SLV School District Perspectives
School Board Meeting Synopsis
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.)
August 19, 2003
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)
Claimants: SLV CARES, Michelle Hooker, L. Crews McCulloch, Janice Marshall, and Martin McKendry Vs San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District
There was quite a lot of community input at this meeting, both at the times set aside for this, and as agenda items came up throughout the meeting. In the first designated time, a number of people got up to talk about things centering around the Redwood closure. A couple of people were upset about what they perceived to be evidence that the board had been planning from the beginning to use Redwood for purposes other than a school building, saying (I think) that a request for a zoning change had resulted in actions by the county that would make Redwood Elementary School usable for other purposes. (I might not have that exactly right. If anyone can clarify the accusation, I'd be grateful.) In any case, they felt that this was proof that the school closure process was contaminated and that the board had already decided that Redwood would be closed, since they had found other uses for it.
At end of the first community input time, Barbara Sprenger clarified that over a year ago (it turns out to be closer to two years ago), the board was exploring the idea of constructing teacher housing on the 26-acre land parcel near the school. They had asked the county to clarify whether this would be possible. I have now talked to an analyst at the county office who explained the situation to me.
Another community member said that she had been surveying other school districts (she reported visiting 8 this summer) and praised this district for being the most open of all of them, doing the least "behind closed doors".
1) Bond Accounting Report
Angela Rowe, the Director of Fiscal Services, presented a report of the use of bond funds to date. A summary of some of the information from that report can be accessed here.
2) Traffic and Parking at Boulder Creek Elementary
Brian Loehr presented the current plan in regards to parking and traffic flow at BCE. There was a recent meeting with area residents, and various options were reviewed. The current plan is to make Laurel one way between Harmon and Lomond, with parking and drop-off on the east side of the street (towards town). Also, additional crosswalks will be put in at the Laurel/Lomond intersection. The county will pay for painting the crosswalks and installing signs.
An additional concern, though, is that lack of a sidewalk on the east side of Laurel for the children and parents to walk on. The county says it can't build one (no money), and that it would cost $10,000 if they did it. However, Lynn Chappell (BCE principal) reported that the cost to have someone else do it would probably be considerably less, and that they hope to obtain the money by fundraising.
Residents of the neighborhood also expressed concerns about drainage, and their driveways being blocked. Otherwise, Mr. Loehr said they seemed to be supportive of the plan.
3) District Committee Report
At the last meeting, a community member asked for a list of the committees which community members may be part of. Superintendent Haff read a list, and I will have the complete listing next week in this space.
Child Care at Quail Hollow
Although the board did not vote in favor of this plan when it was brought up at the July 1 meeting, it has been reintroduced as a possible addition in January, because the district office has recently received about 20 phone calls asking about after-school care. It was proposed and approved that the parents in the south district be given a survey regarding this. It was reiterated that we lose students due to lack of child care in the south part of the district.
Surplus Property Advisory Committee
Background: Whenever a district owns a facility which not being used, it must set up a committee to determine in what manner the facility should be used. This committee does not review specific applications, but decides which types of usage would be most appropriate. The committee may be made up of anywhere from seven to eleven members, and should represent the community in various ways - it should have a similar balance of ethnic and socioeconomic representation and should represent various aspects of the community (parents, teachers, business owners, etc.) (Education Code describing this)
Superintendent Haff found out how other districts do it, and proposed the following model, which was approved by the board. The committee will have nine members, made up of the following people:
- 5 parents of SLVUSD students, one from each area
- 1 local business owner
- 1 teacher
- 1 administrator
- 1 person knowledgeable about zoning, environmental impact, etc.
Applications for this committee will be available in the district office and are due by Sept. 12. Each board member will go through the applications in his or her area and they will decide the makeup of the committee at the September 16 meeting. Meetings will be held on Mondays from 6-8 PM for a period of 2-3 months (possible shorter) until the decisions are accomplished.
Child Nutrition Services Recommendations by Sodexho
Background: Sodexho provides the school lunches in our district. This enterprise is not self-sustaining, and the district has had to make increasingly large contributions to keep it going. One of the problems is low utilization - only 14% of the students use the service on any given day. Sodexho management was asked to come up with some suggestions on how to improve the situation.
Among the responses:
- Prepackaged food is not very enticing. More "bulk" food (prepared on site) is hotter and more appetizing. They are planning to do this.
- Lunch prices could be raised. Full lunches are $2.25 at this point - the Sodexho representatives suggested raising the price to $2.50 They pointed out that the Scotts Valley district just raised their lunch prices to $3.25. The board wondered if perhaps it would be better to raise the Jr. High and High School prices to $2.50, but keep the elementary prices lower. Also, it was suggested that people get a discount for buying a bunch of lunches at once, to encourage usage.
- Ala carte food prices could and should be raised.
Meeting was adjourned at around 11 PM.
Comments from Laura:
I've been struggling to find a way characterize the community input at this meeting. Certainly, community input has had an increasingly challenging quality ever since the time of the school closure process. Since the recall announcement, it's been bumped up another couple of notches. We've grown used to people getting up to make long statements reiterating the same issues focusing on the closure process. This time, there were also blatant accusations that the board fixed the school closure process, seemingly based on nothing more than a misunderstanding of past events that could have been clarified with a couple of questions. In addition, there were some questions that just seemed geared to be time-wasters - asking board members to repeat things (this happened at least twice) or standing up merely to reiterate what a board member said minutes before.
I'm all for participating in the process - I think it's vital that we express our opinions. I'm all for asking questions - certainly unasked questions won't get answers. (IMO, many people would do well to ask MORE questions before jumping to conclusions.) Most of the questions and comments (including by most of the people who opposed the Redwood Closure) are respectful, even when they are expressing disagreement. Recently, however, there have been an increasing number which are more aggressive in tone - false accusations such as the one cited above are an example, along with asking for repetitions, etc.
We should remember that regular school board meetings aren't "community meetings" per se - they are meetings of the governing board which are open to the community. In most areas that I've been able to find out about, the proceedings of the district aren't nearly as open to community input as ours are. (My sister, a public school teacher in Vermont, is absolutely shocked when she hears about our process here.) The board would be within its rights to limit input to achieve better time utilization. I would hate to see this happen.