|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, November 1, 2004
Contra Costa Times 10-30-04
Settlement will keep educators very busy
No one dreamed so many students would be affected when state officials settled a landmark lawsuit over conditions at low-performing schools across California.
But the implementation plan state officials released Friday affects 2.2 million children in one-third of California's 9,087 schools.
In Contra Costa County alone, the Williams settlement will affect 45,844 students, 28 percent of all 164,483 students in the county. In the Alameda County communities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Castro Valley, Dublin, Livermore, Piedmont and Pleasanton, it draws in 1,459, or 2 percent of the 66,617 students in those districts.
In Oakland alone, 38,841 students, 77 percent of an enrollment of 50,437, will be affected. In Benicia, the settlement covers 1 percent of students, or 78 of 5,366, and in Vallejo, 38 percent of students, or 7,363 of 19,462 in the district.
Contra Costa superintendent Joseph Ovick will have his work cut out for him as he and his staff count textbooks, inspect toilets and sift paperwork in half this county's school districts, as the settlement requires.
The $1 billion Williams agreement includes $138 million for new textbooks statewide, $50 million for oversight and inspections, and funds for emergency repairs. Each district must prepare a comprehensive facilities assessment report, inspired by a Mt. Diablo school district document, that includes long-range plans and budgets for maintaining school buildings.
The settlement requires that schools be kept in "good repair" and comply with state health and safety codes. Some $800 million has been set aside for major emergency repairs to fix gas leaks, nonfunctioning heating and ventilation systems, sewer line stoppages, vermin infestations, and other conditions that create immediate health and safety hazards.
The Contra Costa school districts involved in the agreement run from posh Acalanes to troubled West Contra Costa. The inspections are to begin in December.
The county superintendent may need super-powers, however, to comply with the settlement, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law in September.
Ovick has 120 days to thoroughly inspect instructional materials, facilities and teacher credentials on 86 campuses. When the clock starts ticking, Ovick's team of facilities, instruction and human resources experts will have to be ready to run.
"Obviously, we're already working on what needs to be accomplished," said Peggy Marshburn, county office of education spokeswoman.
The first thing districts have to do is rework their School Accountability Report Cards, a self-assessment each district compiles. Then come the site visits, including unannounced inspections.
Alameda County superintendent Sheila Jordan will spend the bulk of her time monitoring schools in Oakland, where dozens of schools fall into the three lowest deciles of the Academic Performance Index. She also will visit a handful of small alternative schools, including three in Livermore and one each in Dublin and Pleasanton.
Solano County superintendent Dee Alarcon's inspections will include 13 schools in Vallejo and a small alternative school in Benicia.
The addition of those alternative schools, 32 in Contra Costa alone, took county officials by surprise, said Marshburn. Their enrollment is small, but each additional campus inspection adds substantially to the workload.
"It's additional responsibility for those schools -- and no more funding," she said.
In planning how to implement the settlement, the state decided to include all small alternative schools and some charter schools. That move is what added prosperous, high-performing school districts such as Acalanes and San Ramon Valley to a settlement designed to improve conditions in California's poorest, lowest-performing districts.
Both Acalanes' Del Oro Continuation High School and San Ramon's Del Amigo Continuation High are on the list.
The effects of the settlement may stretch even further, said California Department of Education spokeswoman Tina Woo Jung.
"It could potentially affect every child," she said.
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