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FEBRUARY 26, 2021 FRIDAY LETTER VOLUME 2, NO. 36


MDUSD's Friday Letter—updates and stories prepared weekly for the school district community.



Board Adds Layers to Safety Plans;
Contra Costa Approaches Red Tier Metrics

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     Contra Costa is Doing Better

     It's good news for public health and for so many local organizations—did you see how close we are to the Red Tier in Contra Costa? Local pandemic metrics are steadily improving, and close to 300,000 vaccine doses (accounting for over 20% of all Contra Costa) have been administered. Public health authorities have been commenting that the improvement can be attributed to safe personal behaviors (i.e. masking and distancing), the seasonality of the virus, and some level of herd immunity.

     When California assigns the Red Tier to Contra Costa, it will be a signal for many school districts to open doors to students. Doors have long been open to all employee groups to work on-location, and existing safety plans have been protecting employees successfully. Taking additional steps forward, the MDUSD Governing Board voted to approve more layers to existing safety plans.

     Board Adds Layers to Safety Plans

     New layer 1: Taking action to bring ongoing, convenient COVID-19 testing to all MDUSD staff, the board approved agreements with PHM Laboratory Inc. and Curative Labs Inc.. Testing will be widely accessible and free of charge; this additional layer of safety, combined with existing district response protocols, will lower the likelihood of virus outbreaks. 

     New layer 2: MDUSD's formalized Covid Prevention Plan (CPP) was also approved and published on Wednesday. 

     The district's planning documents are centrally located at mdusd.org/2020-21. Here is a compilation of the major planning documents: 

     The Question of When 

     Notably, in reference to the teacher's union negotiations, district leaders have reported that, "both parties did express that it is our goal to work to complete negotiations by March 15th." As we know, union agreements, in addition to the Red Tier status (or better) are required for reopening. Both sides of the negotiating table are working hard. A comprehensive negotiations update follows. 

     The Reopening Survey

     District leaders sent a mandatory Reopening Survey (that is available through March 1) to all families, in which parents and guardians can express their intentions and any special circumstances. Upwards of 14,000 responses have been received so far. While not binding, the responses bring important information to school leaders about their community's needs. 

     This Week's Negotiations Update
     Excerpt from the weekly Organizational Update to the Board

     "The District negotiating team will be meeting on Friday, February 26 for a full day of work on different sections of a joint Hybrid draft proposal (which consists of a prior MDEA and prior District Hybrid proposal that have been merged).
     The District team and MDEA have five (5) days of bargaining scheduled over the next couple of weeks. It is not normal for either party to have this many days in such a short timeline, but both parties did express that it is our goal to work to complete negotiations by March 15th.
     The MDUSD board gave clear direction to the District negotiating team that the board does not believe that the District and MDEA should continue to spend any additional time on discussing safety metrics when the federal government, state and county have already established clear guidelines and metrics for a safe return to school for students and staff.
     Here is a historical summary of Negotiations with MDEA regarding a Hybrid MOU thus far:

11-06-2020 - MDUSD proposes first Hybrid MOU
11-18-2020 - MDEA makes a counterproposal for a Hybrid MOU
12-02-2020 - MDUSD makes a counterproposal for a Hybrid MOU
12-02-2020 - No forward motion made on Hybrid MOU between 12-2-10 and 2-11-21.  As the MDUSD Team was reminded by MDEA on 2-17-21, MDEA is still to make a counterproposal.
02-11-2021 - MDEA-MDUSD Committee Meets to work on Hybrid MOU.
02-16-2021 - MDUSD and MDEA visit school sites to examine school and district preparedness for reopening in a Hybrid format.
02-17-2021 - Scheduled Hybrid negotiation session on Friday 2-26-21 was moved at MDEA’s request.
02-17-2021 - MDEA agreed to split up the Hybrid Proposal so MDEA was to work on some parts and the District was to work on some parts.  This was a potentially large and positive step forward on MDEA’s part.
02-17-2021 - MDEA expresses a goal to conclude a Hybrid MOU by March 15th, and MDEA and MDUSD schedule negotiation dates on 3-2-21, 3-4-21, 3-10-21, 3-12-21 and 3-15-21.

     In regards to the CST bargaining unit, CST has requested to bargain for an updated Hybrid MOU on multiple occasions.  The first MOU negotiation session will occur next Tuesday, 3-2-21.
     In regards to the CSEA bargaining unit, CSEA submitted a Hybrid MOU proposal to MDUSD  on Tuesday, 2-23-21.  Negotiations regarding the Hybrid MOU will occur on Monday 3-1-21.  CSEA also submitted questions to the Chief Business Officer (CBO) regarding their next Successor Contract and a date to meet.
     In regards to the Teamsters bargaining unit, Teamsters met with the MDUSD negotiating team on Tuesday, 2-23-21 to have their questions for the CBO answered regarding their successor contract.  The meeting did not go as smoothly as everyone wished, and forward momentum was paused.  A Teamster and MDUSD Committee on Article 42 will occur Friday, 2-26-21, and it is hoped forward momentum will resume.  Instead of beginning direct conversations about a Hybrid MOU, the Teamsters requested that MDUSD submit an MOU for Small Group Support Hubs.  The district has been working on this MOU proposal with submission to Teamsters set for later this week.  Hybrid MOU discussions will follow the successful conclusion of the Small Group Support Hubs MOU.
     Dates for beginning negotiations with MDSPA regarding a Hybrid MOU are being discussed with a tentative date set for next Wednesday, 3-3-21."
     - Dr. John Rubio, Chief of Human Resources

View Previous Negotiations Updates (Organizational Updates to the Board Archive)
View Our Reopening Plan: Reconnect Safely, Return Strong
View the February 24 Board Meeting in English | in Spanish


This Week in District Operations

     Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark is continuing to publish transparent, detailed operations reports on a weekly basis. You can read department updates directly from our district leaders in our weekly Organizational Update to the Board, which is continuously archived for reference. Click on the document to review this week's Organizational Update:

Organizational Update


Ask the CBO: The CARES Act

     MDUSD Chief Business Officer, Dr. Lisa Gonzales, continues to answer questions from the school district community in a short video series called Ask the CBO. This week's topic is the CARES Act. Closed captioning is available in English and Spanish. Please know, we want your questions about district finances. Send them to cbo@mdusd.org, and yours could be featured in the next Ask the CBO.

     You can also view last week's Ask the CBO by visiting the MDUSD YouTube channel. Don't miss an episode—subscribe to the channel today.


Due Today: Nominations for Teacher of the Year 2021-22

TOYs

Current Teachers of the Year Dylan Bland and Beth Bremer pose with former winners Emily Andrews and Shay Kornfield.

Staff and community, the nominations for Teacher of the Year are due today.
Simply review the requirements memo and submit a nomination form to our Educational Services Department.
 

Nominate a Teacher

Nominar un Maestro

View Nomination Requirements and Deadlines



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Each week, the MDUSD Friday Letter is written and compiled by the district's Communications Specialist and sent to a staff and district community audience. To sign up for our distribution list, send an email to breidenthala@mdusd.org. To view an archive of district communications, visit the Superintendent's Office page. Do you have a story or event to share with our community? Contact me (breidenthala@mdusd.org) with your ideas or suggestions.

Austin

Give Feedback on District Communications

Dé sus Comentarios sobre las Comunicaciones

 

P.S.
A poem:
Six Hundred and One Paces
When you're way up high in some mountain wood, and a cold, dense, nightly fog creeps over your path, it feels dark and obscure.
The moonlight brings no assurance, barely peeking through the density that surrounds you.
Your heart hesitates at unfamiliar sounds—a shriek far away, a rustling now at your feet.
You're really scared being all alone, but you do step forward, ducking your head through shades of black.
You stumble, and your stomach turns to stone. You stand up again, trembling. In the sharp air, your skin tightens and you clutch your arms.
With a tearful eye, it's then that you miss all the things you've known, and the world you left behind.
How far is home? How did I even get here?
An owl screams a warning at you, so you raise your arm in defense and shut your eyes tightly.
In a slow moment, your ears take in a fading whisper of flapping wings. It almost sounds like discernible words.
Then, the nighttime, playing a cosmic trick, as if it knows you're not looking, turns quickly into morning.
The rising sun whisks away the fog. Your path becomes clear as day. You look. It's green and rich; it's brown; it's blue above.
As you scramble down the mountain, you look below. The world you know begins to grow.
You can see it now. Six hundred and one paces to the roof, the house, and a loved one at the door.
You'll be back again. With a blanket and some soup, you'll tell the story, even still unclear how exactly you knew the number, those six hundred and one paces.

