Recap of ECDC September 27, 2017 meeting
at El Cerrito High School Cafeteria
WCCUSD Superintendent Matt Duffy described the district’s strategic Roadmap 2022 as a way of summarizing the key features of the much more comprehensive state local control plan (the L-Cap). He indicated that the district started with aspirations and set ambitious goals: specifically that in 5 years, our district of achieving students, engaged communities, and invested employees will graduate 80% of students college-ready; 80% of parents and students will report high levels of satisfaction; and 80% of employees will stay with us for at least 5 years. Significant obstacles to this remain since, for example, currently only 3 out of 10 3rd graders are reading at grade level and only 4 out of 10 graduates are college-ready.
Duffy described 6 district investments to help meet the 2022 objectives: 1) Sites: Moving funding back to the schools; 2) School leaders: funding full or half-time assistant principals at some schools, while adding ~ 20 teachers at the high school level to lower class size, and some teachers at the middle schools; 3) Building communities of practice around, e.g. math; 4) Language learning – establishing a district-run Mandarin school, and providing dual English-Spanish immersion as a high school option; 5) Supporting high-priority schools and teachers by e.g. replacing more than 40% of teaching staff who departed the subordinate schools feeding Kennedy High School. Other goals mentioned are retaining 15% more teachers in 2017 than in 2016, and investing in “a learning organization.”
Question and Answer Session:
- 1. How do you compare the needs of the Adult School students with those of the Mandarin school program that displaced them?
- The Mandarin School is now using 3 classrooms at the Adult School. We know the Mandarin School can’t stay at Sierra, so the question is how long will it remain there.
- 2. What’s the status of funds for Fairmont Elementary?
- Fairmont has dollars in the current bond program, but only for critical needs, such as expanding the school area toward BART. Dollars to actually rebuild would require a bond measure.
- 3. The city of El Cerrito has recently approved new housing developments. How will new housing translate to newly arriving students at El Cerrito schools?
- We are looking at how many new kindergarteners came in this Fall as a test. We did see some increased enrollment at Korematsu, but only tiny growth at El Cerrito High School.
- 4. How are district finances impacted by charter schools?
- Dollars travel with students, but it’s hard to reduce commitment to teachers in proportion. For one thing, we have a retiree liability of $667/per student ($20M/30K students).
- 5. What will be the effect of additional charter schools on enrollment?
- It’s unclear if we will lose students and where we would lose them from. For example, to date, Richmond High lost a lot of students to charter schools, as did Lincoln Elementary. But it’s unpredictable where future losses would be.
- 6. What is the status of teacher retention?
- I’ve pinned my future on teacher retention. We did exit interviews with departing teachers this summer. They say they left because of 1) compensation issues (dollars for salaries and professional development being lower in non-charter schools than in charter schools); 2) culture; and 3) working conditions (e.g. supplies, heating/cooling). The board has ratified more compensation.
- 7. Do you have a goal of creating more K-8 schools?
Yes, research shows the value of K-8 schools. But since we are losing kids at grade 9 (e.g. Kennedy High, Richmond High,) we’re also exploring the benefit of K-5. Many communities are using the K-5 model.
- 8. Will there be a special needs school at the former St. Jerome’s location?
- Not that I know of.
- 9. How are you ensuring students have adequate access to teachers and staff of color?
- We have discussed how to recruit a diverse workforce.
- 10. What is District position on using vacant schools, such as Adams?
- Adams is not earthquake safe and a seismic retrofit would be very costly. By the way, charter schools can build to a slightly different standard. Alvarado, for example, is not in condition for students (e.g. no kitchen) and would cost millions to put back in condition.
- 11. How does the district ensure funds are spent for the intended purpose?
- There is a district L-Cap committee and the county Board of Education monitors our spending.
- 12. The district set a teacher retention goal of 5 years. Why not longer?
- I don’t know if, in future, there will be 30-year teachers. We are seeing a part bell curve where the bulk of teachers have either less than 5 years of teaching experience or greater than 25 years.
- 13. Our Fairmont principal could use an assistant principal. How did the district prioritize funding assistant principals at some schools?
- Where there were 500 or more students and an unduplicated count of low income students, that was where we put the assistants. We are looking at the next iteration.
- 14. How can you avoid pulling students out of class for music lessons?
- The question is money. I’m a fan of music and would like to get out of the pull students out of class model. For high-achievers, or students who have an instrument, leaving class is less of a problem.
- 15. Why are kids leaving the district?
- They say because of 1) safety and 2) rigor.
- 16. How can the district achieve its goals for minority students?
- We want accelerated goals for minority (Black, Latino) students. We are tracking their scores.
- 17. What is happening with funding for the visual and performing arts?
- We are keeping the resources we have.
Todd Groves, who retired from the WCCUSD board, on campaign financing:
I was a member of the board’s Governance subcommittee. We saw rising dollars for school board races, including the influence of super PACs with deep pockets. People are concerned about this principally because it would mean that individual board members who receive charter school campaign funding could represent narrow interests in the district.
