Petition would pull 5 schools out of Mt. Diablo school district

A big turnout is expected at a public hearing in Walnut Creek over whether part of the Mount Diablo School District in Walnut Creek should secede and form a separate school district.

A passionate outcry Wednesday night from parents both in support and in opposition to the January petition that calls for pulling five schools out of the Mount Diablo School District and creating a new district they would call the Northgate Unified School District.

The five schools in question are: Northgate High School in Walnut Creek and and its four feeder schools: Foothill Middle School, as well as Valle Verde, Bancroft and Walnut Acres Elementary Schools.

A group of anti-petition parents, teachers and students gathered before Wednesday's hearing for a rally. Their message as that the petition would divide and hurt the communities.

"My concern is the level of diversity that we would have in those schools and also the access that our students would have that are districtwide," Cherise Khaund, one parent opposing the petition.

The meeting was packed, as both sides argued their case before the Contra Costa County Committee in charge of School District Organization.

Members of the Northgate (CAPS) Community Advocacy for Public Schools say they've been trying for some three decades to have more local control over schools and children's education, but feel the school officials have ignored the Walnut Creek part of the district.

"Mount Diablo has 32,000 students, covers 150 square miles, 56 school sites in 10 cities or towns and it's too big. It's too big to be accountable,” said Linda Loza, head of Northgate CAPS.

"We do not support carving out 5 schools from our school district, because we believe students will lose services, parents will have to pay more money, and teachers will not have the same support," said Nellie Meyer, Superintendent of Mt. Diablo Unified School District.

Opponents of the petition said if it is approved, it would remove the most affluent part of the district and could create socioeconomic and ethnic segregation, as well as possibly jeopardize funding for programs such as special education, bilingual classes, and a future International Baccalaureate program at one of the high schools.

"The district's financial situation would be negatively affected by this separation," said one woman who was a petition opponent.

Petitioners say the district is running a budget deficit and doesn't provide a good education.

"We petitioned, we worked really hard to get before the state and ask for what we've been fighting for thirty years for," said Kassie Wenzel, a petition supporter.

"Two years ago I believe, not enough chemistry classes spots for all the students that wanted chemistry," said Melissa Sunbury, another parent in favor of separating from MDUSD, "If kids need classes to go to college, those classes should be there. "

The Contra Costa County committee will have 120 days to make a recommendation to the state about whether to approve or deny the petition.