22nd School Board Mtg Notes

The last board meeting lasted until 11:30pm, chock full of important information and discussions. I would like to highlight two of the topics here:


After listening to everyone at the Town Hall at Pine Hollow the night before, this was the board’s chance to discuss with the superintendent about priorities and next steps to face racism and bullying in our schools. I am thankful we are shining a light on this difficult topic, to thereby be better able to address it. Thank you to all who participated.

I think Board President Nzewi’s comments were especially insightful, starting from her personal story as a black parent in our district and moving into her recommended action steps. Listen to her comments at 3:13.00


Given all my excitement about our district focus on how to effectively teach reading, I felt blindsided by a proposal that came to that board meeting: to provide iReady assessment & lessons districtwide. 

Essentially I expected that our district would learn from the literacy initiative at Bel Air, listen to our dyslexia task force (made up of parents, teachers and admins with this speciality), and then expand those best practices districtwide in terms of both professional development and validated materials that align with the Science of Reading. 

Instead, this proposal came to the board as information, to spend $600,000 on iReady assessments and lessons in reading and math districtwide and to limit other programs that address areas built into iReady. 

--> Watch my comments & the ensuing discussion in the board meeting here: starting at 4:28:00

My feeling is that we should make data driven decisions, especially for something we are going to require in classrooms districtwide. Instead of making a quick decision to revert back to funding iReady districtwide, let’s spend 1 year collecting the right data. 

Let’s pay for those schools that love iReady to keep doing iReady. But at the same time let’s let Bel Air fully pilot mCLASS without double burdening their students to do iReady at the same time. And let’s offer to other schools the opportunity to pilot mCLASS in English and Spanish, including their highly regarded and validated dyslexia screener.

Then at the end of the school year, we’ll have real data to look at and use to decide which tool is really the best choice for MDUSD.  

Similarly, I'd like to see us make real data driven pilot comparisons for math, vs other assessment and lesson options such as

  • Khan Academy: https://districts.khanacademy.org/ (As a parent, I found Khan Academy to be a great way for my kids to drive their own learning, where both I and their teachers could also easily see a dashboard of their progress through each topic of each grade level on any given day.) 
  • I know that some of our schools have also had great success with Math Bridges, which has a family component in English and Spanish for every lesson, as well as targeted intervention for struggling students. 

If you have experience to share on this topic, please reach out to me. I'd love to hear what's working in your classroom.

Coming up

The next school board meeting is this Wednesday, March 8, 2023. The agenda includes a report on home to school transportation and the second interim financial report. We welcome your input via email or in person! See details at https://www.mdusd.org/boardmeetings 

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Distinguished Schools, Town Hall on Racism, Nominate for Awards of Excellence

Congratulations to these Mt Diablo schools, recognized for excellence by the state of CA!

  • California Distinguished Schools awarded to Bancroft Elementary, Sequoia Elementary, and Walnut Acres Elementary

  • California Model Continuation High School awarded to Prospect High

We are so proud and thankful for all that these school teachers, staff, leadership and families did to build excellent learning communities.


Town Hall Tuesday re Concerns about Racism & Bullying

One of my key priorities in running for school board has been “Welcoming, Safe, Inclusive schools for every Mt Diablo student,” and unfortunately like many schools across the U.S., ours have had incidents of hate, racism, and violence.  This is something we take very seriously.

Our board President Nzewi and superintendent Dr Clark have therefore now scheduled a Town Hall for this Tuesday night, February 21st, at 6:30pm at Pine Hollow Middle School, Multi-use Room at 5522 Pine Hollow Road in Concord

This is intended to be a safe place for families to speak up about these issues, and for our district leadership and board to listen. All are welcome.

Coming up

The next school board meeting is this Wednesday, February 22, 2023. We welcome your input via email or in person! See details at https://www.mdusd.org/boardmeetings

This meeting includes a review of a contract with Curriculum Associates to provide iReady math & reading assessments and lessons districtwide for 2023-24. You're welcome to share your experiences and opinions via email to boardcomm[email protected] or comment during that item at the board meeting.

Feb 1st School Board Mtg Actions & Resources

Here are a few highlights from the February 1st school board meeting:

  1. appointed Matthew Fielder as the District's Chief Accountant and Tiffany Jackson as the Vice Principal at Shore Acres Elementary School in Bay Point. 

  2. reviewed reports on enrollment projections and the Governor's Proposed Budget for 2023-24

  3. approved a Teamsters Side Letter adjusting Landscape Department job descriptions & salaries

  4. In my board report I shared these important resources:

    • https://www.calhopeschools.org/ - this anxiety & mental health resource is provided free to families and schools: The CalHOPE Schools Initiative links 3 powerful resources together at one easy access point for CA educators: 

      1. A Trusted Space: Redirecting Grief to Growth

      2. Angst: Building Resilience, and 

      3. Stories of Hope: SHORTS.

    • https://besmartforkids.org/ - Secure firearm storage is an essential part of home safety. With more guns in more homes due to an unprecedented surge in gun sales over the past two years, it’s more important than ever for parents and caregivers to know how secure storage protects children. And in 2020, gun suicide among children ages 17 and under reached the highest rate in more than 20 years and firearms became the leading cause of death among children in the United States. Storing firearms securely can help prevent these tragedies and keep kids safe.

Nominate a Teacher, Parent or Staff for Awards of Excellence by Feb 28th

On Thursday May 11th, you and the entire Mt Diablo Unified School District community are invited to get together at Centre Concord to recognize, promote, and celebrate the excellence of MDUSD employees and community members!

Nominations are now open for the MDEA Awards of Excellence for that evening. All nominees will be listed in the event program.

You can be the one to make sure your school is represented there.  Please submit nominations here by February 28th for the following Awards:

Outstanding Achievement in Teaching

  • Leadership & Courage

  • Creative Curriculum

  • Most Inspirational

  • Community Involvement

  • Lifetime Achievement

Awards for Staff Members, Supporters, and Community Members

  • Outstanding Classified Employee

  • Outstanding Administrator

  • Outstanding Parent Volunteer 

  • Outstanding Volunteer Organization 

  • Outstanding Collaborating Team

  • Social Justice - individual or small team acting to improve equity, racial justice, diversity, and inclusion in our MDUSD schools

Submit your nomination here, due by Tuesday, February 28th.

Save the date to attend and celebrate all nominees together at the MDEA Awards of Excellence on Thursday evening, May 11th at Centre Concord!

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