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October 2, 2020 Friday Letter Volume 2, No. 18
Posted 10/12/20

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OCTOBER 2, 2020 FRIDAY LETTER VOLUME 2, NO. 18 



County Enters Tier 2 COVID-19 Restrictions -
MDUSD Board to Hold Study Session

“ ” A Message from Superintendent Dr. Clark:

     Dear MDUSD Families,

     Today is the 34th day of school. I want to thank you for your support and commitment to help your students navigate this new school year. There are many families who are finding peace in knowing that their students are safe at home. The reason we are engaged in the Distance Learning program is due to the closure of schools by the Governor's office.      Many students and families have adapted well to the Distance Learning structure, however, some are struggling and are in desperate need of our support. On Tuesday, September 29, Contra Costa County officially moved from the Purple Tier 1 to the Red Tier 2 (see attached press release). This means, if the county remains in the Red Tier 2 for 14 consecutive days, schools will have the option to return to in-person instruction.

     On Wednesday, October 7, we are holding a special study session with the Governing Board to begin examining what a phased reopening approach may look like. There will not be any decisions or actions taken at this meeting regarding reopening. I fully understand this is an emotional topic and there is a great deal of anxiety around COVID-19. I have an expectation that MDUSD will implement a safe and practical process in bringing back our site staff and students. 

     This is a complex situation and we need trustful collaboration to meet this challenge. Schools and Districts are opening up all around us, as of September 25, close to 700 elementary schools/districts have received approval to reopen even though their county was in the Purple Tier 1. (See this list of California Waivers). 

     If you are interested in learning more about what the reopening of schools could look like, please either watch the study session on Wednesday or examine the information that is on the agenda. Also, I am interested in hearing directly from you about what questions you may have. Additionally, I am going to send a short survey to staff, high school students, and parents. 

     I am so proud to work with you as we continue to serve our students at the highest level.

     Thank you again for all you do!

     Adam Clark, Ed. D. 
     Superintendent
     Mt. Diablo Unified School District 

     Enclosure: Contra Costa County Tier 2 Status Release

Your Application Matters - 
Help Us Claim Education Funds We Deserve

    We are asking for your help. As it stands, the unusually few number of Free and Reduced-Price Meal Applications we have received would result in 3 quarters of a million dollars in supplemental funds going unclaimed. We are asking you—our community—for help, and you can do so quickly and easily. See simple ways to help below. First, here is our context:
     “More than an application!” districts across our state have been campaigning, referencing the fact that the Free and Reduced-Price Meal Applications affect much more than just food programs.
     It is true. To be particular, it is that each qualified free and reduced-price meal applicant translates directly to what are called, “Title I,” dollars and, “Supplemental,” dollars, which districts use to fund important educational programs.
     Each year, to receive those funds, a district must show the federal and state governments the number of students who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals.

Your Application Matters Banner

This year, thousands of previously eligible families have not yet submitted an application for the new year, which would mean a loss in funds to which we are otherwise entitled.

• Last school year, MDUSD had processed a total of 17,641 applications.

• This school year, MDUSD has processed a total of 9,226 applications.  

• As of October 1, 2020 we have received 2,560 fewer total applications relative to the number we received on October 1, 2019. 

     Our estimated allocation for Title I for the 2020-21 school year is $5,457,854. Preliminary reports show the district has a 14% reduction of free and reduced-price student eligibility, which translates to just over a $760,000 potential loss (when using a simplified formula). This reduction would also affect Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) supplemental dollars, which itself uses a formula that considers an unduplicated count of free and reduced-price eligible students, English learner students, homeless students, and foster youth.

Here are simple ways to help:

• First, take 5-10 minutes to apply today, even if you do not plan on taking district meals. All MDUSD families are encouraged to apply, and you can do so online from any device. 

Apply for Meals Today | Solicitar Comidas HoyÁp dụng cho bữa ăn | Aide Alimentaire申請免和優惠價格膳食 | 무료 및 할인 식사 신청ယနေ့တွင်အစားအစာများအတွက်Подать заявку на питание сегодняՍննդի դիմումներ

Do you need a paper version of the application, or instructions on how to complete the application? Visit mdusd.org/foodservices

• Then, retweet or share district social media posts in English or Spanish. Help our goal to reach more than 40 re-tweets on Twitter, and more than 40 shares on Facebook.

