Jan2020 - Vaping, Fund Education Week, & Foundation Launch

Happy 2020!  Here are some highlights of the year so far:

  1. School Board Passes Anti-Vaping Resolution

  2. Fund Education Now Week Feb 3-7, 2020

  3. EduTrack Foundation launch

  4. Superintendent Friday Letters

School Board Passes Anti-Vaping Resolution

On January 13th, our first MDUSD school board meeting of 2020, we unanimously passed a resolution asking local cities to ban the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping devices.  

I encourage you to read the entire resolution and share it out far and wide.  Then please call or email your city council members in Concord, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Clayton, Pittsburg and Martinez to ask them to take action immediately.

As a school board member and parent, I've been hearing a lot about students in our high schools and middle schools that are vaping, that are addicted, and that are struggling to cope.  Contra Costa County Supervisors passed a similar resolution on November 12, 2019.  I joined MDUSD parents and students, along with TUPE and many community members at that meeting, to speak in favor of the resolution.  The stories the students told were heartbreaking, and the county found that the vast majority of students get vape devices from storefronts.  The county ban is only for unincorporated areas, so banning the sale within city limits would make a huge difference.

The FDA, CDC, and California Department of Public Health have issued health alerts urging everyone to quit vaping altogether, no matter the substance or source.

The popularity of electronic vaping devices has soared among youth, with a national increase of 135% within the past two years. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, 1 in 20 middle school students, as well as 1 in 4 high school students are vaping. A 2016 survey showed that one in three 11th graders in Contra Costa admitted to having vaped.

Fund Education Now Week Feb 3-7, 2020

We also passed a resolution recognizing Fund Education Now week, Feb 3-7, 2020, in which school districts throughout Alameda and Contra Costa will have actions each day to inform the community and state legislature of our dire need for education funding.The growing Coalition includes Contra Costa County students, teachers, staff, school board members, parents, and superintendents united to bring full and fair funding to California public education.

Join us!

EduTrack Foundation Launch

Dr Martinez often talks about the importance of student voice. Here's some news about students taking action right here in MDUSD!  Concord High graduate and former ASB President Aasim Yahya is now a university student at Cal, but he's still working on building up student leadership here in our high schools.  On Saturday he, sister Azeema, mom May, and a dedicated new team of Board members launched the nonprofit EduTrack - to provide scholarships as well as student-led college and career programs.

"We believe that students are the best individuals to educate and equip their own peers with college and career resources. That's why our high school programs provide students with the ability to empower their peers. All of our high school programs are led by high school students who use both the resources and guidance of our EduTrack staff and digital tool box to build their own on-campus programs. We are committed to creating our high school programs at sites that serve students who identify with primarily underrepresented or underprivileged communities." Interesting in bringing a program to your campus? Visit http://www.edutrackfoundation.org/get-involved2.html

Superintendent’s Friday Letter

Read Superintendent Dr Martinez’s January 10th and January 17th Friday letters. They include key information such as the newly elected DELAC leaders (District English Language Advisory Committee) and DVC's Diamonte Scholars (offering college credit during high school on a path to transfer & career for STEAM - science, tech, engineering, art, math).

These are always posted at mdusd.org and on Facebook & Twitter.  To receive these as emails, send a message to [email protected] to request to be added to the Superintendent’s email list.

Next School Board meeting January 27th

Here is the agenda.  Items include reports on Holbrook Dual Language expansion and Governor's budget, info/discussion of draft 2020-21 School calendars, and a resolution to support the Public Preschool, K-12, and College Health and Safety Bond Act of 2020 that is on the March ballot.

Visit https://mdusd.org/agendasminutes to see all meeting agendas & videos.

As always, share your ideas with our board via email or attend and speak at our board meetings.


It was great to see recent Concord High ASB President Hannah Jenevein at the EduTrack event!


Thank you East County NAACP for organizing another beautiful MLK Jr Day celebration!

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Hi friends,

I hope you all have a restful and rejuvenating winter break!

A huge thank you to all of you who have engaged with our district.  Together we are making a difference - every one of you who donated to HOPE or MDUSD Education Foundation, taught students and are grading finals, led field trips, wrote school goals as a site council rep, coached a team, negotiated a contract, led a student or parent organization, drove a school bus, or much much more. We should all be #MDUSDProud.

