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Santa Clara Unified: Equity Framework Approved, Showcases Teachers’ Passion

The Santa Clara Unified Board of Trustees came back together after spring break to give the new Equity Framework their nod of approval. They also heard from students about the innovative Ambassador Program at Wilcox High School and the results of refinancing some bonds.

 

Equity Framework

After three years of work, the Board has finally approved the Equity Framework. The Equity and Social Justice Committee has been working on this framework and advocating for it since it started in Fall 2021. The Committee’s goal was to help the District “become more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist.”

This framework they brought to the meeting on Thursday, April 25 has three key domains, “Whole Child/Whole Community,” “Teaching and Learning,” and “Structural Change,” each with specific Focus Areas, of which there are 10 total. For example, under “Whole Child/Whole Community” is the Student Voice focus area where they are committing to “center and amplify all student voices, with a focus on those historically marginalized, to inform decision-making and planning, from the classroom to the board room.” In this focus area, they already have the Advancing Latino Achievement and Success (ALAS) student focus groups and Equitable Practices and Inclusive Curriculum (EPIC) Toolkit.

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They reminded the Board that this is a living and breathing document that, for years to come, will “enable the SCUSD community to navigate equity challenges and develop individual and systemic capacity to engage in purposeful learning and action that measurably advances equity through practice, programs and policies,” says the item’s agenda. “It also aims to provide tools, lenses and processes to promote system changes that support all children and families to experience belonging, empowerment, and success, especially those who have been or continue to be marginalized.”

Staff have been coming to meetings for months to show their support for this framework and they came again to this meeting to share their joy at the Board’s support. However, one parent has also been coming to meetings to oppose the framework.

“Tonight, we just want to take a moment to address what may be a misunderstanding or a misconception that equity involves lowering standards for some students or that it’s taking away resources from one group and giving it to another and this is absolutely not the case,” said Aimee Heeren, District Lead Counselor. “Rather it involves increasing supports so that all students, regardless of their background or prior preparation can achieve similarly high standards of learning and live healthy and successful lives.”

Coming up, now that they have Board approval, they will share the equity framework with District staff and the community, support equity efforts, and conduct a staff survey. They will also start plans to support the “building of equity awareness and alignment of equity actions across the district.”

 

Wilcox Ambassador Program

The Board was very excited to hear about the Wilcox Ambassador Program that was started this year. This came about out of a need to help new Englisher Learner students who are struggling not just with the English language but with the culture and classwork too. Wilcox High School teachers Yana Costa and Mindy Trisko and the student ambassadors, who are all bilingual in different languages, spoke passionately about the program and how it helps new students.

“Almost every month, newcomer students enroll in our school,” says the program’s mission statement. “It is quite common for these students to feel lost and intimidated. They often don’t understand the classwork or homework, and some struggle making friends. All of this can break down confidence, which in turn affects their ability to succeed in the United States. The mission of the Ambassador Program is to alleviate their fears and help these students be empowered to succeed in our school district. Every student deserves a chance to be happy and successful, and we strive to give that opportunity to each and every newcomer.”

There are three branches to the program: campus tours, academic peer tutoring, and before and after school tutoring. They have 35 trained tour guides who speak Mandarin, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese and Punjabi. The tutors help with schoolwork in the language the students are most comfortable in.

“They help very well, give very good and clear explanations and are very kind. Thank you,” said Francisca Rosmery Molina Chicoj from Guatemala about the tutoring.

Secretary Maggie said they have made an ambassador program training manual to help other schools implement the program.

“This needs to be duplicated,” said Board Clerk Jim Canova, who called the program “beautiful.”

 

Saving Money on Bonds

Back in January, the District decided to refinance Measure H and Measure J, both from 2015, and now they have the results of that sale. Lori Raineri, Chief Executive Officer of Government Financial Services Joint Powers Authority (GFSJPA), said the sale went even better than expected and they are saving taxpayers $27 million.

The bidding on March 27 got 10 bids. Measure J came back with a savings of $7.4 million since the interest rate went from 3.96% to 2.26%. Measure H now has a savings of $19.6 million with a new interest rate of 2.54% compared to the old one of 3.94%.

 

Community Concerns

The Osborne Nature Center at Peterson Middle School sounds like it needs more TLC. Bryan Osborne, the area’s namesake and retired Peterson teacher, is concerned about the declining state of the nature area. Robert Ross agreed that the nature area needs help and even a nonprofit to take care of it. The men spoke during unagendized public comment, so the Board couldn’t respond or take action, but Canova did ask the Superintendent to follow up with them.

