Friday, December 1, 2023

CUSD Update: District Eyes Seamless Transition to Basic Aid, Board Discusses Hot Classrooms and Physical Safety

The Coronado Unified School District school board trustees met on Thursday, September 15th at District Offices where the board approved the adoption of the unaudited budget for 2021-2022. The board also discussed the impact heat was having on students, teachers and staff and on school physical safety.

Several board members referenced the hot classrooms in board member comments. Trustee Lee Pontes thanked everyone in the district for tolerating the heat in the classrooms, and noted that the CASLE (Committee to Analyze the Student Learning Environments) update is on the agenda for October. Trustee Helen Anderson-Cruz advocated finding a short-term solution to hot weather and non-airconditioned classrooms.

“I fully support investigating a fiscally sound and humane solution,” said Anderson-Cruz. “Even a short-term solution to keep our children and our teachers safe. Children can’t learn when it’s so miserably hot.”

Superintendent Karl Mueller shared that the significant heat wave was a “glaring reminder” that the district needs to come up with a realistic and sustainable solution for temperature-controlled learning environments.

“This is something we can’t fix with gum and glue,” said Mueller. “There has to be a long-term sustainable solution, and it’s not as simplistic as adding air conditioning and solar paneling. There’s a lot of infrastructure work that needs to go into our old buildings to support that.”

Elizabeth Dugan, mother of four CUSD children, addressed the heat issue in a public comment later in the meeting. She said that every day, district teachers, principals and staff are making the impossible choice to endure unbearable heat or completely disregard safety. She said when she visited Village Elementary last week, the doors were propped open giving full access to the building; she said that windows on the street level were fully open so she could have easily reached in and touched the top of her daughter’s head. Dugan referenced the Uvalde school shooting, whereby staff propped open doors creating a deadly safety breach.

“Please do not insult me by telling me we need to keep the doors open and the windows open because we have no air conditioning and it’s too expensive to install,” said Dugan. “Allow me to define expensive: 19 dead children and two dead teachers. That’s expensive.”

In action items, the board voted to approve the final accounting for the 2021-2022 Education Protection Funds, as well as the Unaudited Actuals SACS Financial Report.

As background on the report, Deputy District Superintendent Donnie Salamanca shared that his team was tasked with creating a budget plan that demonstrates “a reserve spend-down ensuring student access to programs, resources and curricula aligned with the CUSD mission statement.” He said that CUSD’s planned spend down is a means to an end as the district transitions to basic aid, funded by local property taxes. CUSD will likely receive approximately $8-10 million more additional revenues once it transitions to basic aid, which will occur around 2027-2028, according to Salamanca.

“We are spending more money than we are receiving, causing CUSD to spend down its reserve, and that’s okay,” said Salamanca. “It’s okay because we have a plan, and that’s part of our plan. We have sufficient reserves to sustain programs, and we have enough resources to get to basic aid and beyond.”

Salamanca said that CUSD did not operate at a deficit, and that CUSD’s fund balance actually grew in 2021-2022. He said that at the end of that school year, the district had $21.3 million in reserves and plans to go into basic aid with $7 million in reserves. He said in addition to receiving more funding, being a basic aid school doesn’t require a certain level of enrollment or attendance. There’s also more flexibility in the programs the district can offer, and how the funds are allocated as the programs run.

Community members are invited to join in on the next budget committee meeting on September 28th.

Trustee Bruce Shepherd thanked Salamanca and board members involved in solving what he said was a challenging budget crisis.

“We are getting through the dark, and we are going to come out at basic aid and it’s going to be phenomenal and awesome,” said Shepherd.

Earlier in the evening during public comments, CUSD graduate Chloe Berk addressed a need for continued equity work.

“As a K-12 CUSD graduate, I know the many wonderful things that CUSD has done and will continue to do,” said Berk. “I hope and trust that CUSD can restart and encourage this incredible equity work to be sure that school can be a welcoming space for all students to thrive.”

Also in public comments, community member Ann Sonne asked whether the purpose of district schools was academic instruction or political indoctrination. She said that Critical Race Theory doctrines were introduced to district kids via the No Place for Hate program.

“You may feel these ideologies are valid. Fair enough. Put them squarely on the table and let the voters decide,” said Sonne. “State clearly that you are in favor of Critical Race Theory, current gender theories, the sexualization of children, Marxism, equity of outcomes, and whatever other progressive theories you advocate. But don’t impose them on the children of your taxpayers who are funding these activities without consent.”

Coronado resident Brian Trotier shared concerns about a website called, which he said contains misinformation about school board happenings written in the form of anonymous postings.

“I’m disappointed that there are people in the community that want you to put your positions on the table but yet refuse to put their own and their own names behind them,” said Trotier. “They comment anonymously and they refuse to own their principles. If you believe something, put your name on it. Otherwise, stop.”

In reports, ASB President Luke Johnson shared school site updates. He said that Silver Strand Elementary is excited for the return of in-person Friday assemblies and enjoyed a visit from two cast members of the touring production of Lion King. Village Elementary is proud to achieve 100% participation in its PTO and students are enjoying the language program.  At CMS, Johnson said that ASB has selected its committees and launched the Popcornopolis fundraiser, and CHS students have just completed “Club Rush” where they had a change to meet with students from more than 80 school clubs. The CHS Homecoming Dance will be held at the New Children’s Museum with a theme to be announced soon.

In her report from the Association of Coronado Teachers, president Jennifer Landry focused on CMS PE teachers and how they are handling the heat. She shared thoughts and strategies from PE teachers Kevin Donahue, Bonnie McCann, Brian Schumeyer, and Todd Thielman.

Earlier in the meeting, Trustee Pontes thanked community members for correspondence and also noted all the new hires for instructional aides as part of the need to reach out and help students through COVID-induced learning lost.

Towards the end of the meeting, the board voted 3-2 to approve agenda item 4.7 which was pulled from the consent calendar. This item included language under the state law AB-367 which requires that free menstrual products be available in all girls’ restrooms, all gender restrooms and one boys’ restroom at CMS and CHS.

Mueller shared that CUSD will host a second parent and community forum on safety, date and time TBD. The next regular board meeting will be held on October 20th at 4pm and will include the CASLE facilities update.

The full meeting can be viewed here.



Christine Van Tuyl
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]

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