The biggest #breakingnews this week is that MDUSD reached a Tentative Agreement with Mt Diablo Education Association (MDEA)!  This was made possible by many hours of negotiation by dedicated teams of teachers and administrators.  See details and quotes from MDEA president Anita Johnson and Superintendent Martinez here.

And here are a few key updates from this month:  

December 16 School Board mtg 

We held the last MDUSD school board meeting of the year this week on Monday. The agenda included:

  • Organizational meeting - Congratulations to President Lawrence and Vice President Mason!  
  • Review of SPSAs (single plans for student achievement) - Have you read your school plan? Find every school SPSA plan here on MDUSD website (under Parents/Reports&Plans).  Have ideas about how to improve it?  Contact your principal or site council reps.
  • Review & approval of tentative agreement between CSEA & MDUSD for 2018-19 - Note that Contra Costa County sent MDUSD a letter in response to this, asking us to make $5 million in budget adjustments in order to stay fiscally solvent.  Truly, our state must do better to fully fund our schools.

Also at the meeting, President Lawrence encouraged people to donate to HOPE (homeless & foster youth in MDUSD - Venmo @MDUSDHOPE), and last I heard your donations surpassed $10,000!  Truly when we act as a community, we can all help take care of every student. Your generosity is deeply appreciated.

Visit https://mdusd.org/agendasminutes to see all mtg agendas & videos.


In two of our schools recently, as has happened at schools in nearby districts and nationally, students have made threats of harm.  In both cases, thankfully, the police investigated and found them to be non-viable. I think it’s important now to clarify our district policy for these types of instances, and also to remind everyone how each of us can “Say something” as Sandy Hook Promise encourages. 

Did you know our County Office of Education houses a full time coordinator for Sandy Hook Promise, and a team of fully certified trainers who will implement the SHP Know the Signs programs in every high school and middle school in Contra Costa County?  These programs include:

  • Signs of Suicide,
  • Threat Assessments,
  • Say Something, and
  • Say Hello. 

Find descriptions & contact information on the CCCOE website.  Ask your principal if this has begun yet at your school. 

There’s also a volunteer group that speaks to parent groups about Be SMART – BeSMARTforKids.org that reduces child gun deaths by encouraging responsible storage of guns and providing free gun locks.

  • Secure all guns
  • Model responsible behavior around guns
  • Ask about presence of unsecured guns in other homes
  • Recognize the risks of teen suicide
  • Tell your peers to be SMART

We all can help ensure that every student feels valued and included, in a safe and welcoming school environment.


Many parents, teachers and community came to ask our school board to increase salary, lower class sizes, and add more nurses, librarians and counselors.  I hope that all of you will campaign for and vote for the needed revenue to make that possible. Right now the revenue we receive from the state has not kept up with expenses, and so districts across CA are deficit spending and making major cuts.

One source of revenue that we can act on is the Schools & Communities First measure, gathering signatures now for the Nov 2020 ballot.  This initiative would be a start, but still not nearly enough for what we need, and IF it passes it won’t go into effect until 2022.  Out of the $11 billion it expects to raise, just $4 billion would go to schools statewide. 

That sounds like a lot, until you realize the Stanford Getting Down to Facts II study found that our state needs $25 billion in education funding just to reach national average. The study has a calculator where you can enter a school district and it will estimate needed dollars based on demographics. It says MDUSD would need: $5,067 more per student = approx. $150 million more per year.

This is why other school districts are exploring or placing parcel taxes on the 2020 ballot.  We can’t wait for 2022 and we are all facing major cuts right now.  Local taxes might be the only thing that can avoid massive cuts.

Save the date for a week of action called Fund Education Now, Feb 3-7, 2020, in which school districts throughout Alameda and Contra Costa will have actions each day to inform the community and state legislature of our dire need for education funding.

Superintendent’s Friday Letter

Read Superintendent Dr Martinez’s December 20th letter here.  These are always posted at mdusd.org and on facebook & twitter.  To receive these as emails, send a message to [email protected] to request to be added to the Superintendent’s email list.

Happy Holidays and Winter Break!

