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Facility Use Fee Report Causes Uproar, Possible Agnews Schools Names Debuted

At the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 14, they covered many high-profile bases, from facility use fees, to Agnews school names, to safety and student support.

 

District Facility Use Fees

A divisive topic, a report on facility use fees, filled the boardroom to standing room only.

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Eric Dill, the District’s Chief Business Official, along with Michal Healy, Director of Facilities Development & Planning, presented a report on the history and rationale behind facility use changes and explained facility use fee structure.

In 2017, the District gathered a Use of Facilities Task Force to address concerns around the use of the District’s facilities, including user scheduling, user visibility, fee inconsistency, insurance issues and cost recovery to help maintain the facilities. The Task Force made recommendations including introducing Facilitron, an online reservation system, and modifying the fee schedule.

Dill acknowledged that the fee schedule has caused confusion. User groups, depending on their makeup, are assigned to a category that determines their fees. Currently, school organizations and non-profit groups who have a high number of SCUSD students pay nothing or very little.

Members of the public drew attention to how the user group categories are decided can have unintended consequences. For example, someone from a local cub scout troop pointed out that to be in the most affordable fee category, 80 percent of the participants must be SCUSD students, which can cause groups to be less inclusive.

Dill offered some alternatives to charging user groups for their facility use: joint use agreements or license agreements (aka memoranda of understanding), which could recognize investment by outside groups in district facilities and offset their fees.

Mario Samora, who was on the Task Force and is President of Briarwood Little League, said Briarwood has done its own maintenance for 60 years, asking for their investment in the District’s fields be honored. He also questioned the validity of metrics and analytics underlying the report and the fee schedule.

Samora said that based on the current fee schedule, everyone currently under User Group 2 will lose roughly $400,000 a year.

At this meeting, as with previous meetings, representatives from user groups detailed consequences that the fees will have on their organizations. Some speakers became emotional over the possibility of their programs shutting down due to the fees.

The Board Members spoke similarly about how ‘something needs to change’ with the facility fee set-up and that the fees had some unintended consequences.

“We have a community we are a part of and we’re not serving our community,” said Board Vice President Jodi Muirhead. She also acknowledged that while the fields need to be maintained and cost recovery is important, they need to look at what makes sense and what’s fair.

“I want to assure everyone here, we will do the right thing,” said Board Member Jim Canova. “We need to step up as a board and really dig into this and find the sweet spot. I believe there is a sweet spot to be found and we’ll find it together.”

The Board decided to have a Study Session where they can discussion options. Dill also said that staff will be meeting with City of Santa Clara to discuss existing joint use agreements and solicit feedback from users. In the meantime, users are not being charged the current fees.

 

Agnews Schools Names

The Board accepted the Ad Hoc Committee’s name recommendations for the new Agnews schools. The name recommendations based on prominent individuals were Abram Agnew for the elementary school, Dolores Huerta for the middle school and Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the high school. Alternatively, the Committee suggested names based on geography: Coyote Creek Elementary, Woodland Park Middle and River Oaks High. Lastly, Grassland Hills Elementary, Woodland Park Middle and Forest Ridge High.

Muirhead suggested another option based on individuals with Ed Sakauye as the elementary school, since the Committee suggested Abram Agnew Educational Campus/Center/Complex/Village/Academy as an overarching name for the three schools.

This will come back to a future meeting with an opportunity for public comment. Learn more about the recommended names on the District’s website.

 

“We Have to Find Ways to Do More”

During Superintendent Dr. Stella M. Kemp’s report, she addressed the Peterson Middle School accident where three students were injured at El Camino Real and Poplar Avenue. Additionally, she acknowledged the recent death of a Wilcox student by suicide and said she wants to evaluate the current programs to help students find and receive assistance.

Board Member Mark Richardson requested a future agenda item regarding student safety getting to and from schools. The Board approved the request voted unanimously — Canova was absent.

“This is from the Peterson accident,” said Richardson. “This is why I requested it. A lot of parents are furious… they’re tired of excuses.”

Richardson also requested a future agenda item regarding how the District can better serve its “at risk” students. That agenda item was also unanimously passed.

 

Other Business

The Board congratulated Wilcox High School student Olivia Gonzales, who was recognized by the National Hispanic Recognition Program. Gonzales scored in the top 2.5 percent among Hispanic and Latino PSAT test takers in our region.

The Board recognized Irvine Company for their voluntary community benefit contribution of $1.6 million. It will be used for design and construction of capital facilities.

The SCUSD Board of Trustees meet again on Thursday, Dec. 12.

 

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited for clarity.

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