Big student rally and performances in Lafayette Sunday to protect arts and elective programs in Walnut Creek and Lamorinda high schools

My sixth-grade son recently said he was looking forward to going to school at Las Lomas, because he had heard there would be a creative writing class there. But that class might not be there when he gets to Las Lomas. It might not be there next year. The teacher says the class will get cut if the Measure A parcel tax does not pass.
Measure A is an emergency $112-per-parcel tax for property owners in the Acalanes Union High School District, which includes Las Lomas High in Walnut Creek. The district has had to cut its budget by $8 million over the past three years and is looking to eliminate more than 50 teaching positions. Those cuts will mean the loss of science, foreign language, English, social studies, arts and mathematics classes. They could also mean the loss of seventh period. The district has already decided to close Del Oro, its well-regarded alternative high schol.
Measure A, if approved via a mail-in ballot due May 4, will bring in about $4 million to the district each year.  This parcel tax would sunset in five years and be paid in addition to the current $189 parcel tax, which voters extended indefinitely in November.
Students from throughout the district performed music, drama skits, and public speaking at a rally in Lafayette’s Downtown Plaza. One of those students was Emily Shearer, a senior at Acalanes High who is a member of the school’s award-winning Mock Trial team. She spoke about how participating in mock trial, the environmental club, and Science Bowl have taught her team work, critical thinking, public speaking, and leadership.She adds  her accomplishments in these extracurricular programs gave her an edge when she applied for college–her experiences won her admittance to top universities.
John Stockton, in an e-mail to parents, wrote about the value of performing arts classes. He said they are often taken for granted but that they provide numerous benefits to students:
–Student overall academic achievement improves by participation in performing arts programs.
–Dedicated adult role models and peer support provide a positive emotional growth environment for students.
–Time management and teamwork qualities are promoted and enhance the development of the total student.
–Studies show a correlation between development of artistic skills and success in core academic areas such as math.
As the advanced boys and girls choral groups from Campolindo High school performaned Glee TV show-quality numbers, I thought of what my son and other kids would lose if they couldn’t do this sort of music class or drama or studio art.

I also thought of what he would get out of a creative writing class that he wouldn’t get out of a regular English class. Not surprisingly, I’m a fan of creative writing classes, and I think they are helpful to avowed non-writers, people who don’t see themselves as aspiring Stephen Kings or Sylvia Plaths. The thing is, even non-writers, willl have to be able to write at various points in their lives–college essays, business memos and proposals where they have to communicate their ideas.

The teacher told me how her creative writing class allows students to express themselves in ways they don’t get to do in a regular English class, where they are usually locked into writing persuasive essays in that tightly controlled structure.In creative writing, these students get to express themselves, through stories, poems, and free writing.
I’ve seen how this kind of self-expression can free up kids–and adults–to play, experiment, and find their own voice. It can help people become comfortable with writing, and the more people become comfortable with writing, and free up their own voice, the easier it becomes for them to articulate their ideas.

16 thoughts on “Big student rally and performances in Lafayette Sunday to protect arts and elective programs in Walnut Creek and Lamorinda high schools

  1. I'm all for these kids protesting, but again I would ask them, “Ok we will save your coloring program, exactly which other programs should we cut so that you can continue to color?”


  2. This situation could teach these kids a valuable lesson, that there isn't an endless supply of money from “the government”. The government's money comes from we, the people, and there are many, many needs competing for those dollars. Seniors, the disabled, the unemployed, the poor, roads, bridges, dams, etc… Open up the CC Times and just about every day there is another story about some group or program that absolutely cannot have it's budget cut under any cirsumstances because it's just too, too important.

    For example, are art and elective school programs more important than senior day care programs? How about assistance for blind people to get books in braille?

    Tough choices will have to be made. I hope the students understand that.


  3. Northgate High School is in Walnut Creek, but would not benefit from Measure A. However, Northgate HS probably will keep classes such as creative writing, because our teachers have been and continue to be paid LESS than Acalanes District (about $25,000 per teacher LESS, according to Jim Negri). Although our district MDUSD is too gigantic to pass a parcel tax, and our revenue is $4,000 per student LESS than Las Lomas HS, our Northgate PFC funds are used to add classes – about 10 or so per year. There's a wonderful spirit at Northgate – over 600 people volunteered this weekend to landscape, clean and paint the school – it's gorgeous! Maybe your son can get an inter-district transfer to attend Northgate, the best high school in Walnut Creek?


  4. 7:38, You're so witty and the respect you're showing these kids is a lesson for us all.

    If these programs are cut we will have more people who are able to pose their arguments with the same style as 7:38.

    8:00am, While I don't agree with your position, thank you for making the argument against measure A in a logical and respectful manner.

    8:00am engages and continues the conversation while 7:38am attempts to shut it down.


  5. I believe I am correct that LLHS has substantially lower scores than Lamorinda schools in the same district. Why should WC voters vote to pay extra taxes that benefit Lamorinda schools? It seems LLHS could take some lessons from Northgate in saving money, the wealthier Lamorinda voters could raise their taxes for their more exclusive schools if they are feeling wealthy. In the race for diminishing returns per dollar spent, I am not particularily keen to be subsidizing Morage, Orinda, and Lafayette.


  6. So what makes you think that Orinda voters are excited about supporting Moraga youths, or Lafayette youths or your Walnut creek students for that matter. That support for this parcel tax you're are seeing is not voters “feeling wealthy”. It's adults assuming responsibility.


  7. A parcel tax would have to be applied to all schools in a school district. The only way to raise funds for one school exclusively is to create a non-profit foundation for a particular school.

    LLHS isn't a bad school; the reason it's lower-performing is that the Lamorinda communities are better educated and more affluent. Higher socioeconomic demographics translate into higher-performing students and higher test scores.

    It's just the way it is.


  8. 8:03,

    You should probably do some research. Walnut Creek doesn't give anymore support for a parcel tax than other MDUSD communities.

    I know someone who works for Acalanes. They had to work hard to get the initial parcel tax passed. The majority of Lamorinda residents always support a parcel tax; however, that is not the case with Walnut Creek.


  9. 11:25 I think that each city has a tax exempt educational foundation and the individual school of choice within the city can be designated. So if Moragans, for example, want to donate to Campolindo,they can. In this scenario, no parcel tax is needed.


  10. 2:25pm, If that is the case, then why would any homeowners even vote for a parcel tax? Perhaps it is a bit late for me to wonder about this and make any sense.

    It would seem that neighborhoods would work together regarding their respective schools. I mean would Walnut Creek MDUSD residents really want to support lower-achieving, i.e. failing schools in far away areas of another city.

    Or Clayton schools (where there is only one elementary school) would want to support lower achieving schools in Concord as an example?


  11. 2:25,

    Parcel taxes are helpful across an entire school district. They're not allowed to be used in a discriminatory manner (like giving significantly more $$ to Acalanes High than LLHS). LLHS would get it's 'fair share' of a parcel tax. If the schools depend solely on education foundations, you'd see stratification even within a district. The Lamorinda elementary communities have higher education parcel taxes than Walnut Creek School District. Logic tells you that their education foundations would raise more money for those schools.

    Relying on education foundations rather than parcel taxes would negatively impact LLHS.


  12. 9:48-The AUHSD will spend money from parcel taxes as it deems necessary.Any given year may see more funds spent at Del Valle, LLHS etc.based on how the district budgets. There is no imaginary pie cut into equal portions for each school. WC is not underprivileged, and LLHS has the highest enrollment.If the tax fails, donate to LLHS thru the foundation and they will get all the of the donation.


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