Winter is coming and so is the holiday break for Santa Clara Unified. The Board of Trustees gathered for the last time this year to wrap up unfinished business, like facility fees, and learn about changes, like the new offerings at Don Callejon K-8 School.
As promised, Michal Healy, Director of Facility Development and Planning, returned to the Dec. 14 Board meeting to finalize the new facility fees, but it didn’t go as planned. Healy had already met with Group 1.5 and talked about the facility fee changes at prior meetings but that didn’t stop community members, mainly from youth sports organizations, from dominating public comment and claiming they had no idea about the changes. Of all the “User Groups”, Groups 1 and Group 1.5 used to get free rentals, but Group 1.5 is being asked to pay 10% of the cost to run and maintain these spaces. The new fees would have gradually rolled into place over two years. Most youth sports groups are included in the 11 organizations in Group 1.5.
“The more it’s used the sooner you have to replace it, the more maintenance it is, and that’s really what it comes down to,” explained Healy, and Bond Projects Director Larry Adams agreed.
Public comment time went smoothly but after it closed, people in the room were interrupting the meeting. Board President Vickie Fairchild had to give an official warning that they would remove people if the behavior continued. However, their cries were heard, and they got a second chance.
The Board passed a motion to pass the fee schedules for all other groups and revisit Group 1.5 after Healy has a chance to meet with them. However, Fairchild and Board Vice President Bonnie Lieberman warned that they would not support a plan where they get free access.
Don Callejon Arts and Design School
Don Callejon K-8 School is rebranding. The school has seen huge declines in enrollment due to boundary changes and the new schools. Don Callejon was always supposed to be small, but not this small. Additionally, its STEAM focus overlaps with not only schools in the District but many private schools in the area. Principal Anthony Alberts wants to set Don Callejon apart and draw families to the school.
Alberts presented the Board with the new Don Callejon Arts and Design School. The design aspect is already coming alive in the Design Lab and has a full-time teacher. They already had some arts offerings, but they have refined that to a standards-based art program, and they also hired a full-time music teacher.
Moving forward, Don Callejon is developing its project-based learning, which will include regular student exhibitions and portfolios. To continue their work, Alberts is asking for a full-time visual arts teacher. He also asked for open enrollment allowances so they could market to students across the area. Since Prop 28 passed recently, that will help fund music and arts programs such as this.
Last month, the Westwood Elementary School community asked the Board to look into the lack of shade and the location of the special education preschool playground. These complications have come about due to upcoming construction. Principal Cori Ghaffari penned a letter addressing these concerns, including the purchase of more shade structures and activity alternatives for the preschoolers. According to staff, they are still thinking about a closer outdoor play structure but are already in the process of creating an indoor play space and a gated black-top area with “appropriate preschool equipment” within the current preschool area. There is also the outdoor tricycle track.
Parents who came to the Board meeting were not happy that they weren’t necessarily getting a new playground and said the letter was misleading. Ghaffari has invited Westwood preschool families to a meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 19 to discuss the matter further.
The year may be coming to an end, but we’re just in the middle of Santa Clara Unified’s 2023-2024 budget. Mark A. Schiel, Deputy Superintendent of Operations and Chief Business Official, shared that property tax revenues are outpacing their projections. The District got $8.3 million more than they projected from property taxes.
In the expenditures category, they are spending more than projected but most of it is one-time expenses using one-time funds that won’t repeat. Another bigger-than-expected expense includes salaries and benefits for personnel hired after the adopted budget. That explains this year’s spending, but the District has been and is projected to keep on deficit spending.
Leadership is staying the same. Vickie Fairchild will continue into her second year as Board President, Bonnie Lieberman will stay as Vice President, and Jim Canova will remain as Board Clerk. Additionally, they voted to increase Board Member compensation by 5% which results in a new monthly compensation of $510.51.