Only on Claycord: Highlands Elementary in Concord Could Lose 300 Students, 15 Teachers If Northgate Unified School District Is Approved

May 17, 2017 9:39 am · 33 comments

Highlands Elementary School in Concord could lose about 300 students and 15 teachers if the proposed Northgate Unified School District (NUSD) is approved, according to Principal Ryan Sheehy.

Currently, students from Walnut Country (the Crossings) and Crystyl Ranch neighborhoods in Concord attend Highlands Elementary. Under the proposal for the NUSD, those students would leave Highlands and go to Walnut Creek elementary schools in the proposed NUSD.

The proposal to create the new district would remove five schools from the Mt. Diablo Unified School District — Northgate High School, Foothill Middle School and Bancroft, Valle Verde and Walnut Acres elementary schools.

The plan’s opponents, including the current district leadership and the Mt. Diablo Education Association, say it would remove the best performing schools and most affluent families from MDUSD, segregating the two districts along socio-economic and racial lines.

“As a community, we cannot allow the interests of a few to supersede the interests of all,” said Debra Mason, president of the MDUSD board of education.

The plan’s proponents, represented by a group called Northgate Community Advocacy for Our Public Schools, say the current 32,000-student district is growing too large, lacks adequate leadership, isn’t responsive to parents and its finances are poorly managed.

The Contra Costa County Board of Education has roughly 100 more days to make a recommendation to the state Department of Education about whether this plan should be implemented.

Click on each photo above to read the letter from Principal Ryan Sheehy, Highlands Elementary.

debdvo May 17, 2017 at 10:02 AM

NO NUSD !!! See Northgate Uncapped’s public FB page >>>

Teacher May 17, 2017 at 10:49 AM

“As a community, we cannot allow the interests of a few to supersede the interests of all,” said Debra Mason, president of the MDUSD board of education.

Basically, she doesn’t want her empire shrinking. Shame shame Debra it should be about the kids, not you and your administrative empire.

Comrade Board Member May 17, 2017 at 10:55 AM

“‘As a community, we cannot allow the interests of a few to supersede the interests of all,’ said Debra Mason, president of the MDUSD board of education”
Pardon me tovarich, but these local government entities exist to serve citizens, not the other way around. If these families want their own school district, more power to ’em.

bdml May 17, 2017 at 11:19 AM

Yes NUSD!!! MDUSD will just have to redivide their dwindling district. Truely one of the worst school districts in CA. MDUSD has had forever to figure it out they are way too big to run properly and all the crooks just keep pumping that cashcow.

Let's Be Clear May 17, 2017 at 11:52 AM

As a Northgate parent, I am strongly opposed to this succession on a number of points. However, the argument that this split would segregate along racial lines is ludicrous. Anyone that has stepped foot on either of the campuses included, can easily see that the population is rightfully made up of kids from all ethnic backgrounds. As an example, last night I attended a performance put on by the Northgate music department. There were kids of many nationalities on stage. In fact, “white” kids were clearly outnumbered by “non-white” kids.

As I said, I am strongly against this proposal. However, while both sides do have merit to their individual viewpoints, I encourage all involved to keep their arguments confined to facts. Race can be kept out of this one!

Anon May 17, 2017 at 11:59 AM

This whole thing is ridiculous. Cherry picking schollsnto start their own district is insane. Don’t let this happen

Amy May 17, 2017 at 12:04 PM

I am for the new Northgate Unified School District.The Mt. Diablo School District is failing our children. This is not about segregation. This is about providing a better education with higher test scores. Parents should be insisting on this.

Anon May 17, 2017 at 12:38 PM

In the newly planned district, the special ed kids suffer. The current intradistrict kids suffer. Parents are going to be ask/required to donate quite a bit of money.
They left out Woodside, Oak Grove and YV, their neighbors whom also share a common neighborhood.
They haven’t tried to work with MDUSD over the grievances.
They lied to get signatures on the petition sheets.
Where is the integrity in that?

Mika May 17, 2017 at 12:40 PM

We buy our homes in neighborhoods so our kids can go to school in our neighborhood. What is wrong with that? This looks like a win for students, smaller classes for MDUSD and kids stay in their neighborhoods. Whose fault is it that mainly non minorities live in these neighborhoods? Anyone who wants to can buy there.