Have you ever wanted to meet the Superintendent? If our goal of 80 total shares is met, Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark has offered to take a lucky winner to lunch (at his expense)—1 person of the first 80 posts will be drawn from a hat. All are welcome to participate.

| Help on Twitter | Help on Facebook |

     District partners, school principals, and community liaisons can also distribute printed or electronic flyers to raise awareness in addition making voice calls to families.

Superintendent Maintains Weekly Organizational Update

     We are proud to present to you transparent, detailed operations reports on a weekly basis. You can read department updates directly from our district leaders in Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark’s weekly Organizational Update to the Board, which is continuously archived for reference. Here is this week’s Organizational Update to the Board: 

Organizational Update to the Board

Program Highlight: Garden Education

“” From Tamara Helfer, PhD - Project Director of the MDUSD Garden Education Program

Garden Education     The MDUSD NGSS in the Garden Education program operates under the direction of Jennifer Sachs in Educational Services with a collaboration with Dominic Machi in Food & Nutrition Services. I’ve been involved with the program as an MDUSD contractor (and parent!) since helping to launch it.

     The program was launched in 2015-2016 with the aid of a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant, and we have expanded to 10 elementary schools in 2020-2021. Our current schools are Bancroft, El Monte, Fair Oaks, Gregory Gardens, Mt. Diablo Elem, Pleasant Hill Elem, Rio Vista, Sequoia Elem, Sun Terrace, and Wren Ave. 

     Our program uses the garden as an outdoor classroom to teach highly-engaging lessons that emphasize core standards in science, ELA, math, and other subjects, while also teaching about health, nutrition, cooking, and physical and mental wellness. Lessons are provided during the school day to all TK-5 students at participating schools. There is a dedicated Garden Educator at each school. During a typical (non-COVID) year, students typically come to the garden for 4 weeks in the fall, 4 weeks in the winter, and 4 weeks in the spring for lessons. (The scheduling details are a bit different at each school!)

Support and partnerships:

     The program launched in 2015-2016 with the aid of a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant. Last year we applied for an successfully got a 2-year, $100,000 USDA Implementation Grant to deepen our connections between garden, classroom, cafeteria, and ASP. Our Garden Educators are funded at 6 schools through a generous grant from the Sage Garden Project, and at the other 4 schools from their PTOs and from MDUSD CTE grant funds. We have been delighted to partner with MDEDF these past two years on successful grant applications through Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation. We received $7,500 for capital improvements to gardens last year and $5,000 to send home “Kids Cook Tonight!” lentil & rice soup kits (and a possible $5,000 grant that is officially announced in October). We’ve received many other generous donations and discounts from community partners including Sloat Garden Center, Bill’s Ace Hardware, the Contra Costa Master Gardeners, EcoMulch, the Pleasant Hill Garden Study Club, and others, as well as support from many parent and community volunteers.

     We’ve been loving working together with Kathy Davis, CARES/ASP Garden Educator, and the ASP team at our schools to strengthen ties to our ASP as well.

Distance Learning:

     The MDUSD Garden Education Program is continuing in 2020-2021 as a hands-on garden/nutrition/cooking program even during Distance Learning. Starting this week, we are distributing send-home grow kits to 4908 elementary students in 10 schools. TK-Grade 2 students will receive a Pea Sprouting Kit with a compostable cup, soil, and 3 pea seeds. Grades 3-5 students will receive a Microgreens Growing Kit with an aluminum tray, soil, and a spoonful of microgreen seeds. Both kits include instructions for growing in English and Spanish and have photos to help students complete the kits with little or no adult supervision. We are making related videos and lessons plans that we are sharing with classroom teachers and that we are posting on our MDUSD Garden Education YouTube and our MDUSD Garden Education Newsletter. Students will be able to share photos, videos and observations back to their teachers and/or Garden Educators on Google Classroom or SeeSaw.

Tracking Progress:

     In normal years, we do rigorous program assessment and we have been looking forward to tracking progress on our CAST scores, the state measure of NGSS. The CAST was canceled last year and we were likewise unable to assess the program for 2019-2020. In past years, we have had terrific response from students, teachers, principals, and parents. I’m attaching our assessment from 2018-2019 so you can see the response.

