English Learners, or Emerging Bilinguals, at Santa Clara Unified School District are finally getting a program overhaul. At the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, April 22, the Board approved the Master Plan but pushed pause on the consulting contract.
English Learner Master Plan
The Board approved the English Learner Master Plan that was presented hastily at the end of the last meeting. The plan aims to improve the education for the Emerging Bilingual population. The previous roadmap is about 5 years old. They also had to create a new Master Plan to align with state requirements.
“We have to close the equity gap that exists for our English Learners as highlighted by graduation rates,” said Chief Academic and Innovation Officer Brad Stam.
In SCUSD, the graduation rate for English Learners is 73 percent compared to 90 percent for non-English Learners. The A to G graduation rate for UC/CSU eligibility is 16 percent for English Learners versus 58 percent for non-English Learners.
Assistant Superintendent Kathie Kanavel says Emerging Bilinguals continue to struggle.
“There is and has been a sense of urgency to better serve [English Learners] and to give them the opportunity to thrive and grow as multilanguage learners,” said Kanavel. “It is time to step up for 25 percent of our students.”
Staff says that they reached out to the community for input on the plan, but it sounds like between when the plan was first presented and this meeting, many community members reached out with concerns. Kanavel said she replied to those emails and also invited them for future input. She says the plan is a living document that will continue to grow and change.
Board President Jodi Muirhead asked about why the EL program doesn’t have Director. Kanavel explained that they folded EL into all departments.
“Because English Learners should be supported by all the different departments,” said Kanavel. “Rather than have it be held in one place and sort of siloed, the idea is that we all need to own our English Learners and we all need to support them.”
Many public commenters were concerned about this plan lacking a designated Director. Parents and staff wanted a specialized point person.
The plan passed 6-1. With Board Member Andy Ratermann voting ‘no’ because we wanted to hear about the accompanying services proposal that came next in the agenda before approving the plan.
The next agenda item was a contract with Clark Consulting and Training, Inc. who would implement the English Learner Master Plan.
Vice President Vickie Fairchild and other members were concerned about the cost of the contract and that this one-year contract would possibly lead to a three-year contract to fully implement the Master Plan.
Ratermann had concerns regarding the contract and its ambiguity. He also questioned how they would ensure that the District got the contract’s “guarantee.”
The public was mixed. Many asked them to delay because of concerns about an external company coming in to teach teachers how to teach, but some said that what the District is already doing isn’t working and they need to do better.
Based on what they were hearing, Fairchild said she was concerned about teacher buy-in and Board Clerk Bonnie Lieberman was concerned about resistance.
Fairchild motioned to delay this contract to their next regular Board meeting. In the meantime, Stam said they would clean up the contract and reach out to the stakeholders to explain more about this process and collect their concerns.
Wilcox Tennis Courts
The Bond Department has discovered that the six Wilcox tennis courts are not doing so well. They found that the courts’ coatings are at the end of life, the underlying asphalt paving is severely cracked and uneven, asbestos fibers are present throughout the courts’ paving section and the underlying soil is highly expansive and unstable. This can’t be fixed with routine maintenance and repairs.
Staff explored some solutions but ultimately proposed a complete removal and replacement of the courts. However, because they would have to seek approval from the Division of the State Architect (DSA), they know the DSA will require them to expand the restroom facilities in the concession building.
That concession building cannot be renovated to provide the required restrooms and it can’t be renovated to provide code-compliant food service facilities, so if they remove and replace the courts, they would also need a new concession building.
Larry Adams, Director of School Bond Projects, said they can have contracts drawn up and ready for the next Board meeting and, if approved, the courts could be in use by the end of 2022.
They are estimating $5,760,000 for the project, including the new concession building. They already have some of the money and said they could possibly use interest earnings on Measure BB Bond funds. The interest funds have not been committed for any other use — they would usually go to the reserves.
Additionally, the staff wanted to see if the Board was interested in improving the bleachers at Wilcox and Santa Clara High School since those are needing some TLC and need updated accessibility. They also brought up the tennis courts at Peterson Middle School.
The Board said they support the improvements for Wilcox, but just want to be sure they truly have the money available for this project, especially with the Laurelwood/Patrick Henry project just getting some momentum.
The Board directed staff to proceed with caution and bring them more information to their next regular Board meeting.
The Board appointed Adriana Reyes as Principal of Bowers Elementary School, Leanna Goldenberg as Principal of Montague Elementary School, Lauryce Haney as Principal of Ponderosa Elementary School, and Justin Ponzio Principal of Buchser Middle School.
Staff asked the Board to discuss a new job description for the Classified Data, Assessment, and Accountability Manager. Salary range would be $113,000 – $139,000. Fairchild was concerned about adding yet another administrator and the other Board Members weren’t too convinced either. Stam said they will come back with a presentation that will include their rationale and as well bigger picture of a “minor restructuring” they are planning.
They tabled a discussion about the return to in-person Board meetings till their retreat in May.
During her presentation, Dr. Kemp also announced that the Universal Free School Meals program extended has been extended until June 2022.
The Board will meet for a special meeting on Thursday, April 29 at 5:30 p.m. regarding Fall 2021 and their next regularly scheduled meeting is on Thursday, May 13, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.