RunnerDope May 17, 2017 at 1:09 PM


If Highlands loses 300 students and 15 teachers, how does that reduce class size? Since most classes have more than 20 students, it will increase class size.

Mr. White May 17, 2017 at 1:24 PM

To Ms Mason, we do let the interest of the few supercede the interests of all , how’s that transgender bathroom thing work, and the “peanut” kids, come on. If it were any other group other than white, upper middle class kids, nobody would blink an eye. Sorry if the white and Asian kids perform better, who are we to hold them back, let them get the best education they can, and if it means putting them in their own district then do it. Us as parents want the best for our kids, we move those these affluent neighborhoods ( and pay a hefty price) for that reason – good schools, and good neighbors, see I didn’t use race there, sorry snowflakes.

Northgate Parent May 17, 2017 at 1:33 PM


This is not cherry picking. NUSD is taking the schools that already feed to NHS. In the process it fixes the splits of Bancroft and Highlands that exist within MDUSD.

Special Ed kids and families actually suffer under MDUSD. If you don’t believe it, watch the recording of the very last MDUSD meeting and see how those SpED students have been treated under MDUSD. You can find the recording on the MDUSD website.

Current intra district transfers will still be allowed by NUSD. The question is if MDUSD will let students who apply for them go.

Parents already pay a lot of money. Our family alone gave our schoool thousands in the last two years and have helped raise many many thousands through fundraisers. We are happy to spend that money for quality education and activities for our children and most parents we know feel the same. More people in the area will probably be happy to give even more, knowing we have local control and are improving our children’s educations.

Those neighborhoods you mention are not currently feeding in to Northgate. If the NUSD included those neighborhoods, what about the neighboring neighborhoods of those neighborhoods? They would be left out. It’s my understanding that the plan was created with the intent of following all the current feeders and disrupting the most minimal students as possible.

I have been part of efforts for many years to work with the MDUSD to fix problems. The district is unresponsive to Northgate community concerns. If the District was responsive, there would be no CAPs and no proposed NUSD.

I’m not sure what lies you refer to but I was one getting people to sign the petition and I didn’t lie about anything.

MoJo May 17, 2017 at 1:34 PM

This is getting good. I just fired up another bowl of popcorn. Keep the comments coming.

Northgate Parent May 17, 2017 at 1:41 PM

Anon and all others here,

The SpEd problems I refer to are in the Public Comment section of the recorded MDUSD meeting.

Here is a link and public comment begins about 5 minutes in.

Be sure to watch all the public comments. It’s quite shocking!

WhoDat? May 17, 2017 at 3:46 PM

Even if you support this change, I suggest you just pay for your child’s education in private schools, elementary thru high school. We did, and our child thrived. She graduated with honors and went on to earn BA and MA degrees at very prestigious universities. Public schools suck.

What's in a line May 17, 2017 at 4:25 PM

The district’s lines should be the WC city line. Not sure how unincorporated WC would be impacted. This way WC just has to say that they are seceding from MDUSD, and they are taking all WC schools. The new WC School district should take all WC schools, not just selected schools.
Given the size of the cities of Clayton, Concord, WC, Clyde, PH and Pacheco it is well past time to rethink school district boundaries. What worked for an area that had 50K people doesn’t always work for an area that has almost 150K. Not all models scale.

anon May 17, 2017 at 5:29 PM

The criticisms that I have read about MDUSD have been very generic (too big, not responsive, etc). Can someone explain in detail how the five proposed NUSD schools have been deprived/neglected by MDUSD? Their performances have been outstanding.

Northgate Parent May 17, 2017 at 7:10 PM


Can you clarify what you mean by “performances have been outstanding”? What information are you using to determine it’s outstanding? Are you comparing it to itself, to other schools in the district OR are you comparing to other schools in neighboring districts and highest rated schools in Calilfornia? How about comparing to other schools in the US.

anon May 17, 2017 at 10:06 PM

@Northgate Parent,

In looking at the academic performance of the five schools in the proposed NUSD district over the past 5-10 years, I would say that they are excellent. I would not have a problem with my kid attending any of those schools. Are their scores the best in the state, or even area? No. But at a certain point among excellent schools this whole comparison thing is stupid. I get the impression that if you don’t go to what is considered a top ranked school you feel the education is subpar. What level of performance are you demanding of the schools before you feel they’re successful? Do you feel that these schools are not properly educating the students attending them? And if that is the case, what would you change to somehow make their scores go up? Won’t those schools still have the same students in the new district?

