Thursday, September 29, 2022

CUSD Update: Graduation Rate Up, Substitute Pay Increase Continues, District in Compliance with Menstrual Equity Act

Updated September 12, 2022

The Coronado Unified School District school board trustees met on Thursday, August 25th at District Offices where the board approved the continued increase of daily pay rate for school substitutes, celebrated the opening of Village Preschool, and adopted a new textbook for the K-5 Spanish program. But it was item 6.5, which included AB-367, the Menstrual Equity Act, that garnered some attention.

The act, which was passed by the state of California in October of 2021, requires all public schools serving students in grades 6-12 to stock an adequate supply of free menstrual products in all women’s restrooms. This also includes all-gender restrooms and at least one’s men restroom. (See the full text to the act here). During the Student Services report, it was shared that CUSD was now in compliance with this state requirement.

This didn’t sit well with some community members, who challenged the requirement that at least one boy’s restroom be stocked with menstrual products. Jon Mosier, Coronado resident and CUSD dad, said that complying with this law supports falsehoods and could destroy the capacity of students to reason.

“Every one of us knows it’s ludicrous to provide menstrual products in men’s rooms. Why? Because every person in this room knows that physical differences between men and women aren’t trivial. To teach otherwise is to lie to students,” said Mosier.

Trustee Esther Valdes-Clayton said that she didn’t agree with the law, and that it put the CUSD trustees in a tough position. She underscored the fact that the board wasn’t ratifying or voting on anything, but merely acknowledging compliance. Even so, Valdes-Clayton said the new requirement forces schools to abide by a “legal fiction” and puts them at the mercy of “menstrual Nazis” who would likely file complaints in the case of violation.

Trustee Whitney Antrim said that anything the district could do to make students feel safe was important, especially after a middle school student took her life last year.

“At our last meeting, we heard from some community members who talked about not feeling safe at school,” said Antrim. “I’ve heard some say that they didn’t know which bathroom to go to …. their physical safety was threatened. Anything we can do to make them feel safe and welcomed … they have a champion here.”

Superintendent Karl Mueller said that CUSD’s responsibilities are to adhere to the law, and that the district is in full compliance with the law.

In other district news, Mueller shared that CAASPP testing data was looking encouraging, with many of the district’s grade levels at or above pre-pandemic levels. He was also optimistic about AP test scores. In addition, he shared that the 2022 graduation rate is up to 98.6%, and the AG eligibility requirements for UC/CSU admissions has increased to more than 71%, up from 64%.

Superintendent Karl Mueller shared this “snapshot” of the first day of school at CUSD.

When it comes to district enrollment, Mueller that 2806 students are currently enrolled, 14% of which are inter-district transfers. (For reference, 3032 students were enrolled in fall of 2018.) He said this year’s lower number was directly related to the number of inter-district transfers accepted by the district; in 2018, they made up more than 18% of the population.

“Part of our strategic plan and our goals was to be very cautious about rebuilding enrollment post-pandemic,” said Mueller. “We wanted to keep our class sizes below the target class sizes as outlined in our collective bargaining agreement. We are rebuilding our enrollment to pre-pandemic levels without packing our classrooms to the target class size.”

Mueller said that more information would be available in the fall in a comprehensive report from Dr. Megan Battle.

In other board business, the board approved the continuance of a temporary pay increase for certificated substitutes for the 2022-2023 school year. The pay raise, which was designed to help recruit more substitute teachers, increased certificated pay to $200 a day and $225 a day after ten days. Armando Farias, CUSD Director of Human Resources, said he based the increase on research he did on neighboring districts and shared that some are paying $290 a day. The board also voted to raise the pay rate for classified substitutes.

When it comes to the Long Range Plan, Mueller shared some updates: at the request of community members, a parent survey was added to the California Healthy Kids survey. In addition, a staff survey is in the works, focusing on employee satisfaction and wellness.

“You’ve got some very aggressive goals laid out here,” said Trustee Lee Pontes in regards to the Long Range Plan. “But that’s what the community wants, and that’s what they expect.”

In reports, the Association of Coronado Teachers president, Jennifer Landry, introduced in a slide show three TK teachers that were working with CUSD’s youngest learners: Rachel Bevilacqua, Gina Mirtallo and Whitney Collier.

