After the deluge, new WSCUHSD school board settles in
Welcome signs restored, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee formed, and what the parcel tax pays for
The first board meeting of 2023 for the West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD) followed a holiday break and a series of storms that cancelled one day of school on January 5th. The last of the storms was passing through campus that evening but there was a notable calm in the board room as the three new board members settled into their seats.
Welcome Signs of Restoration
The name change of Analy to West County High School lasted only for a year but it required replacing “Analy” on everything from scoreboards to letterhead. Even the signs for the high school at the entrance to town were removed. Now, Loretta Castleberry of the Analy Alumni Association told the Board that the signs saying “Proud Home of Analy Tigers” are back at the three entrances to town. This new version of the sign has a red border to honor the El Molino Lions.
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To Zoom or Not To Zoom
During Covid, remote school board meetings via Zoom became standard. You could watch them live or view the recordings online.
Since this school year started, the WSCUHSD board meetings have been in-person meetings and there is no longer any recording of the meetings. Remote participation is not possible and there is no video or audio recording of the meeting. Should the board consider hybrid meetings, which are still conducted in person but also are accessible via Zoom?
When the issue was raised at a previous meeting, it was answered that the technical issues of doing a hybrid meeting were complicated and perhaps too costly.
Board meetings generally are not well attended. Maybe 25 people attend and a good portion are school faculty and staff. There are not many parents. On one hand, if you care about an issue, you have to show up at the meeting to listen or comment. On the other hand, would more people attend the board meetings and participate if they didn’t have to leave home? Does it matter to you?
Answer our poll and tell us what you think?
DEI Committee Approved
The board approved a resolution establishing the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee. This 13-member committee includes the superintendent, principals of Analy and Laguna, two faculty members, two parents, two students, the District’s DEI coordinator, a member of the English Language Advisory Council (ELAC) and a Board member as a liaison and an alternate. Meetings will be held monthly and be open to the public.
The resolution originated out of a parent group called Analy School Unity Network (or SUN) which held meetings with Superintendent Meredith. (The Sebastopol Times has invited this group to write an article explaining how this group came together and what it expects to accomplish.) DEI has also been a priority for new board members, Lewis Buchner and Debbie Ramirez. Student representative Karis Morasch said enthusiastically: “this is a solid, positive step forward; it just makes me so happy.”
Youth Truth Survey is a non-profit based in San Francisco that conducts a voluntary survey of students, faculty and parents that can provide meaningful feedback on how a school is perceived by its stakeholders, particularly students. The survey has been conducted for two years at Analy as well as other high schools in Sonoma County. In my interview last year with Nicole Williamson (The New School Model for West County), she mentioned the Youth Truth survey and told me that the survey results were startling.
Youth Truth is essentially getting at core domains, such as belonging, college and career readiness, engagement, academic rigor. And what we see in the data is that kids are not engaged and they're not engaged everywhere. It's not just in West County, but it is true in West County. And there's a lot of reasons for that.
Trustee Debbie Ramirez mentioned in her board report that she spent her holiday break going through the results of the survey for prior years. She suggested informally that a working group be created to study the survey results.
The results of the Analy Youth Truth survey have not been made public but the board could choose to do so. It might cause some embarrassment. What students collectively view as the reality at Analy may not be the image Analy wants to share with the world. Being transparent can also create a shared understanding of the real issues facing Analy students and establish a baseline for the school to establish goals for improvement.
This year’s survey is happening now at Analy and Laguna high schools, with a deadline of January 27th. Parents, who typically respond at a much lower rate, are especially encouraged to participate.
The State of Budgeting for Art & Music
Chief Business Official Andrew Soliz and Superintendent Chris Meredith went to Sacramento during the day of the board meeting to attend a briefing on the governor’s proposed budget for education. These briefings allow school administrators to begin planning for changes in funding for the coming year. At a high level, while the State of California is projecting about $30B less in revenue next year, education funding is expected to remain steady.
There is, however, a big BUT in the BUDGET for Art & Music.
Proposition 28 (Arts and music in Schools-Funding Guarantee and Accountability Act) in 2022 passed with 64% of the voters in favor of adding $1 billion to arts education starting in 2023. Well, as Soliz explained, the governor’s proposed budget removed 1/3 of funding for arts and music that had been in the 2022 budget. In other words, the increase in funding coming from Prop 28 for arts and music will be used to decrease what had been in the budget previously for arts and music. This is the art of giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
Trustee Jeanne Fernandes was like a kettle approaching the boiling point in her comment: “I want everyone to contact their legislator and remind them that the voters spoke. They want more funding for arts and music. The funding must be reinstated. They can’t yank it back.”
Andrew Soliz clarified the impact on the district in an email:
The district's current award for the arts grant is $980,650, which needs to be fully expended by June 30, 2026, based on a Board approved plan. With the passing of Proposition 28: Arts and music in Schools-Funding Guarantee and Accountability Act, which is outside of the State's educational budget, it is estimated that in 2023-24 the district will receive $243,991. Prop 28 does not truly backfill the 1/3 proposed reduction in the arts grant, which for the district would be a proposed loss of about $323,600.
The governor’s budget will not be finalized until legislators approve it in the coming months. That’s why Fernandes was imploring everyone to call their legislator because there is time to roll back this change and have the funding for art and music reinstated.
Use of Parcel Tax Funds
Andrew Soliz updated the Board on the the use of the 2020 Measure B Parcel Tax Funds. The tax of $79 per parcel began in July 1, 2020 and will last for no more than eight (8) years. The amount collected in the 2020-21 fiscal year was estimated at $1,891,418.
Here is what the parcel tax was proposed to cover:
Maintain and improve the schools’ shop, culinary, media and other career technical education programs
Keep school libraries open
Maintain and improve the schools’ art, music, and drama programs
Maintain small class size
Maintain and expand student counseling services
Maintain and improve the schools’ college prep courses, and
Improve technology and science equipment.
Soliz reviewed the expenditures in the current school year that are supported by the parcel tax, which totaled more than $2.1M.
At Analy, 55 sections (or classes) are made possible by the funds:
AP classes in English, Biology, Economics, Statistics, History, World History and Art.
Art sections in Honors, Studio and Ceramics
CTE sections in Ag, Culinary and Woodshop
Dance, foreign language, Math (Trig/Pre-calculus), and Band
Additional sections to reduce class size in English, Math and Social Studies
Laguna had four additional sections in Art, Math and Stats for Life.
In addition, the parcel tax is covering almost $200K in outreach crisis counseling and $500K in school counseling plus $72K for a librarian.
Lewis Buchner said that he was amazed at how important the parcel tax is to Analy. He expressed some surprise that nearly half of the parcel tax was being spent on counseling.
Here is a link to the board’s agenda for January 18th, 2023.
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