Posted 2/26/21

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FEBRUARY 19, 2021 FRIDAY LETTER VOLUME 2, NO. 35


MDUSD's Friday Letter—updates and stories prepared weekly for the school district community.



Three Steps Forward: Local COVID-19 Metrics Improve; Educator Vaccinations Begin; Union Agreements Progress

     We Have a Plan

     The backbone of our reopening plan is a 27 page document named Reconnect Safely, Return Strong, and it contains procedures, metrics, and conditions of reopening that align completely with county and state public health guidance for schools. This was approved at the February 10 Board Meeting, at which Superintendent Adam Clark Ed.D. added that our goal is to reopen, "When we get to the Red Tier."

     We're getting closer. Although Contra Costa is in the Purple Tier right now, COVID-19 metrics have shown continuous improvement, and the Red Tier seems to be within sight. 

     Steps Forward

     Contra Costa County has administered 238,955 vaccine doses to date. This week, vaccination Phase 1B was announced, meaning educators and essential workers are now eligible to schedule vaccination appointments. Superintendents across the county have been encouraging staff to schedule vaccination appointments.  
     Track our progress at the negotiations table with the negotiations update below. Generally, the MDUSD Governing Board and Superintendent are firm on all areas detailed within Reconnect Safely, Reopen Strong. Still, other items are being prioritized in negotiations to round out the finer details of what reopening will look like.

     The Superintendent will present another update at the February 24, 2010 Regular Board Meeting to communicate our concurrent progress.

     This Week's Negotiations Update
     Excerpt from the weekly Organizational Update to the Board

     "MDUSD and MDEA had a productive negotiation session on Wednesday 2-17-21 and examined a merged document with the latest Hybrid proposals from both teams. Based on the direction given by the board in the last board meeting, the District continues to develop plans to reopen our schools (and we are now targeting March for a return to school).
     MDEA and the District also added five additional bargaining days for the next upcoming weeks, with a commitment from both teams to complete an agreement for a Hybrid plan by March 15th that allows for students and teachers to safely return to school.
     MDUSD and MDEA did joint elementary school visits on Tuesday 2-16-21 to examine district preparedness for opening in a Hybrid format.  Future joint secondary school visits to continue in early March. 
     Teamster bargaining continues on Friday 2-19-21 and Tuesday 2-23-21.  The CBO will be answering Teamsters submitted questions on Tuesday 2-23-21.
CSEA is expected to propose a Hybrid MOU plan to the district this week as well as a list of questions for the CBO to prepare for in a later meeting.
     The CST Successor Contract was approved at the last Board Meeting on Wednesday 2-10-21.  The District is reorganizing their negotiation team with CST to address CST’s desire for a Hybrid MOU.
     MDSPA Hybrid MOU meeting date discussions are underway." - Dr. John Rubio, Chief of Human Resources

View Previous Negotiations Updates (Organizational Updates to the Board Archive)
View Additional MDUSD COVID-19 Response Information and Resources
View Reconnect Safely, Return Strong


You're Invited:
District's Open Conversations Series Continues

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MDUSD's Open Conversations About Mental Health Series continues after the first webinar proved to be helpful for many district families.

     New topics are ready for exploring. Preview the session lineup below, which starts on Tuesday evening. Going forward, each webinar will be from 5:00PM - 6:15PM on Zoom. Simultaneous Spanish interpretation will be available, and audience members may choose to participate and interact, or watch only. Our mental health professionals are also taking questions in advance to help guide future discussions.

  • 02/23/2021 - Students Helping Students
  • 03/09/2021 - Parent Self Care
  • 03/30/2021 - Recognizing When To Get Help Beyond The Home
  • 04/20/2021 - Anxiety And Depression
  • 05/11/2021 - Parents Of Teens And Tweens- How To Facilitate Independence When They Can't Leave The House
  • 06/01/2021 - Parents Of Elementary Age- What Skills Can We Increase During Distance Learning
  • 06/22/2021 - Finding Community Supports And Summer Activities

     Bookmark the new Open Conversations page for Zoom information, which will be posted on the day-of. 

     Our Why

     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 to ask your questions, express your concerns, and hear from our mental health professionals.

     To promote wellness, answer questions, and address common student and family mental health concerns, MDUSD has assembled a panel of mental health professionals to host this webinar series that is free and open to all. The panel consists of MDUSD mental health staff, including school counselors, school psychologists, social work specialists, behavioral health specialists, and college and career advisors. 

     From MDUSD's School Counselors

     Our counseling team is pleased to share the 3rd Edition of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Counseling Corner Newsletter! This newsletter shares relevant tips and resources to support, engage, and connect students and families TK-12. This newsletter and other resources can also be found at our MDUSD Counseling page, which is under the Parent Portal tab on the district website. February Counseling Newsletter - English; Spanish


Nominations Begin for Teacher of the Year 2021-22

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You know a teacher that deserves this recognition—nominate them today for Teacher of the Year 2021-22!
We are on a compressed timeline; nominations for Teacher of the Year are due by February 26, which is next Friday.
Simply review the requirements memo and submit a nomination form to our Educational Services Department.

Nominate a Teacher

Nominar un Maestro

View Nomination Requirements and Deadlines


Spread the Word - County to Host Virtual Job Fair

Recruitment Fair


This Week in District Operations

     Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark is continuing to publish transparent, detailed operations reports on a weekly basis. You can read department updates directly from our district leaders in our weekly Organizational Update to the Board, which is continuously archived for reference. Click the image to read this week’s full Organizational Update to the Board:

Organizational Update



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Each week, the MDUSD Friday Letter is written and compiled by the district's Communications Specialist and sent to a staff and community audience totaling around 32,000. To sign up for our distribution list, send an email to breidenthala@mdusd.org. To view an archive of district communications, visit the Superintendent's Office page. Do you have a story or event to share with our community? Contact me (breidenthala@mdusd.org) with your ideas or suggestions.

Austin

Give Feedback on District Communications

Dé sus Comentarios sobre las Comunicaciones

Posted 2/19/21

 

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FEBRUARY 12, 2021 FRIDAY LETTER VOLUME 2, NO. 34


MDUSD's Friday Letter—updates and stories prepared weekly for the school district community.



Board Approves Reopening Plan,
Superintendent Firm on Authorities' Safety Protocols

     Wednesday's Governing Board Meeting was a step forward for Mt. Diablo Unified School District. The Board unanimously approved a reopening plan entitled, "Reconnect Safely, Reopen Strong," (below) and a draft agreement for parents, staff, and students. In so doing, complete alignment with county and state public health guidance for procedures, metrics, and conditions of reopening was solidified. The Board and Superintendent emphasized that, at the negotiating table, any proposals from unions containing metrics that supersede public health guidance should not be accepted. The negotiations table should be reserved only for other important items.

     At the meeting, Superintendent Clark acknowledged the tremendous difficulty and stress that distance learning has had on families, and expressed appreciation for district staff. "We are aiming to reopen in some form when we get to the Red Tier," said Superintendent Clark, who noted as well that Contra Costa's COVID-19 metrics continue to improve.