The current board’s Governance subcommittee is talking about a $1K campaign limit that would apply to non-PAC contributions. I opposed this because this control cannot touch PACs which have unlimited campaign funding opportunities to influence a school board ele ction. And that unlimited funding means heavy influence by charter schools which will hamper individuals not supported by charter school funding. Moreover, large amounts of charter school funding going to a few school board members will mean that ordinary people cannot run for office. They will lack the funds to compete. In my case, in 2012, I raised $12K and spent $4K.
Going to a ward structure (as has occurred in Oakland and LA) does not help board members and the public have a greater voice.
WCCUSD Board member Val Cuevas asked to respond. At this point, other board members excused themselves from the room to avoid any Brown Act issues.
Cuevas: Regarding a limit on non-PAC campaign funding, our Governance subcommittee intent is how to make sure that your tax dollars have the same impact as monied interests. AB 2523 did not pass, so we reached out to Common Cause. Expenses can’t be limited, per the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. F.E.C decision, so we are looking how those with monied interest cannot make contributions that reflect their business interest, e.g. vendors. We will not move the issue forward to the board until we feel we are comfortable. By the way, Berkeley has a $250 campaign contribution limit. [Note: This $250 limit does not apply to PACs.]
Speaker, Robert Cheasty of Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP) on the Urgency of Global Warming in and for the Bay Area
Robert Cheasty is the Executive Director of CESP, CESP’s former President, and a founding member, whose 25 year effort was crucial to establishment of the Eastshore State Park in 2002. CESP’s mission is to create shoreline parks from the Oakland Estuary to the Carquinez Strait, working to protect open space through advocacy, outreach and education. (https://eastshorepark.org)
Known for his community activism, Cheasty served as President of the Bay Dredging Action Coalition, an organization dedicated to ecologically sound and efficient dredging operations in San Francisco Bay. He has also served as Mayor of Albany and held numerous other public positions. Professionally, he heads a Berkeley law firm specializing in civil litigation that successfully litigated against the city of Richmond.
The Environmental and Economic Dangers
Displaying a poster of what a 2-meter rise in sea level would look like for the East Bay shores, Cheasty noted that there would be catastrophic effects: loss of access to major bridges and highways traversing the Bay; much of the East Bay shoreline underwater, including the Oakland airport and the city of Alameda; damage to the ports of Richmond and Oakland; and the loss of shoreline walkways and habitat. The key, he said, was what we need to do now to prevent this from happening.
A Resilient Shoreline
There are simple protections, Cheasty said, but they take time, and activist groups like the ECDC must be involved. The work includes raising awareness about the sea-level rise to be caused by climate change; organizing a coalition of public leaders in support of green infrastructure solutions (e.g. restored marshes that form a critical buffer zone and horizontal levees) rather than hardscape solutions (e.g. sea walls); and engaging the public in visualizing what such a sea-level increment would look like. This combination of effort will move people to action.
Lack of Federal Funds for cities proposing shoreline development
Subsidy of the US Army Corps of Engineers to establish a resilient shoreline is “not baked into” the Federal budget; and there will be stiff competition for funding from NYC, Boston, Chesapeake Bay, Florida, and the Gulf Coast. Such remediation does have strong support from elected officials (Skinner, Thurmond, Bay Area mayors, and Governor Brown), but it is critical that people show their elected representatives that they care about protecting our shoreline. Some cities are doing the opposite of what is smart and planning for port and housing development in the 500 to 1,000 foot depth of shoreline that would be better reserved as open space to mitigate sea rise.
Cheasty asked ECDC members to attend the next CESP event, the Richmond Shoreline Park Festival at Point Pinole Park on Saturday, Oct. 7 from ~1 to 4pm, to show support for creating a tolerant and sustainable shoreline that is open to the public, that provides beneficial habitat, and that buffers against the damage that will be caused by rising sea levels and flooding.
Budget Amendment Passes
Members unanimously approved a $500 enhancement to the budget, as recommended by the Executive Board, to fund membership recruiting events.
Standing Rule F Waived for This Year Only
Members unanimously approved a waiver, for 2017 only, to the standing rule that formerly required the vote on delegates for endorsement to be held at our September meeting. We don’t yet know how many endorsement slots we will have nor how many people will be running, and with each candidate given two minutes to speak, the time requirement will be substantial. September’s meeting, our perennially popular Back to School Night, will have a packed agenda and certainly not allow time for selection of delegates. See Hilary Crosby’s August 17th posting, “Proposed Standing Rule Change: Meaning, Background, Impact,” for additional information.
Three Officer Positions Vacant as of 2018
VP-Publications, VP-Records and VP-Membership all have openings for 2018. We hope that every ECDC member will think about volunteering to help us get through a busy election year.
November meeting discussion of Young Dem seat on E-Board
After discussion, the Board agreed that at our November 28 meeting the membership will entertain the idea of granting a seat on the Board to a member of the California Young Democrats, on terms yet to be decided. The Board believes that more participation by Young Dems is necessary to our future success as a club, and that younger members will add important skills – such as canvassing and social media – to our arsenal to help Dems win in 2020.