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Education Desk: Mar. 19, 2014

Strategizing for a November Bond Measure

Strategizing is already underway for a bond measure to raise money to build new Santa Clara Unified schools on the recently purchased Agnews site in North San Jose. At last week’s SCUSD board meeting, political consultant Tom Clifford of Clifford Moss spoke to the board about the strategy for “saturating” voters with persuasive arguments for passing a Nov. bond measure for the new school campus.

A January survey of 400 likely voters showed that a bond measure is not a shoo-in, getting only 64 percent approval, more than the 55 percent needed to pass a school bond measure but not enough to assure passage. Support dropped when those surveyed were asked about additional taxes to pay off the bonds. The top reason given for opposing any further increases was the number of school bond and parcel tax measures in recent years.

“You can’t focus this bond measure on building a school in San Jose,” Clifford told the board. “You also need to be doing fundamental things for other schools in the district. You need to find the right set of work that’s both the North San Jose piece and across the district.”

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“We have to sell that what we’re doing on the Agnews site that’s benefitting the whole district,” observed Trustee Jim Canova. The board agreed by consensus to move forward with the bond campaign communications program.

Implementing New Local Control Reporting Requirements Has Growing Pains

When Governor Brown radically restructured education funding last year, the new flexibility – Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) – came with a requirement for a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). And, judging from remarks made by union representatives Michael Hickey and Patty Pickard at last week’s board meeting, there’s a lack of communication between district administration and teachers about adopting the LCAP.

By July of next year, the SCUSD board must give the state a three-year plan that includes annual goals for all pupils and targeted subgroups and description of the action plan to achieve them. The template for this is required by the end of March.

These metrics will direct how the district will be investing its educational resources, and several criteria must be measured, including APIs, percentages of students satisfying UC and CSU entrance requirements, Career Technical Education (CTE) standards, English Language (EL) standards, English Learners (EL) reclassification rates, percentages of students passing AP exams, and the percentages of students demonstrating college readiness (for a definition of this, visit ,www.adlit.org/article/31527/).

But teachers don’t feel that their expertise is being utilized in creating the LCAP, said UTSC President Hickey, noting a meeting on the plan was scheduled with only two days notice for teachers. California Schools Employees Association (CSEA) Chapter President Picard also reported that she was at recent school meeting “where not one person knew what the LCAP involved.”

“This first year, we’re on a very tight timeline,” said Asst. Superintendent of Instruction Tanya Fisher. “The template was just adopted in January. We’re doing our best and consciously making sure we’re following all the steps and including all our stakeholders in meaningful ways. We may not get it right in this first three months, but we’re getting better.,/

“All schools have hosted parent meetings,” she continued. “We are continuing to hold meetings with our parent groups…We’re planning to meet with bargaining units and all teachers. We want to open up the opportunity to [hear] everyone’s voice.”

Teachers say that while it’s always good to have parents engaged in their children’s education, the specialized metrics involved in the LCAP requires professional educational expertise that teachers working in the district are able and ready to provide.

New Contract With CESA Inked, Administrators Contract Goes Back to Drawing Board

The SCUSD board unanimously approved new contract with the CSEA union last week. Like the agreement signed in December with the UTSC, the new contract includes a three percent increase to each “cell” of the salary schedule, and is retroactive to July 1, 2013. The agreement also includes a $100 per month increase in the district’s contribution “cap” for employee medical insurance.

The agreement also includes a special two percent “off-the-schedule” payment for the school year, at the new rates, based on hours from Jan. 1, 2014 to June 30, 2014. However, this payment depends on the district receiving at least $2 million more in property tax revenue than forecast, or the district agreeing to apply the two percent to the 2014-2015 salary schedule going forward.

The proposed agreement with district management was another story. That was simply a salary increase of 4.25 percent retroactive to July 1, 2013, plus a one-time payment of two percent of salary. The explanation was that administrators were not receiving the additional $100 medical insurance contribution.

However, it didn’t take long for district employees to see that something was wrong with that math. The average administration salary is $132,000 (per the Mar. 13 meeting agenda report), and there are 62 administrators in the district (that includes principals).

The additional 1.25 percent for administrators works out to an average of $1,650 instead of the $1,200 the rest of the district employees are getting. (The top district salary, the Superintendent’s, is $195,475.) “It doesn’t look right,” said teacher Patty Duffy. “Employees who least need an increase get a big one,” added Hickey.

“There is a great inequity within the district,” said Picard. “The district benefits every time a teacher or classified employee declines medical. All the management gets the increase. It just doesn’t look right when we weren’t given a choice.”

The Board decided to postpone a decision on the contract and send it back to staff for further consideration. “I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Pickard and Mr. Hickey,” said Trustee Ina Bendis. “The administrators have greater power to come to the board and recommend to the board for themselves….I don’t believe it’s equitable.”

Recognizing Achievement in Many Forms

At the Mar. 13 meeting, the SCUSD Board and Administration honored Don Callejon School for receiving the YMCA’s Project Cornerstone Award for youth development, and promoting healthy living and social responsibility. The school was recommended for the award based on its anti-bullying activities.

Also recognized for their academic achievements and contributions to their school communities: Don Callejon students Toan Nguyen and Maddie Ferguson, Braly Elementary School students Victor Gonzales and Fryda Huizar Orozco, and George Mayne Elementary School students Kristal Fajardo Angel and Andrew Tordoff.

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