The Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustees spent a big part of the meeting in Closed Session but also made a major decision about Special Education staffing.
The Board has been trying to figure out how to best serve their moderate/severe Special Education students. At the meeting on Thursday, May 12, Special Education Director Kathy Alaniz returned to the Board with an additional report about Special Education staffing. At a previous meeting, Vice President Vickie Fairchild pushed for an 8-1 ratio for moderate/severe classes and requested more information about staffing levels. Alaniz’s report compared staffing levels for 10, 9, and 8 class sizes.
Fairchild still favored staffing the moderate/severe classes for 8 students. “We’ve gotten feedback from nearly every Special Education teacher in the moderate/severe programs. They’re concerned about not meeting their kids’ needs. In some of our classrooms we have just too many children and we’ve had injuries…” said Fairchild. “In moderate/severe, 2 kids are the difference between people staying in the career or leaving.”
After reviewing the new information, Board Member Andy Ratermann made a motion to go with a max of 8 students per teacher with 2 additional paraeducators.
Alaniz’s report showed that staffing for a class size of 8 would cost about $1.3 million, but Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp reminded the Board that there were some costs that aren’t calculated in the report, like setting up additional classrooms.
The motion passed 6-0, with Board Member Dr. Michele Ryan abstaining. She said the process was wrong because the report was supposed to be an information item and come back later for action.
Business Official Mark Schiel presented information on a possible new Joint Powers Authority (JBA) for municipal advisory services, or financial services. SCUSD has the opportunity to join the JBA as a founding member which would give them a seat on the JBA’s board.
The JBA isn’t formed yet, but Schiel explained joining it would mean that all the school districts that are members could get financial services together. He thinks that this would be more cost-efficient.
Joining would be a 3-year commitment and there’s a $5,000 fee that would apply to services. The District currently uses Government Financial Strategies, Inc and has a great relationship with Lori Raineri. Scheil said Raineri has been part of the planning for this new JBA and, though he didn’t want to speak on her behalf, said she recommends joining the JBA.
Board Member Jim Canova was unsure about joining another JBA but respects Raineri’s opinion.
The Board gave Schiel direction to proceed with joining the JBA as a founding member. A resolution will come back to the next meeting.
In closed session, the Board continued to evaluate Superintendent Dr. Kemp’s performance. Teachers, staff and parents spoke during public comment to talk about their negative experience with Dr. Kemp and ask the Board for new leadership. Some did come to Dr. Kemp’s defense.
Dr. Ryan asked the Board to consider conducting an independent third party 360 evaluation of the Board of Trustees. She’s concerned about Board Member behavior and has received reports about staff fearing retaliation and harassment for speaking out. However, the request failed.
The Board’s next meeting is on Thursday, May 26 at 6:30 p.m.