Discontent amongst the Laurelwood Elementary School community has been brewing since they heard the Superintendent was snubbing their choice for a new Principal. Though not explicitly on the agenda, the community came to the Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustees Meeting on Thursday, April 28 to air their frustrations.
Laurelwood Principal Hiring
The hiring of the new Laurelwood principal was pulled from the last Board meeting after the “integrity of the process may have been compromised,” according to Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp in a statement to The Weekly. In response, at the very top of the meeting, the Laurelwood community filled public comment regarding the Superintendent’s performance evaluation to be discussed during closed session.
The Laurelwood community presented a formal complaint about the “harassment and intimidation by Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp and unlawful actions to silence the freedom of speech of community members on an issue of public interest,” said Lizzie Smith on behalf of the community.
Many of the speakers said they were on the panel tasked with recommending a new Laurelwood Principal. They said they received a troubling letter about an investigation. Some were emotional, saying they saw the letter as another breach of trust and mistreatment of the District’s staff and parents. They called the letter “a threat,” “a scare tactic,” “intimidation,” and “retaliation.” Speakers called Dr. Kemp “a bully” who needs to be held accountable. Some even called for her resignation, saying that Santa Clara Unified needs new leadership and District relationships have been ruined.
Additionally, they resented the panel process. Saying their input was just for show since the District ignored their recommendation to hire Assistant Principal Assistant Paul Fuller.
The Board couldn’t say too much since it was a closed session item. However, Board Member Andy Ratermann made a motion requesting a Board meeting as soon as possible to discuss the status or confirmation of the investigations concerning the hiring of principal at Laurelwood and possibly terminate the investigation. He also wants to review and update the hiring practices and human resources practices. This passed unanimously. Some of the items can only be discussed in closed session, but most will be in open session.
The open enrollment process has changed a lot since the Enrollment Center opened. Johanna Gonzalez, Enrollment Center Manager, said the process is much more transparent, efficient and collaborative now.
Vice President Vickie Fairchild shared concerns from parents who said it appears like the District is not admitting students from the open enrollment waitlist even when there seemed to be space. She stated that it was the law and they had to admit students from the waitlist if the school had capacity. Board Clerk Bonnie Lieberman was also concerned. Especially at Laurelwood, it appeared that they were keeping the open enrollment numbers “artificially low.” In light of declining enrollment and Laurelwood transferring teachers out, Lieberman was unhappy to see so many students on the waitlist being turned away while also displacing teachers.
Rob Griffin, Attendance and Discipline Coordinator, used to handle enrollment and said before the Enrollment Center, they relied on the school sites to report if they had space to admit from the waitlist. But now with the centralized Enrollment Center, the process is much more streamlined.
Staff and the Board agreed that open enrollment is very complicated and relies on so many factors. Chief Business Official Mark Schiel said they don’t truly know enrollment data until one to two weeks into the school year, but they need to make decisions well before that. Additionally, the grade levels with open seats might not match up with the waitlist.
“We understand that students don’t move around in neat groups of 20,” admitted Board President Jodi Muirhead.
The Board didn’t take any action since it was just a report, but Fairchild requested more information on K-12 school capacity, staffing, and enrollment.
Climate Change Resolution
The long-awaited resolution, “Calling for Climate Change Action to Protect Students and Their Families” was presented by Kim Hunters, Environmental Science TOSA, and students. A student-led Climate Change group developed the Climate Change Resolution. The Board will take action at a future meeting.
The Board approved the agreement with the City of Santa Clara on the Youth Activity Center and “authorized District staff to make any final minor adjustments as necessary and direct District staff to bring the agreement back if they’re unable to resolve the remaining items with the City of Santa Clara.” This should help with Cabrillo Middle School’s facilities issues.
Ratermann submitted a request to clear up the Board’s expectations of the LGBTQQIA++ Workgroup. Including regular updates with recommendations and suggestions, a possible resolution, and including some non-voting ex-officio members to help advise. Chief Academic and Innovation Officer Brad Stam reported that the committee has met and is already working on the items in Ratermann’s request. Lieberman thanked Stam, saying this is what she wanted to see.
The Board approved appointing Jasmine Murphy as the new Program Specialist for Special Education and appointing Carlos Inda as the Technology Support Manager. The item requesting to fill the Professional Learning Specialist position was pulled. They approved the new job description for a Transitional Kindergarten Paraeducator.
Since the meeting was expected to go into the morning, the Board pulled less time-sensitive items and moved items to a future meeting.
Board Member Albert Gonzalez attended the meeting virtually and Board Member Dr. Michele Ryan had to leave partway through the meeting.
The Board of Trustees has a special meeting on Tuesday, May 3 at 6 p.m. and their next regular meeting is on Thursday, May 12 at 6:30 p.m.