View the complete February 10, 2021 Governing Board Meeting reopening presentation: English | Spanish
View additional MDUSD COVID-19 response information and resources


This Week in District Operations

     Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark is continuing to publish transparent, detailed operations reports on a weekly basis. You can read department updates directly from our district leaders in our weekly Organizational Update to the Board, which is continuously archived for reference. Click the image to read this week’s full Organizational Update to the Board:

Organizational Update

     Negotiations Update:
     Excerpt from the weekly Organizational Update to the Board

     "A working group of the District and MDEA met on Thursday February 11 to discuss the Hybrid model for re-opening.  The main area of disagreement has been in the area of Safety Metrics. 
     Teamster negotiations will continue on Friday, February 19th regarding the next (i.e. successor) contract.  After successor contract negotiations, Teamsters and MDUSD will discuss an MOU for Small Group Support Hubs and begin tentative discussions about a Hybrid MOU.  Teamsters are formulating questions for a meeting with the CBO.
     After the Board approved the CST successor contract at the Board Meeting on Wednesday (02-10-21), CST and MDUSD will discuss an MOU for Small Group Support Hubs and begin tentative discussions about a Hybrid MOU.
     CSEA has expressed interest in meeting with MDUSD to discuss a Hybrid MOU and explore fiscal questions regarding the successor contract and a meeting with the CBO." - Dr. John Rubio, Chief of Human Resources


MDBEA Presents Black History Month Events

from the Mt. Diablo Black Educators Association (MDBEA)

MDBEA
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time....We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama
Please join Mt. Diablo Black Educators Association as we recognize and celebrate Black History Month.
If you have any questions about our upcoming events please email us at: mdusdbea@gmail.com.

The Black Educators Association of Mt. Diablo Unified
Deyango Harris, President; Charisse Segee, Vice President; Julie Grant, Treasurer


Ask the CBO - All About Enrollment

     MDUSD Chief Business Officer, Dr. Lisa Gonzales, continues to answer questions from the school district community in a short video series called Ask the CBO. This week's topic is All About Enrollment. Closed captioning is available in English and Spanish. Please know, we want your questions about district finances. Send them to cbo@mdusd.org, and yours could be featured in the next Ask the CBO.

     You can also view last week's Ask the CBO by visiting the MDUSD YouTube channel. Don't miss an episode—subscribe to the channel today.



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Each week, the MDUSD Friday Letter is written and compiled by the district's Communications Specialist and sent to a staff and community audience totaling around 32,000. To sign up for our distribution list, send an email to breidenthala@mdusd.org. To view an archive of district communications, visit the Superintendent's Office page. Do you have a story or event to share with our community? Contact me (breidenthala@mdusd.org) with your ideas or suggestions.

Austin

Give Feedback on District Communications

Dé sus Comentarios sobre las Comunicaciones

Posted 2/12/21

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FEBRUARY 5, 2021 FRIDAY LETTER VOLUME 2, NO. 33


MDUSD's Friday Letter—updates and stories prepared weekly for the school district community.



We Celebrate and We Honor

     Great Kindness Challenge Week
     Hearts, smiles, puppies, and colorful posters. On all five days of the Great Kindness Challenge Week, Principal Marga Marshall and staff at Holbrook Language Academy tweeted out their fun, kindness-oriented group activities. It's no wonder that Holbrook families report their students being resilient and thriving—their súper positive culture is permeating from visibly active leadership.

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     Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Zoom Student     Inspired by example. Shore Acres teacher Patricia Hamachi shared how Learning For Justice curriculum had inspired students to independently research, create, and share presentations with their class. One student explained, when asked about its significance, “Since I was little, I wouldn’t really pay attention, it was more like, ‘Oh it’s just [MLK Day], we get a day off,’ or ‘Okay we celebrate him because he made a speech.’ But as I got older, I realized that his [words] changed the world. I thought that was so important… if he can change the world, I know someday I can too.”

     MDUSD's Sean Donelan (Northgate) Wins 2020 Congressional App Challenge
    Using a Raspberry Pi4B, an Arduino, a Nextion HMI Touch Display, a little elbow grease, and impressively applied STEM skills, Northgate 9th grader Sean Donelan programmed and hard-wired a very useful net controller application for Ham radio field operators. He calls it, "NetHam," with the subtitle, "The Public Service Event Coordinator’s Third Hand." Watch his video entry explanation and you'll see why Sean won the 2020 Congressional App Challenge in CA-11, awarded by Representative Mark DeSaulnier. 

Sean D.

     When asked what inspired the creation, Sean said, “I experienced firsthand the complexity and convoluted ways of running an Amateur Radio net at local public service events, such as the Walnut Festival Twilight Parade, Mt. Diablo Challenge Bike Ride, and Diablo Summit Stomp. To remove some of the tediousness of our Ham Radio volunteer’s tasks at these events, I created this app.”
     Over 6,500 students registered for the 2020 Congressional App Challenge. These students created and submitted 3,088 functioning apps, marking the end of an extremely successful Congressional App Challenge amid the COVID-19 pandemic. All told, 308 Members of Congress hosted Congressional App Challenges in their districts across 49 states, Puerto Rico, the Mariana Islands, and Washington, DC.
     Sean—we want you to know that all of us at MDUSD are very proud of you. Keep up the great work!

     Black and African American History Month
     Black and African American History Month is February, and district-wide, classrooms and schools are mirroring what the Governing Board resolution's first line conveys, that, "Black and African American history presents our educational institution with an opportunity for recognition, teaching, and celebration." The executed resolution and curriculum ideas were shared with every school in the district. 

     National School Counseling Week
     Many school principals named and celebrated their school counselors for a public and well-deserved thank you. Governing Board Resolution 49, in formal language, shares the same sentiment of gratitude.


     We love to honor and celebrate people and events. Since the new year, we've honored or celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Ed Roberts Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Fred Korematsu Day, and Rosa Parks Day. We've honored or celebrated the Great Kindness Challenge Week, National School Counseling Week, and Black and African American History Month. Before the month is over, we'll see Lincoln Day, Frederick Douglass Day, Susan B. Anthony Day, and Washington Day.

     On social media, the MDUSD community is lively (and growing!), posting about school events, sharing curriculum ideas, fun happenings, meaningful moments, and more. Still, there is so much positivity that happens at our schools and in our classrooms that goes unseen. If you haven't already, I would invite you to create a Twitter or Facebook, follow MDUSD, and tag us in your district-related posts. Share what matters to you!

Twitter | Facebook


Can You Give 10?
STEAM-4-Students Needs Your Support

[From MDUSD Education Foundation]

     Dear Parents and the MDUSD Community,

     Many of you may have noticed that the MDUSD Education Foundation launched its STEAM-4-STUDENTS/GIVE 10! Campaign. For the month of February, the goal is to promote awareness about the foundation by donating 10 minutes of your time to follow, like, and share posts on social media, and to donate $10 per student (however, we do understand that some families cannot donate at this time).

     To date, these some of the educational enrichment your donations have funded:

  • Elementary school chalk art, Art in Action, Bridges Math, Mystery Science software, RAFT science kits, and consumables for life science;
  • Middle school robotics tools and science supplies, Mosa Mack science software, and a pilot science program that included field trips to the Chabot Space and Science Center; and
  • High school science supplies for science and engineering classes, the Bay Area Urban Debate League (BAUDL), Gizmos science software.

     With your support, we can continue to provide quality enrichment for your student, and so much more! Please share our messages and follow us on Facebook, Twitter@MtDiabloEF, Instagram@MtDiabloEF, LinkedIn

MDUSD Education Foundation


This Week in District Operations

     Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark is continuing to publish transparent, detailed operations reports on a weekly basis. You can read department updates directly from our district leaders in our weekly Organizational Update to the Board, which is continuously archived for reference. Here is this week’s full Organizational Update to the Board:

Organizational Update

     Negotiations Update:
     from the weekly Organizational Update to the Board

     On Friday January 29, both sides of the CSEA negotiations came to the point where forward movement on the final four articles was difficult. CSEA President Annie Nolen suggested that she and members of her team meet with the CBO to ask questions about the Districts current fiscal situation.
     Teamster negotiations continued on Wednesday, February 3. Multiple articles were exchanged with a tentative agreement reached on one of the articles.  Ten (10) articles remain with both sides currently working on five (5) articles each. Subcommittee work is showing some successful results on those articles where agreement was originally difficult.
     [The teachers' union] (MDEA) and MDUSD met for negotiations on Thursday January 28. MDUSD wanted more Daily Live Interaction minutes on the behalf of the community and MDEA wanted fewer Daily Live Interaction minutes on behalf of its membership. MDEA and MDUSD settled on not changing the amount of Daily Live Interaction (DLI) Minutes. The workshop discussions around student re-entry criteria were informative, but did not result in a substantive change at this time. MDUSD continues to refer to the criteria put forth by medical experts in the Contra Costa County Health Department, and MDEA continues to refer to CTA and MDEA concerns about member safety.


