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 superintendentsoffice@mdusd.org 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

Finances

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

Unrestricted

Restricted

Total

2016-17

$70,339,732

$18,449,562

$88,789,293

2017-18

$38,482,772

$19,048,201

$57,530,974

2018-19

$30,087,204

$19,402,903

$49,490,107

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. grayson@assembly.ca.gov, Assemblymember.Bauer-Kahan@assembly.ca.gov, Senator.Glazer@senate.ca.gov, governor@governor.ca.gov, gavin.newsom@gov.ca.gov
  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,


Showing 4 reactions

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  • Cherise Khaund
    commented 2019-11-12 15:17:42 -0800
    Thank you Shauna! As a member of the school board it is not my role to be the spokesperson for detailed district finance information, however I can point you to the district website
    - front page shows Budget Update 2019-20 here: https://www.mdusd.org/pf4/cms2/view_page?d=x&group_id=1516177889820&vdid=6i4a25kc5j4a

    and that also links to the fiscal main page here: https://www.mdusd.org/fiscalhome

    Here on my blog I attempt to simplify complex topics, point to data & resources, and then give community members a way to participate and take action. I hope this is helpful.
  • Cherise Khaund
    commented 2019-11-12 14:35:08 -0800
    Thank you Jennifer! I sent you the flyer about the coalition.
  • Jennifer Hosel
    commented 2019-11-12 08:26:17 -0800
    I would like to join the countywide coalition. I will email the state representatives as well. Thank you for the information and your efforts. I look forward to helping.
  • Shauna Hawes
    commented 2019-11-08 14:27:57 -0800
    This is very helpful, thank you. I do appreciate your work and am very aware of the fact and that you and the other board members are volunteers to have to make hard decisions.
    Do you have a way to break this financial information into general categories such as classified, certificated, administrative, buildings/grounds, and other categories that might be interesting to staff members?
    Thank you for the work you’re doing.