CONCORD, CA (April 25, 2023) — On a very pleasant spring late afternoon last Wednesday the temperature was a little higher indoors as the Mt. Diablo Unified School District and Clayton Valley Charter High School governing boards held meetings that drew larger than normal crowds.
The CVCHS meeting started 30 minutes before the Mt. Diablo district. With the public comment portion of the agenda underway about 40-50 members of the charter school’s teaching staff and their supporters marched into the school library chanting “We are CTA (California Teachers Association)” dozens of times while six speakers voicing support for the teachers in their ongoing contract negotiations with the school spoke to the governing body.
Just a half hour later and four miles away in Concord, the lobby and board room at MDUSD headquarters were full of students, staff and alumni speaking on behalf of the Mt. Diablo High School academy programs. The supporters fear state funding for the long-time academy programs is about to be eliminated by MDUSD.
So many turned in speaker’s cards for the school board meeting that Board president Keisha Nzewi announced that the normal three minutes per speaker was cut to one minute in order to accommodate all those who wanted to speak.
The emotion in the message many current and past students passed along about the importance of the MDHS Academy programs — focused around the hospitality, digital media and medical fields — was quite moving. The programs were termed “life changing” and “my family” by current students and grads from over two decades ago who continue to support the program.
The Pioneer was unable to get a comment from MDUSD officials by deadline about their plans for the academies, which reportedly need to submit letters of intent to the California Partnership Academy by the end of the month to retain their funding. Both the Mt. Diablo hospitality and digital academies have forever grants that are grandfathered in by the State and which will go away should they not be renewed this year.
Clayton Valley teachers unhappy with negotiations
Jim Corcoran, president of the Clayton Valley Education Association, spoke to the board after rallying his members in the school quad before the meeting speaking over a bullhorn. He told the Pioneer that only 13 of the teaching staff at CVCHS remains from 2012-13 when the school converted to charter status and left MDUSD.
“We have had a serious and persistent turnover issue; some years have been very bad. Many of our younger teachers have struggled to afford to live in the immediate area. By best count, 250 or so teachers have been at CVCHS in the last 11 years,” Corcoran said. He’s been at the school teaching government and economics since 2015.
The general understanding is that Clayton Valley Charter teachers have been the highest paid in the county for several years.
Corcoran says, “CVCHS was the highest paid district, though direct comparisons are hard because salary schedules don’t align perfectly. In general, we have the best starting salaries and slightly less competitive as you go further down the schedule.” He explains that Acalanes and Antioch will surpass CVCHS if they sign new contracts on the table and that several other districts would also be above the Concord school even if the teachers get an 8% raise.
He says the state this year increased school funding in two ways: a 6.56% Cost of Living Adjustment and additional ongoing funding per AB 181. “Meaning Clayton Valley saw an increase of something like 13-15% increase in continual state funding. One of our concerns is that we are not even being offered that statutory Cost of Living Adjustment,” he said.
The two sides first met in December, but the teachers feel that not much progress has been made since.
Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.