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. 1. How do you compare the needs of the Adult School students with those of the Mandarin school program that displaced them?
  2. 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.


  1. 2. What’s the status of funds for Fairmont Elementary?
  2. 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.


  1. 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?
  2. 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.


  1. 4. How are district finances impacted by charter schools?
  2. 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).


  1. 5. What will be the effect of additional charter schools on enrollment?
  2. 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.


  1. 6. What is the status of teacher retention?
  2. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 8. Will there be a special needs school at the former St. Jerome’s location?
  2. Not that I know of.


  1. 9. How are you ensuring students have adequate access to teachers and staff of color?
  2. We have discussed how to recruit a diverse workforce.


  1. 10. What is District position on using vacant schools, such as Adams?
  2. 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.


  1. 11. How does the district ensure funds are spent for the intended purpose?
  2. There is a district L-Cap committee and the county Board of Education monitors our spending.


  1. 12. The district set a teacher retention goal of 5 years. Why not longer?
  2. 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.


  1. 13. Our Fairmont principal could use an assistant principal. How did the district prioritize funding assistant principals at some schools?
  2. 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.


  1. 14. How can you avoid pulling students out of class for music lessons?
  2. 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.


  1. 15. Why are kids leaving the district?
  2. They say because of 1) safety and 2) rigor.


  1. 16. How can the district achieve its goals for minority students?
  2. We want accelerated goals for minority (Black, Latino) students. We are tracking their scores.


  1. 17. What is happening with funding for the visual and performing arts?
  2. 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.]