The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Santa Clara Unified Board Concentrates on LGBTQQIA+ Students

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.

LGBTQQIA+ Students

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.

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“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.

Special Education

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.

COVID-19 Update

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.

Budget

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.

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18 Comments
  1. Aida 6 months ago
    Reply

    Thank you to all of the board members for advocating for our students and not allowing things to fall through the cracks. I am less than impressed that six months has passed since students and community members called in advocating for more action from the district and not much has been done.

  2. Lindsey 6 months ago
    Reply

    I see the appointments of Cabrillo, Buchser, and Pomeroy administrators is mentioned, but how about the show of support for Mr. Paul Fuller at Laurelwood? Dr. Kemp shamefully tried to circumvent what the Laurelwood community overwhelmingly asked for– Mr. Fuller to rightfully replace Dr. Lori Rogers after her retirement. And instead of addressing the issue as matter of her having not honor what the community has advocated for, Dr. Kemp, instead, wanted to reiterate how she was seeking legal counsel for a “breach of confidentiality”? She was more concerned with the fact that the community had found out about her duplicitous and self-serving selection and showed up en mass to show our intention to be heard than she was that she had made the wrong choice. It is shameful how Dr. Kemp is trying to dismantle the pride and institutional knowledge within SCUSD, and that she continuously tries to slip things past the community and the Board.

    • KG 6 months ago
      Reply

      I also find it very convenient that Dr. Kemp’s comments regarding this so-called “breach of confidentiality” were lost in the “technical difficulties” the IT department was having with their webinar streaming, so no one at home heard it and it can’t be reviewed on the recording on the district YouTube channel. I sincerely hope the board is paying attention to the patterns that every group speaking out brings up:
      1. District office administration is not listening to the people in the trenches who their decisions most impact. In fact, they don’t even bother to listen to staff, students, or parents!
      2. District office administration is bullying staff into silence and compliance.

  3. ES 6 months ago
    Reply

    Thank you to the board members for helping hold our administration responsible. I am curious if the writer of this article possibly came to the board meeting after the closed session? The article didn’t mention the over 50 parents, teachers, and students that came out to try to expose the wrong doing and deceitful action of the superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp at the meeting. She pulled the Laurelwood Principal appointment from the a agenda and threatened legal action against community members who are trying to make sure she is not allowed to treat us so poorly and not look out for the greater good of the students. Not only was this not recorded due to technical difficulties but it is also not mentioned in the meeting minutes. All very convenient. Luckily there was a room full of people to witness her comments.

  4. AM 6 months ago
    Reply

    I am extremely disappointed with how Dr. Kemp has been handling things. At the last board meeting, many showed up to speak about the Laurelwood Elementary principal situation. I think Dr. Kemp was intimidated by the number of people who had shown up and pulled the item from the agenda. She mentioned “seeking legal counsel,” which to me seemed like an immature move that will waste time and money. It is also frustrating that there were so many technical difficulties, so you can not hear her say these things on the youtube video. I hope Dr. Kemp was listening when the community members shared their thoughts, as their voices need to be heard. Especially that young Laurelwood student who talked about how he adored Paul Fuller.

    I hope it is made clear that Dr. Kemp cannot simply ignore us and do what she wishes. Threatening legal action felt like a low move that felt intended to silence people. I am disheartened to hear about the many people who are now frightened to speak up because of what she has been saying, much of which has no true merit.

  5. NJ 6 months ago
    Reply

    in response to this discussion about appointment of the Principal at Laurelwood – 50 people in support of the status quo is merely 10% of the school – 10% cannot be characterized as the voice of the school.

    • David S 6 months ago
      Reply

      I agree 50 parents does not constitute the voice of Laurelwood – a small number of very loud parents making highly emotional statements – I would rather allow Dr Kemp to decide who she wants to appoint as principal – after all she is responsible for appointments and is accountable – we shouldn’t allow 50 unaccountable parents to hijack a process based upon their feelings and opinions!

      • Laurie Couto 6 months ago
        Reply

        Had it been more transparent rather than a last minute scramble I’m certain there wouldn’t have been enough room for all the attendees in support of what’s best for Laurelwood. Parents, staff and students standing in support of a man who’s earned the principal role, validating Mr Fuller’s value to Laurelwood.
        I’m also certain those in attendance would take umbrage at the label “unaccountable” Frankly, it is exactly the collective opinions of the Laurelwood community that can and should substantiate (or discredit) any potential placement of such an important role because of their first hand experiences.

