CUSD Board President, Julie Russell, Presides Over First Board Meeting Of 2020 - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

CUSD Board President, Julie Russell, Presides Over First Board Meeting Of 2020

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Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2020 12:37 pm | Updated: 12:57 pm, Thu Jan 23, 2020.

Trustee Julie Russell oversaw her first Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) board meeting as president on Thursday, Jan. 16. The agenda included several action items and reports

The two action items included the election of board members to “Represent the Coronado Unified School District … on the Coronado Financing Authority and the Successor Agency,” and acceptance of the “Annual Audit for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2019.” After some discussion, Trustee Lee Pontes was chosen as the representative and Trustee Maria Simon as the alternate to serve as the representatives to the Successor Agency. The second action item also evoked little discussion. Both were passed unanimously.

Two lengthy reports dominated the meeting: updates on the two elementary schools and summary findings from the solar feasibility assessment. Principals Jenny Moore, from Silver Strand Elementary, and Heidi Bergener, from Village Elementary, made a joint presentation that included summarizing the implementation of the Bridges Math program, progress on the English Language Arts pilot, the impact on revised bell schedules and the Sanford Harmony social-emotional program, which is meant to help build community, foster trust, and strengthen confidence. Trustee Helen Anderson-Cruz noted that while there are questions about how to measure the effectiveness of social-emotional learning, she sees it every day in her granddaughter in terms of words and phrases she uses to describe her experience at school, such as, “that’s not how friends treat each other,” etc. Superintendent Karl Mueller also added that the confidence underpins increases in academic achievement.

One community member, Jennifer Hershman, CUSD parent and renewable energy professional, spoke prior to the solar presentation. Hershman noted that she has served on the Committee to Analyze Student Learning Environments (CASLE committee) which was a leaping off point for the board to explore solar power for the schools. The CASLE committee had focused on the need to cool CUSD rooms for optimal learning environments and to ensure a healthy level of CO2 in the rooms. While air conditioning would be the most effective way to do that, the cost of installing AC and then paying the utility bill was prohibitive. Solar was seen as one way of mitigating the cost while simultaneously being an environmentally sound move. Hershman spoke positively about the report and said that she looked forward to the discussion and that her firm stood ready to give advice to the district as needed, (she noted that there is no conflict of interest since her firm works at the utility scale).

The solar presentation was made by Kevin Ross of TerraVerde. At the beginning of his presentation, Ross indicated that his firm’s assessments use very conservative assumptions: “We are deliberately conservative so that if it looks promising for savings, we are more certain” that the savings are really there. Indeed, his assessment suggested that the school could have a savings benefit from installation but even more so if it also used batteries so as to be able to use non-peak pricing for power. Nonetheless, Ross noted that there are some challenges for solar in the district – particularly, shading – that suggest that not every location would be ideal for solar panel installation. His conclusion was that four (and possibly a “couple more”) sites look feasible for solar. So, while there could be savings, they might not be as much as hoped for. If the district did decide to continue, the entire process would take approximately one year to completion.

Pontes said, “I’m not hopeful from this report.” Russell added that, “It was a good first read.” And Simon asked, “What’s our plan going forward,” suggesting that the topic needed a deeper discussion. In the end, the board decided to further discuss this item as part of a future special meeting on the Long-Range Plan.

Other reports included the superintendent’s Long-Range Plan update. Mueller discussed Coronado High School (CHS) academic performance within the context of the board objective of ensuring that it perform in the top 10 percent of San Diego county students. Mueller first pointed out that, according to the 2020 Best Public High Schools Ranking, which is based on “key statistics, reviews, and data,” “Out of 198 schools, we are ranked No. 5,” putting us well within the top 5 percent of schools academically. Additionally, using multiple achievement indicators (CAASPP, ACT composite, SAT mean, and AP pass rates), he showed that Coronado is rated No. 1 in the county for English Language Arts and it is tied for No. 2 in Mathematics. Finally, when looking at a “cross-section of [11] comparable San Diego County high schools,” Coronado performs well, but not as highly as those with bell schedules that allow for more courses than CHS does. Specifically, Coronado’s scores within the range were as follows (Coronado; Range): ACT (26; 24-28); SAT mean (1212; 1194-1395); AP pass rate (84 percent; 72-93). Anderson-Cruz pointed out that all of the other schools, with the exception of La Jolla, had different schedules from ours (they have 4x4, trimesters, or 7 periods). Simon echoed this point and added that she believed that La Jolla is just on the cusp of switching its bell schedule.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 13, at 4 p.m.

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