The Santa Clara Unified School District is starting to settle into their new normal. At the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, April 23, they demonstrated that they will continue to move forward in the ways they can.
The Board unanimously adopted a resolution that designated the District’s public works projects as essential governmental functions, allowing construction projects to resume.
The essential projects include the three schools at the old Agnews site, the fields improvements at Santa Clara and Wilcox high schools and the portable classroom building at Washington Open Elementary School. District staff anticipates starting construction activity on Monday, May 4.
Board Vice President Jodi Muirhead said she was concerned about the health and safety of the construction workers. Chief Business Official Eric Dill assured the Board that they will follow social distancing guidelines and other safety measures.
Even with the delay, the three schools at the old Agnews site are still projected to finish on time, according to Dill.
Two Side Letters of Agreement were approved by the Board. One was between the District and CSEA Chapter 350 — making the CSEA President a full time employee for the 2020-21 school year — and the other was with United Teachers of Santa Clara — extending a 2016-17 agreement for the UTSC President’s full release for the 2020-21 school year. Each item passed 6-1 with Board Clerk Mark Richardson voting “no” on both.
For the 2020-21 school year, the CSEA agreement is for $87,603 from the general fund and the UTSC agreement is for $168,867.
While explaining his vote, Richardson cautioned about the economic hardships coming the District’s way. He emphasized that the items are to cover 100 percent of all compensation for the union presidents — he said he sees the value in the agreement but would prefer to share those costs.
“It’s not about value, it’s about cost,” said Richardson. “We’ve entered tough economic times already and we can aim for a soft landing or a hard landing. The moment to start is now if we want to aim for a soft landing, not when we’re in the midst of the hardship.”
Richardson continued to say that the District needs to adopt better spending practices.
Board Members Jim Canova and Andy Ratermann also aired concerns about the District’s economic future but supported the motions. Ratermann called the full release agreements “a smart move.”
Director of Special Education Katharine Alaniz detailed the efforts they have rolled out to support Special Education services during distance learning. Phases 1 and 2 included elementary and secondary teachers moving into virtual instruction. They also began push-in related services and will continue to do so. Moving into Phase 3, which is April 27 – June 3, staff will start to provide direct services and hold office hours.
Alaniz also gave an IEP Process Report which was requested by parents and the Board.
Updates From Staff
Assistant Superintendent Kathie Kanavel said that an April 10 survey on distance learning got 359 responses. The responses echoed the same themes the Board has heard during unagendized public comment.
Though Kanavel addressed the many successes teachers have reported, including connecting with students and families, the reported challenges are helping the staff fine tune their support. Teachers aired grievances regarding work-life balance, equity, emotional well-being, and student engagement. There will be another survey in mid-May.
It seems that summer school will probably be via distance learning. Kanavel assured that they will still have a variety of programs.
Distance learning grading guidelines for secondary students went live on Monday and a survey about grading received almost 250 teacher responses. Kanavel reported that they are still working on elementary report card guidelines.
The Board meets next on Thursday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m.