Category Archives: School Board

Highlights of the SVUSD March 8th School Board meeting

During the March 8th SVUSD school board meeting there were several key points meeting which I feel need to reach the broader community. A few days after the meeting, knowing they’re captured on tape I email Brenda Spalding, Assistance to the Superintendent, and Dr. Silver asking if the audio could be made available on the web. I was pleasantly surprised when Dr. Silver indicated they were working on converting the tape to digital format and the result was posted to the district’s website (see Audio of meeting).

Here are the items I recommend listening to with the start time as indicated:

I’d like to especially thank Brenda Spalding and Dr. Silver for making this recording available.

OFSVS Update #5 Scotts Valley School District issues pink slips for 2011-2012 school year

Steve Trefethen just sent supporters the following message:

As you might have been aware tonight the Scotts Valley School Board approved a resolution to reduce or eliminate certain certificated services for SVUSD. The details of the cuts are outlined in an attachment to tonight’s Board Agenda which you can find on page two here. Unfortunately, the PDF prevents copying any of the text so you’ll have to click through for the details. Essentially, the plan outlines approximately 10 positions where fractional cuts indicate a reduction of hours for the positions indicated.

Karen Jelcick gave a very somber review of the budget situation with a detailed breakdown of what cuts might look like with and without the extension of existing taxes currently being considered for a ballot measure in June along with the budget assumptions that were made. Karen broke the cuts down into three categories which I’ve captured here since I was unable to find any link to this hand out.

A recommendation was made for people in the community to reach out to their legislators about these cuts.

If you’re not involved in directly supporting parcel tax effort it’s certainly time to start asking why? If you haven’t reviewed the parcel tax poll results please take a look.

The goal of this mailing list is dissemination of information so please forward it to as many parents as possible. Also please ask your friends and neighbors to sign up for this email list.

Reality Check

Given the economic environment the Scotts Valley School district finds itself in, it would come as no surprise employees not feeling very good about their plight. Having spent 15 years at Borland, a now defunct Scotts Valley stalwart, I know first hand what’s it’s like to weather a dozen years of layoffs, downsizing, lack of employee continuing education, shrinking benefits, static salaries and rock bottom morale etc. It’s not fun and strangles effective communication.

In the midst of an economic downturn paralleled only by the Great Depression many people, companies and organizations are struggling with morale and I’d expect the Scotts Valley’s Teacher’s union is no exception. Like all CA school districts SVUSD has weathered significant cutbacks for many consecutive years with several more to come and if you look closely, which I have, I believe you’ll find this Administration (and Board) seem to be responsibly managing the district’s declining resources despite California’s over complicated and deeply flawed Public school financing system evidenced by the fact other local schools face massive deficits this year. By 2011-2012 the the state’s dire fiscal situation is poised to send 100’s of school districts into qualified if not negative certification (meaning deficit spending) which is where SVUSD will land unless options such as a parcel tax are passed to prevent such an outcome. Unless the State of California can miraculously turn around in the next 16 months its Public schools, which educate 1 in 8 children in the United States will require a Federal bailout
Fortunately, Scotts Valley has a very small school district thus there are a variety of avenues for establishing dialog with the key players. While the Scotts Valley Banner is an option in a tiny city like ours I’ve personally found it very effective to directly engage the members of the Board and individuals at the District office face-to-face affording me the opportunity to foster trust, gain an understanding and grasp the magnitude of the challenges they face running a school system shackled by our state’s fiscal bureaucracy. I’ve met with or spoken to all but one of the SV Board members and have spent several hours at the district office pouring over the budget or discussing it with the CBO and have found everyone to be dedicated and willing to indulge my frequent requests for information. I spent an eight hour weekday at the District’s Strategic Planning meeting, a process Dr. Silver brought to Scotts Valley, to ensure it was heading in the right direction based on feedback from students, teachers, staff, Board members, and community members. I don’t recall seeing any of the most outspoken people in the community at the meeting though admittedly I didn’t know everyone in the room. That day was spent examining, discussing and approving the mission of the district with a large emphasis on finding solutions to the immediate fiscal crisis.
Lastly, regarding the Superintendent’s job, a position for which SVUSD pays less than other similar sized districts (refer to SARC data), I imagine it to be very tough requiring a wide variety of skills to deal with children, teachers, classified staff, unions, boards and the public (I’m sure I’m missing several other categories). While I don’t know the entire history of the current SV Superintendent I know that when difficult fiscal decisions are to be made all eyes will be on that individual whomever it may be at the time and there are bound to be lots of passionately unhappy people despite their best efforts.
For instance, just grasp this quote from “Getting Down to Facts: School Finance and Governance in California” about California’s public school financing system:
A complex and irrational finance system. The number of dollars available to each school district is largely an historical artifact of spending in the 1970s combined with confusing categorical grant programs. As a result, similar districts can receive substantially different revenues per  pupil, and differences in student needs across districts are not systematically accounted for in determining revenue levels. In addition, the finance system is extraordinarily complex and imposes substantial and costly compliance burdens on school districts. Pre-dating the implementation of modern accountability systems, the current finance structure has never been updated to align with the states accountability system, nor redesigned to help local officials meet student performance goals.

