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Santa Clara Unified: Math Test Scores, Facility Maintenance

Santa Clara Unified is concerned about students’ math scores and has devoted attention to helping students right now. Also, they investigated the costs of maintaining their campuses and sites.


Mathematics Concerns

The District’s CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress) test scores have taken a dip in mathematics. At the Thursday, Sept. 28 Board of Trustees meeting, staff said they had a sense of urgency to look into strategies to help their students in math now and in the future. They are especially concerned about their Hispanic/Latino/a/x students. There is a worrying gap between Latino students’ scores and the District’s scores overall.

“A little more than one out of four of our Latino students in Grades 3-5 in our District is meeting or exceeding grade-level standards on the CAASPP now,” said Brad Stam, Chief Academic and Innovation Officer.


Hispanic/Latino/a/x students make up 40% of the student body but are struggling the most. Using preliminary data for the 2022-2023 school year, overall, 48% of Santa Clara Unified students are meeting or exceeding math standards, but only 20% of Hispanic/Latino/a/x students can say the same. Santa Clara Unified’s Hispanic/Latino/a/x students are also lagging a bit behind the county. Staff admitted to setting ambitious goals for the next three years. They want to take that 48% for the whole student population and bring that to 65%. Also, they want to lift Hispanic/Latino/a/x students from 20% to 50%.

Stam had an in-depth presentation with an array of strategies to help all students who are struggling with math. Common assessments were a big aspect that used to be widely used but have been notably missing. Staff want to design new common assessments and are gathering a committee to start that work called the Data and Assessment Committee.

“The truth is, we have let our district support system for math atrophy and, in some areas, completely fall apart,” said Stam. “We need a robust and systemic approach to substantially improve student achievement in mathematics, especially for historically underserved students.”

Board Member Jim Canova said some students have “math-phobia,” like he did, which can make learning the subject even harder. Staff shared that they are trying new methods to help students learn from mistakes and failures.

Student Board Member Luis Valdes shared that incentives have worked for him and other students in the past. He also talked about how the District can work harder to humanize math since it tends to dehumanize students.

“Sometimes math is a subject that can degrade students through induced anxiety and depression and different forms of stresses,” said Valdes. “Teachers should have the space and opportunity to speak to the human aspect of which students don’t receive enough of clearly indicated by the numbers.”

Another key part of the District’s math journey is the new Math Pathways that were presented in August. The pathways allow students to reach higher levels of math without skipping classes.


Facility Maintenance 

For 21 months, staff have been looking at District facilities and determining the condition of everything. They wanted to know what the costs are to maintain and upgrade it all over the next 20 years, but also what needs attention now.

Over the next two years, they predict there will be about $30.4 million in facilities expenditures. Over the next 20 years, assuming an 8% annual inflation rate, there will be $1.2 billion in total facilities expenditures. Things like roofing, plumbing, HVAC, outdoor athletics fields and more contribute to this number. They, however, don’t include everything like replacing portables with permanent construction or soft costs (i.e. design fees). Some big-ticket items have steadily been checked off in the past few years so future expenses aren’t looking as high as they could be. As always, Michal Healy, Director of Facility Development and Planning, is looking for short-term and long-term funding to help cover the costs.

Deputy Superintendent of Operations and Chief Business Official Mark A. Schiel says they are looking into a matrix that will help them prioritize projects. They are also considering more preventative maintenance tactics with the help of maintenance staff.

Looking forward, they want to do follow-up studies since this one wasn’t comprehensive of everything that needs to be done. For example, Board President Vickie Fairchild is concerned with accessibility. Also, they will do a facilities review and also look into facility rental fees.


Other Business

The Board affirmed Oct. 8-14 as Week of the School Administrator and Oct. 23-31 as Red Ribbon Week. They also affirmed the month of October as National Bullying Prevention Month and LGBTQ+ History Month.

During unagendized public comment, Vicki Pardini, an ELA TOSA and Instructional Coach and Don Callejon K-8 School, spoke about witnessing Board President Fairchild harass District employees. She said many staff members have shared their experiences with Fairchild’s unprofessional behavior and unreasonable demands. Though Pardini didn’t speak about a specific agenda item, her comments seemed related to test scores. She said there was nothing that the District could put in place fast enough that would have a dramatic impact on scores this year.

“Vickie, I’m truly grateful you deeply care about our students who are struggling and that you want them to be successful and you’re bringing urgency to a very important problem,” said Pardini. “I am concerned that Vickie’s behavior is instigating undue stress and panic that is leading to rash decisions instead of following appropriate processes with well-developed plans… Vickie’s behavior is pushing for problems to be solved immediately which prevents equity of voice and causes top-down decisions that go against our labor-management partnership.”

“I urge the Board President to step back and take a different approach,” Pardini concluded asking the Board Members to hold each other accountable for their actions. Because these statements were made during unagendized public comment, the Board could not respond.

The Santa Clara Unified Board meets next on Thursday, Oct. 12. Meetings are live-streamed on the District’s YouTube page and agendas are posted on their website.


  1. SCUSD Parent 9 months ago

    I am glad someone is pushing for changes!
    Our scores have been low for too long. Thank you, President Fairchild, for caring enough to ask for improvement. Our kids deserve better.

  2. Mike Garcia 9 months ago

    Mr. Stam said himself “The truth is, we have let our district support system for math atrophy and, in some areas, completely fall apart,” said Stam. “We need a robust and systemic approach to substantially improve student achievement in mathematics, especially for historically underserved students.”

    Clearly someone needs to break through the inertia that has plagued this district for far too long. Low test scores are not a new development. I would be more concerned if the board showed no emotion about the lack of action than I am about Trustee Fairchild demanding something be done. The community demands something be done. At some point the district will want another bond. You can’t ask and expect more money with performance like this.

  3. J. D. 9 months ago

    Fairchild knows the flaws in the system and uses her voice to address those flaws. That is why some people love her and others don’t . It is not “unreasonable” to ask for accountability.

  4. JC 9 months ago

    I worked for years with both, you will not find a finer person to work with students then Ms Pardini who has more integrity and kindness then most. Ms Fairchild always always was abrasive and upset many staff when she worked in a school briefly. Teachers are doing the work not the board and not admin, teachers. No one on the school board is changing lives – teachers are.

    • Retired Teacher 9 months ago

      I like Ms. Pardini. I also really like Ms. Fairchild. Your characterization does not match my many years working with Ms. Fairchild in special education. It’s unfortunate that a public forum was chosen to air a grievance that probably just needed a conversation. This was divisive and mean. I was very disappointed.

      • Jc 9 months ago

        Ok my apologies, others feel different that is the only reason a teacher comes to the school board in a public forum

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