Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) president Lee Pontes opened the CUSD School Board meeting of Sept. 9 with a call for a moment of silence to commemorate the tragic events of 9/11. Following that obseravance, the Governing Board stepped until a full slate of items for their first meeting of the new school year.

Director of Special Programs Shane Schmeichel updated the board on a model UN project in collaboration with the National School District, along with three students who designed a calendar to help create a more sustainable world. 

As the Board transitioned into member comments, Pontes and all trustees expressed gratitude for CUSD teachers and for being able to have students back in their schools. Trustee Ester Valdes-Clayton thanked those present for sharing their time and thoughts with the Board. Dr. Helen Anderson Cruz thanked community members and parents for participation and teachers who got the school year off to a good start. She also welcomed Maria Simon as the new Public Information Officer. Trustee Whitney Antrim expressed gratitude for the parents’ trust to serve the community. She cited a quote calling on those at the meeting to “instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.” Trustee Stacy Keszei expressed thanks for the students, teachers, and the excitement to be back on campus.

Superintendent Karl Mueller (in his comemnts) reiterated the sentiments of the trustees. “The focus, collaboration, and professionalism on display by our staff,” he said, “is nothing short of remarkable, and cannot be overstated. Their commitment to a safe and full return to in person instruction took a collective effort.”

He also commented on the importance of state assessment of school climates, and the new Homegrown Kindness Program to bet developed for CUSD schools. The program sets the goal of reducing bullying, harassment, and bias at CUSD schools; invitations are sent out to community members and staff for a school climate plan to meet this end. 

“We all want the same thing for our children,” said Mueller, “It is our responsibility to prioritize the focus of the board, and on our mission to serve the students in our care.” 

The new ASB representative, Declan Dineen, at his first meeting, shared news from all CUSD schools. He shared updates that student events at Coronado High School (CHS) are starting back up, and a 4x4 schedule is in motion, and noted positive feedback for the longer classes, new activities, and ability to leave school early with an “off period” for other activities, internships, or work that the new schedule enables. He believes the 4x4 schedule will, “positively impact the student body for the rest of the school year.” Dineen also welcomed new Principal Dr. Karin Mellina at CHS, and Principal Brooke Falar at Coronado Middle School (CMS), too. 

Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca presented the 2020-2021 unaudited actuals, and the Board approved. The numbers will be audited and presented in January. One time Federal and State Covid funds helped to offset deficit spending this year but that will return after one time funds are spent.

During the Learning Department report, Dr. Megan Battle presented data on the Spring and Summer student grade comparisons with previous years. She also reviewed the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) used by the district. Her report stated “MTSS is a systematic approach to equitable access to all students. MTSS is an integrated, comprehensive framework that aligns academic, behavioral, and social-emotional learning in a fully integrated system of support for the benefit of all students. MTSS offers the potential to create needed systematic change through intentional design and redesign of services and supports to quickly identify and match to the needs of all students.”

Battle also gave an overview of “Instructional Frameworks.” She said her report was about clarifying misunderstandings about who governs what CUSD teaches and why. Battle explained that the state board of education governs the content taught in California public schools. Local Education Agencies (LEA) are responsible by law for implementing adopted frameworks and content standards.

“The framework,” Battle said, “is a blueprint for how to implement content standards in the classroom.”

She described content standards as the concepts and skills students should learn before they move onto the next grade. Processing these standards can take years before approval. Once frameworks are approved, districts look at instructional materials in the classrooms, which must align directly with standards. Supplemental materials, which assist the base corps material primarily used in the classroom, must align to state standards. If a parent feels a supplemental instructional material is inappropriate, they may use a process in place through Human Resources to express concern.

The Board approved a new contract with the Association of Coronado Teachers (ACT) for a 3% pay raise along with an average 1.5% ‘step and column’ pay increase. The ongoing annual cost is $540,000. The Board also approved a 3% pay raise for Certificated/Classified Management and Confidential employees, along with their built- in ‘step and column’ increase. The annual cost is $75,000 contracts for superintendent and deputy superintendent were raised; Mueller’s by 1.5 percent, and Salamanca’s by 2.5 percent.

Public Comments:

The board designated one hour for all public comments, each commentator limited to two minutes of speech. Of the 24 speakers, two CHS students spoke, defending the No Place for Hate anti-bullying club, and expressing concern for the silencing of students working towards inclusivity in their schools. Four audience members donated their time to one speaker, ultimately receiving eight possible minutes to speak, who questioned the legitimacy of local parent group “We the Parents.” Most of these comments defended the No Place for Hate campaign, and stressed the importance of continuing to follow the statewide mask mandate in schools. One speaker advocated for mask choice for families. Several emphasized the importance of inclusivity and a positive school climate on student wellness. Some encouraged the continuation of civil discourse in CUSD schools, and noted that Critical Race Theory was not part of CUSD school curriculum. Four speakers voiced their disapproval of Critical Race Theory. Three speakers recalled the June 19 CHS basketball game, and the school board’s letter following the incident. One speaker thanked the board for the reversal of their original word choice. Another called for an apology letter to the Coronado community and CHS basketball team.

In action item summary, the Board approved items 6.1 through 8.17 with the exception of two items that were postponed:

Item 7.1 Censure Hearing of Trustee Keszei 

Item 7.2 Public Hearing on Sufficiency of Instructional Materials for 2021-22

The next school board meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 21 at 201 Sixth Street at 4 p.m.

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