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Planning for Kathleen MacDonald High School Picks Up Speed

The first in-person meeting of the Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustees included updates about the district’s newest high school, COVID-19 updates and the future of accessible meetings.

MacDonald High School

The Board welcomed the new Principal of MacDonald High School, Dr. Vivian Rhone-Lay, whose school will open in August 2022 and will start with 9th grade and a new grade will be added each year as the students progress to the next grade level.

The grandfathering recommendation: “All 2022-2023 9th graders living within the MacDonald High School’s boundary will attend MHS unless the grandfathering rule applies, or they are accepted on open enrollment. Parents of rising 9th graders who have another child who will be enrolled at Santa Clara or Wilcox Hight School in 2022-23 may request that their rising 9th grader attend the same school as their sibling instead of MHS.”

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An information letter will be sent out to all the households in the attendance area on Oct. 19, family engagement events are Nov. 2 and 16 with more in 2022. The enrollment window will be from Jan. 10 to Feb. 4, 2022.

At these family engagement events, staff will gather information and options on the grandfathering options and interest. If interest is really high for MacDonald High, they may open with grades 9th and 10th.

At the Board’s Dec. 9 meeting, they hope to bring more information about grandfathering interests and grade level decisions.

Additionally, Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp said they are hiring key positions for the school, including an Athletic Director. School Board Vice President Vickie Fairchild focused heavily on athletics and extracurriculars, saying she was worried about the school’s appeal if it didn’t offer these activities.

COVID-19 Update

The main update was the vaccine mandate for schools. According to Mark Schiel, Chief Business Official, students will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for in-person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span. For grades 7-12 (ages 12+), this could happen as soon as Jan. 1, but more likely July 1, 2022, says Schiel.

They have also tightened up the weekly testing program after some hiccups. Schiel said they are planning on launching a new close contact testing program which will be held daily at the Wilcox High School Performing Arts Center — they may get another location — and will be for students and staff, as well as their family members, who were identified as a close contact. There is no start date yet.

Also, Jennifer Dericco, Director of Communications, said they have streamlined their notification system for contacting close contacts.

Future of Meetings

Currently, Board meetings are live-streamed on YouTube and there is a Zoom webinar. YouTube recordings are deleted after 30 days but can be requested. There are no closed captions (just the auto-generated), no translations, or transcripts.

Dericco asked for Board feedback on what their process should be and many on the Board agreed that 30 days wasn’t enough. Board Member Bonnie Lieberman said she believes in “complete transparency and full public access.”

“It generally takes over a month for an item to go through our process,” said Fairchild. “Suddenly, they can’t go back to that first Board meeting if they want to check it because it’s pulled down.”

After some discussion, the Board decided they will record all regular meetings as well as work-study sessions and special meetings, but not governance retreats. These meetings will be posted on the internet — currently YouTube — and be accessible for 20 years with captions and translations. Archives will be stored in perpetuity.

These changes will cost about $50,000 per year.

The Board also wholeheartedly approved a Technology Department reorganization. After the huge role technology played during the pandemic and will continue to play, the Board quickly approved the changes which include changes to job descriptions, new hires and more.

Refunding Opportunity

Lori Raineri with Government Financial Strategies described a cost-saving refunding opportunity of the 2013 COPs for the Teacher Housing Foundation. She says there’s a potential savings of $1.7 million.

The Board decided to move forward with the opportunity to refund the existing debt due to the current interest rate market which will result in financial savings for the Teacher Housing Foundation.

Other Business

Fairchild pulled two consent items, “Consultant Service Agreement with Prospect Studio SF” and “Consulting Service Agreement with Nicole Anderson and Associates Consulting, LLC.”

The Prospect Studio SF contract failed 3-3, with Board President Jodi Muirhead and Board Members Jim Canova and Albert Gonzalez voting “yes.” Muirhead recommended that it come back with more information since Fairchild said the contract was lacking. The Nichole Anderson contract passed 5-1 with Fairchild voting “no.”

During public comment, community members shared concerns about Cabrillo Middle School facilities, namely the lack of a gym and music space.

Dr. Ryan was absent for most of the meeting.

The next regular Board meeting is on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m.

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