The Nov. 19 meeting of the Santa Clara Unified school board was the final meeting that Board President Christine Koltermann would preside over; a term marked by challenges on almost every front imaginable, starting with a virtually complete turnover of district administration.
She often has had to quash out-of-bounds behavior – both from other trustees and audiences – and rein in soapboxing, referee disputes, and ward off challenges to her authority by two highly abrasive trustees, Ina Bendis and Christopher Stampolis.
Almost immediately after the death of her father, Koltermann didn’t excuse herself from her duty; instead presiding over a grueling meeting to censure Stampolis after a permanent restraining order was issued against him for his threatening behavior to a district principal.
Thank you for servingÃ® and especially through the last year, said Trustee Jim Canova. I appreciate your dedication. It’s been a tough role. Despite the challenges, during Koltermann’s tenure the board completed the acquisition of land for new K-12 schools on the Northside, added some significant new STEM programs, and began the work of repairing damage done by years of state budget cuts.
Last week’s agenda included progress on grade span adjustments (class size reduction), establishing a parcel tax oversight committee, two new job descriptions, and a discussion about the board’s ability to discipline misconduct by board members.
The meeting was made almost surreal by the elephant in the room: the multiple harassment complaints against Stampolis. He however, presented a business-as-usual demeanor. In response to Ratermann’s request for a discussion of board options for addressing trustee misconduct and conflicts of interest, Stampolis said, I wanted to commend trustee Ratermann, and asked if Ratermann would be amenable to putting this on the agenda at the board member retreat.
Stampolis’ remarks on this subject so provoked parent Vickie Fairchild, that she got up and said, Mr. Stampolis, I don’t think anybody wants to hear a word out of your mouth Move out, resign, get some good intensive counseling. That would be helpful.
Bendis, who was telephoning into the meeting from Israel, proposed a special board meeting on these subjects before the next regularly scheduled meeting (when she will no longer be on the board), but that idea was not supported.
New Classrooms in Place for Smaller Teacher to Student Ratios
The district had to add 11 new classrooms this year for transitional kindergarten through third grade (TK-3) to meet teacher-to-student ratios set by the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)’s Grade Span Adjustment (GSA) goal to reduce districts’ average teacher-student ratio at all schools to 1:24 by 2021. The state provides 10 percent more funding for GSA – $1.1 million for SCUSD this year. The penalty for being out-of-compliance is a retroactive cut in state funding. (It’s important to distinguish that this isn’t a class size limit of 24 students.)
The new classrooms and teachers required this year are now in place, reported interim HR director Andrew Lucia. Now the challenge is planning for next year, and that depends on enrollment. Even if enrollment doesn’t grow, the district must add 20 additional teachers and classrooms by 2021, said Asst. Superintendent Business Services Mark Allgire. Accommodating 50 additional students a year will entail 31, and 100 new students a year will require 59 new classrooms and teachers.
Stampolis immediately wanted to know what would prevent us from going to 24 to one immediately. The simple answer is classrooms and teachers, said Allgire. Stampolis then wanted to know if the district had 20 additional classrooms, and Allgire allowed as how they might be found.
I’d like to ask staff to max outto get back to 24 to one by this August, said Stampolis. What’s appropriate is for this board to give direction to go as fast as we can.
I think we can leave it to staff to accommodate this, said Trustee Andrew Ratermann, and have staff recommendation before we give the direction that ‘we want to max it out.’ We would all agree we want to reduce class sizes as rapidly as possible.
I’m not sure if Mr. Allgire has brought in the impact of reopening Central Park [former Millikin site], interposed Bendis. There aren’t that many classrooms at Central, explained Allgire, and that’s assuming they’re all TK-3, and students would be moved to Central Park.
At this point Trustee Michele Ryan proposed that we try to get as close as possible for next school year. Stampolis insisted that there should be a formal motion was so it would be memorialized that the board made a request. Canova asserted a staff request was sufficient. But Stampolis made the motion, Bendis seconded it, and it passed 5-2 with Ratermann and Canova dissenting – creating an ideal attack sound-bite for future elections.
Although for most people the past election is history, for some it isn’t over – or perhaps the next one has already started. In any case, there will be no respite from the politicking if last week’s meeting was any evidence. Michael Helms, who lost his challenge against incumbent Ratermann by 20 points, admonished the board and the audience to guard against those who would take from us playing fields[and] millions in RDA [clawback] money that was taken from usI’ve learned that our district is under threat from a few spiteful zealots.
In other business:
- CSE President Patty Picard recognized SCUSD Council of PTAs President Karen Hovey and Advocacy Chair Sarah Hedges for their work campaigning for Measure H.
- Asst. Superintendent of Instruction Tanya Fisher recognized Callejon staff for swift action to help a troubled student that averted a possible tragedy.
- Trustees’ 24/7 access to district offices was revoked.
- Stampolis asked for a list of all the tests required for English Language Support teachers, complaining that the job descriptions weren’t precise. HR Director Lucia pointed out that candidates lacking proper certification wouldn’t be brought to the board for approval to begin with.
- Stampolis also asked that the entire petition by Magnolia Science Academy to reorganize as a new district (instead of county) charter school be posted on the district website “so the public can read through that during the holidays.”