Before the Santa Clara Unified School District community takes a breather for Spring Break, the Board of Trustees talked about LGBTQQIA+ students’ safety and plans for the Special Education Department.
In October 2021, the Board asked Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp to form a committee to review board policies related to transgender students. Dr. Kemp formed the Superintendent’s School Climate and Culture Committee (SSCCC). Now, they will form a subcommittee to review LGBTQQIA+ advocacy and services.
The Board was concerned. This wasn’t their intention back in October. They wanted to give attention and focus to transgender students. Board Member Andy Ratermann said SSCCC was too broad and didn’t address the board’s desires. Vice President Vickie Fairchild said the committee didn’t have enough representation and didn’t like that it was buried in a subcommittee. She said recruitment efforts should have reached out to schools’ LGBTQQIA+ communities.
“If we want to help our students, we reach out to our students. We do not hide it. We do not hide that we care about these students,” said Fairchild. “These kids are suffering…and they don’t feel safe.”
Community members called in to voice similar concerns. Students and advisors in Genders & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) clubs say they weren’t asked to be involved. In addition to secondary schools, callers said elementary schools should also be involved.
Dr. Kemp said she took the Board’s intentions and formed a broader committee to look at District policies and do more, but with the feedback, she said they will keep learning how best to serve the LGBTQQIA+ community. They will refine the marketing of the committees to make it clearer what the intention is.
Kathy Alaniz, Director of Special Education, presented the three-year Special Education Department and Programs Improvement Plan. The plan has four focus areas of improvement: Inclusive Environments and Practices; Communication, Consistency and Responsiveness; Staffing; and Professional Learning.
Fairchild said Board Members have met with about 30 special educators regarding their concerns. The Board said they get lots of emails and calls too.
Public comment was filled with resource teachers and specialists. They said they don’t feel heard and aren’t included in the planning process. Many like the idea of inclusion but are concerned that without the proper support and communication, the plan won’t work.
Board Member Bonnie Lieberman is concerned that “the people in the trenches” don’t think the plan isn’t going to work and aren’t being heard.
Alaniz clarified that this is a high-level plan and they had 100 individuals’ input in creating the initial plan. Through more planning, they narrowed their focus to the four focus areas, but there is still a lot of planning to be done.
“There’s a lot in there but it was never intended to say, ‘this is Kathy’s plan, this is Kathy’s decision.’ This is not how I operate,” said Alaniz.
Full-Day Preschool & Transitional Kindergarten Grant
Mark Schiel, Chief Business Official, heard worries from teachers about this agenda item since it looks like they’re going to expand to full-day preschool, but that is not the case.
The District wants to apply to The California Preschool, Transitional Kindergarten and Full-Day Kindergarten Facilities Grant Program. To apply, they need to pass a resolution stating their intent to offer these programs.
Once they apply and find out their status, they can move forward and make plans for the transition, but the full-day program is not happening until its worked into the budget and approved by the Board.
Community members and teachers were relieved to hear that the program isn’t set in stone but had concerns about starting a full-day program in general.
At a previous meeting, the Board asked for clarification on volunteers and vaccination status. Jennifer Dericco, Director of Communications, found definitions that cleared this up a bit.
According to what they found, volunteers can help at District sites no matter their vaccination status. If they are fully vaccinated (completed their initial series) they do not have to do weekly testing, but if they are not fully vaccinated (less than 2 doses, except J&J) they do need weekly testing but can still volunteer.
Schiel said they will update the community and reach out to those who had questions.
At the request of the Board, Schiel presented budget reduction ideas they are considering, though they are still in the budget development process. The Board was looking for $500,000 in reductions after adding that amount to the budget. They are considering reducing some management staff positions and temporary personnel, acquiring $879,500 in annual savings.
Ratermann admitted this was a “knee-jerk” reaction to budget concerns, but the presentation didn’t say the effects of these reductions.
Measure BB Update
Lori Raineri with Government Financial Strategies, Inc. said interest rates, though going up, are still within their assumptions.
They have revised the timeline for issuing Measure BB funds which trigger Board action. At the April 28 Board meeting, they will consider adopting a resolution authorizing the County to levy 2022-23 property taxes based on an estimated debt service schedule. Then at the Sept. 22 meeting, they will consider the adoption of a resolution authorizing the issuance of bonds. In October, the sale of bonds and at the Oct. 27 Board meeting they will present the results of the bond sale and then closing in November.
New & Old Faces
The Board approved the appointment of Iqbal Chadda as the Vice Principal of Cabrillo Middle School. Danielle Ash will continue as Interim Vice Principal at Buchser Middle School. Former Assistant Superintendent Kevin Keegan has been the Interim Principal at Pomeroy Elementary School and now was appointed as Principal. And lastly, Heidi Pilawski was appointed as Principal at Washington Open Elementary School.
Board Member Jim Canova was absent and Board President Jodi Muirhead joined the meeting remotely. Board Member Dr. Michele Ryan left partway through the meeting.
The Board meets next on Thursday, April 28 at 6:30 p.m.