CONCORD -- After allowing its draft strategic plan to languish for seven months, the Mt. Diablo school board quietly held a public input session Monday, in which less than a dozen people weighed in.

But the session was poorly advertised. Of the few who showed up, one was a board candidate, one was a member of the district's bond oversight committee, one was a member of the Pleasant Hill Education Commission and several were district employees.

"The board recognizes that there are too many items," said Board President Sherry Whitmarsh, who promised to help get strategic planning underway when she ran for office four years ago.

She invited those in the meager audience to place red dots on large pieces of paper next to the goals they believed were most important. Next month, the district's special education Community Advisory Committee will be able to weigh in, she added.

The draft strategic plan goals focus on providing a high-quality education, building strong relationships with students and the community to foster trust and shared responsibility, recruiting and supporting the most talented staff, responsive and respectful communication, and implementing sound fiscal and human resources policies. After the dots were affixed, the board did not discuss the input or indicate when the plan would be finalized.

During the board's regular meeting following the input session, Marie Altman said she was shocked to learn that she and other newly hired teachers were required to attend a two-day training session before school started without pay. Noting that the draft strategic plan addresses morale and the desire to attract high-quality teachers, she said if extra time is required, the district should pay for it.

Teachers union president Guy Moore echoed Altman's concerns, saying the district should foster a culture in which staff is viewed as an important asset, instead of focusing so much on budget cuts.

"What I would like to see is how we can support our people and give them praise," he said. "We can achieve amazing results. Teachers are doing great work. There needs to be a change of focus."

One cost-cutting measure that is achieving good results is the district's massive solar project, according to SunPower representatives who reported to the board. Forty out of 51 sites have solar panels up and running, said Bill Kelly, managing director for SunPower.

The district expects to save $3 million a year in energy costs and earn $3 million a year in solar rebates for five years, he added. The company sponsored a summer internship program at Mt. Diablo High and has agreed to give the district $500 each time a local homeowner purchases or leases a SunPower solar project.

ONLINE
More information about the Mt. Diablo school board meeting is available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 4000 or by visiting http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on Sept. 10.
For additional details, read the On Assignment blog at www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.