Costa County

Mt. Diablo Unified School District Split Doesn't Enhance Segregation, According to Independent Review

A redistricting proposal that would carve out five affluent Walnut Creek schools from the Mt. Diablo Unified School District will not have a discriminatory impact on minority students, according to an independent review released earlier this week. 

The independent School Services review, commissioned by the Contra Costa County Office of Education, which is considering the proposal, concluded that the "reorganization would not promote racial or ethnic discrimination or segregation." 

Under the proposal, Northgate High School and its feeder elementary and middle schools would separate from the Mt. Diablo Unified to form a new boutique district. The specter of de facto segregation has been one of the biggest rallying points for opponents of the proposed split, and it's likely they will try to challenge the report's findings at 4 p.m. meeting on August 29 at Pleasant Hill Middle School. 

Under the proposal, 34 percent of students in the new district would be from minority backgrounds. In Mt. Diablo, that number hovers around 60 percent. 

Nellie Meyer, the Superintendent of Mount Diablo Unified School District, noted in a statement that the proposal still failed two out of nine required state criteria for redistricting. According to the report, a new district would deprive Mt. Diablo of needed resources, and it would also substantially increase the cost of school facilities through new classroom builds and other construction. 

"The findings of School Services support our position that the separation of the Northgate-area schools from Mt. Diablo Unified School District is not, in any way, a benefit to the community," Meyer said. “And while we feel the consultant was conservative in its review, we believe our further study and data will show that the proponents of a new school district also fail to substantially meet several additional required criterion.” 

Northgate CAPS, the parent-led coalition fighting for the split, must prove that a new district can meet all nine criteria in order to gain county and state approval. 

Still, Northgate CAPS board members called the report "great news" in a statement on their website.

"The consultant did NOT agree with critics who have repeatedly claimed, with no support, that NUSD would promote segregation, would not be financially viable, would not offer sound educational programs (including special education), or that NUSD would have a harmful financial effect on MDUSD," the statement read. 

The battle over the new district has been acrimonious from the start. Throughout the months-long debate, Mt. Diablo has been accused of being a bureaucratic mess that's financially irresponsible, while Northgate CAPS has been accused of having a deep-seated fear of "otherness." 

The redistricting plan is currently being reviewed by Contra Costa County Committee on School District Organization, which will decide in early fall whether to send it up to the state for consideration.

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