As much as some may want to scrap the Board and Superintendent the problems the district faces are likely to worsen leaving whomever we manage to elect/hire with unmitigated and ongoing problems not to mention having to start from scratch with all the aforementioned groups. In my opinion, working with those who were dedicated enough to have sought these positions, particularly our unpaid Board is the path I’ve chosen.


Santa Cruz County School Board Openings

Santa Cruz Sentinel ran this article from July 18, 2010 regarding school board opening in Santa Cruz County with the following:

Scotts Valley Unified School District:

The terms of Trustees Allison Niday and Jondi Gumz will expire; neither has yet filed documentation seeking a new term.

Also from the SV Press Banner Jondi Gumz School trustee will not run again.

Updated August 1, 2010: Article from the Scotts Valley Press Banner about new entries, Art Bubb and John Abel for School Board seats. Both individuals have created campaign style websites though as of this writing neither has provided any details on their positions, stance on the existing parcel tax proposals nor current involvement with the District. In the meetings I’ve attended this year I have yet to run into either individual though my wife has met John Abel.


Scotts Valley District Office Staff Offers Two Furlough Days for 2010-2011

Over the past several months I’ve read plenty of criticism in print and online of the Scotts Valley District and School Board and I rarely see mention of the many things they do to help in these challenging times.

I nearly missed the following line item from minutes of the May 11th Scotts Valley school board meeting (emphasis is mine):

1.  Accept a Proposal From the Scotts Valley Unified School District Administrative Team to Reduce the Length of Their 2010-11 Work Year by 2 Days  
MSP     Gumz/Roth     4-0     Student Advisory Vote: Aye

As the representative of the district’s Leadership Team, Director of Technology Shannon Calden presented to the Board a proposal of a two-day reduction to each administrative work calendar for 2010-11 as they have also done in 2009-10. She explained that the Leadership Team consists of 11.5 administrators which constitutes less than 5% of the district’s workforce. The Leadership Team is also proposing for the 2010-11 school year that when a Leadership Team member must be present at a site or district event on a weekend or holiday, the administrator may count that as a work day, up to five days per school year. Ms. Calden also mentioned that the Leadership Team would be willing to consider a larger reduction to the work calendar if any other bargaining units also agreed to a reduction in their work calendars. Board Members expressed their appreciation and gratitude to all the members of the Leadership Team for their willingness to step forward and help during the district’s fiscal crisis. Board President Michael Shulman said that it is difficult to ask parents and the community to help financially during this crisis if the district has not done everything it can to reduce expenditures.

Ann Codd, SVEA President addressed the Board to applaud the Leadership Team for their contribution, but requested acknowledgement and consideration from the Board for what teachers have taken on with increased class sizes. SVEA members will not be offering furlough days.

I believe the above is a clear demonstration of the District’s leadership in these difficult times and deserves to be recognized. In previous posts, looking at Cupertino’s fundraising efforts it’s clear a large component came from their district’s four unions electing to take five furlough days saving $2.5 million dollars.

Based on data from the most recent SARC reports teacher salaries (for 2008-2009) constitute roughly 39.3% of the SVUSD budget. From that same report we learn salaries in SVUSD are consistently below the state average for districts in our same category though the percentage of SVUSD’s budget spent on salaries was greater than the state-wide average (39.2% vs 38.2%).

Update May 20, 2010 Added other local district furlough information.

Santa Cruz 5 days 2010-2011
Pajaro Valley 10 days 2010-2011
Cupertino 5 days 2010-2011
San Jose 5 days 2010-2011