Mt. Diablo Unified School District’s fate up for debate at hearing

 

WALNUT CREEK (BCN) — Supporters and opponents will gather Wednesday night to debate a plan that would carve out a new school district from the existing Mt. Diablo Unified School District.

The two groups will face off at The Gardens at Heather Farms in Walnut Creek at 6 p.m.

It’s the second of two special meetings on the topic by the Contra Costa County Board of Education sitting as the County Committee on School District Organization. The first was Tuesday evening in Concord.

The board is taking testimony about the plan and has roughly 120 days to make a recommendation to the state Department of Education about whether it should be implemented.

The plan’s proponents, represented by a group called Northgate Community Advocacy for Our Public Schools, say the current 32,000-student district is growing too large, lacks adequate leadership, isn’t responsive to parents and its finances are poorly managed.

The group has drafted a report to bolster their claims, which they have presented to county education officials.

“With only approximately 13.5 percent of the district electorate, Northgate residents have been unable, over many years, to achieve improved district-wide decision-making around critical issues such as attendance
patterns, fiscal responsibility, and growth management,” the report states.

“This report compares MDUSD on multiple dimensions to other school districts in Contra Costa County and California to show that we can, and must, do a better job. That job, in our view, requires different board leadership than we have seen in this district,” the report states.

The proposal to create the new Northgate Unified School District would remove five schools from the Mt. Diablo district — Northgate High School, Foothill Middle School and Bancroft, Valle Verde and Walnut Acres elementary schools — and includes neighborhoods in Walnut Creek and Concord.

The plan’s opponents, including the current district leadership and the Mt. Diablo Education Association, say it would remove the best performing schools and most affluent families from MDUSD, segregating the two districts along socio-economic and racial lines.

“As a community, we cannot allow the interests of a few to supersede the interests of all,” Debra Mason, president of the MDUSD board of education, said in a written statement prior to Tuesday’s hearing, which was well-attended by people advocating for both sides of the issue.

After the county board concludes its hearings and forwards its recommendation on to the state Department of Education, the department will decide if the process for forming a new school district should continue.

If state officials give the plan a green light, voters will be asked to make the final decision about whether it should be implemented.

It is still unclear whether the voters in the entire existing district or only the proposed new district would have a say on the proposal if it came to a vote.

The Walnut Creek City Council last month endorsed the idea of holding such an election only within the boundaries of the proposed new district.

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