NCAP Letter Sent to Teachers and Staff at each School Site Today
Today the teachers and staff at each of the five schools received this letter from NorthgateCAPS.
We are writing to you directly because of the critical role that you have in the education of the students in our community. As you may already be aware, our organization, Northgate CAPS (Community Advocacy for our Public Schools), is circulating a petition to begin a process that would create a new Northgate Unified School District (NUSD) for residents of the assigned attendance areas of the five Northgate schools (Northgate HS, Foothill MS, Valle Verde, Walnut Acres and Bancroft Elementary Schools) as of April 24, 2016. As we approach our signature collection goal, with solid support from all corners of the Northgate community, we are preparing to present our case to the County and State authorities who will decide whether there will be an election to create the new school district. We want you to understand why this campaign is underway and why we believe you will benefit from it.
Our goal is to create a smaller district that is more aware of, and responsive to, the needs of our educators and our students – a district that is less bureaucratic, more collaborative with teachers and site administrators, more willing to invest in the professional development and compensation of our educators, and more focused on improving the learning environment for everyone in our schools. Given the misinformation that is circulating about what this would mean for Northgate teachers, school staffs, and our community, we believe that you deserve to hear about this plan from the people who are proposing it.
A Smooth Transition
We know it is important to minimize disruption for the educators and students in our schools while creating NUSD and transitioning to the new district. We seek to retain all of the personnel working in our Northgate schools, and we would like all students to be able to continue attending their current school. We do not control all of the individual and MDUSD decisions that would achieve those objectives, but that is our goal. To that end, we are committing to the County and State authorities who will review our proposal that NUSD will retain the seniority of MDUSD personnel who transition to NUSD and that NUSD will honor all labor agreements then in effect, for a minimum of two years after NUSD begins operation. Future labor agreements would then be negotiated between the NUSD administration chosen by the publicly elected NUSD school board and the bargaining units chosen by NUSD personnel.
We expect the NUSD school board would seek to retain all current curriculum offerings that are required by state law and/or that are considered effective by the site-level educators who deliver the instruction. These would include the innovative programs that our local educators have taken great care to create. Students with special needs would continue to have access to all necessary services through the County Office of Education as coordinated by the Contra Costa SELPA, which is already responsible for students with IEPs in all but the three largest school districts in the County.
Northgate residents and educators have legitimate questions about how NUSD would operate. The district would be governed by a five-member elected school board and funded primarily through California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and other sources that already fund our schools. As you may already know, LCFF funding is determined by the specific student population being funded, and it would not vary for those students, regardless of whether they attend MDUSD or NUSD. Those who have suggested that MDUSD can use its supplementary funds intended for specific less-advantaged student populations (English Language Learners, students in poverty or in foster care) to fund general district needs in Northgate are incorrect. Such general uses are not permitted under state law, and unless MDUSD is violating that law, that money is largely unavailable to fund our schools in Northgate.
Our proposal does not depend on any new funding sources in the form of parcel taxes or new bonds. We would note that Northgate residents have a long track record of supporting our local schools, and it will be entirely up to local voters to decide whether to increase their support with new taxes.
The transition to NUSD after the election will take place over a year or more, as the newly elected board hires a superintendent and fills a small number of key district-level positions. During that time, MDUSD would continue to manage Northgate schools. We envision a far smaller central office, similar in size to what one finds in the districts serving Walnut Creek and the Lamorinda area. We have noted the many fine educators who have left MDUSD for neighboring districts, and we believe there is much to learn from how those districts develop their teachers, reward them, and collaborate with them to improve instruction.
We Value Your Work and Your Input
We believe that our local educators have tremendous talents and creativity that deserve wider recognition and a bigger role in our schools than you have had in MDUSD. We want NUSD to encourage greater input into curriculum decisions from the site-level teachers and administrators who best understand the needs of our local students. That input, we hope, will also involve greater collaboration among elementary, middle school, and high school educators to ensure that students experience more seamless transitions between schools and that they are fully prepared for each new challenge in their academic journey.
Our site-level educators have been an under-appreciated resource in MDUSD, and we believe you can also play a greater role in determining the working and learning environment in your school. In the nearby districts that practice that philosophy, we see higher rates of satisfaction and personal fulfillment than we typically see in MDUSD. Indeed, we want to be the kind of district that attracts and retains the most talented people in education, not the district that sends so many promising educators elsewhere. From that perspective, as we move through the process to create NUSD, we hope you will reach out to us with your comments and suggestions.
To Learn More
We urge you to learn more about the campaign for NUSD by visiting our website, NorthgateCAPS.org, where you can view a PowerPoint overview of our proposal, as well as post questions (publicly or anonymously) and participate in our blog. Many current and former educators have already offered their support to this campaign, because they understand how much better our Northgate schools can be for our students and for the committed educators who work so hard to help them succeed.
Thank you for reading,
Your neighbors at Northgate CAPS