HELP Contra Costa's Science Fair Competitors on March 12

[From Bay Area LEEDS]

Science Fair Judges

BE A SCIENCE FAIR JUDGE!
Join us on March 12 | 8:00AM - 5:00PM
Support Contra Costa's Budding Young Scientists & Engineers

REGISTER HERE

     HELP! Contra Costa County Science & Engineering Fair—a VIRTUAL FAIR in 2021—is scheduled for Friday, March 12 from 8:00AM to 5:00PM and we need your help! In existence since 2005, the Contra Costa Science Fair expects to have more than 200 student competitors who will need your expertise to evaluate project boards and conduct interviews.

     The virtual fair, using the ZOOM platform, will require a full 8 hours of judges' time to ensure every child gets interviewed about their project. With the pandemic, we hope you will be able to accommodate this need in 2021. Won’t you volunteer to be a judge on March 12?

     There are two student competition levels: JUNIOR: Grades 7 and 8; and SENIOR: Grades 9 through 12. You may choose the competition level and competition categories most suited to your preferences.

     Our goal is to engage more than 140 judges to be on hand to give every child the opportunity to share their science and engineering projects with multiple judges during the competition. The winners of the Contra Costa regional fair are then eligible for further competition at the California State Science Fair, the National Middle School Science Fair, and the Regeneron-affiliated International Science & Engineering Fair. Without your involvement, further competitions would not be available to our student competitors.

     It's easy to register to be a judge, and you will have same-day training to prepare you for the virtual experience. Won't you join other volunteers, experienced and new, at our 2021 fair by completing the registration link now?

For more information, please contact:

Judge Committee Chair Linda Mayo
cccsef.judges@gmail.com | mayolk@aol.com | 925.937.0804
Science Fair Director April Treece
apriltreece@ba-leeds.org | 925-672-3759


Message from Superintendent Clark on Reopening Efforts 

     [Published Wednesday, February 3, 2021]

     Dear MDUSD Families and Staff,

     I hope this message finds you well during this challenging time. This communication will focus on efforts that have been and are currently taking place to transition to in-person learning, in other words, to welcome students back onto their school campuses.
     As you may recall, I presented an update on reopening schools on October 21, 2020. During this Special Governing Board Meeting, I shared two sample schedules, one elementary and one secondary... [Read the complete message].



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Each week, the MDUSD Friday Letter is written and compiled by the district's Communications Specialist and sent to a staff and community audience totaling around 32,000. To sign up for our distribution list, send an email to breidenthala@mdusd.org. To view an archive of district communications, visit the Superintendent's Office page. Do you have a story or event to share with our community? Contact me (breidenthala@mdusd.org) with your ideas or suggestions.

Austin

Give Feedback on District Communications
Dé sus Comentarios sobre las Comunicaciones

Posted 2/5/21

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JANUARY 29, 2021 FRIDAY LETTER VOLUME 2, NO. 32


MDUSD's Friday Letter—updates and stories prepared weekly for the school district community.



With Each Step Forward, Confidence in our Next Grows

PSAT, School Photos, and Sports

Bottom: Bringing new life to school campuses, some sports have made an exciting comeback.
Top: High school students were safely welcomed at MDUSD campuses on Tuesday to take the Preliminary SAT; students also came to take school photos.

     Reopening Update (Summary Version)

     "There is light at the end of this tunnel," added Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark at the regular Governing Board Meeting on Wednesday, noting that while Contra Costa remains in the Purple Tier (and that therefore schools are closed), some COVID-19 numbers are improving lately, and vaccinations are continuing. To reopen campuses to students, minimally the county would need to improve into the Red Tier, and agreements with union partners would need to be in place. The school district has been using this time to transform campuses into safe-zones and also to continue, with diligence, in union negotiations, while monitoring the latest guidance from public health authorities.
     A video recording of the Superintendent's full reopening update presentation at the January 27, 2021 Governing Board Meeting is available in English or in Spanish. This is a standing item discussed at every board meeting during the Superintendent's Report. He plans to provide another update for reopening at the February 10, 2021 Governing Board Meeting, including a new timeline proposal.


     Reopening Update (Detailed Version)

     The sun and moon painted a gorgeous painting this morning. In traffic on the road to work, I saw a beautiful, full moon gracing the sky, opposite a rising sun, separated by wispy, milk-white clouds, which seemed to flow and swirl in slow motion across the deep blue sky. I saw a truck go by, I saw a sedan go by, and in the bigger picture, one could say I saw a mini-van gogh by.
     Bad humor aside, my imagination showed me that if the sun and moon were both present, and in their position were neither right nor wrong, maybe both represented a contrasting but co-existing truth to illuminate the present scene. It was because this week, MDUSD reached its 100th day of school, and I saw celebrations in virtual classrooms as much as I could imagine many tears of grief behind closed doors.
     We press forward. Our district has been bustling with activity; in addition to everyday operations, there has been plenty of planning, preparation, and steps forward at campuses across the district with respect to reopening. With each step forward, confidence in our next grows. It has been a beautiful sight to see students on our campuses, and albeit through very limited activities, reports have come back that students were all appropriately masked and physically distanced.

     Necessarily, a nursery is prepared before a baby arrives, so that is what we have been doing during the Purple Tier. Here are some key contributors to reopening progress:

     Negotiations Team Steps Forward
     "A step in the right direction for students," said Chief of Human Resources, John Rubio, noting a successful collaboration with the teachers' union that lead to a breakthrough agreement (01-20-2021) regarding small-group supports on campus during the Red Tier. We appreciate our union partners for coming to the table continuously. Here are all eight MDUSD union agreements signed in the time of the world-wide pandemic:

     Also, Human Resources provided a negotiations update in today's Organizational Update (fully appended below): "The CST tentative agreement for the successor contract has been carefully reviewed by our budget office and executive cabinet and is being processed for submission to the county. The District and MDEA met Thursday, January 28 regarding instructional minutes and to continue deliberations regarding safety and metrics for an eventual return to school. CSEA and Teamster negotiations continue with the District."

     Facilities Team Steps Forward→ 
     Substantial cleaning and disinfecting protocols are in place right now, and campuses have taken many steps in preparation for the return of student groups. For example, safety signage, social distancing markings, plexiglass barriers, sneeze guards, sanitizer dispensers, facial coverings, thermometers, new ventilation filters, and new Germ Buster Sprayer tools have become a normal sight for our campuses.

     "Every space, every day," emphasized Melanie Koslow, Director of Facilities, Maintenance, and Operations, reporting out at the most recent Superintendent's Cabinet meeting. Custodians do deserve a big thank-you for being a legion of protection for staff working on campuses. Together with physical distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing, campuses are achieving a high level of safety.

     Contra Costa Steps Forward→ 
     Some COVID-19 metrics are improving in Contra Costa County, and some are not. The biggest contribution to any improvement is personal behavior, so we thank all who are physically distancing, wearing face coverings, and washing their hands frequently. Front-line healthcare workers exhaust themselves to meet the needs of the community, and vaccine distribution has slowly expanded from 1A to 1B. Reports, activity, and leadership at the national level seem to inspire hope. The 2.19 million COVID-19 death count world-wide is difficult to comprehend. Together, fighting the common enemy that is this pandemic and making continual steps forward would ensure that our hope was not in vain—to preserve life and to return to a new normalcy which we will not take for granted.

     See the latest local data from Contra Costa Health Services.