     Garden Education Program Facebook Page

     2018-2019 MDUSD Science in the Garden Program Surveys of Classroom Teachers and Students

How A Local Taqueria is Exemplifying Community

     “Tonight, are you able to set aside for a family of seven?” asked Isabel Lara, District Community Liaison, in her after-work hours. That day, Isabel had come to know a district family with an immediate need for food. To help, there was one person she thought to call first.
     “Yes, of course. I will stay here until you arrive to pick it up,” responded Silvia Barragan-Barajas, without any hesitation.
      Silvia Barragan-Barajas is the proud second-generation co-owner of Rachero Taqueria, which is one part of a cluster of small businesses in Monument Corridor bearing the name that was originally the vision of her parents, Antonio and Graciela Barragan, who had immigrated from Michoacán, Mexico in 1994.
     The delivery was made. This district family, after sitting down to a feast of tender meat, fresh salsa, warm tortillas, rice, beans, and all the fixings, would certainly sleep well-fed.
     This was of course not the first time the taqueria had extended itself. Notably, while Silvia’s children do not attend MDUSD schools, her business’ provisions to district families has been incredibly consistent over the years. District staff noted that the taqueria seems to always give what they can. When I asked Silvia about her motivations, she told me, “It’s like a law of the universe. What you give out comes right back to you.”
    Rachero Taqueria may be popular for its use of fresh, quality ingredients, but the argument could be made that its success is owed to the relationships it has built in the community. Of course, when COVID-19 began, the slow-down in business was palpable to say the least. Perseverance and hope were certainly required. Yet, as fate would ensure, local connections came through, and the restaurant now features a new, beautiful, string-lit, open-air seating area for customers to enjoy. 

Ranchero Taqueria

Left: Rachero Taqueria's new patio | Right: The MDUSD Dent Center office celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with a taco bar, gifted by Rachero Taqueria, and organized by Isabel Lara.

Campus Safety Hotline Remains Active During Distance Learning

MT. DIABLO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
☏ Campus Safety Hot Line: (925) 709-4847

     We greatly value safety for students, parents/guardians, and staff.  A Campus Safety Hotline at (925) 709-4847 is available for students and parents/guardians to leave a confidential, taped message about anything occurring at school that is causing students to feel unsafe—this includes virtual classroom environments.
     The district is very interested in resolving issues of conflict, especially possession of weapons. Students are encouraged to tell an adult on campus about such activities. If students are fearful of retaliation, the Hotline is available as an alternative to personally reporting a campus safety concern.

The Campus Safety Hotline is now referenced at the bottom of all district and school webpages.

Board Candidates to Attend Community Advisory Committee

     Our Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is anticipating its October 6 meeting, to which all candidates for our two Board of Education seats are invited. The purpose will be, “to provide a general meet and greet to our community on who [they] are and what they want to share with the guests regarding Special Education,” described Hilary Shen, MDUSD Parent Liaison. This meeting is open to the general public. Visit our CAC webpage for meeting information.

     Did you remember to register to vote? Click to find registration and voting options for Contra Costa County. 

Break a Sweat for Education® Virtual Run and Walk

From our partners at Yours Humanly and the MDUSD Education Foundation:

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     Join the MDUSD Education Foundation and Yours Humanly for the annual 5K run!  This year’s event is “virtual” so everyone can continue social distancing - we know that many of you are still walking, running and hiking, so please join us. The foundation has partnered with Yours Humanly for three years now and receives donations from the event that helps fund programs for MDUSD students.

     You may join the foundation team when you sign up to register by simply clicking onto the "other" team category, which will give you a drop down menu to join the "MDUSD Education Foundation" team. Alternatively, you can start your own team, but be sure to indicate that you are running for the foundation. If you register by October 5, you will receive an event t-shirt that will be mailed to you.

     Businesses! We need sponsors for the event – for a $250 sponsorship amount, you can pay for 10 MDUSD students to run for free, K-12! Some students have wanted to join the run in the past, but could not afford the registration fees. Your business can help these students and gain valuable advertising as well.  

     We currently have sponsorships that have paid for 30 MDUSD students who can register to run now! School teams should sign up!

     Please join us and share the information and link with your community.

     Early Bird registration expired September 30, but you can still take advantage of the early bird price if you register by Sunday, October 4 using the coupon code MDEF10YH2020. 

     Register today and help transform the life of a child in need forever! 



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The Friday Letter is written and compiled by the district's Communications Specialist each week, and is sent to a staff and community audience totaling ~32,000. To sign up for the distribution list, send an email to superintendentsoffice@mdusd.org. To view more Friday Letters and other district communications, visit the Superintendent's Office page. Do you have a story worthy of a district audience? Contact breidenthala@mdusd.org with your ideas or suggestions.