Affluent Walnut Creek neighborhood’s proposal to split from Mt. Diablo Unified rejected by California Board of Education

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The affluent neighborhood of Northgate in Walnut Creek will not be allowed to separate from the Mt. Diablo Unified School District and form its own school district in Contra Costa County, the California State Board of Education decided Wednesday.

In denying the petition from residents of the Northgate portion of the district, the 11-member Board of Trustees unanimously upheld an earlier decision by the Contra Costa County Committee on School District Organization.

The state accepted the county’s decision largely because the proposal would eliminate the best performing and least diverse schools from the unified Mount Diablo and negatively affect the rest of the district. The proposal was also found to be exclusive and racially segregated. The proposed Northgate Unified School District would have been 50% white, while the remaining schools in the district would be 25% white.

The report said the new district would have 9% non-English speakers compared to 26% in the rest of the district. He also said the creation of a new district was an attempt to isolate Northgate High, which is both the newest and highest performing high school in the district, from the lower performing high schools in Mt. Diablo Unified.

“We don’t need to start separating our schools again. It was in the 1960s,” Vanessa Miranda, a neighborhood cook, said in public testimony. “We have to stand together.”

But Linda Loza, the measure’s leading supporter, touted the 6,700 signature supporters gathered purportedly representing Northgate residents who wanted to vote on the issue in an election, which would have been the last step if the state council decided to maintain the petition.

“Our mission is to create a smaller, community-based public school district that will be more accountable to the community,” Loza said. “Our quest has always been for children. It was never about exclusivity, race, real estate values, etc. We never imagined it would be an insurmountable feat plagued by unpleasant behavior.

The proposed Northgate Unified School District would have included Northgate High School, Foothill Middle School, and Bancroft, Valle Verde, and Walnut Acres Elementary Schools, all in Walnut Creek.

These schools are part of a sprawling district that has 28,000 students in 53 schools at all levels. It includes Concord, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Clayton, Pittsburg and Lafayette, and extends to the communities of Pacheco, Bay Point and Clyde.

According to the Mt. Diablo Unified website, 47% of children in the school district are Hispanic and 28% white. Almost half of the students come from low-income families and 20% are learning English.

“In addition to failing to meet all minimum requirements for approval, the (California Department of Education) found no compelling local educational needs or issues that would be addressed by the unification proposal,” the report read. state council staff. “Furthermore, the proposed unification would remove the wealthier area of ​​Mt. Diablo USD to create a smaller, less diverse, and wealthier school district.”

Contra Costa County officials had previously determined that supporters of disbanding the school district did not meet the minimum requirements to secede. In 2018, the county committee voted 3-2 against the split, saying it would shrink the existing district.

The secession movement has existed in one form or another for at least a decade.

“I am angry and disappointed that anyone is allowed to create a new neighborhood for white people to choose their students,” one caller said in a public comment on Wednesday. “It’s 2022 these white people can’t separate us all people of color,” said another.

Even Northgate High principal Kelly Cooper called the proposed new district “obviously segregationist”, urging the council to reject the petition.

Had the measure passed, voters would then have been asked to determine whether Northgate would be allowed to split from the school district and form its own.

“We all want the chance to vote on whether to create a new school district,” Loza said.

Sam Whiting is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @SamWhitingSF

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