Anon May 18, 2017 at 8:27 AM

If it’s about “your” neighborhood then why isn’t YV involved in your plans? Start by being honest with the community and yourselves. This isn’t going to happen, especially when you can’t even be truthful about what you really want.

Northgate Parent May 18, 2017 at 9:21 AM


Regarding performance, I expect our schools to perform at the same level or better than comparable schools in the area and in our state and country.. I have high expectations and want the very best for my children. I have a very high bar and don’t expect my children to always reach it but goodness if they don’t then they are still doing great things.. A better question may be, why are so many okay with lowering the bar and comparing improvements to past low performance or the other lower performers when it comes to their children’s education? I want to raise the bar. I want my children to be able to reach their highest potentials. The world is a very competitive place for jobs and careers. I want my children to be competitive in their chosen fields.

The schools will have the same students but will have local control which gives the schools the ability to offer more advanced programs…if they choose to. Right now it’s my understanding that MDUSD limits the ability to do certain things unless they can be done district wide..

I would have been/will be fine if the proposal included OGMS and YVHS. If it included those schools and in order to be a true UNIFIED then it would have to include all the elementary and middle schools that feed to YV. Then, what about the communities that split in any of the feeders that feed to YV and what about neighboring YV areas? Where do the boundaries stop? If it keeps going and includes everyone who wants to be part of the new district or those who feel it should be part of it then we are back to a huge sized district and it defeats the whole purpose. It’s my understanding that the NUSD as is proposed is considered a large district already.

Which schools do you suggest the NUSD include that feed to OG and YV and which ones would be left out in your suggest plan?

delerious May 18, 2017 at 9:59 AM

I blame whoever decided to close Glenbrook years back and then now get their panties in a twist over Rocketship. MDUSD could fix so many problems if they didn’t constantly screw Rocketship for so long that they no longer control options for middle schools. They could allow focus on fixing why Oak Grove is not appealing by having that Glenbrook option. But now they are stuck with a school that many that attend only go because they have no other choice.

If the Highlands people dread the new school district then they should seek to be removed from the process. The new district simply followed current MDUSD feeders. I am sure if Crystyl Ranch does not want to go to Foothill and Northgate that plenty of others will be happy to take their spot. But does Highlands actually care if they like having the new district schools?

Northgate Parent May 18, 2017 at 11:14 AM


I don’t have specifics, it’s what I’ve heard has happened at the school over time and I’ve heard it from other parents who I trust. Maybe some will chime in here with more detail.
Regardless, it just makes sense to me that the NUSD schools and it’s board would be able to better focus on it’s specific needs and goals without having to do what the current MDUSD does which is take 32,000 students at 50+ schools across many cities in to consideration. Having the current District and board that has to focus on the huge district with all it’s issues and variety of needs just hasn’t proven effective.. Watch the video of the last board meeting if you weren’t there in person. It gives a good idea of the kinds of issues the District is facing. Look at the agenda items. There is a crazy amount of agenda items that they have to address. There are so many issues it’s clear the Board just can’t address them all effectively. When there are so many fires to put out constantly how can they focus on improving?

My children are students in the schools and they are getting a great education. There are no guarantees but I feel there are much better chances for better education at higher performing schools that strive for higher acheivement. I feel what makes a difference is parental involvement, quality teachers, clear standards, an accountable district and a lot of other criteria.

Anon3373 May 18, 2017 at 11:32 AM

Can anyone explain how the school is failing the children?

Northgate Parent May 18, 2017 at 1:21 PM

I don’t think the school is failing the children. I think the district is.

Flash May 18, 2017 at 4:30 PM

¿RACISM?…..oh please! A parent wishing that their child to have the best education possible isn’t racism far from it. Hoping that your child succeeds in life has no color. If mixing colors if the goal then we can bring back forced bussing or we could move to certain parts of Oakland or Richmond.

Rollo Tomasi May 18, 2017 at 4:57 PM

“My children are students in the schools and they are getting a great education.”