Teachers from across the District also come to unagendized public comment to talk about TOSA reassignments that have been a frustration for them. They also asked that the District work with the unions on the TOSA job description because it needs clarifying.

Upset Laurelwood Elementary School parents shared concerns about the school’s Multi-cultural Festival that took place on April 23. They claimed that the Palestinian booth was spreading “political propaganda” and “misinformation” about Israel. It sounds like the booth had an older map of Palestine from about 80 years ago instead of showing present-day Israel. They also claim that they were using the phrase “From the River to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the saying as antisemitic. Again, since this was during unagendized public comment, the Board couldn’t respond or take action. However, Board Vice President Bonnie Lieberman, whose Trustee Area includes Laurelwood, asked for more information about how the Multi-cultural Festival was organized and posed the question of whether they should start becoming more involved due to recent issues.*

 

Other Business

For resolutions, they affirmed May 6 as National Nurses Day, May 7 as Fentanyl Awareness Day, May 8 as Day of the Teacher, May 19 – 25 as Classified School Employee Week, and May 3 as School Lunch Hero Day.

They also approved an updated job description for TK Paraeducator.

The Santa Clara Unified Board has a Governance Retreat on Tuesday, April 30 and their next regular meeting is on Thursday, May 9. Meetings are live-streamed on the District’s YouTube page, and agendas are posted on their website.

 

*Editor’s Note: This article seeks to summarize what happened at the School Board meeting but is not exhaustive. This article is not intended to properly cover the war, the decades-long history between Israel and Palestine, or the genocide in Gaza with the care and attention it deserves.

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5 Comments
  1. Ravilla D. 1 month ago
    Reply

    The map was not ‘a map from 80 years ago’ it’s a made up fraudulent map presented to elementary school kids as fact. What you fail to mention is the speakers at the meeting detailing that the booth did not stop at that – they made kids say that Israeli cities are in Palestine to get a ‘free Palestine’ stamp to compete the event challenge and proudly posted political propaganda on the booth, traumatizing children in the process. The multicultural event at laurelwood was always a fun filled celebration of cultures. This year it was hijacked by political propaganda that has no place in schools. I’m appalled that a professional journalist such as yourself so blatantly presents a one sided narrative to readers and continuously dismisses the current antisemitic climate in the district in your reports on board meetings. I truly hope that as a responsible journalist this will stop.

  2. Sara 4 weeks ago
    Reply

    What an awful thing to call an effort made by Palestinian families to share their history, culture and heritage as “political propaganda”. Please educate yourself and look up the historical map of Palestine prior to 1948. Encyclopedia Brittanica is a great place to start. I am so happy that Laurelwood does not censor and discriminate people of color trying to speak up and created an inclusive environment at the multicultural faire this year.

  3. Rob 4 weeks ago
    Reply

    It seems SCUSD is continuing to allow its rising antisemitism problem to thrive. Now they are allowing elementary school children to erase the very existence of Israel, spread pro-Hamas propaganda, and call for the annihilation of Jews in their own homeland. Any administrator who allowed this to happen should be placed on leave. Of course we all know that won’t happen, because the school board is too preoccupied playing checkers with their TOSAs. Shame.

  4. Lili 4 weeks ago
    Reply

    Before 1948, there was the British Mandate of Palestine. Do you suggest presenting a historic colonial map of the British Empire at a cultural festival in 2024?
    The map was titled “World map of Palestine”. Do Palestinians live in the British Empire, and are we still in 1940? How about sharing a link to this Britannica map that was presented?

  5. Owen 4 weeks ago
    Reply

    This article illustrates yet another example of misinformation and propaganda in the SCUSD district. The Editor’s note at the end, links to a misinformation article in Wilcox HS newspaper. The article, claiming “The ICJ rules genocide,” is published in the News section of the Wilcox HS newspaper.
    In reality, Joan Donoghue, who was the President of the ICJ that made the ruling, explained that “the ICJ did not decide – and this is something where I’m correcting what’s said in the media – it did not decide that the claim of genocide was plausible.”
    https://x.com/mrconfino/status/1783730016687112468?s=46&t=mgOlTy2yfxYyOtmHkfa–w

    Unfortunately, the SCUSD high school newspapers are used to spread similar misinformation on a regular basis.

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