The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

School Board

The Santa Clara Unified School Board held another marathon meeting on Sept. 12. After starting late due to an extended closed session, the meeting carried on for over four and a half hours, not ending until after 11 p.m. While most of the agenda items were easily passed, there was one action item that created friction among the board and ate up most of the meeting time.

Overstepping Boundaries

One of the longest discussions of the night came from the approval of Board Policy Series 1000: Community Relations. Initially Trustee Andy Ratermann made a motion to approve the series as long as language was changed for policy 1230A, having to do with School Connected Organizations, and 1312.1A, dealing with Complaints Concerning District Employees.

Ratermann’s concern was that due to PTA guidelines about information they can disclose, the wording of policy 1230 – specifically relating to the release of records to the board – could exclude the PTA from becoming a school connected organization.

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“The other item I had…has to do with AR 1312.1A…I just want to make sure that who does it – the role as to who is going to do this is clarified…I want to add the sentence, ‘for complaints against employees with the exception of the superintendent, the investigation will be not be conducted by any board member without a 5-7 majority vote of the board.’…Certainly there may be occasions where the board needs to step in and do their own investigation, but I think it has to be something that is done very rarely and with a great deal of forethought and agreement,” said Ratermann.

The discussion that followed had some board members, including Trustee Christopher Stampolis, agreeing that the policy should be sent back to the policy committee for clarification.

“The piece I’m extremely concerned about is that we play our role properly,” said Ratermann. “I’m worried that if we get involved in any type of employee investigations one, we run the risk of violating their due process rights. Secondly, at the end of this process they have a right to come back and we serve the judiciary capacity. If we’ve been highly involved in the investigation process then I think that the whole thing is tainted and problematic so I would be willing to say let’s not move forward with this today. Let’s send it back to the policy committee and ask them to find a spot to work in a prohibition.”

Ratermann’s proposal to approve Board Policy Series 1000 with the exception of board policies and ARs 1312 and 1230 passed 5-2, with Trustees Ina Bendis and Michele Ryan voting no.

Bendis then made a secondary motion to approve board policy and ARs for 1312. The vote was 4-3 with Ratermann, Trustee Jim Canova and Trustee Albert Gonzalez voting no.

“I do feel very, very strongly about the suggestion that I made relative to board involvement in employee investigations,” said Ratermann after the vote. “What I wasn’t able to say earlier because I forgot is certainly you need to know what the scope is. If a constituent or anyone comes to you and says, ‘hey I think this person is doing something wrong; this isn’t the correct behavior.’ I think it’s becoming on the board member to direct them through the correct process…We should not be directly getting involved in that type of investigation. I feel extremely strongly about this. This is something that they talk about, things that are not a hill I want to die on. This is a hill I want to die on just so you know…When you do the policy committee look at that.”

Unions Unhappy

Instead of utilizing their five minutes to discuss union activity, UTSC President Michael Hickey and CESA Chapter 350 President Patty Picard used much of their time to discuss how unhappy they are with the board and its practices.

“We’re surveying to go into negotiations…We still have no direction on salary increases,” said Picard. “And we hear silence and it’s so disrespectful to all of the employees…it’s one thing if you were spending money on something else – bringing something else back, but you’re not. You have these discussions between yourselves about how much can we spend for board members to do this, that, and the other thing. And I want to piggyback on what Michael said about moving our reports to the beginning. When other groups come up and have their things about Middle College or whatever you respect their time – that they have to go to work tomorrow. You don’t respect us. I have to go to work tomorrow. Michael has to go to work tomorrow. And over and over and over I’m getting home past midnight.”

When Stampolis suggested that staff communicate directly with board members, Picard became upset. “I say it almost at every meeting and so does UTSC. We’re getting tired of waiting. And I’m not going to negotiate with any board member singly. I’m not going to negotiate with any board member at all. So it’s inappropriate to even ask us that.”

Bendis then weighed in on the request to move the union reports to the beginning of the meeting. “I was one of the board members who felt that the entire 15 minutes, which for awhile appeared to be mostly the types of comments that would, in my view, tend to fall under items from the public…I would be very open to maybe having maybe three minutes of union president reports toward the beginning with the understanding that those three minutes would really only be used for information that the union presidents wanted to provide to the board…then they would get their two minutes again during items from the public as members of the public to present [other] concerns.”

Ratermann and Canova disagreed. “If we don’t listen to what they say, I think we’re making a terrible mistake and I don’t think we should try to control what they say whether it’s good or bad…I think they need to have the freedom to communicate any way they want and not have us decide where they’re going to be on the agenda based on what we like or dislike about what they’re saying,” said Ratermann. “I think they should be near the front. I think it is a respect issue. I think it is also an issue of practicality from the standpoint that they do – almost all of them – have to be at work the following day.”

Other Items

Maria Calonje was recognized for her work with the Migrant Education and English Language Development program. Eighty-one percent of the students enrolled in the program have been reclassified as proficient or advanced in English.

Viola Smith was unanimously appointed as the new vice principal of New Valley/Gateway High School.

The approval of the 2012-2013 Fiscal Year Unaudited Acutals Financial Reports and Carryovers and the adoption of Resolution 13-23, the Revised GANN Appropriations Limit and the projected 2013-2013 GANN Appropriation Limit were unanimously approved.

The next board meeting will be Thursday, Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Santa Clara High School Theater.

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