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Santa Clara Unified Talks Financials & Don Callejon STEAM Plan

At their meeting on Thursday, Jan. 28, the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) Board of Trustees held a study session for the District’s 2021-2022 Budget Planning and they also went over the District’s 2019-20 Audit Report. The Board also heard a report on the Don Callejon K-8 School STEAM Plan.


The Budget

Mark Schiel, the District’s Chief Business Official, gave a presentation on the District’s 2021-2022 Budget Planning, which is in its early stages.


Schiel reported that enrollment is declining as well as unduplicated count (a measure of students in the free and reduced lunch program, ESL students, and homeless/foster students). Additionally, the effects of the pandemic on property tax revenues are still unknown which leaves many unanswered questions about the District’s financial future. Also, due to the pandemic, it’s obvious that financial resources will be needed to provide services to students. And lastly, there’s also the Governor’s budget proposals that are not yet finalized. All this and more have a part in the District’s financial picture.

Other than that, Schiel wanted to pick the Board Members’ brains on what they might want to see considered in the budget. The main point that was brought up over and over by Board Members and members of the public was class sizes. Class sizes were also a main concern during public comment.

Board Member Andy Ratermann emphasized that the District should focus on getting back to some kind of “normal” and dedicating their resources to that before trying to “play with new toys.” Board Members said they need to address learning loss through avenues like expanded summer school and tutoring. Board President Jodi Muirhead also said she would like to see the District extend mental health and nursing services.

More on the budget will come before the Board no later than April, said Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp.


Independent Auditors Report

Schiel also presented the District’s 2019-20 Audit Report and said it was a clean audit report with no issues whatsoever.

“Santa Clara Unified is well-positioned to weather the financial storm facing the state and the nation,” said the report.

Schiel highlighted that the lion’s share of expenses went to instruction and instruction-related expenses and that their spending on instruction actually increased. Additionally, over the last year, the District decreased their debt.


Don Callejon K-8 School STEAM Plan

In May 2019, the Board determined that Don Callejon (DCS) would transition as a K-8 school from two attendance boundaries to one. And, with the Agnews Campus coming online, attendance boundaries were redrawn. A K-8 Task Force started a long process including school visits, parents, students, and staff surveys, and more.

According to Abigail Andrade, a DCS parent, the survey results led to the student outcomes: deep understanding, agency, and strong connections. The Task Force conducted research and staff gave input on their preferences and then they used that input to select workshop instruction and project-based learning as the instructional approaches, which Principal Eric Witter said was the “most engaging way of learning.” They want the instructional approach to be student-centered, rigorous, real-world and reflective.

For instruction approaches, parents wanted a focus on the academic skills of literacy, math and problem-solving. They valued building student confidence and responsibility. Also, DCS parents want the student experiences of STEAM, performing arts, and sports/athletics. To enhance the instruction framework, they’re going to use innovative spaces, like implementing a maker space.

Witter said the vision/mission was updated and a three-year plan was developed for the transition of DCS into a “true K-8” school.


Other Business

Muirhead asked the Board to consider formalizing Board Member Community Listening Meetings where the Board would hold “office hours” with members of the community. There were concerns from many members about the legality and the “how.” Ratermann made a motion to get legal counsel to discover any issues and bring the topic back to a future meeting with legal counsel present to answer questions. Dr. Kemp also suggested that they offer proposed structures for legal counsel to review. The motion passed unanimously.

Dr. Kemp also shared that the Hybrid Learning family preference survey opened on Friday and will close on Feb. 8. Additionally, some low-risk high school sports can return now that the County is out of the Stay at Home Order and back in the Purple Tier.

Public comment was full of concerns about the cancelled advanced math assessment test. The Board can’t act on topics that aren’t on the agenda, but Dr. Kemp said they will put the issue on the agenda for the next meeting.

And lastly, Chief Academic and Innovation Officer Brad Stam said, depending on public health guidelines, there will be an SAT held on March 24 with a makeup date in April. He also shared that staff is developing a learning recovery and acceleration plan.

The Board meets next on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m.


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