Santa Clara Unified School District’s financial picture doesn’t look as dim as many expected. At the Thursday, Dec. 17 Board of Trustees Meeting, they heard an update on the budget and elected completely new leadership.
The Board elected Jodi Muirhead as their new Board President. Vickie Fairchild was elected as Vice President, and new Board Member Bonnie Lieberman is the Board Clerk. The Board also approved appointing Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp as Secretary to the Board.
Board Members said they needed leadership through the challenging upcoming year. Former Board President Dr. Michele Ryan shared concerns about the Board needing a leader who will deal with Board Members’ bad behavior towards staff.
Board Member Jim Canova said he wants to see Muirhead do the work as President earnestly and bring the Board together, but he is concerned.
In the vote for Jodi for President, Canova and Dr. Ryan voted ‘no’ but said they will wait and see if they can enthusiastically support her for a second term. The appointment passed was 5-2.
In the vote for Fairchild for Vice President, Dr. Ryan voted ‘no’ — it passed 6-1.
“I’ve seen behavior to our staff, to our consultants as Board President, I can’t count the amount of people I’ve had to apologize to for the behavior of Trustee Fairchild,” said Dr. Ryan. “It’s not behavior I can support as a Board Member… I don’t think it’s going to stop.
“I think especially making her the Vice President at this point, only two years in, while she’s still learning the role and not staying within the role of Board Member, is going to lead to more problems. I can’t support it. I expect to be bullied for it… I can take it, but I can’t take it when I see staff, when I see consultants, when I see community members attacked… I have to stand up for them and say it’s not ok.”
Members of the public called in, both teachers, to support Fairchild. One saying that Dr. Ryan’s behavior has been problematic.
Dr. Ryan also abstained from the vote for Lieberman for Board Clerk — passed 6-0 — saying her reason is that Lieberman was newly elected.
2020-21 First Interim Budget
The presentation about how the budget is looking was much more positive than many were expecting. Mark Schiel, Chief Business Official, shared some good news. It looks like property tax revenues are outpacing growth projections. Also, a recent court decision down in San Diego that challenged RDA (residual tax allocations) will provide a one-time revenue boost to the District.
Additionally, because of Distance Learning, there have been savings but also more in expenses due to COVID-19 mitigation measures. They also considered the one-time revenue of COVID-19 mitigation funds they got from the state and federal government.
They will keep an eye on enrollment since it is down by 500 students. Also, they’re seeing that property tax appeals are increasing which is also concerning.
Board Members were cautiously happy and surprised by the mostly good news and unanimously approved the 2020-21 First Interim Budget. They also approved of the 2020-21 LCFF Budget Overview for Parents.
Mission Early College High School
Viola Smith, Principal at Mission Early College High School, or MECHS, gave a presentation on their proposed expansion to include 9th grade in the 2021-2022 school year. The dual enrollment program is currently 10th through 12th grade.
Smith said it would be beneficial for students to enter the program as 9th graders for many reasons, including that it would be a seamless transition from middle school so that way students wouldn’t have to make a mental shift twice — once when they enter high school and again when they transfer to MECHS. Also, Smith said it would be easier for students to finish their degrees if the college requirements were spread across four years in the program, rather than three.
Timing is critical, said Smith, since they want to begin this next school year, it is time-sensitive. This item will come back to the Board.
Brown Act and Social Media
Starting Jan 1, 2021, Board Members will not be able to comment, react, or interact with each other’s social media posts regarding Board business.
During a Study Session, Legal Counsel Lisa Mori updated the Board on the new changes in the Brown Act and New Social Media Brown Act Rules that will go into place in the New Year.
In the interest of time, the Board tabled two agenda items. One being the “First Reading of CSBA Recommended May 2020 and July 2020 Updates to Board Policies.”
And, as the meeting neared their slated 10:30 p.m. end time, they also tabled the agenda item “Consideration of Moving SCUSD Governing Board to elect Trustees by District to Comply with Requirements of California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).” The Board Members all said that it was a big topic to take on and directed staff to bring it back as a Study Session in 2021 — this passed 5-2 with Board Member Albert Gonzalez and Dr. Ryan voting ‘no.’
The Board also approved the Extension of Classified School Employee Summer Assistance Program and they approved a Resolution to Establish a Student Activity Special Reserve Fund.
They held a discussion about the Benchmark Adelante for the Dual Language Immersion Program at Scott Lane. This item will come back for action.
Dr. Ryan requested for a future agenda item regarding creating a Board Policy for the District to pay a portion of the ballot statement fee for candidates for the SCUSD Governing Board. The Board Members gave it a thumbs up and decided it will go to the policy committee.
The Board meets next on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.