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Nov 2019 Board mtg

Hi everyone,

Our MDUSD school board meeting for November is tonight, 7pm at Dent Center at 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord.  See agenda here. You can attend in person, or to watch from home go to https://mdusd.org/agendasminutes to watch the video of any meeting live or recorded.

Board Policy for Emergency planning 

As mentioned, we are analyzing and updating Board policies related to Emergency management.   See tonight's agenda item 19.2 - where information and sample policy will be provided. Your feedback and ideas are welcome!

You can also share your ideas on your local school safety plan anytime, directly with your Site Council or Principal.  Each school Site Council approves and submits one for their school for district approval by March 1st of each year, and all are listed on the district website here: District list of school safety plans

Presentation of Mt. Diablo Unified School District's Enrollment Data for the 2019-2020 School Year

This is item 16.1 on tonight's agenda.  The District carefully reviews attendance each year in order to ensure that services provided to students at each school site are responsive to the needs of the students attending our schools. This presentation will provide data on the overall enrollment of the District and schools based on California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS) data that is certified each year.

The variance from the 2018-2019 and the 2019-2020 school years will be reviewed, and the District will share enrollment data for each District school. Further, staff will share information regarding some of the steps that will be used to project enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year.

Superintendent’s Friday Letter

Read Superintendent Dr Martinez’s Nov 15th letter here, including student safety, special ed resources and more.  These are always posted at mdusd.org and on facebook & twitter.  To receive these as emails, send a message to [email protected] to request to be added to the Superintendent’s email list.

See you tonight!

p.s. I got to meet my idol, Dolores Huerta, this weekend!  Si se puede!

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Emergency Planning & Finance

Hi everyone,

It is a busy time in MDUSD, and the past few weeks have included everything from election map decisions to negotiations, with PG&E power outages thrust into the mix to keep us all on our toes.  Here are highlights, information, and how you can be an active part of solutions:

Superintendent’s Friday Letter

Read Superintendent Dr Martinez’s Nov 1st letter here, including his take on responses to emergency events and more.  These are always posted at mdusd.org and on facebook & twitter.  To receive these as emails, send a message to [email protected] to request to be added to the Superintendent’s email list.

By Area Trustee Election Plan decided – maps & order

At the School Board meeting October 28, 2019, the Governing Board approved a resolution calling for a transition to Trustee Areas, beginning with the November 2020 election. We selected the “Purple-A” map and indicated that new Trustee Areas 3 and 5 would be the two areas up for election in 2020. All elected members of the Governing Board, whether they continue to be from “At-Large” elected areas or by “Trustee Areas” will continue to hold the responsibility of governance for the entire District.

Thank you to everyone who gave feedback at meetings and online!  Your ideas really shaped the map design and our decisions.  See details at https://mdusd.org/boardelections

Emergency planning

Have you experienced a utility emergency at your school site recently?  My kids have, and my home was without power for 3 days.  When emergencies happen, we all pitch in to help.  That is why Trustee Lawrence and I went to Northgate on Oct 28th - to help in whatever way we could.  We ended up volunteering on fire watch, checking each classroom & hallway for any fire danger, and ensuring areas were cleared of people once the decision was made to gather in a central location.  The principal, superintendent, fire marshall and facilities director were there and leading the situation.  But for us as school board members, experiences like this help inform our decisions on how to improve the big picture policies we decide on.  That’s why I visit and volunteer at as many sites as I can across the district. 

Here is some relevant information:

  • At the Board level, we are analyzing and updating Board policies related to Emergency management. This will be on a future Board meeting agenda, where you can give input as well.
  • Did you know about your specific school safety plan?  Each school Site Council approves and submits one for their school for district approval by March 1st of each year, and all are listed on the district website.  Be sure to give your site-specific input to your principal or site council.
    • District list of school safety plans
    • Oak Grove Middle School safety plan – Page 37 lists utilities emergencies. Given the very difficult circumstances that OGMS went through last month, what do you think should be added to ensure this school (and every school) can handle water shutoff more effectively in the future?
    • Northgate safety plan – Page 55 lists how to sign up for community alerts. Page 48 lists items for the school toolkit, including “1 flashlight (batteries in package)”.  What should it say instead - “1 flashlight and 1 lantern per classroom.”?   Should crank or solar powered be recommended?  Together as a team, your school community can determine the most effective plan for the unique layout of your school.
    • All Site Councils: have you ensured that all of your school parents know what is in your emergency plan? I know that the full plans are long and dense, but perhaps share out specific items from it like your school communication plan and Appendix B: ABC’s – Three Steps to Protect Your Child During Emergencies in The School Day


I was heartened to see so many teachers, staff and parents out rallying on Oct 28th, showing through action how much they care about our students.  Our community is passionate about educating every student well, and achieving that by providing more nurses, librarians, and counselors, high enough pay for teachers and staff to afford to live here, and low class sizes. 