“I don’t think the school is failing the children. I think the district is.”

So which is it?

Northgate Parent May 18, 2017 at 6:09 PM

Rollo…it’s both. To clarify, I feel the district is failing the children because the district has so many district wide issues and fires to put out because of the size and # of schools, by giving CVCHS students choice of high schools vs assigning them schools with space that are closer geographically, by not approving transfers of children in the neighborhood/feeder schools to attend middle/high school with their friends, etc. etc..etc!!!

Check out the last district meeting to get an idea of some of the issues the district is dealing, or not dealing with.. I posted a link a few comments back.

Please May 19, 2017 at 8:06 AM

Northgate Parent, Your last comment makes no sense. If you are part of the feeder pattern to Foothill and Northgate, you do not need to transfer. Based on your comment, my suspicion is NG families don’t like that Clayton residents have more high school choices then you do. Perhaps, NG feeder student should be able to choose CVCHS. Then you guys can pick between NG and CVCHS. Your property values will go up.

@Let’s Be Clear: Your school drama performances and sporting events look diverse because MDUSD allows transfers. If that option is removed, the view from your seat will look very different.

Jacee May 19, 2017 at 9:01 AM

I think it is very immature of the parents that have racist comments. I feel that maybe you were failed some how or not taught the appropriate manner.We are all equal.No one child is made with any better ingredients than the other.Our kids all have something special and great about them.We argue constantly about change then we argue when things stay the same.What do we really want is not the question it is what is best for the children. ALL THE CHILDREN!!!So to all the parents with the racist comments and comments that hold no weight sit down
If you want to help the children (the future )Try having a little love and understanding first.Your kid’s mimic you.I’m no were near perfect but I can recognize a catastropy when I see pne.In closing weigh things out before responding then speak on it.Attend meetings and gove your opinion…Equality People! !Not segregation those days are gone and not coming back of I have a say…

Cowellian May 19, 2017 at 9:39 AM

I actively opposed the secession the last time Northgate tried this, and I think it’s a bad idea now. Nevertheless, MDUSD did themselves no favors when they tried to turn this into a racial issue. Since they can’t make a valid argument, they just cried racism. I don’t know, but maybe the State Board of Education appreciates those acts of desperation. A lot of us don’t.

But the fact of the matter is that the Mount Diablo Unified School District is simply much too large, and very badly managed, and it needs to be broken up. But fighting these battles on a school-by-school basis is not the right way to go about it. The Contra Costa Board of Education has responsibility for the Districts within the County, and they should be the ones evaluating where the borders are. They are the ones that should be looking at breaking up MDUSD into two or three Disricts and determining where the borders should be.

Northgate Parent May 19, 2017 at 11:56 AM

@ Please,

I could care less about property values. They have nothing to do with this as far as I’m concerned. But, isn’t it funny that the decision to give CVCHS the choice of NHS was pushed so hard by a MDUSD board member who lives in Clayton!! What a shady move that was!!!!

You are correct, we are part of the feeder already. The concern I and many other parents have with the CVCHS decision is that there was no study and no plan. Everyone can see that there are two schools closer to CVCHS that have space and all the District was legally required to to is give CVCHS students a home school. Why did Northgate, a school that is hovering at capacity and claims there is no space for other transffers, have to be one of them? Well, that’s clear too. The District knew the only way to get those charter students and their $$$ back in MDUSD was to offer them the best school in the District. The CVCHS students should have been assigned the closer schools and then submit transfers if they wanted NHS which should then have been approved “as space allows”. The reason this matters so much is that there are families in the Bancroft split area who submitted transfers to NHS for Fall and were denied. THAT is a huge problem and big slap in the face to the families in that split feeder to be denied transfer to NHS but all students from CVCHS can choose to attend. It’s just wrong. Space should have been given first to split students THEN CVCHS. And, I think it’s great that CVCHS students and students from all over attend NHS, don’t get me wrong. Let’s first take care of those who live right there and are split and make sure we can manage and handle the number of students attending NHS.

Please May 20, 2017 at 5:58 AM

Thank you for your response. I completely agree that CVCHS first choice policy was in the the self interest of a specific MDUSD Board member. I hope you and others can keep pushing specific facts and not generalities. I fear you all are in an uphill battle with district and their elitist message.

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