      • Lindsey 6 months ago
        Reply

        It was 50 people who had less than 24 hours between getting notice of Dr. Kemp’s decision and the Board meeting. Why should the community not get to know the selection ahead of time? Why should the Board be presented with a nomination without hearing from the community which it impacts? I can guarantee there will be a much larger and more vocal group at the next meeting. Further, our accountability is directly tied to the best interest of the students, not to the whims of Dr. Kemp.
        And if you’d like to talk accountability, I’d love to know your feedback on how Dr. Kemp’s selection is more qualified for the position than the man who has been leading the school to the satisfaction of parents, students, and staff alike. Have you noticed how she likes to bring in folks from outside the district? Those whom she can bully and control because they have no actual connection to the community they serve? How about looking at the connection between her selection and her buddy t the Distroct Office, Jose Gonzalez.
        Perhaps after looking into that, you’ll have some accountability of your own.

      • Aida 6 months ago
        Reply

        Yes, there were about parents at the meeting last week. Amongst those are teachers who are now worried about being fired because Dr. Kemp threatened with legal action and investigation. Easy to threaten with legal action when you have tax payers paying for your “legal counsel.” How is threatening and silencing the community ok? SCUSD is in need of a new superintendent!

    • Sue M 6 months ago
      Reply

      If you are worried the majority does not support Mr. Fuller please conduct a survey of all parents and teachers and you will see the majority does support Mr. Fuller if not 100%. Mr. Fuller has been instrumental in making Laurelwood the thriving community school it is now and the community has every right to question why something that’s working well should be broken up.

    • DeeMurphy 5 months ago
      Reply

      My kids have been in the district since 2015. Only in the last 2 years (because of pandemic and virtual board meetings) have I been able to see how the board works. They are inefficient and cater to the parents that complain the loudest. The schools with the most complainers get the most attention. I’m so tired of hearing about Laurelwood… they need a new school, then they need a bigger school, then they bully to get the principal they want. The district needs to focus on equity and equality for all schools and do what’s best for students.

  6. Laurie Couto 6 months ago
    Reply

    Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. It’s too coincidental that there is no reviewable record of the exact piece of the agenda Dr. Kemp attempted to strike from the most recent board meeting. Overwhelming support from the Laurelwood community for Mr. Paul Fuller to replace Dr. Rogers after her retirement showed up in person to ensure their collective voices be heard, in addition to the flood of emails sent to the Board before any final decision is made.
    Who is Dr. Kemp’s appointee, their qualifications and their juxtaposition to Mr. Fullers accomplishments?
    This is not the first time Dr. Kemp has not been transparent. Revisit the discussions to collapse and close 4 classes in Aug 2021. The Board hit the brakes on her intended actions after having been blindsided. In the end there was no closure. The sentiment from most families and teachers were relief, tho many said, “they now distrust the District. They’re worried change wouldn’t have happened without public outcry.” Sited from a previous SVV article. I smell smoke.
    The devious actions of Dr. Kemp should be glaring red flags to Board that employs her, not the other way around. How many times has or will Dr. Kemp attempt to inflict her will over the community and the Board?

  7. Simon S 6 months ago
    Reply

    All we have is innuendo and conspiracy theories being put forward by by a minority of parents. It would be better to publish the gaps and problems that Laurelwood Elementary faces today followed by an action plan to resolve problems; publish a track record of both candidates for principal – explain who is best suited to execute the action plan; Maybe Mr Fuller is the better candidate – or maybe the other candidate is. Enough of these personal attacks.

    • DeeMurphy 5 months ago
      Reply

      Agreed. The candidate may have been a better choice and the school could be missing out on a good thing. We live in a desirable area that typically, in other industries, attracts the best of the best. Hiring is done by committee in the district, not by one person.

  8. Jennifer 6 months ago
    Reply

    What are the problems that Laurelwood faces today and in the future? If we can compile a list, we can send it to Dr Kemp and ask her to explain which candidate is best suited to address each issue

  9. Teacher 6 months ago
    Reply

    Folks, it is your school. If you want the current admin there is no reason DO should be trying to muck up the works. That is their specialty.

    • Parent 5 months ago
      Reply

      I agree with Teacher’s comment! This is our district and we need to do something. Too many murky things have happened this year alone. Wilcox housed a Covid testing center for a for profit company without charging any rent. Thank goodness our elected board members looked into this and soon after the company ceased operations at Wilcox. Issues have been brought up to the district regarding LGBTQ+ community and it has been pushed out to more general committees. Once again, our elected officials are the ones reminding the superintendent of what has not been done. Now this issue with hiring of a new principal for Laurelwood Elementary.
      And you wonder why there is distrust in the district. Poor management from top that is only interested in looking good to those outside looking in.

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