Thursday, February 22, 2024

CUSD Update: 4×4 Committee Collects Data, Budget Discussed, Non-Agenda Public Comments Moved to End of Meeting

The Coronado Unified School District trustees met on Thursday, March 9th at District Offices where board members updated the community on the 4×4 committee meetings and authorized a positive certification of the second interim budget. In addition, the board moved all public comments on non-agenda items towards the end of the meeting, just before organizational board business. Board member and superintendent comments were moved to the end as well.

According to Board President Renee Cavanaugh, the change was made to “prioritize the business of the district.” Trustee Whitney Antrim, who zoomed into the meeting from Northern California while attending the small school district association conference, said the re-ordering would help put students first.

The meeting opened with a spotlight presentation on the Coronado Middle School Advanced Performing Arts production of Willy Wonka Junior, which will take the mainstage at the Coronado Performing Arts Center on March 24th and March 25th. Students performed several songs including the Golden Age of Chocolate and Cheer Up Charlie.

Shane Schmeichel, Director of Special Projects, shared some artwork on display from the Coronado School of Arts Visual Arts Conservatory. He said the conservatory offers a full-studio experience including working with live models. The students will have their work displayed at the C3 Gallery at the Coronado Community Center in April, and at the Coronado Schools Foundation Art and Wine Festival on May 13.

Trustee Alexia Palacios-Peters, who heads up the 4×4 Committee along with Trustee Scot Youngblood, shared that they’ve been busy meeting with members, all of whom are listed on the district website. She said the committee will launch two surveys in early April to solicit feedback on the high school block scheduling, which is in its second year. The committee will facilitate two public forums at the Winn Room at the Coronado Public Library on April 6th from 5-7pm for parents of CHS students, and on April 12th from 5-7pm for the community-at-large.

Committee members will also collect data from CHS faculty at the high school on Wednesday, March 22 from 7:30am until 12:30pm, and then on Thursday March 23 from 11:30am-4pm. Students will have a chance to engage and share thoughts on the 4×4 with the committee at CHS on April 4th and 5th from 8-8:30 in the morning, and again at lunchtime.  Community members are encouraged to contact committee members, Palacios-Peters or Youngblood with questions or concerns.

The board also voted to authorize a positive district certification of the second interim budget after a presentation from Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca. He shared some key takeaways from Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposals, including the slowing of state revenues that are falling under projection, and also a proposed cost of living adjustment (CoLA) of 8.13%. Also proposed: a 33% reduction in the arts, music, and instructional materials block grant, but also new categorical programs which include funding for art and cultural enrichment expenditures.

Salamanca also noted a significant rate increase from the California Public Employees Retirement System (CALpers), which will affect the budget for classified employees. He noted a projected $221,000 increase in district expenses from 2022-2023 to 2023-2024 related to this rate hike. Salamanca said the district is still on track to reach Basic Aid by 2027-2028.

In her report, Jennifer Landry, the President of the Association of Coronado Teachers, highlighted new teacher Nicolette Davila, a special education specialist at Village Elementary. She said that Village has another open position for education specialist, and that she wanted to draw attention to the issue of significant staff turnover within the district. Landry said that since 2017, more than 100 teachers have left the district, many of them from special education.

In an email after the meeting, Armando Farias, CUSD Director of Human Resources, shared that 92 teachers and 23 special education employees have left the district since 2017. Farias said he started a “separation survey” to monitor the reasons why employees would decide to leave CUSD.

“Based on the small sample that I have, the number one reason why they have left is a promotion or moving out of state,” wrote Farias. “Additionally, more than 84% of the employees surveyed stated that they would consider working for CUSD again in the future.”

The day after the meeting, in a CUSD press release dated March 10, the district announced that Dr. Heidi Bergener, Village Elementary School Principal, was leaving after being named the K-12 Pathway Director serving the Southwestern Community College Consortium, of which CUSD is a member.

Trustees Antrim and Mal Sandie updated the board and community members on the Keeping Students Safe Online Committee and praised the strength of the student perspective. Superintendent Karl Mueller the student input was “thought-provoking” and “inspiring.”

The 2×2 committee, which was created to promote intergovernmental communication between the City of Coronado and Coronado Unified School District, met for the very first time since COVID. Youngblood, who serves on the committee with Antrim, said the committee is designed to strengthen the district’s partnership with the city, and to help explore better ways to support each other.

In other board business, the district voted to approve the transportation plan, which is a plan to help offset transportation costs by up to 60% by showing district eligibility in accordance with state requirements.

In his Long Range Plan update, Mueller shared that the district is “on target” with all of the dates outlined in the site safety plan and that Coronado Police Chief Chuck Kaye has been busy conducting site visits with the safety team. The report, which will be delivered to the board at the April 20th meeting, will highlight areas for suggested improvements and consideration in efforts to strengthen school safety.

Mueller also shared that, while attending the last CHS PTO meeting, he was encouraged by programs such as the State Seal of Biliteracy and the Seal of Civic Engagement, available to qualifying CHS students.

“We are not a perfect school district,” said Mueller. “We have a lot of work to do, and always a lot of opportunities for improvement. But it’s nice every once a while to take a step back and to get up in the helicopter and see where we’ve come.”

There were only two public comments at the end of the meeting. Linda Kullman thanked the band and choir boosters for funding a field trip of 66 elementary school music students to the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, and Carolyn Rogerson addressed several proposed state bills that she said could result in “teachers keeping secrets from parents.” She also referenced the plausibility of teachers bringing pornographic materials into the classroom.

After the comments, Youngblood proposed a discussion about the pending bills, as they could ultimately impact the actions of the board. Trustee Antrim said that while it would be appropriate for the California School Board Association and individual citizens to take positions and communicate with lawmakers, it was outside of the board’s jurisdiction. She added that in the last two days, more than 1,000 bills were introduced.

“The fate of these proposed bills is up in the air,” said Antrim. “It’s premature and it’s not entirely appropriate for us as a board [to address them].”

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is happening on Thursday, April 20.


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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