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Santa Clara Education Desk: Dec. 25, 2013

Open Enrollment Policy Continues to Confound

The Open Enrollment discussion continued at the Dec. 12 Santa Clara Unified board meeting where it left off over a month previous, with the board sending a proposed revision of the open enrollment-intradistrict transfer policy (5116.1) back to committee for further work.

Disagreement – and an almost infinite regression of increasingly improbable “what-ifs” – continued about whether students who move within the district during the school year should continue automatically at their former school or have to apply via open enrollment. But the real “briar patch” question continues to the one about sibling legacy – whether incoming kindergarteners who have older brothers and sisters at a school get admission priority.

Specifically, if a student is in the fifth grade – in other words, will not be at the school the following year – should younger brothers and sisters entering kindergarten get open enrollment preferences? Everyone could agree that having two children at two different elementary schools (the problem doesn’t seem to be an issue in middle schools) is inconvenient for parents trying to get several children to different schools every morning.

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But the discussion increasingly is a proxy argument over who gets preference to attend the district’s two alternative schools, Washington Open and Milikin Basics. Because they aren’t “neighborhood” schools, all enrollments are by application only. Critics contend that by the time sibling preferences are considered, there are virtually no openings for any family who isn’t there already.

The argument was made that once families get involved with one of these alternative schools, they feel, based on the considerable contributions they make (at Washington Open parents must assist in the classroom several hours every week), that all their children should be able to be part of that community.

That approach amounted to creating “ancestral rights” to attend a school, Trustee Ina Bendis said, similar to the policies of elite private schools; and, as such, something that was inappropriate in a public school system.

The bottom line of all this jousting about open enrollment preferences amounted to “a zero sum game,” said resident Peta Roberts. “You’re not opening up more opportunities for more students. Isn’t it better to focus on opening more schools than limiting opportunities?”

“What seems to drive this is the Milikin issue [400+ waiting list],” said Trustee Andy Ratermann. “I’m at the point: let’s just create another back-to-basics school and stop all this divisive stuff. What makes some of our schools so powerful is the sense of community.”

You can find the proposed policy changes at: www.santaclarausd.org/files/filesystem/Policy%20Committee%20Packet%2012-10-13.pdf, and scrolling down to page 2. Because SCUSD posts most agenda documents as PDF image files – rather than text – agenda reports and attachments aren’t digitally searchable.

Employee Contract Negotiations Discussions Continue

The California School Employees Association (CSEA), local 350 has given the SCUSD its initial contract proposal. The CSEA – which represents non-credentialed (teaching) employees – is asking for:

  • A “Fair and equitable” salary increase salary retroactive to July 1, 2012
  • Increase in the number of steps on the salary schedule, as well as the longevity rate
  • Increase in the professional growth stipend
  • Improvements in employee benefits plans as well as increase in district contributions to those plans
  • Modifications to safety rules, as well as documenting the role and duties of the Safety Committee
  • Distributing overtime based on seniority and rotating it equally
  • Clarification of the District’s discretion in combining jobs.
  • Simplifying the Leave of Absence process
  • Establishing a clear process for internal job postings, and establishing qualifications to fill vacancies – especially with regard to laid-off or former employees.

Alternative Placement Center to Re-Open, Possibly at Wilson HS

The district is working on a plan to re-open an Alternative Placement Center (APC). The APC provides a place where suspended and expelled students can continue their education, in an environment designed to provide special services.

A likely location is Wilson High School campus, SCUSD Student Services Coordinator Rob Griffin told the board at the Dec. 12 meeting. Home to Santa Clara Unified’s independent study alternative high school program, the site already has the staff and curriculum in place.

The APC would use a classroom that’s currently occupied by the bond administration committee. The program could start as early as April 2014. However, Griffin proposed the start of the 2014-2015 school year so that the district could be certain that a “structure for success” was solidly in place. Griffin is preparing a budget for board review at an early 2014 meeting.

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