CONCORD -- Mt. Diablo High is among eight Contra Costa County campuses that could lose a total of about $6.7 million in state funding for low-income schools because of failing to meet grant requirements.

Teachers voted "no confidence" in Principal Kate McClatchy last month, saying her failure to comply with class-size requirements for the Quality Education Investment Act grant could cost the school more than $1.5 million a year and result in 22 teacher layoffs next year, along with larger classes for students. English teacher Dan Reynolds said the smaller classes required by the grant have contributed to improved test scores at the school.

"The difference between reading 19 essays and 30 essays means more time giving comments -- more time with each student when they have questions," he said.

The Mt. Diablo school board on Monday expects to vote on a waiver application to the California Department of Education, explaining why it didn't keep some classes below 27 students, as required by the grant. The Pittsburg school board approved a waiver application in December for Rancho Medanos Junior High, on which the state Board of Education expects to rule in March.

Other campuses in danger of losing the funding are Antioch Middle School in the Antioch district and Kennedy High, Nystrom Elementary, Stege Elementary, Helms Middle School and Richmond alternative high school in the West Contra Costa district.


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For Mt. Diablo High, the potential loss of funding is ironic, as the school was the site of state Superintendent Tom Torlakson's inauguration last year, and Torlakson authored the legislative act in 2006 that helped provide the funding to low-income schools in the district where he once taught. The funding was expected to help low-performing schools in poor areas by providing money to hire more teachers and counselors. But the money -- awarded to 488 schools throughout the state -- came with strings attached.

Schools that got the awards had to agree to reduce their class sizes, hire highly qualified teachers and additional counselors, provide professional development and meet other requirements. They had three years to fully meet the requirements, through the 2010-11 school year.

Budget cuts, staff turnover, lack of understanding about the requirements and other issues have prompted more than 40 districts to seek waivers from the state, seeking permission to break the rules.

But they must justify their reasons for doing so. In Pittsburg's case, the school was temporarily overcrowded while another was being built, but the district plans to meet the requirements in the fall.

Mt. Diablo's waiver application, on the other hand, pleads for mercy based on changing staff that was not well trained, along with a tight schedule that limited class options because of fairly rigid groups of classes in special areas of interest called "academies."

Six of the school's courses exceeded the maximum of 27 students last year because staff didn't know they were considered "core" classes. The district isn't sure how many may be over the limit this year.

Teachers at the school support the waiver because they want to keep the funding, but some said they may speak out about their lack of faith in McClatchy's leadership on Monday. They took their complaints to the public Friday morning, when they stood outside the school with a "No Confidence" sign and passed out information about concerns with McClatchy that go beyond noncompliance with the grant.

Board President Sherry Whitmarsh said she considers the vote of no confidence to be a personnel matter. However, she supports the grant waiver and said it may sometimes be difficult to meet the class size requirement because the district doesn't want to deny some students the chance to take Advanced Placement courses, but it does not normally fund teachers for classes as small as 12 to 14 students.

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IF YOU GO The Mt. Diablo school board will vote on a waiver application to the state Board of Education at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the district office, 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord. More information is available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 4000 or by visiting http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on Jan. 9.
For additional details, read the On Assignment blog at http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.

FUNDING IN JEOPARDY
School, district Goal not met 2011-12 funding
Antioch Middle School, academic progress $710,100
Antioch district
Mt. Diablo High School, class size $1,529,000
Mt. Diablo district
Rancho Medanos Middle class size $1,010,700
School, Pittsburg district
West Contra Costa district
Helms Middle School, class size $914,300
West Contra Costa district
Kennedy High School, class size, academic $676,000
West Contra Costa district progress, counselor ratio
Nystrom Elementary, academic progress $317,800
West Contra Costa district
Richmond High School, missed 2 alternative goals $1,277,000
West Contra Costa district
Stege Elementary, academic progress,
West Contra Costa district teacher experience $271,300

Total possible funding loss in 2012-13: $6,706,200