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Education Desk: Apr. 9, 2014

Grant in Memory of Long-Time SCUSD Psychologist, Richard Knowles

A group of students that get recognized far too seldom for their academic achievement are those in Special Education. But for those students, learning that is unremarkable for typical students is a hard-won achievement. Santa Clara Unified’s Special Education Resource Center (SERC) is one organization that specifically recognizes those achievements.

Last month SERC received a $13,600 donation in memory of Richard Knowles. A district school psychologist from 1958-1989, Knowles established the SERC Trust Fund for achievement awards for students receiving special education services and are graduating from high school or have completed a modified program to graduate.

This year, two Wilcox and Santa Clara High School, and one New Valley student will receive $200 grants. One eighth grader from each middle school will also receive a $50 award. Good attendance, good citizenship, and academic improvement are the basis for the awards.

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In other grants:

  • Briarwood Elementary received $1,000 from Santa Clara Schools Foundation for fifth grade science camps
  • SCHS softball teams received $1,564 from Mission Cities Charities, Inc. for new uniforms and equipment

SCUSD May Wait Until 2037 to See Revenue for Former San Jose RDA

Last week we noted that no tax increment* revenue from City of San Jose’s former RDA is being distributed to taxing entities – one of which is SCUSD, which serves part of the North San Jose.

We’ve also learned from the county finance agency that, although no one has calculated the average life of those bonds, the last of them won’t be paid off until 2037 – when the tax increment theoretically would revert to normal distribution to county tax-funded entities anyway.

The bottom line is that in the short term SCUSD won’t see additional property tax revenue to operate new schools on the Agnews campus in North San Jose.

Defining a School-Connected Organization Proves Harder Than it Seems

Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter is famous for his remark about pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Likewise, it seems that defining what is or isn’t a “school-connected organization” is similarly non-specific. Most of us would call the PTA a school-connected organization. And most wouldn’t call the Rotary or Kiwanis Clubs school-connected organizations.

Yet Kiwanis offers its annual Turnaround scholarship program and sponsors high school Key Clubs. And Santa Clara Rotary sponsors its Christmas for Kids, which shares holiday delights – along with warm winter coats – with SCUSD students who would otherwise go without. How do you tell the difference?

That was where the Mar. 29 SCUSD board meeting’s discussion on the proposed Board Policy 1230 update on school-connected organizations ran aground for over an hour, only to be rescued by a move to return the proposed policy to committee. By state law, districts must have a policy for authorizing school-connected organizations, principally to ensure that students and their parents aren’t coerced into donating to, for example, the PTA, or charged for extra-curricular school programs.

The proposed policy required that any groups wishing to be a school-connected organization must provide, in addition to approval by the school principal and relevant Tax ID information:

  • Bylaws, rules, and procedures under which the organization will operate, including procedures for maintaining the organization’s finances, membership qualifications, if any, and an agreement that the group will not engage in unlawful discrimination
  • The names, addresses, and phone numbers of all officers at any time, to either district personnel or a certified public accountant
  • The name of the bank where the organization’s account will be located and the names of those authorized to withdraw funds
  • Planned use for any money remaining at the end of the year if the organization is not continued or authorized to continue in the future
  • An agreement to provide evidence of liability insurance as required by law
  • District and school employees cannot serve as an officer or in a fiduciary capacity for any school-connected organization without the prior written permission of the Superintendent or designee.

“A lot of organizations – Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions – provide scholarships and sponsor clubs,” said Trustee Andy Ratermann. “If you make them jump through these hoops, they’re not going to do it.”

Some say that the intensive policing requirements is targeting Santa Clara Unified Parents (SCUP), an organization that organizes and sponsors the district science fair, and limits its membership to parents of children enrolled in SCUSD schools.

Trustee Ina Bendis reportedly wanted to join the organization, but was rebuffed because she has no children in SCUSD schools. Bendis has subjected SCUP’s treasurer Jodi Muirhead to at least one public interrogation in the past couple of years about the organization’s lack of 501(c)(3) status. (School-related organizations aren’t required to be IRS 501(c)(3) organizations).

Further, Muirhead recently announced her candidacy for one of the two seats on the 2014 ballot in the SCUSD Old Jefferson School District Trustee area.

Administration Contract Same as Other District Employees

After a trip back to the drawing board, the district administration returned to the board with a revised contract containing the same terms as the CSEA and UTSC unions: a 3 percent raise, a one-time 2 percent payment, and $100 per month additional district contribution to medical insurance.

*Tax increment was the amount of additional property tax revenue that was generated by a redevelopment project. That increase went directly to the RDA to pay off debt and encourage additional investment, and bypassed normal property tax distribution.

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