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Santa Clara Education Desk: August 21, 2013

Personnel Change or Regime Change?

As students settle into a new school year at Santa Clara Unified, the staff changes that started last June will make it seem like a whole new district.

Indeed, some are saying that the staff changes aren’t coincidental with a new board majority – President Christine Koltermann, and Trustees Ina Bendis, Michele Ryan, and Christopher Stampolis – being seated last November, but are a deliberate policy of wholesale change that the new board is pursuing. These critics point to badgering by Stampolis and Bendis of former Superintendent Bobbie Plough and Assistant Superintendent Mary Kay Going over the last two years to support their contention.

Here are the numbers: 10 new district administrators, and 11 new principals and vice principals. In addition, yet to be filled are two additional district staff positions and three principal/vice principal positions. Some of these will be filled at the upcoming board meeting on Aug. 22.

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The High Cost of Turnover

Koltermann has been saying publicly and in un-official emails to some neighborhood groups, that the district’s recent turnover is nothing out of the ordinary. However, its potential impact on a school district that has been pressed for money over the last decade, and in which about half the student population is considered socio-economically disadvantaged, could be significant according to several studies.

In 2003, the U.S. Dept of Labor pegged the cost of replacing a teacher at 30 percent of the teacher’s salary. In a 2010 report, James Harrington and Jason Grissom of the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs in Missouri, estimated that teacher turnover costs U.S. public schools about $5 billion annually. In Chicago, that cost was estimated at $17,872 per teacher. The Alliance for Excellent Education reported in 2005 that turnover cost California schools $456 million annually, and that high turnover wreaks even more damage on at-risk schools.

The math is simple: As hiring costs add up, money is subtracted from classrooms. The National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future offers an online turnover cost calculator at nctaf.org/teacher-turnover-cost-calculator. By the NCTAF’s reckoning, SCUSD’s administrator turnover will ultimately cost $1.25 million.

Uniforms and RDA Litigation on Aug. 22 Agenda

Thursday’s SCUSD board meeting promises to be a long one, as board members review hundreds of pages of district policies. Among those to be discussed are new policies to impose school uniforms and to combat cyber-bullying.

The board will also meet in closed session to get legal advice on the SCUSD’s lawsuit against the City of Santa Clara over disputed assets of the city’s now-shuttered Redevelopment Agency (RDA). This lawsuit – brought by the school district, the County Office of Education, the Community College District, and the Santa Clara County finance department – is the reason for the injunction that halted construction on the nearly completed Northside public library.

Koltermann has spoken several times at meetings of the RDA dissolution oversight board in support of the county’s attempts to “clawback” over $300 million in city-owned real estate – including the land under Great America, Techmart, and the Santa Clara Convention Center – that was managed by the former RDA.

The Board will also continue last month’s discussion about Board members attending December’s California School Board Association (CSBA) conference. This is in addition to covering the costs for the district’s representative to the CSBA, Trustee Albert Gonzalez, to attend. In July, Bendis lobbied for covering the expense for other board members to attend as well. Other trustees were of the opinion that trustee stipends provided money for exactly that kind of discretionary expenditure.

The Aug. 22 SCUSD board meeting will be held in the Wilcox High School theater. The meeting will be called to order at 5:00 pm for the closed session. The public meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. For more information visit www.santaclarausd.org and select “Board of Education” and “Agendas” from the left side menu.

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