Earlier in the evening in board recognitions, Shane Schmeichel, Director of Special Programs, shared that, thanks to the hard work and dedication of district employees, the instruction of CUSD’s “littlest learners” was well underway at the Village campus. The site welcomed its very first three-year-old class at Village Preschool in many years.

“Due to the implementation of universal TK, all employees at both sites, Crown and Silver Strand, and now, newly-licensed Village Preschool, have been working tirelessly this late spring and early summer to pack and prepare for the move from Crown to Village,” said Schmeichel. “During the packing they also made sure to look at the academic and social development of our students and how our new programming would really support future development and growth of our youngest learners.”

Luke Johnson, ASB President at CHS, was also at the meeting to share his very first report. He shared that Strand Elementary started off the school year with bussing for all of the students and free breakfast for all, and welcomed a new Innovation Lab teacher. In addition, the popular Running Club will return to the campus. Village Elementary is opening the school year with student-requested free play and open lunch seating, and is excited to welcome volunteers back on the grounds, according to Johnson. Coronado Middle School is welcoming new students with the “Trident Hangout,” which allows new students to meet friends. Coronado High School invited new students to explore campus at “TikiFest” with student-led tours, and CHS students are enjoying a renovated library with study rooms.

Johnson also shared that he, like many of his peers, was enjoying the newly-mandated later start time (CHS period 1 now begins at 8:30am).

“A lot of students tend to spend late nights doing homework, and that extra 30 minutes of sleep is helpful,” said Johnson. “I think it’s going to benefit every student at Coronado High School.”

In the Learning Department Update, Dr. Battle shared that the district was adopting a new curriculum to support the world language program at the elementary school level which includes a new textbook for the K-5 Spanish FLEX Program.

The Coronado Eagle-Journal newspaper was recognized for publishing and supporting the student-run Islander Times Newspaper, which has been distributed as an insert to every home and business in Coronado on a monthly basis since 2013. Mueller thanked Dean Eckenroth for helping the high school newspaper achieve such large exposure.

“Not only does Dean completely underwrite the printing and distribution cost of our high school paper, but he’s been a generous supporter of the district for many years through his family newspaper,” said Mueller.

Coronado Eagle-Journal publisher Dean Eckenroth Jr, Mr. Tam Hoang and Superintendent Karl Mueller.

Mueller shared that the school paper, led by teacher Mr. Hoang, was no longer a club but now a full-time journalism course that earns students credits as well as internship placements. Students learn about writing, editing, reporting, layout and design along with legal and ethical journalism concepts. Mr. Hoang shared that Eckenroth is a dedicated benefactor who understands and respects the students’ First Amendment rights, never asking for editorial content changes.

The board also recognized the Emerald Keepers Club for its contributions. CHS club president Jesse Hill shared that club members have been busy planting a garden using compost made from food waste from Boney’s and local restaurants. They then donate the produce grown in these gardens to local San Diego families suffering from food poverty. Hill said she is excited to see Emerald Keepers expand across the district and help CUSD be more sustainable.

Emerald Keepers Emily Kuite, Zoe Quast, Amy Steward and Jesse Hill pose with Superintendent Karl Mueller.

Earlier in the meeting during public comments, Arizona attorney Ryan Heath from the Gavel Project said that his nonprofit is suing each board member personally for the psychological torture of a student who didn’t comply with mask regulations. Heath said the student was excluded from school and sent to virtual learning every day, and that she was humiliated and mocked by her teachers.

“She wanted to go to class, she simply wanted to breathe. Being an organic child shouldn’t be a crime,” said Heath. “The district called the police on her. They stuck her out in the cold. They abused her, and it’s all your fault.”

Also during public comments, community member Carolyn Rogerson spoke about the “Out for Safe Schools” program which she said may be adopted by San Diego Unified School District. As part of the program, school staff would wear badges which identify them as trusted adults; Rogerson asserted that the badges could ultimately encourage sexual predators.

“Unfortunately, we all know that schools have been plagued with predators in virtually every school county in this country,” said Rogerson. “It strikes me that how happy the hidden predators pretending to be protectors will be, to be given a badge equivalent to a license to hunt.”

The Public Comment portion of the meeting can be viewed here.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is set for Thursday, September 15.

 

Edited September 12, 2022 to clarify a speaker’s comment.

 

 



Christine Van Tuyl
Christine Van Tuylhttp://islandgirlblog.com/
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: manager@coronadotimes.com
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