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Board Meeting Feb 21, 2019 – Painful necessities?

February 26, 2019

Two painful choices were examined at the Feb 21st board meeting, and the routine business of the district was moved forward in other numerous ways.

You can see the brief version of the minutes here (called “Summary Notes”), or you can examine the detailed agenda and minutes at the official school district meetings page (link here).

The first item reflecting potential painful necessities was the proposed change of Matt Garcia Career and College Academy from a school with 6th through 12th grades (combination middle and high school) to middle school only (6th through 8th grades). If enacted (to be considered at the next board meeting) the high school students would be required to either return to their geographically-assigned school or apply for transfer (“open enrollment”) if they wanted to stay with their friends. This would be a painful process for some, who have become accustomed to a small high school. There doesn’t seem to be any room for exceptions (I asked).

One reason this resonates with me is because my first teaching job in the district (1999-2000, if my memory is correct) was at a newly-created small alternative high school at the Mary Bird campus. There were only nine teachers and a few hundred students, and many of us bonded. After four years, the district decided to close the school and transfer everyone to other sites. I remember the shock when we first learned of it, and the resulting gamut of feelings as the program wound down.

A detailed presentation was given (see the meeting records, or email me for a copy). The facts that stood out were the small number of seniors (3 last year, and 6 this year), the relatively high cost per student of keeping a small high school open ($8,100 per student versus $5,600 at Public Safety Academy, the other combined middle and high school), and, finally, the need for many students to use the district’s online learning platform (Edgenuity) to complete coursework in the absence of credentialed teachers in the various subject areas necessary. I’m familiar with Edgenuity, and consider it inferior to a good classroom teacher.

Several community members spoke about possible ways to keep the school open, but it looked grim. The decision is scheduled to be made at the next board meeting.

Another factor weighing in was expressed by my colleague Jonathan Richardson – that the school’s permanent namesake (former City Councilmember Matt Garcia) was not being honored by maintaining a school with a weak educational program (that is my summary of his comments). I fully agree.

I’m sure there will be more factors to consider before the final decision is made, but it looks painful any way it turns out.

The second potentially painful item is the more than $2 million in budget cuts we approved (with several more million potentially needed the year following). This is due mainly to state finance issues but will result in cutting some management positions as well as some across-the-board department cuts.

A detailed presentation was given (included with the meeting info), and state finances are “a moving target,” with many factors still undetermined. But it’s looking like we’re headed for some belt-tightening.

Other items I paid close attention to:

  • Upcoming changes to the elementary school release-time specialist program (P.E., music and art teachers) mentioned by the superintendent, which will probably be brought forward in a month or so;
  • The turnover in special education staff mentioned by the teachers union president, indicating a need for administrative problem-solving;
  • The process for considering a change to the Armijo school mascot, which includes 22 community members who will meet to consider the matter over four meetings in February, March and April before returning with a final recommendation;
  • The revised contract for the school psychologists union which was adopted.

Many other items were handled; be sure to consult the meeting documents (linked from here) or email me if you can’t figure it out.

From → Meetings

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