Thursday, January 20, 2022

CUSD Update: Public Speakers Advocate for Civil Discourse, CUSD Financials “On Track”

District Ups Pay for Substitute Teachers, Instructional Material and Curriculum Adoption Outlined

Screen image from video of the Sept. 9 CUSD Board meeting.

The Coronado School Board met on Thursday, September 9 at 4pm at District Offices, located at 201 Sixth Street, for a regularly-scheduled board meeting. The five-hour long meeting was packed with community members, many of whom had to listen to the meeting from outside the building walls. In an unusual turn–quite different from recent meetings where some community members shouted, spoke out-of-turn, heckled board members and verbally harassed a speaker–many community members calmly spoke out on the merits of public discourse, even thanking board members and CUSD Superintendent Karl Mueller for service during a challenging time.

“I’m here to implore our board and our community to return to civil discourse,” said Coronado parent Christine Ward. “I’m embarrassed by some of the antics that have been going on in our community. I believe our children deserve better and I’m asking you, I’m begging you, to model that for my children and our community.”

Retired CUSD teacher Wendy Moore said she has watched with dismay the tenor of the last two board meetings, and said that, when it comes to civil discourse, it was time for residents to “walk the walk.” She said she also wanted to thank Superintendent Mueller for keeping CUSD students, teachers and staff safe in local schools.

“Keeping teachers, staff and students safe should be the primary goal of every superintendent and every board member,” said Moore.

Coronado resident Brian Trotier addressed the board with a range of questions regarding the anti-CRT group, We the Parents of Coronado, who he said is–like many other groups across the nation–disrupting school board meetings on a regular basis. He questioned how the group is funded, how the group is related to Citizens for Renewing America, a nationwide group that published a 33-page guide on “How to Reclaim Your Local School Board,” as well as its previous connection to the American Citadel website, a link that has since been deleted.

“Are they trying to control what is being taught? If so, how does limiting access to information and limiting discussion of ideas teach students how to think? Let the professional educators do their job of preparing students for the many complex and often confusing challenges they will face when they enter the real world,” said Trotier. “The silent majority needs to speak out.”

CHS senior Chloe Berk asked for assurance that members and faculty advisors of all clubs, including the No Place for Hate Club (NPfH), would be safe in their continued work towards a school where everyone feels valued and respected. She also thanked community members for reaching out in support after she was bullied by an adult in the audience at the last board meeting.

“These people are the reason I came back today. Their words reassured me that the loud critics that sometimes dominate these school board meetings are NOT the voice of the majority of parents, students and families in Coronado,” said Berk. “Leaders of our school community — please do not allow these bullies to intimidate, threaten and silence those who seek to promote inclusiveness for ALL students.”

Comments from the audience can be viewed in this video:

In other board business, the board approved Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca’s 2020-2021 Unaudited Actuals Financial Report, which, as summed up by Board President Lee Pontes, illustrated that the district was “on track” for bridge to basic aid, and eased along by one-time temporary COVID relief funds granted by the state and federal government. Salamanca said that the “hold harmless” initiative has helped with school funding, however next year, CUSD will need to return to pre-COVID enrollment levels which is around 3100 students. Enrollment is currently just under 2800, according to Salamanca.

He also invited the public to learn more about the CUSD budget by joining the district’s budget study committee, which will hold its first meeting on September 29. Those interested can email [email protected] to participate.

The board also approved a temporary increase in hourly rates to substitute teachers in order to remain competitive with other districts in the midst of a substitute shortage. Rates were increased from $120 a day for certificated substitutes to $200 a day. Also approved—a 3% raise across the board for all certificated teachers in the ACT at CUSD. The board also voted to extend the 3% raise for certificated classified management, who are not represented by a labor organization.

A proposed contract amendment for Deputy Superintendent Salamanca was approved to extend employment through June 2024 with an annual salary increase of 2.25%, and Superintendent Karl Mueller’s contract was approved to extend to June 2024 with a 1.5% increase in salary.