MDUSD Mental Health Webinar Series Kicks Off with Success

     It was enriching, genuine, helpful, and much needed—over one hundred parents attended our first Open Conversations About Mental Health Webinar on Monday, which was paneled by a district team of experienced mental health professionals. Prepared discussions about wellness, social opportunities, engagement, and motivation moved the session forward, with audience participation throughout.

     These were the questions for the panel:

  • How can I create social opportunities for my child during distance learning?
  • How can I find support for my child’s social/emotional wellbeing within MDUSD?
  • How can I best support my child academically during this trying time?
  • My student is lacking motivation during the pandemic - how can I support my child and help them become more engaged in their classes?

     We invite you to tune in at your convenience—here is the full recording:

     Thank you to our panelists for their leadership:
     Elementary Counselor, Megan Potssemil
     Middle School Counselor, Julie Grant
     High School Counselor, Rima Boujaoude
     Equity Counselor, AD Briscoe
     Psychologist, Carolyn Sakkis
     Social Work Specialist, Elise Mejia
     Behavior Specialist, Lynnea Molina
     College and Career Advisor, Brian Brown

     MDUSD's Open Conversations About Mental Health series will continue in the coming weeks—look for details in the Friday Letter.


Ask the CBO:
How Do Enrollment and Meal Applications Impact MDUSD Budgets?

     Each week, our Chief Business Officer, Dr. Lisa Gonzales, will be responding to questions from the school district community in a new short video series called Ask the CBO. This week's topic is, "How do Enrollment and Meal Applications Impact MDUSD Budgets?" Closed captioning is available in English and Spanish. Also, we want your questions about district finances. Please send any questions to cbo@mdusd.org, and your question could be featured in the next Ask the CBO.

     You can also view last week's Ask the CBO by visiting the MDUSD YouTube channel. Don't miss an episode—subscribe to the channel today.


For Your Review: District Organizational Update

     Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark is continuing to publish transparent, detailed operations reports on a weekly basis. You can read department updates directly from our district leaders in our weekly Organizational Update to the Board, which is continuously archived for reference. Here is this week’s full Organizational Update to the Board:

Organizational Update



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Each week, the MDUSD Friday Letter is written and compiled by the district's Communications Specialist and sent to a staff and community audience totaling around 32,000. To sign up for our distribution list, send an email to breidenthala@mdusd.org. To view an archive of district communications, visit the Superintendent's Office page. Do you have a story or event to share with our community? Contact me (breidenthala@mdusd.org) with your ideas or suggestions.

Austin

Give feedback on district communications
Dé sus comentarios sobre las comunicaciones

Posted 1/29/21

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JANUARY 22, 2021 FRIDAY LETTER VOLUME 2, NO. 31


MDUSD's Friday Letter—updates and stories prepared weekly for the school district community.



Superintendent Provides January 2021 Distance Learning Update

Photograph by Austin Breidenthal
Dent Center MDUSD Office, January 2021

     From Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark on Thursday, January 21, 2021:

     Dear Mt. Diablo Unified School District Parents/Guardians and Staff,

     I hope you are safe and healthy during this challenging time. Today marks the 96th day of the 2020-2021 academic year. When schools closed in California on March 13, 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, no one imagined our campuses would now still be void of students. I am writing to update you on our District with regard to COVID-19.
     At the Governing Board meeting on Wednesday, January 13 (presentation starts at 1 hour 26 minutes), I shared that full Distance Learning must continue through at least until March, 2021. The reasoning to support that conclusion is related to Contra Costa County being in the Purple TierCalifornia’s Regional Stay At Home Order and our local vaccination timeline.
     The COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations have continued to worsen. We were warned by the staff of  the Contra Costa County Department of Public Health of the holiday surge. Unfortunately, the worsening metrics we were warned about have come to fruition, and my heart goes out to those who are ill and to all who have experienced loss. I am hopeful that a coordinated vaccination plan will soon come from the Federal Government, State of California and Contra Costa County that prioritizes the elderly as well as frontline educators.
     Although MDUSD is remaining in Distance Learning, staff members have been preparing and are still preparing for face to face instruction and learning. Safety measures are in place, which include personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies, plexiglass barriers, and six foot distance markings.
     Negotiations are continuing with the Mt. Diablo Education Association (teachers’ union). Although we have yet to reach a final agreement on a Hybrid Plan or Student Support groups, we have made considerable progress (see current agreements). We have held partial or all day negotiation sessions on the following dates: September 16; October 5, 14, 29; November 6, 13, 18; and December 2, 8, 9, 15. Both teams are also meeting on Wednesday, January 20. We appreciate the relationship with all six of our labor partners and collaborative bargaining agreements are forthcoming.
     We understand that the public may not fully understand the bargaining process and pace, but this is a necessary process. There are families and students who are struggling as a result of Distance Learning. The MDUSD team is working to mitigate these challenges but I understand that more can be done. On Monday, January 25, at 5:00PM, the counseling department will hold a webinar on student mental health. The webinar details and opportunities to submit questions will be shared on Friday in our Friday Letter.
     The Governing Board is committed to bringing students back to their physical classrooms. Each trustee wants nothing more than for students to engage with our caring staff, participate in myriad extra curricular activities, and to simply be around friends. With that said, the Board is committed to ensuring a safe process in which we continue to serve our students, families and staff. I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate the impacts of the pandemic together. 

     Sincerely,

     Superintendent Adam Clark, Ed.D. 

     Informational Resources:


District Professionals to Host Webinar Series:
Open Conversations about Mental Health

MDUSD Green Ribbon     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 a 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. This Open Conversations about Mental Health Webinar Series starts on Monday January 25, from 5:00PM-6:30PM. 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.

     When: Monday, January 25, 2021 at 5:00PM Pacific
     Topic: Open Conversations about Mental Health Webinar (#1)
     Ticket Cost: $0.00 - (Free/Sponsored)

     Attending is easy—simply register in advance, and you will receive a confirmation email with all the information you need.


How Does MDUSD Spend Its Money? Why not 'Ask the CBO'

     Each week, our Chief Business Officer, Dr. Lisa Gonzales, will be responding to questions from the school district community in a new short video series called Ask the CBO. This week's topic is, "How Does MDUSD Spend Its Money?" Closed captioning is available in English and Spanish. Also—we want your questions about district finances! Please send any questions to cbo@mdusd.org, and your question could be featured in the next Ask the CBO. 

Ask the CBO Episode 1


This Week in District Operations

     Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark is continuing to publish transparent, detailed operations reports on a weekly basis. You can read department updates directly from our district leaders in our weekly Organizational Update to the Board, which is continuously archived for reference. Here is this week’s full Organizational Update to the Board:

Organizational Update


District Partners: T-Mobile Offers Free Data; Girls4STEM Offers Webinar

T-Mobile     You Might Qualify for T-Mobile's Project 10Million
     From T-Mobile Promotions:

     With Project 10Million, we’re offering help to 10 million eligible households over the next 5 years. Project 10Million’s Direct to Parent/Guardian program provides internet access to eligible families that have a student enrolled in the National School Lunch program. Approved families receive 100GB of mobile data per year for 5 years and a FREE mobile hotspot, plus the opportunity to purchase devices at a low cost.

  • New and existing T-Mobile (including Metro by T-Mobile and Sprint) as well as Non-T-Mobile customers are eligible to apply.
  • Available to residents of the United States and Puerto Rico.
  • One free T-Mobile hotspot device and 100GB/year data line per household, max one per student.
  • Data service ends when allotment is reached until the yearly renewal date (Additional data passes are available for purchase).
  • May purchase up to five select, at-cost Wi-Fi-only tablets and laptops for use with the hotspot device.

     See other district partners providing Internet options.

Girls4STEM     Get Ready for REFINERY 101 with Christy Tormey, B.S.M.E.
     From MDUSD Partner Girls4STEM:

    Christy Tormey is local to the Bay Area, and was one of a few women in her mechanical engineering classes at Duke University. She landed an internship at Chevron one summer during college and the rest is history. She will share her story of getting a mechanical engineering degree, how she got internships and a job out of college at Richmond, CA’s Chevron Refinery, and is a young women blazing a career in a traditionally male field - refinery operations. All high schoolers are encouraged to register for this free webinar taking place on January 24, 2021  at 4:00PM. Gain confidence in following your path to a STEM career. Register in advance for this webinar.



