Though they had a light agenda, the Santa Clara Unified Board of Trustees meeting drove into some recent scary events and unfortunate staffing news. The topics of the lockdown at Peterson Middle School, as well as staff reductions, took center stage at the meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8.
According to Superintendent Dr. Gary Waddell, Peterson Middle School went on lockdown “in response to a threat” earlier that day. The school resumed instruction later in the afternoon. Sunnyvale Public Safety quickly arrived on site, and he commended the administration staff and students for their calm response.
“I know it was a scary time for Peterson families and I wanted to assure them that the school and police department responded quickly, professionally, and thoroughly,” said Dr. Waddell.
Amber Wacht, a Peterson teacher, was angry about the lack of communication with teachers. She said they went into shelter-in-place around 11:35 a.m. but weren’t informed that police had arrived until about 45 minutes later, which would have helped with the stress. Staff hadn’t been debriefed either. She also brought the strap-looking tool that they are expected to use to keep intruders out of the classroom.
“We need to do better,” said Wacht. “Our students are worth more than this.”
Board Member Bonnie Lieberman agreed that the strap seemed useless and asked staff to investigate it. Board President Vickie Fairchild also requested an update on the communication concerns as well as a debrief for staff and a District-wide message.
Lieberman was emotional as the Board meeting closed and she reflected on the ordeal that affected her family directly.
“It is a terrifying moment when you get a message from your child saying, ‘We’re on lockdown and I’m scared,’” said Lieberman through tears.
She said she was relieved that “it ended up being nothing” but it was a horrible day. The incident was not on the meeting’s agenda so the Board didn’t take any action and more details weren’t shared at the time of the meeting. *
They have to tighten their belt for the fiscal health of the District, said Dr. Waddell. Santa Clara Unified is making some “difficult management and departmental budget reductions at the District office and [reallocating] some staff into some other positions that will preserve the staff and avoid layoffs at the site level.”
He also spoke highly of the District’s Teachers on Special Assignments (TOSAs) but shared that they are making some “modest reductions” by “reducing between 10-11 [full-time employees from] our TOSA ranks of 74.” However, he said that they are being reassigned, not laid off. Staff have been meeting with managers and those who may be impacted.
“I deeply regret any undo angst these meetings have caused,” said Dr. Waddell. “I know that this is not an easy thing. Each potential lost from a program is hard felt as well as impacting exemplary individuals and programs.”
Margie Wysocki, President of United Teachers of Santa Clara (UTSC), reminded the District that “they are in the business of people.”
“Our teachers should not be coldly shuffled around to fix the proposed budget, with little or no acknowledgment to the actual people doing the work… changes should be made with compassion and understanding that changing assignments for teachers who invested their hearts in the programs is very difficult,” said Wysocki. “To lack the most basic acknowledgment of benefits brought to our system, to be so thoroughly dismissed is unacceptable to the teachers and should be unacceptable to our partners.”
LCAP Mid-Year Update
We are accustomed to seeing an annual update on the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), but now the District is required to also do a mid-year presentation. The LCAP is State-required and asks districts to create a three-year plan that details why programs and services are selected and provided to support positive student outcomes. They also want to improve services for at-risk groups like English learners, foster youth and homeless students. The District is in its final year of the current three-year LCAP.
Brad Stam, Chief Academic and Innovation Officer, and Kathie Kanavel, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, presented this mid-year update on their progress toward their goals. The slides were “frustrating,” according to Fairchild but said she understood that this presentation was a bit unexpected for staff. Kanavel and Stam admitted that the whole State is learning and trying to align their work with what is being asked of them by the State.
Coming up, staff is in early development for the next three-year LCAP which will come before the Board on May 23.
Santa Clara Unified takes time once a quarter to honor Difference Makers in the community. This quarter, in the category of “Administrator,” the honoree was Kathy Alaniz, Director of Special Education. In the category of “Certificated Staff,” the District honored Michelle Odle, School Support TOSA. For “Classified Staff,” the Difference Maker was Iris Salazar, Facility Development and Planning Technician. Larry Thompson was the Community Member honored this quarter. For the “Group/Team/Organization” category, they awarded Paraeducators Cynthia Cardona, America Soria, and Ana Gonzalez Subia. And high school senior Kelsey Villanueva was this year’s Difference Maker in the “Student” category.
During unagendized public comment, many Scott Lane Elementary School parents asked for updates on the Spanish Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program. They shared how much they loved the program and wanted to show support for the program to continue through middle school and high school. The Board asked the Superintendent for an update and Dr. Waddell also asked staff to follow up with the families.
The Superintendent also shouted out the facilities and grounds staff for their quick work helping get schools in good shape after the recent storms.
The Board passed a resolution to affirm March as Arts Education Month. They also passed a preliminary resolution for the “Reduction of Classified Service for Lack of Work and/or Funds.”
* Editor’s Note: These School Board recaps are meant to summarize the topics covered at the meeting, as they unfolded. If Santa Clara Unified shares additional details outside of the meeting, they can usually be found on their website: https://www.santaclarausd.org/community/news