SLV School District Perspectives


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School Board Meeting Synopsis

March 16 , 2004

Link To SLVUSD Web site Agendas and Minutes Page (Note: These are PDF files - read this if you have trouble opening them). Minutes are posted after they are approved, usually at the next regular meeting.

Note from Laura About These Synopses (Basically, I report on what I think will be most interesting to community residents. Consult the minutes for a more complete listing of what happened in the meeting.)

Closed Session

The board had no report out of closed session, which was listed on the agenda as follows:

Confidential Personnel Issues (which may include leaves, medical issues, disciplines, separation, etc.) (Government Code 54957)

Labor Negotiations Compensation for Represented and Unrepresented Employees (Government Code 54957.6)

Superintendent Performance Evaluation (Government Code 54957)

Conference with Legal Counsel - Pending Litigation
Government Code: section 54956.9 (b)(1)(3)(c) (What is this?)
Claimants: SLV CARES, Michelle Hooker, L. Crews McCulloch, Janice Marshall, and Martin McKendry Vs San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District (What is this?)

Community Input

Jeff Calden led a little ceremony of kicking off the class-size reduction fundraiser. Quite a few people presented donations to put in a basket. Many mentioned the good education their children are getting or already have received in the SLV schools.

Shawn Abernathy wanted to clarify that his support for the Redwood Academy Charter didn't mean he didn't have respect for the teachers at BCE, in fact, he said he was surprised at how advanced his son's work was, and considers his teachers to be excellent.

Action Item (This item was moved up in the agenda to accommodate the attorney who drove a long way to be here. The rest of the action items were addressed later in the meeting at the usual time.)

Approval of Redwood Academy Charter

Background: On 2/3/4, community members brought a petition for a new independent charter school to the board. On 2/17, Mattie Scott, the attorney that the District uses for legal matters related to charter schools, gave a presentation of charter law including, along with some direct advice to the District - 1) she recommended that the District require non-profit status of the charter school, to limit the District's liability 2) she recommended that the District negotiate with the charter to assure reimbursement for any Special Education costs that the District might incur from students at Redwood Academy. On 3/2, there was a public hearing on the issue. Tonight, the issue comes up for a first reading as an action item.

The first issue raised tonight by the board had to do with the Brown Act. They wanted to clarify that all proceedings having to do with the charter had to happen in public as per the Brown Act. Additionally, all proceedings of the new charter fall under the Brown Act as well. Also, documents submitted to the Board are public documents and cannot be kept confidential. This issue came up because the petitioners had asked to submit some documents that they wanted to be held confidential. This cannot legally be done - anyone who requests the documents is entitled to see them. Also, the original petition, along with the names of the people who signed, have been circulated to others outside the staff. This, too, is legal, since it is a public document.

Next were listed a number of questions that Superintendent Haff had in regards to the charter:

1) The issue of location of the proposed school as stated in the petition is of some concern. Apparently, when drawing up the petition, advice was given to the petitioners to include the address where they desired to locate. It was written into the petition as if they were definitely locating there (apparently, again, upon advice). Superintendent Haff stated that she is very concerned that some of the petitioners may have signed believing that the school will be located at the Redwood Elementary building, which may or may not be the case. If misleading information was given to the signers, it calls the application into question. Jill Hitchman stated that the majority of the petition signers had attended the public meeting where she clearly stated that they might not be able to locate at the Redwood building, and that she also told other signers this.

The attorney stated that charters have been denied for not having a location in process when presenting their petition, as it would detract from the potential viability of the school.

2) The qualifications of the teachers was absent from the charter application, and this was stated as a concern.

3) The issue of the criteria for review of the charter application was discussed. This came up several times on several issues during the discussion. Two separate sets of criteria for evaluation were mentioned - one from the state, and one from the California School Board Association (as of this writing, I have only had a chance to look at the latter, so I'm not sure how similar they are). The staff members who are experts on the various areas (curriculum, budget, etc.) were given the state guidelines to use. One school board member said she was going to use the CSBA guidelines. The issue is that there is a list of things the petitioners must supply, and the descriptions are supposed to be "reasonably comprehensive", which is not a very specific phrase. Therefore, extra guidelines are needed.