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Each week, the MDUSD Friday Letter is written and compiled by the district's Communications Specialist and sent to a staff and community audience totaling around 32,000. To sign up for our distribution list, send an email to breidenthala@mdusd.org. To view an archive of district communications, visit the Superintendent's Office page. Do you have a story or event to share with our community? Contact me (breidenthala@mdusd.org) with your ideas or suggestions.

Austin


Give Feedback on District Communications

Dé sus Comentarios sobre las Comunicaciones

Posted 1/22/21

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JANUARY 15, 2021 FRIDAY LETTER VOLUME 2, NO. 30


MDUSD's Friday Letter—updates and stories prepared weekly for the school district community.



The Tam Family Generational Legacy of Giving

    All Good Living Foundation Donation
Pictured: Chris Tam, Adam Clark, Michael Ryan, Felicia Stuckey-Smith, and Ernie Trinidad.
The All Good Living Foundation stands with district partners after delivering 200 care boxes for students.

     At times like these, when tendencies toward self-preservation are prevalent and somewhat expected, it is all the more humbling to see generosity and compassion from organizations like the All Good Living Foundation. On Tuesday, MDUSD received 200, "Kin Project Boxes," each containing helpful everyday supplies for our McKinney-Vento students. Before I snapped this photo, I had a chance to ask the founder, Chris Tam, about his motivations for giving. The organization has donated to MDUSD before, and their work over the years has even earned recognition from the State Legislature. From what he shared, it is clear that his story is one about family. 

     "It started out as a way to spend time with my father, but then after he passed, I just knew I had to continue the good work," he explained.

     His father had been a well-respected classroom teacher for thirty-nine years, and was later a school principal in Alameda. Familiar campus faces, playground antics, old books, the smell of glue, and meaningful mentorships were everyday life. When the Tam family father and son duo decided to create a non-profit organization, it was to them a natural response to a need they saw first-hand in their community. The mission statement reads, "We want to help our most vulnerable children of the Bay Area in need, as it is our belief that no child should go without. These issues are prevalent and affecting more families than most people realize. It is our goal to provide the basic necessities that are in desperate need... We believe in the power of uniting a community and working together."

     The All Good Living Foundation sphere of influence is expanding. For MDUSD students, even more Kin Project Boxes are en route, and the All Good Living Foundation wishes to make them a recurring donation. Embrace Church in Alameda was responsible for their assembly, and a private donor had asked specifically for the boxes to become an ongoing program. Chris currently coordinates about fifty volunteers, and as goodness manifests goodness, his list of sponsorships and partnerships is growing. Right behind him are his family members, the next generation to support the All Good Living Foundation cause—a legacy of giving.


Distance Learning Will Continue in the 3rd Quarter

A message from the Superintendent on Thursday, January 14, 2021:

     Dear MDUSD Families and Staff,

     The MDUSD Governing Board met yesterday and concluded that distance learning must continue into March, 2021. This was also my recommendation, and comes as Contra Costa County continues now in the Purple Tier—the worst possible pandemic status—in which public health authorities are against reopening schools and larger social gatherings. Walnut Creek USD, Pittsburg USD, Antioch USD, and West Contra Costa USD confirmed that they have the same standing—distance learning must continue into the 3rd quarter.
     This is not where we had hoped to be right now, but it is the reality of the pandemic in our area. The California Department of Public Health recommendation is clear that students should not be on campus while our county is in the Purple Tier.
     In this moment, our focus as a school district must be on how to improve distance learning and how best we can meet the needs of students, with emphasis on social-emotional wellbeing and mental health supports. I would encourage all to continue best practices for safety, to keep wearing face coverings, continue social distancing, and to wash hands frequently. These remain the best way to fight the virus and improve our metrics.
     For now, distance learning will continue. Going forward, our communication with you will continue weekly, and our Governing Board will revisit reopening plans in March.

     Respectfully,

     Superintendent Adam Clark, Ed.D.
     Mt. Diablo Unified School District


New in District Operations

     January Board Resolutions
     The Governing Board adopted Resolution 20/21-39 in Recognition of January 18, 2021 as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. While MDUSD has long celebrated the holiday and incorporated its significance in classrooms, this resolution was positively the first of its kind to uniformly express and acknowledge related history, values, and goals at the governance level. The Board also adopted Resolution 20/21-42 in Recognition of January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, both to spread awareness about the somber reality of its prevalence and also to promote, "if you see something, say something." See the Contra Costa District Attorney's Human Trafficking Unit for local information and how to help. 

     Superintendent's Proposals
     At the most recent board meeting, the Superintendent proposed the establishment of an Anti-Bias and Anti-Racist (ABAR) Committee, that with staff, parent, and student involvement would move towards actionable solutions on such issues in MDUSD. He also promoted that a potential series of, "Student Mental Health Panel Webinars," would be organized in an effort to support community mental health and social-emotional wellbeing. More details on both will be forthcoming.

     Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark is continuing to publish transparent, detailed operations reports on a weekly basis. You can read department updates directly from our district leaders in our weekly Organizational Update to the Board, which is continuously archived for reference. Here is this week’s full Organizational Update to the Board:

Org Update


Counseling Corner Newsletter - January Edition

From Stephanie Roberts, Director of Partnerships & MTSS and Felicia Stuckey-Smith, Director of Student Services

     Our counseling team is pleased to share the 2nd Edition of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Counseling Corner Newsletter! This newsletter shares relevant tips and resources to support, engage, and connect students and families TK-12. This newsletter and other resources can also be found at our MDUSD Counseling page, which is under the Parent Portal tab on the district website.

Counseling Corner English
Counseling Corner Newsletter January Edition- English

Ricon de Consejeria
Counseling Corner Newsletter January Edition- Spanish 


Reminder: Virtual Science Fair Registration Open

on behalf of Bay Area LEEDS

     Students—your chance to explore and develop your STEM passion is here! The Contra Costa County Science Fair (CCCSEF) (March 11, 12, & 13, 2021) is for students grades 7-12 who are interested in science, technology, or mathematics, and presents an opportunity to engage in independent research. Taking part in the CCCSEF is fun, educational, and rewarding—moreover, you won’t be taking this project alone. Mentors and teachers will help you create the best project possible.
     Students can choose from six broad categories, including behavioral, biological, physical, environmental, engineering, math and computer sciences, where they can explore their passions and apply classroom knowledge to tangible experiments. If successful, Contra Costa Science Fair students are able to compete regionally and access the following larger competitions:

  • California Science & Engineering Fair (Virtual): April 12-13, 2021
  • Broadcom MASTERS Middle School National Science Fair (Virtual): October, 2021
  • Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (Virtual): May 16-21, 2021

     If you are interested, please fill out this Science Fair Interest Form by Friday, January 15. You will be sent a confirmation regarding the next steps for participation, including dates for important informational sessions.

