A review of open enrollment numbers presented to the Santa Clara Unified School District Board painted a dismal picture of a District struggling to accommodate its families with school-age children.
Among elementary schools, Don Callejon, Laurelwood and Central Park seemed the most affected. Don Callejon accepted no new students, whereas Laurelwood accepted one out of 21 first-choice applicants, and Central Park accepted 2 out of 149 first-choice applicants.
“Laurelwood is two under grade span capacity. On any given day, they can be in an overload situation,” said presenter Rob Griffin, SCUSD’s coordinator of attendance and discipline.
Central Park has become a very popular choice for families in the District, Griffin said. Initially, no students were accepted.
Milliken Elementary accepted 106 students out of 756 first-choice applicants, whereas Ponderosa accepted eight students out of 30 first-choice applicants. Sutter elementary accepted no new applicants of the 35 first-choice applications. Washington Open accepted 69 newcomers out of 159 first-choice applicants.
Among district middle schools, all were affected in one way or another. Buchser Middle School accepted all 30 of its first-choice applicants. However, special education numbers at Buchser are very high.
“They are expecting as many as 75 special education students into 6th grade. Already, they have 55 special education students in 7th grade and 57 special education students in 8th grade,” Griffin said.
Cabrillo Middle School accepted 25 of its 45 first-choice applicants. In the past, the school was able to accommodate all of its first-choice students. “That’s not the case anymore,” Griffin said.
Peterson Middle School’s numbers are even lower. Of 263 first-time applicants, 25 were accepted.
“This has to do with the fact that the neighborhood population has expanded in Peterson’s attendance area,” he said.
Wilcox High School has currently accepted 101 of 131 first-choice applicants. Santa Clara High School has not accepted any new students.
In the elementary school system, priority enrollment goes to siblings of students attending the school during open enrollment and the children of employees. This year, space was unavailable for even the priority groups at Don Callejon and Central Park schools.
Late enrollment is still in progress and 140 applications have come in so far, so those numbers can change slightly.
Board President Noelani Pearl Hunt came under fire from her fellow Board Members for stating her title during robocalls opposing Measure A, which would change the way Santa Clara elects its City Council.
In the public hearing portion of the meeting, Steve Chessin, President of Californians for Electoral Reform, called for a response from the School Board.
“Our campaign has been contacted asking if the School Board is opposed to Measure A. Since I don’t think the Board has taken a position on Measure A, I don’t think it was appropriate for the Board President to identify as such on that call without explaining that it was only her personal opinion,” he said.
The Board does not take action on unagendized items, but during staff reports, Hunt took the opportunity to clarify her position.
“I apologize that there seems to be some confusion over my right to participate in the political process but the title was clearly for identification purposes, especially as I clarified and said, ‘I am Noelani Pearl Hunt. I am calling to … and please join me and Senator Beall.’ At no time did I say ‘I am calling on behalf of Santa Clara Unified School District,’ ‘we are going to,’ or ‘please join Santa Clara Unified School District.’ I want to reiterate that the title was for identification purposes only,” Hunt said.
Board Members were not satisfied and brought the issue up again during an action item to approve the district’s new governance handbook.
“There is nothing in this governance handbook about the Board President misrepresenting themselves as representing the Board as a whole on items that are their own personal decisions. I think we need to make it more clear in this governance handbook that this will be an inappropriate thing to do. They need to be very clear that they speak for themselves when they go out to the public to talk about things that are not part of the Board’s business,” Board Member Jodi Muirhead said.
Board Member Andrew Ratermann concurred.
“I do believe when you are the President of the spokesperson for the group, if you just go up there and state ‘I am Noelani, I am the President of your Board of Education. I want to urge you not to vote,’ people get the idea that that’s the School District is talking, not you as an individual. I don’t think that’s good.”
Board Member Michelle Ryan added, “This is not the first time that there has been an issue about using titles. I know this was an issue with Measure J. I think the title of Board President should be used when speaking on behalf of the Board. We cannot use School District resources for election purposes.”
One person spoke up for Hunt.
“I think you are all in an uproar over something that just because it is a robocall, you cannot tell somebody to not have free speech or have an opinion about something about a City that they live in,” said Patty Picard, local California School Employees Association President.
To clarify the rules surrounding the use of titles, the board agreed to form a task group and tabled the motion until June.
The Case Against Caserta
Several times during the May 10 meeting, Hunt urged the public to come forward with grievances.
“The safety and welfare of our students and our staff is paramount importance to the school board of the Santa Clara Unified School District. Current or former students or staff members who believe they have been sexually harassed or assaulted should contact Assistant Superintendent Andrew Lucia at 408-423-2008. The district has a policy of administrative regulations for addressing complaints against district employees. This process ensures that the district complies with the rights of the individuals who have made the complaint as well as constitutional and statutory rights of employees,” she read from a statement.
One student came forward to ask for guidance on behalf of other students who may not know who to go to. Another attendee, who is also an employee of the district, also came to speak.
“I know we have administrative regulations but I think we probably need to relook at those regarding any issue of sexual harassment or sexual comments or anything involving students so that those who are making the decision are having to dialogue with someone who is far removed from the decision. It’s really hard to discipline someone from your own site,” Vickie Fairchild said.
The school district released a statement on May 13, highlighting its sexual harassment policies, processes, and procedures.