California rejects petition for Walnut Creek schools to form new district

The California Board of Educated voted unanimously Wednesday to keep the sprawling Mt. Diablo Unified School District intact, avoiding the creation of a smaller school district in eastern Walnut Creek.

The decision ends a years-long fight for succession by a group called Northgate CAPS. Their petition would have taken five schools from MDUSD, three elementary schools, Foothill Middle School, and Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, to create the Northgate Unified School District.

Their petition before the state board was an appeal from a decision in 2017 by the Contra Costa County Board of Education to reject the secession attempt.

But the petition sparked concerns of isolating one of the most affluent and least diverse communities. In the state’s hearing, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Education, said the plan garnered national media coverage due to its "undertones of racial and socioeconomic segregation." The CDE also said the proposal failed to meet required legal criteria and offered no compelling reasons to create a new district.

But Northgate CAPS spokeswoman Linda Loza said the fight to create a smaller educational system was about local control in a community-based school district. She said Mt. Diablo has been plagued by years of financial irresponsibility, among other issues.

"Our quest has been about the children," Loza said at the board hearing. "Regardless of what the opposition says, it has never been about exclusivity, race, real estate values, etc… We never imagined that we would find this to be an insurmountable feat plagued with nasty tactics, defaming lies, outright coercion and power brokering."

The Mt. Diablo Unified School District strongly opposed the succession attempt, citing the CDE staff recommendation. Meg Honey, a teacher at Northgate High School, said she was thrilled with the decision. She was one of the speakers for the district during the state hearing.

"All the public comments were in opposition to this petition, which I think really validated what we were all feeling," Honey said.

She addressed the issue of racial and socioeconomic segregation linked to the petition, despite the group refuting that claim.

"That might not have been the proponents original anticipation, but the outcome of what this would mean absolutely aligns with some really disturbing trends that we’re seeing nationally," she said.

MDUSD includes schools in Concord, Clayton, Pleasant Hill, Pacheco and portions of Lafayette, Martinez, Bay Point, Pittsburg and unincorporated areas in Contra Costa County.