Star Gazers

     Calling All Judges
     Parents—you can help, and have some fun! Approximately 150 professionals will be needed to judge projects submitted in the six competition categories. Judges examine the quality of each project and assess student understanding of the experiment using a set of criteria. Students are able to demonstrate their knowledge about the projects through interviews on the day of judging during the competition. Judges play a crucial role in validating students’ efforts in this educational and motivating experience. Their engagement in the Science Fair is also a very rewarding personal experience. Contact Linda Mayo for more information at (925) 937-0804  or mayolk@aol.com


Isabel Lara, District Community Liaison, Offers Parting Encouragement

     To my beloved MDUSD community:

     It is with immense gratitude to this dynamic community that I announce my retirement. In eighteen years serving the Mt. Diablo community, I have been blessed to work with so many families and students. For each family, their journey is different, and I am grateful for the trust they gave me in allowing me to be part of their team.
     I am honored to have collaborated with amazing individuals across the community! I am grateful to the community organizations who have provided support (food, shelter, transportation, mental health services, and financial support) to our families in MDUSD. The generosity from local small businesses, civic and community leaders, and faith-based communities humbled me on a regular basis. As a liaison for the District, I was able to collaborate with school teams and bridge the gaps where our existing systems had not yet adapted to meet the needs of individuals and families. The dedicated teams in Mt. Diablo Unified schools inspired me with their willingness to listen and expand their vision of support. It moves me now to think of the differences that we made in the lives of students and families. 
     As I step away from my position, I am left with profound hope for the possibilities. We can connect with our families, learn about their needs and culture, and ensure their families have the academic and personal supports necessary to thrive. We can make real change in the lives of students by meeting their parents where they are and empowering them.
     It is vital that we invest in our children to help them feel success is possible, and we have the most benefit from engaging them early. Often, the support for one child in a family meant that family was stronger. Siblings, neighbors, and friends became more successful, too, because there could benefit from more examples of overcoming challenges and thriving. This success wasn’t dependent upon a parent’s education level or primary language; this success was earned through collaboration, support, and a commitment to strengthening each family as we refined and developed our District systems.
     When we help students attain their education, we make a difference now and for the future. Each child is important. Each child is full of potential. I viewed each student as a human being and sought to serve them as if they were my own child.
     It is difficult to step away from this important work, and I remain hopeful that our District team will continue to build the doors that create points of access that the community needs. Parents need clear and consistent sources of support that can meet them where they are. With stronger connections, we have a network of support that can help students attain the access they each deserve and realize the potential they each have.

     With gratitude and joy,

     Isabel Lara
     District Parent Liaison
     The Office of the Superintendent
     Mt. Diablo Unified School District 



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Each week, the MDUSD Friday Letter is written and compiled by the district's Communications Specialist and sent to a staff and community audience totaling around 32,000. To sign up for our distribution list, send an email to breidenthala@mdusd.org. To view an archive of district communications, visit the Superintendent's Office page. Do you have a story or event to share with our community? Contact me (breidenthala@mdusd.org) with your ideas or suggestions.

Austin

Give Feedback on District Communications

Dé sus Comentarios sobre las Comunicaciones

Posted 1/15/21

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JANUARY 8, 2021 FRIDAY LETTER VOLUME 2, NO. 29


MDUSD's Friday Letter—updates and stories prepared weekly for the school district community.



The Courageous Captains Leading our Next Generation

     Current events seem to be ever-changing waters, and educators are the captains who sail and navigate them with students each new day. Sometimes, a classroom ship skips smoothly through calm undercurrents of relatively uneventful days, and at other times, there are crashing waves and storms of bold headlines and imagery witnessed in the media. Current events certainly grab attention. Yet, this sea-faring analogy is limited if it frames current events as simply static and external. The same events are also dynamic opportunities—as one teacher shared with me—to contextualize events for students, process emotions and concerns, and model positive discourse. Because the eventfulness of the year 2020 is finding its match at the start of 2021, I caught up with three MDUSD teachers to learn more about how current events influence their teaching. Their responses were intriguing. 

     "Right now, I feel it is an exciting, challenging time to be a teacher," said Annemarie Baldauf, who is in her fifteenth year teaching at Riverview Middle School. Annemarie is optimistic. She teaches art, and this year, her virtual classes have had an ongoing theme—"What is happening in our world"—to which the student response has been enthusiastic. Students' art projects have covered subjects like COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, California wildfires, and civic duties. "If it is meaningful for students, they are hooked, and if they are given choices, they can make the assignment their own. 'Choice' means that all students have to think creatively, make decisions, anticipate problems, and find answers on their own so that they enjoy what they produce and it is meaningful for them." Most recently, she asked her students to create individualized 2-D designs for what would eventually become 3-D face masks that they could wear. This was naturally symbolic of how Annemarie has been adding dimension to her lessons by regularly incorporating current events in a fun, even therapeutic, way. 

Masks 2D 3D

174 student face masks were funded with Donors Choose grants

     But, talking about current events into the classroom is not always easy to do. As MDUSD Teacher of the Year Dylan Bland told me, "We often need to help facilitate our students’ thoughts and emotions while they process the events unfolding around them on the fly (or while we’re processing things ourselves)." Of course, when major current events are political, educators are also careful not to endorse or condemn any political party, but instead model civility and equity, encourage investigative thinking, and promote healing.

     Dylan told me about the start of the new semester: "My class is learning about the science of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll be creating artifacts that capture their point of view, with the flexibility for students to add a personal touch. Student perspective, engagement, and input is paramount here. The human element is often overlooked during emergencies- each of us have a unique story to tell about how COVID-19 has impacted our lives. I hope to give my students a space to learn the facts about the pandemic, ask whatever is on their mind (most want to know about the vaccines), and to engage them with an opportunity to express themselves honestly and creatively to capture this moment in time. I encourage teachers across MDUSD to do the same with their students."

     Sensational and traumatic events continue to happen. This week, the world saw a violent mob storm the U.S. Capitol with incited acts of insurrection. Headlines, images, and the values they projected were cold stormy waves, and for many it felt, justifiably, like hitting an iceberg.

     In the early hours of Thursday morning, Beth Bremer, MDUSD Teacher of the Year, shared with me how the events in Washington D.C. would affect her classroom that day:

     "The images that have been flooding the media over the last 24 hours are extremely disturbing and certainly seen by many of my students. I lay awake all night trying to process these images and events myself, as well as reflect upon how I will address them with my students. We will review class norms and I will make space for students to talk about what they have seen, ask questions, and process their concerns through discussion and art. That said, I do not know exactly how the day will go because I will be responding to the needs of the students. I do know that it is incumbent upon teachers to engage in these difficult conversations with their classes. Today cannot just be another day. It is important that will help our students understand the context of the images they have seen and how they fit into the bigger picture. It is essential that we teach and model civility, starting with our own classroom conversations and behavior. I feel a tremendous responsibility to plant seeds of respectful discourse and responsible citizenship in my fourth grade students. My hope was restored in seeing that ultimately the constitutional process of certifying the next President of the United States went forward. My hope for the future lies in the children, and it is my fervent desire that I help them understand the principles of democracy and how they might participate in the process as they move toward adulthood."

     Beth communicated again on Friday morning to share her students' topical artwork, a voluntary jamboard discussion, and how today's session would incorporate a PBS summary viewing along with an open writing prompt. 

     Annemarie offered encouragement to fellow teachers: "I would encourage teachers to trust they know how to teach and use that to make their digital classroom predictable and reliable for students that need that security right now." Predictability and reliability, she said, were the foundational elements of promoting a sense of security and growth.

     Principals of all schools met on Thursday twice to check in with one another as a team and to discuss how to encourage and lead students, staff, and families through current events like these. All seemed to agree that encouraging student-centered, equity-minded, respectful, open discussion would contribute to making exactly the kind of culture we want to see as a district. Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark concurred, saying, "Our students need a space in a classroom environment to talk about their experiences, so that when trauma happens, and things do happen, it's not like the rarity of waking up on Christmas, no, instead that safe space in classrooms needs to be who we are—our culture."

      Indeed, when we give our best, students can peer out with curiosity to the waters of current events from our safe zones, and educators are the courageous captains on deck leading the way.


New in District Operations

     The MDUSD Governing Board is holding its first meeting of the new year on January 13. The agenda will be published on the Board Meeting Information Page this afternoon. Reminders: A main item of business at the January 13 meeting will be to discuss reopening considerations and progress, and to arrive at a clear articulation of the district's next steps. The Board will not introduce a hybrid model while Contra Costa remains in the Purple Tier. The board's actions will be reported on the day after the meeting. 

     Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark is continuing to publish transparent, detailed operations reports on a weekly basis. You can read department updates directly from our district leaders in our weekly Organizational Update to the Board, which is continuously archived for reference. Here is this week’s Organizational Update to the Board:

Organizational Update


Family Support Workshops and STEM Webinar to Enrich and Inspire

Adult Education Logo     Adult Education Workshops 
     Mt. Diablo Adult Education is hosting valuable one-day workshops free of charge to support families in distance learning. Workshops are in English and Spanish, and topics include Healthy Communication, Keeping Your Kids Physically Active, Influence of Social Media on Teenagers, Healthy Eating Habits, and Mental/Emotional Awareness. Workshops are through Zoom at convenient times. See the flyer for more information. 

Girls4STEM Logo     STEM Webinar for MDUSD Students
     Girls4STEM is back with its first free webinar of the year on Sunday, January 10. Learn how Rosalie McGurk, PhD Astronomer at Carnegie Observatories is building a new spectroscope instrument to display larger view to let us see an entire galaxy in one observation, and, you can learn how to build one at home to demonstrate how one works. Rosalie shares her personal journey about how she got interested in astronomy and her educational path to become a PhD researcher in astrophysics and designer of spectroscopes. Encourage all high schoolers you know to register for this free event to gain confidence in following one’s own path to a STEM career. 

Register in advance for this webinar. 


Newsletters from CCCOE and MDUSD Education Foundation

     Contra Costa County Office of Education Newsletter

     Our County Office of Education Communications Department published an English newsletter, "Connection," for the Fall of 2020 with interesting headlines:

  • A Note from County Superintendent of Schools, Lynn Mackey
  • CCCOE Releases 2019-2020 Annual Report to the Community
  • CocoKids Earns November Education Champion Award
  • County High School Mock Trials Looking for Volunteers
  • Contra Costa Teachers of the Year Gala: A Virtual Success!
  • ROP Courses Meeting the Challenges During COVID-19
  • 30th Annual Contra Costa County Model United Nations Conference
  • Contra Costa Semifinalists in the 2021 National Merit® Scholarship Program
  • Two County Schools Honored as National Blue Ribbon Schools
  • Kennedy Art Teacher's Work Featured at de Young Fine Arts Museum

     MDUSD Education Foundation Newsletter

     The most recent Mt. Diablo Unified School District Education Foundation Newsletter features the good news of a new Student Advisory Committee and highlights from recent donations and purchases. 


Phase 1A Arrives, Contra Costa Aims for 1,200 Daily Vaccinations

Bandaid Heart

     Right now, healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities are being vaccinated, as Contra Costa rolls out Phase 1A in its Vaccine Distribution Plan. As of January 6, over 18,000 vaccine doses have been administered, and their goal is to administer up to 1,200 shots a day. They describe that, "because a limited amount of [the] COVID-19 vaccine is available right now, the vaccine is being made available in phases to different populations based on risk factors."

     Each phase in the Vaccine Distribution Plan describes who will be eligible by category, but it is not clear when the County will arrive at each phase. "We don't yet have a precise timeline for when the vaccine will be available to groups in different phases/tiers. We can say that it will take several months before the vaccines are widely available to the general public."

     While we wait for our turn, public health authorities say that hand washing, mask-wearing, and social distancing remain our best protection. Contra Costa County is following criteria developed by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the California Department of Public Health. Find Out Your Vaccination Eligibility Phase



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Each week, the MDUSD Friday Letter is written and compiled by the district's Communications Specialist and sent to a staff and community audience totaling around 32,000. To sign up for the distribution list, send an email to superintendentsoffice@mdusd.org. To view an archive of district communications, visit the Superintendent's Office page. Do you have a story or event to share with our community? Contact me (breidenthala@mdusd.org) with your ideas or suggestions.

Austin

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Posted 1/8/21

 

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DECEMBER 18, 2020 FRIDAY LETTER VOLUME 2, NO. 28


MDUSD's Friday Letter—updates and stories prepared weekly for the school district community.



Winter Recess Arrives - Happy Holidays from MDUSD!

Because today is the last day of school before our two week winter recess, things have been extra festive this week...Happy Holidays MDUSD

From toy drives and ugly sweater contests to our golden ticket bicycle giveaway,
From festive classroom activities to tender-hearted thank you's,
From card-writing and gift-giving to drive-through celebrations,
From generous community donations to creative holiday decorations,
When the warm lights and rich colors seem to match our resilient spirits and shared kindness, 
One thing is clear— hard times won't stop our strong sense of community;
In traditional ways and in many new ways, we're still enjoying some good old-fashioned holiday cheer.
     Happy Holidays from MDUSD!


New MDUSD Board of Education Assembles,
Urges Small Group Student Supports and Enrichment

     As seats changed and new faces rose to the virtual dais at the December 14 Board Meeting, a newly developed picture of our 2021 Board of Education came into focus. Incumbent Linda Mayo continues in her honorable public service for a twenty-fourth year as an MDUSD Trustee. Continuing in the role of Vice President, with congratulations, is Trustee Debra Mason, entering her seventh year of dedicated service on the MDUSD Board. Trustee Cherise Khaund, with congratulations, was nominated and confirmed in her new role as Board President, entering her third year as MDUSD Trustee. Newly elected Trustees Erin McFerrin and Keisha Nzewi started with a ceremonial oath of office, and went on to voice what would be the first motions and votes of their four-year terms. Along with Student Board Member Michelle Alas, they all together comprise a complete board of six, whose unique and diverse perspectives will shape the future of our school district.
     Learn about the role of the Governing BoardSee the Board Action Summary for December 14, 2020 | Watch the full meeting recording

     Now for the news—Amidst a current state-wide Purple Tier status, the Governing Board unanimously confirmed a delay to a hybrid model introduction, adding that the district should be seeking, with urgency, to introduce small group student supports that will benefit students. Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark expressed a vision in alignment with this direction. Union negotiations and the latest pandemic restrictions continue to characterize the services we offer, and district leadership has provided another negotiations update below. The Governing Board is set to revisit reopening plans at its first meeting of the new year on January 13, 2021.

Negotiations Update:
from the weekly Organizational Update to the Board
      The District bargaining team and Teacher's union (MDEA) met on Tuesday December 15.  The District presented proposals on Small Group Support Hubs, and Daily Live Interaction minutes.  The District and MDEA also openly discussed the third topic of re-opening criteria.
     The District Bargaining Team started the negotiation session presenting a proposal on Small Group Support Hubs.  This District proposal would bring students back to District schools to receive small group supports from District staff who volunteer.  The main area of disagreement remains the teacher union’s (MDEA’s) demand that teachers be paid additional compensation for voluntarily performing work with a small group/s of students during regular school day/contract hours. Similar to a number of other large urban districts across the state, our proposal is offering compensation for hours performed after school. MDEA confirmed that their position from their prior proposal is that unless the District provides additional compensation to MDEA members to see small groups of students during the employee workday, students will not be able to meet with any teacher who volunteers or any other service provider/s (with the exception of 1:1 testing, child care, children of staff, and athletics) at any time of the day.  The District Team shared that the language in the July MOU was not intended to forever limit the District’s ability to have students on campus. [1]
     The District Bargaining Team has presented multiple proposals requesting additional Daily Live Interaction Minutes.  The MDEA team has presented multiple proposals that teachers provide less Daily Instructional Minutes. The Teams discussed options, more specifically, exchanging current teacher “office hour” minutes if the teachers provide additional daily live interaction minutes.  
     The District's latest reopening criteria proposal continued to focus on the Contra Costa County Health Department’s school reopening metrics as one of the main criteria for reopening schools (but utilizing the County's Orange level as sufficiently safe).  The MDEA Team continues to propose additional requirements (e.g. Two or fewer new reported cases of COVID-19 in MDUSD students and employees for 14 consecutive days) before students and teachers may return.
     The District and MDEA will meet again in January.
     CST reached a Tentative Agreement with the District this Monday during fact Finding.  Details will follow as the agreement becomes finalized.
[1] It is important to note that on November 18, 2020, a supplemental MOU was signed by both MDEA and the District allowing no more than 4 students at a time (no more than 16 individual meetings) per day per school site.  MDEA requested that the District’s Team revisit the discussion with the Board inquiring whether they are willing to pay teachers for time spent with students in small groups during the school day.