The Board of Trustee meeting before their Summer Break was full of public comment from the Santa Clara Unified community.
The meeting boasted about 100 public comments, many anonymous. A common theme was that on a number of topics, despite the overwhelming amount of negative public comment and pleas to vote a certain way, the elected Board continuously went the opposite direction.
At the beginning of the June 25 meeting, Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp shared that just last week the District held in-person meetings followed by a large Friday meeting. On Friday, about 40 District leaders convened for an in-person, indoor meeting for 4 hours and later learned that one participant tested positive with COVID-19. Dr. Kemp said that the other participants were quarantined and tested. No other cases have arisen. She said that the in-person meeting was necessary because of the “complexity” of the topics.
The public was outraged calling the in-person meetings “irresponsible” and “reckless.” Community members used the incident to plead the Board to consider a full distance learning option when reopening schools, pointing out that if adults can’t avoid risk, how can young students?
Superintendent Raise & Bonus
The Board approved both a 2 percent pay increase for Dr. Kemp and a one-time $10,000 merit bonus. Her contract is also extended for one year.
The Superintendent’s contract calls for the 2 percent raise in the event of a satisfactory annual performance evaluation. Additionally, the bonus is also based on the Superintendent’s performance evaluation.
Public comment was largely against the raise and the bonus, pointing at the recent glum discussion the Board had about the upcoming budget shortfall. The community aired their confusion on how the Board could agree to spend smartly at one meeting, and then give the Superintendent a raise and bonus at the next meeting. Commenters called it “deplorable,” “unacceptable,” and “ridiculous.”
The Board Members were quick to point out that staff recently received a 3 percent raise while Dr. Kemp is only getting 2 percent.
Board Vice President Jodi Muirhead said she wanted to approve the bonus to “incentivize” Dr. Kemp, and Board Member Andy Ratermann said he wants her to be “motivated.”
Board Member Vickie Fairchild said she respected the opinion of the speakers and wasn’t surprised about the negative reaction.
Both the raise and the bonus passed 6-1 each with Fairchild voting no on both.
Again, many public comments expressed frustration that the District was talking about the District’s Strategic Vision which looks to the year of 2035, instead of focusing on the issue they face in August: reopening schools.
The District began work on developing its new Strategic Vision long before COVID-19. The District has been working on the Vision and engaged with the community in a variety of ways. However, the installation in April meant to gain community feedback didn’t capture their attention.
Public comments echoed what previous feedback said in that the Vision is not inclusive enough of special education students.
Many on the Board defended the “meat” of the Strategic Vision, saying it’s largely what they want to see. Many Board Members emphasized that this is the Strategic Vision, not the Strategic Plan which is much more specific.
Board Member Albert Gonzalez stated that they shouldn’t delay because the underserved students need the improvements and resources that this Vision promises.
Ratermann said he agrees with most of the Vision but still had some concerns.
“I’ve expressed before, and I’m going to continue to express that I have concerns over the complexity of the document,” said Ratermann. “I think it’s going to be costly and difficult to implement. I think it’s going to take a lot of time before it gets out there.”
Ratermann also said that they are just seeing the final document with new changes and wanted the community to get a chance to see it before they approve it. Fairchild was also concerned about the lack of feedback on the final Vision.
“I had asked for this Vision to be delayed at the beginning of the meeting,” said Fairchild, “because I feel like we need to revisit it because we’re definitely in a different situation.”
The Board approved the Strategic Vision with a 5-2 vote. Fairchild and Ratermann voted no.
Special Education Program Specialist
The Board approved hiring Richard Lust as a new Special Education Program Specialist, but only after a debate about Board Policy 4000 and transparency.
Some public comment supported the hiring but many others said it seemed unnecessary.
According to Ratermann, Board policy was changed in an effort to oversee hiring of administrators and has created an embarrassing mess for the Board. Board Member Jim Canova suggested they revisit the Board policy to avoid this type of issue while Board President Dr. Michele Ryan said that the Board should not be involved in operations.
Separately, Fairchild said that she had not seen the justification for hiring a fifth Program Specialist, claiming that the District was not transparent enough with the Board and the community. Dr. Ryan pointed out that the Special Education Director had included the reorganization plan to reinstate a fifth Program Specialist and the justification in a report given to the Board in February. Dr. Kemp also detailed the justification which included the fact that they eliminated two positions to create a cost saving situation.
They approved the hiring with a 6-1 vote with Fairchild voting no.
The Board approved the Updated 2020-2021 School Calendar. According to Kevin Keegan, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, the changes are meant to create more prep time to reopen schools. The changes are:
- Move the start of school for our students from Aug. 13 to Aug. 17.
- Move the teacher workdays from Aug. 11-12 to Aug. 13-14.
- Move the professional development days on Oct. 5 and March 12 to Aug. 11 and Aug. 12 as site professional development, collaboration and instructional planning days.
- Change the professional development days on Oct. 5 and March 12 to student days.
The Board approved the District 2020-2021 Adopted Budget. They also passed Resolution #20-18, In Support of Digital Access and Inclusion.
The Board will meet next on Thursday, July 30 at 5 p.m. for a Board Study Session. Their next regularly scheduled meeting will be on Thursday, Aug. 13 at 6:30 p.m. Dr. Kemp also said that they are planning town hall meetings to discuss reopening schools.