4) The non-profit status of the proposed charter was brought up. Apparently, they started this process 2 weeks ago, but this usually takes 8-10 months. Their attorney felt that it could be expedited to 3-4 months, which would be in time for the school to open. The District would be exposed to increased liability as long as the charter is not a nonprofit. When asked, the attorney stated that petitions had been denied on the basis of not having nonprofit status.

5) The superintendent has requested a list of the experts they consulted with and their qualifications.

6) A clarification of the nature of the District oversight required was requested. The attorney talked about what kinds of financial reporting, etc., would be acceptable, and reiterated what she said about oversight in the 2/17 meeting.

A supplement to the petition was given to Board members and staff by the petitioners, apparently containing more information about curriculum, experts consulted, and other supplemental material.

One community member referred to the CSBA manual on charter schools, and cited several criteria stated therein that she did not think had been met by the petitioners.


Child Nutrition Services

The District has been trying for years to figure out a way to not end up subsidizing school lunches so much. The problem has persisted, despite using two different outside services, and trying for awhile to do it themselves. Utilization of school lunches is low. Finding foods that are both nutritious and appealing to the children seems to be difficult. Consistently, over half of the students either bring their lunches, or, in the case of the high school, leave campus for lunch at one of the local eateries. Pat Finlay researched our financial situation vis a vis lunches, and it isn't good. Despite Sodexho's efforts, usage continues at its mediocre level and apparently the amount of staff used to implement the program, on a "cost per meal sold" basis, is pretty dismal. (She cited 15 meals per staff hour, versus 35-40 in other districts.) Projections are that the District could lose up to $200 on the plan next year.

Various short-term fixes were discussed - raising prices again (which could serve to drive usage down further), reducing staff hours, and increasing usage, although it's not clear how to do that. Apparently you can have experts can come in from the State to assess the situation and make recommendations, and at least some of the Board members seemed to view this idea favorably (although they haven't voted on it).

04-05 Administration Overview - Reorganization of Jr./Sr. High Schools

Superintendent Haff gave this report. First, some stats. Right now, there are 5.1 administrative staff in the District office, most of them part time (example: .5 person as head of personnel services), having been cut in recent years. It is felt that at this time, those personnel can't be cut, although one will be when we are finished with renovations, as he is supervising that. However, with declining enrollment due to hit the Jr. and Sr high schools in the next few years, a proposal was presented to combine the administration of the two schools. Take a look at these startling numbers:

Enrollment Now (not counting charter programs):

BCE 563
SLE 642
Jr High 420
SLVHS 1120

Projected Enrollment 2011-2012

BCE/SLE - unknown (not born yet)
Jr High 275

[Note from Laura: Now, of course, there could be a population turn-around during that time, but this is what we have to go on now. The birth rates are continuing to decline at this point.]

The idea presented is that next year would be a transition year. Michelle McKinney, the current Jr. High principal, will fill the current vacancy at SLE, and Chris Mercer, the present Jr. High assistant principal would move up temporarily to principal. The year would be spent doing a lot of planning and coordination. Then, the following year, current high school principal Valerie Pitts would be the principal of the whole 7-12 program, with two assistant principals, one at each site (with Ms. Mercer at the Jr. High).

The following were cited as some of the potential benefits of the plan:

Shared teachers - this is a big one, because as enrollment declines it would work much better to have teachers be able to move back and forth between grade levels. Coordinated bell schedules would make this possible.

More academic opportunities for students

Less duplication of services

Shared admin - cost savings

Shared resources and facilities - increased usage and student opportunity

Site plan shared - don't have to do double work

Forward-thinking - addresses future potential problems before they become problems

Public Hearing - Approval of Collective Bargaining Agreement with SEIU

No input

Action Items

There were first readings (that means no voting yet) on reading programs and second interim budgets, with presentations on both. The Reading program focused on Reading Recovery (already in place) and a new-to-us program, "Reading 180". There will be more information at the second reading next meeting.


Academic Update

Ms. French reported on mistakes made in the stats on which our API scores were based. Attempts to correct them have not worked so far (we are getting no response). It's hard to tell whether the mistake were on our end or theirs, but at least one of them looks like it was theirs. The mistakes were in class sizes at BCE and socio-economic status at Quail Hollow. Therefore, our "equivalent schools" scores could be way off.

Meeting was adjourned at 10:15 PM.