I was disheartened to be asked why the school board “doesn’t care”.  Actually every one of us volunteers endless hours of our time because we do care.  We oversee the direction of the district, and our fiscal duty as school board includes:

  • Approve and oversee the school district budget
  • Serve as good stewards of taxpayer funds

We care very much and are carefully analyzing how to prioritize budget needs in an incredibly underfunded education system.  How would you prioritize among all of those requests?

Let me share one simple way to look at MDUSD finances - how fast the ending balance is being spent down: from $70 million unrestricted ending balance just two years ago, to just $30 million in June 2019. 

MDUSD Actual ending balances:

Fiscal Year
















This deficit spending is unsustainable and cannot continue much longer.  Therefore, any new spending must come out of currently allocated expenses, and the vast majority of our expenses are in people. Yes, you did read that right.  That means in order to do all the things we agree are needed, from lowering class size, to raising teacher and staff salaries, to increasing numbers of nurses and librarians… our main means to do so is to remove current people from their jobs.

To give you an idea of the magnitude of this -

The district saved $5 million from the cost cutting and layoffs last spring, which were incredibly painful.   Parents and teachers at just about every school can tell you about losing their favorite teacher or vice principal.  I don’t know anyone who wants that to happen again.  Yet that brought our actual ending balance to $30 million (vs the budgeted estimate of $25 million).  Saving $5 million was impactful, however expenses were still more than revenue, so we spent down our ending balance by $8 million.  (see detailed actuals 2018-19 here)

And so, to give you an idea of scale: one million dollars is the equivalent of anywhere from 10 to 30 positions. 

Now consider: how much money am I asking the district to “find” for new spending?  Am I okay with the resulting layoffs, program & course cuts needed to achieve that? 

There are no easy answers.

Given all of this, are you fired up?  Worried?  There are actions you can take for the future of our schools:

  1. Learn about where CA stands as a state, and help educate others that the struggles MDUSD faces are actually what districts all across CA are facing: fullandfairfunding.org . Our state legislators had the opportunity this fall to raise education funding to the national average with a bill AB39 that was co-authored by our local rep Bauer-Kahan.  Yet that bill was watered down to an “intent only” bill and still did not receive enough support to pass.  Clearly our legislators do not understand the immediacy of our student needs.
  2. Please copy any email or speech you’ve given to the MDUSD school board requesting additional funds, and paste that into an email to our state representatives and the governor:
    1. [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
  3. Consider what you can do to support local funding sources for our schools, while the state funding is clearly lacking. Some other districts have robust education foundations and local parcel taxes that help narrow the gap, while MDUSD has a new and growing foundation (mdedf.org) and no parcel tax.  
  4. Let me know if you are interested in joining a countywide coalition that is forming in Contra Costa, modeled from this one in Alameda: https://www.acoe.org/funding

Coming up

Speaking of funding…

The League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley is presenting the Schools and Communities First Initiative on Saturday, November 16th, 10:30 am – noon, Concord Library, 2900 Salvio St., Concord, CA 94519.  Fix Prop 13 with the Schools and Communities First Initiative on the November 2020 Ballot. This initiative will not touch Propositions 13 protections for any residential property, agricultural land, or small businesses. The money will go to schools and local governments. The League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley will describe the Initiative, answer questions, and explain how you can help.

Board meeting Monday Nov 18th

Our next school board meeting is Monday Nov 18th, 7pm at Dent Center at 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord.  See agenda here once it is posted. You can attend in person, or to watch from home go to https://mdusd.org/agendasminutes to watch the video of any meeting live or recorded.

Onwards together for our students,

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