Shane Schmeichel, Director of Special Programs, shared the successful expansion of a model United Nations collaboration with national schools, which has evolved to include sixth and seventh graders. He also shared that an uptick in CHS students are taking advantage of classes from Southwestern College, and that students are looking forward to a new biomedical pathway as well as new courses that are UC A-G approved, thanks to the new 4×4 schedule.

As requested, Schmeichel also provided a report for how the schools monitor clubs, from club application to budgets and meeting notes. He shared that more than 50 different groups have applied for clubs at CHS, including an approved request for NPfH.

When it comes to instructional learning updates, the board approved the adoption of all six of the proposed high school textbooks for AP government, physical science, psychology, biology, US history and physics.

Dr. Megan Battle shared a report on CUSD spring and summer achievement, including school interventions which she referred to as a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS.) This includes looking at data, pinpointing what a child needs, and providing them with the supports the student requires to be successful. She shared that although D and F grades did increase slightly from fall semester, that many students attended summer school for remediation. Of the 171 high school students who attended summer school, 98% of them were successful in achieving passing grades, according to Dr. Battle.

Dr. Battle also shared a report on CUSD instructional frameworks, and how supplemental materials might fit into an approved curriculum. She said the State Board of Education governs the content of what is taught in California schools, and frameworks exist as blueprints to govern what is taught in classrooms. The standard is the knowledge, the content and the skills that the student should know before moving onto the next level. Districts then align instructional materials, such as textbooks, with the given standards. Supplemental materials–which are selected by individual teachers–must also be aligned to the standards, and they supplement, not supplant the core program, and they must be grade-level appropriate, said Dr. Battle.

“If a student or a parent has a concern over a supplemental material, there is a process in place,” explained Dr. Battle. “It starts with the teacher … and gives the teacher the chance to explain why it was relevant. If the parents weren’t satisfied with the conversation with the teacher, they would meet with school administration. If there was still dissatisfaction, it would probably come to my desk, then to the superintendent.”

After questions from Valdes-Clayton as to whether or not the district had adopted a curriculum or was using any supplemental materials that contained CRT, Dr. Battle shared that she was not aware of any such instances.

Late in the meeting, Trustee Keszei pushed for more conversation on CRT, and Valdes-Clayton suggested a town hall forum. Board President Lee Pontes wasn’t receptive to a town hall specific to the issue of CRT.

“We have talked about this all summer long, and we keep talking about it,” said Pontes. “We are losing track of student achievement and learning, and I don’t want to spend any more of my board time on these issues until we have this other stuff straightened out.”

Despite differing opinions, Mueller was tasked with researching the plausibility of a town hall forum for the Coronado community. This report was set for the November 18th board meeting.

Item 7.1, which was slated to be the public censure meeting for Trustee Keszei, was postponed until the next meeting, due to recommendations from CUSD and at the request of Keszei, reportedly because of additional information submitted that required further consideration. It will be taken up at the next regularly scheduled board meeting on October 21st.

Parents are urged to check their emails for CUSD updates.

UPDATED (9/15): Video added showing comments from audience at school board meeting.

Christine Van Tuyl
Christine was born and raised in Texas, but moved to Coronado with her family as a teen in 1993. Although initially horrified by surfers, flannels and skateboards, she ultimately grew to love all things So-Cal. A graduate of UCSD, Christine got her first writing job on the KUSI ten o’clock news while simultaneously juggling a reporter position at the San Diego Community News Group. She worked as a public relations professional, a book editor, real estate professional, and a freelance writer before eventually succumbing to motherhood in 2008.A decade later, Christine resurfaced to start the Island Girl Blog, a Coronado lifestyle blog. In addition, she writes a monthly page for Crown City Magazine. Christine loves hanging out with her husband, Ian, and their two spirited daughters, Holland and Marley, who attend Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School. When she’s not working, you’ll find her practicing yoga, spilling coffee at school drop off, meeting friends for sushi, or sailing the Bay with her family and English Bulldog, Moshi. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]