3-Month Board Meeting Summary
By John Rieping, Executive Administrative Assistant
THE FIRST THREE months of 2020 reached an unexpected climax with an infectious disease crisis that sent MUSD students and most staff home. Below are highlights from regular meetings of the school board from January through March.
Cross Country Champion
On January 28, the school district recognized Unique Ford, a Madera High School student, for being a two-time Division II Valley Champion in Cross Country and for placing sixth in the state in the 2019-20 school year.
House Fire Heros
On January 28, the district also honored custodian Jose A. “Tony” Martinez and Child Nutrition Assistant Teresa Deleija at Eastin Arcola School for helping a couple caught in a house fire on December 19, 2019. Each received an MUSD Medal of Honor – the first ones ever bestowed by the district.
On February 11, Healthy Schools program manager Anita Ruiz presented the 2019 Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools Honor Roll Award to Jaime Brown. Brown oversees the elementary physical education program and supports 25 school staff members who spearhead carrying out the district’s wellness policy.
On February 11, the Board honored Madera South High School’s Academic Decathlon team, which won the 2020 county competition, earning eight gold, 11 silver, and 11 bronze medals. This was the first such county victory by a Madera high school since 1991.
West Ed Report
On February 11, nonprofit agency WestEd summarized the results of 2019 research into the experiences of MUSD students and parents. The goal was to gain insight into a pattern of achievement gaps and disproportionate discipline for African American students.
The WestEd study at MUSD involved seven schools, 36 classroom observations, and guided discussions with 242 unique students, parents, and staff. About 20 percent of the district’s African American students took part in the study.
Feedback themes included a feeling of discrimination by the student majority against African American and white students, a sense of isolation among African American and white students, a disconnect between staff and African American students and parents, poor communication with African American parents and students about academic opportunities and safety matters, and African American student and parent concerns about bullying and fighting. African American students and all parents reported teachers yelling at students, and negative African American student experiences with teachers included racial slurs, profanity, and striking of students.
“This is a hard report,” acknowledged Dr. Rose Owens-West of WestEd. “It was hard to write.”
Dismayed, the Board requested that Superintendent Todd Lile formulate a plan of action.
On February 11, staff reported on the STOPit app, an anonymous two-way communication system for students to report safety concerns to school authorities. In the first few months of usage in the district, about 2,500 secondary students downloaded the phone app. Staff at five schools have responded to roughly 150 reports. Less than half of all reports involved at least one of the following: drugs & alcohol, physical assaults, bullying, harassment, weapons, self-harm, and threats or intimidation. Safety and Security Manager Lawrence Fernandez told the Board, “The app is far exceeding what we hoped. It has been a game-changer.”
On February 11, the majority of the Board okayed a schematic design of Matilda Torres High School Stadium that will feature aluminum bleachers, rather than ones of concrete, and facilities below the home grandstand. Staff and Darden Architects can now work on design development this spring and construction documents this summer. If all goes well, it is expected that the plans would be reviewed and approved next fall and/or winter.
On February 11, the Board unanimously approved a contract with SIM-PBK for architectural and engineering help to modernize Madera High School’s Varsity Softball field. The cost maybe about $227,500.
On March 10, the Board unanimously approved the use of an existing National Intergovernmental Purchasing Alliance contract for the purchase and installation of a new artificial turf system. This “piggybacking” on a contract put out to bid by another school district or agency is allowed and saves time and expense, according to staff. The cost would be $756,000. The astroturf has an 8-year warranty and won’t require watering except to reduce field temperature.
On March 10, the Board unanimously okayed a 10-year license agreement between the district and Camarena Health for a school-based health clinic at Matilda Torres High School. The district has already built the clinic and will pay for its water, sewage, trash collection, and irrigation. Camarena Health will reimburse the district for its $1.8 million in construction costs, pay its utility bills, and will run the clinic following agreed-upon guidelines.
County Arts Authority
On February 25, the Board of Trustees reaffirmed its prior approval for MUSD to fund $29,920 in start-up costs for the Madera County Arts Authority. But the same vote also expressed an intention to provide no further financial support. The funds were originally to be the first of two identical payments over two years. The multiagency Madera County Arts Authority, to which MUSD belongs, was formed to advance the arts in the county and to develop a Madera Cultural and Performing Arts Center.
On March 10, the Board unanimously okayed the Second Interim Report of the fiscal year. Required by the state, the report tells of financial obligations for the remainder of the fiscal year and, based on current forecasts, for the next fiscal year. Total revenue is estimated at $274.3 million for the current fiscal year, and total spending is estimated to be $286.2 million with $207.4 million of that in salaries and benefits. The district’s General Fund is projected to shrink each future fiscal year through 2022-2023 significantly.
Developer Fee Studies
On March 24, the Board unanimously okayed a contract with SchoolWorks to prepare a School Facility Needs Analysis and a Developer Fee Justification Study. If approved in September, these studies would allow the district to justify raising the fee rates paid to it by local property developers who build homes, businesses, or factories. A new analysis is also needed each year for residential development fees to be collected at all. Currently, MUSD receives $5 per square foot of new houses and 56 cents per square foot of new commercial or industrial projects.
Student Board Members
On February 25, the Board unanimously okayed Board Bylaw 9150, which defines the role of high school students who become advisory members of the Board of Trustees. Four student board members are proposed: one from each high school, and one teenager from the alternative education schools. Only two of those four would be seated with the Board at the same time, and they would exit any regular Board meeting around 9 p.m. regardless of when it ends. Student members would be allowed to submit items to the Board agenda, but their “preferential” votes — representing their school’s preference — wouldn’t affect whether an item passes or fails.
On February 25, the Board unanimously okayed agreements with the state and the education agencies of Mexico and Spain to apply for visiting teachers programs that help screen potential Dual Language Immersion Program teachers.
On March 24, the Board unanimously ratified an agreement with The Predictive Index to provide pre-employment behavioral assessments. District executives will gain access to the company’s assessment and management software for a year.
Image Credits: Photo Credit: John Rieping.