In addition to a virtual celebration of the nine employees of the year, the Coronado Unified School District Governing Board took action on numerous items at their May 14 meeting. Included in the action items on the agenda were three significant matters; teacher pay increases, a new high school bell schedule, and a Resolution authorizing the district to borrow $12 million through a Lease-Purchase Agreement.
After months of negotiations a Tentative Agreement was reached between representatives from the Association of Coronado Teachers (ACT) and CUSD. Included in the Agreement was a one percent salary schedule increase effective July 1, 2020 and a .54 percent pay increase in the form of one additional non-student day annually to be used for professional development. Other details included a nine percent salary differential for specialized training for the District Nurse, and 15 days of paid maternity leave. The impact to the district budget for the 1.54 percent salary increase is $300,911. The Board voted 4-1 to ratify the Agreement, with Trustee Julie Russell voting “No.” Russell later explained that her vote was not a reflection on the work of teachers but rather a symbolic gesture to address ongoing deficit spending. Superintendent Mueller thanked the negotiating teams led by CHS teacher Amanda Vanasse (ACT) and Asst. Superintendent Donnie Salamanca (CUSD). “The ratification of this Agreement is an acknowledgment of not only the hard work our teachers have done, but also recognizing the new challenges on our doorstep,” said Mueller. “I am confident we have the right staff to embrace these challenges and move the district forward.”
After more than a year of comprehensive study, the Board was presented with the opportunity to approve a new high school bell schedule. The district’s Long Range Plan, adopted in 2018, called for staff to “Identify top researched-based instructional practices, models, programs, and resources” and report to the Governing Board with recommendations on the CHS bell schedule. Over many months the Board has heard reports analyzing different bell schedule options from CHS Principal Shane Schmeichel and Director of Learning Dr. Megan Battle. The staff recommendation to the Board was in support of a 4x4 bell schedule, which is a four-period day and semester long courses. Advantages of the 4x4 schedule include: an increase from the current 10 flexible credits in a six period schedule to 90 flexible credits over four years - resulting in increased opportunity to meet University of California A-G requirements (40 percent of class of 2019 graduates were not eligible to attend a UC/CSU); creating robust opportunities for new elective classes, college dual enrollment courses, internships, and work experience; more flexibility and access to both remediation and acceleration classes; and alignment with college/university systems. In summarizing her presentation Battle said the new schedule would “maximize opportunities for our students to not only remediate and accelerate but, just as importantly, to explore their passions and interests,” she said. “In my heart I know this is what is best for students, I would want my child to have this opportunity.”
Other discussion about the new bell schedule included giving staff adequate time to prepare for the change by keeping the current six period schedule for one more year, creating a comprehensive professional development plan for new curriculum pacing, site visits to schools with the same bell schedule, and parent and student education. Donnie Salamanca answered questions from the Board about the fiscal impact of a bell schedule change, “currently our FTE ratios at CHS are above staffing requirements so there is a possibility this could be a cost neutral initiative, but we have budgeted for a potential increase of $345,000.” A motion to adopt a 4x4 block schedule in the fall of 2021 was made and passed 5-0.
The third noteworthy action item on the agenda was a resolution authorizing the execution of a Site Lease and Lease Purchase Agreement in the amount of $12 million. The report presented to the Board by Assistant Superintendent Donnie Salamanca outlined the reasons for borrowing money.
Salamanca began with a reminder to the Board that the Long Range Plan directs staff to seek out creative funding sources to protect programs until the district reaches Basic Aid funding in 2027 (when local property taxes will directly fund local schools). He summarized the financing plan as “using facilities to pay for facilities” and provided details of the proposal. Under the term of the Lease Purchase financing resolution CUSD will lease the Village Elementary School site for a lump sum of $12 million and then the District will lease the site back for annual payments of approximately $780,000 over 20 years. After that time (or sooner if there is a prepayment) the site will revert to CUSD. The interest rate on the loan is 2.36%. Salamanca noted that four bids were received in response to a Financing Request For Proposal and Sterling National Bank was selected. “Sterling had the lowest interest rate, no lender fees or expenses, and a flexible and inexpensive prepayment option,” he said.
The presentation also outlined the need for the funding of capital projects and deferred maintenance costs. “This year alone in March we approved a reimbursement agreement to reimburse the General Fund $2.8 million for projects and expenditures” such as technology infrastructure, water line break, new flooring, turf, and building repairs.
During Board discussion Trustee Lee Pontes focused on how the district will be able to pay the annual debt service on the loan. Salamanca explained that the $780,000 payment would be covered by the income from leases on two CUSD properties; a district owned property at 2nd Street and Prospect Place (also referred to as the Glorietta Property) that is under a long term lease with Villa Coronado, and the ECDC facility at 199 6th Street which is currently in lease negotiations. Pontes raised concerns about recent news from Sacramento on impending cuts in state public education funding due to Covid-19. Salamanca conceded that if they materialize the cuts could affect the district’s ability to reach Basic Aid without program cuts, but that the district could still make loan payments based on lease income. Trustee Valdes-Clayton also expressed concern over incurring additional debt at this uncertain time but praised both Mr. Mueller and Mr. Salamanca for a “great, creative way to approach our needs for our infrastructure.”
“After the failure of the Prop E school bond campaign in 2014, the Governing Board made a decision to prioritize programs and people over facilities. We don’t currently have funding to adequately address everything we are responsible for. I hope that in borrowing this money and creating a special fund to protect it, we will no longer have to weigh fixing leaking gym roofs against academic programs or personnel,” said Trustee Maria Simon.
The motion to adopt the Resolution passed 4-1 with Trustee Valdes-Clayton voting “No.” A follow-up motion to create a Special Fund to protect and account for the use of the funds passed with a unanimous 5-0 vote.
Also during the three and a half hour meeting, the Board approved the 2019-20 School Plans for Student Achievement, and viewed new middle school science curriculum and college prep chemistry textbooks, which will be voted on for approval in June. During the Superintendent’s Report Mr. Mueller updated the Board and community on the relocation of the TK/Kindergarten classes back to the main campus at Village Elementary in 2020-21. A silver lining to the empty facilities is that the Maintenance and Operations team is able to work full time to prepare the sites and the plan is ahead of schedule. ASB President and Student Board Representative John Shoemaker shared with the Board that a motivated and creative committee of students is working hard to plan a memorable graduation for the CHS Class of 2020. Shoemaker recognized that public health guidelines are constantly shifting and that releasing a plan too early might limit the possibilities. The student committee is working with administrators and will keep senior class families informed. Superintendent Mueller added that none of the rental contracts for chairs, stages, and lighting had been cancelled. In a final discussion about future agenda items, Mueller and the Board spoke about the possibility of getting students back into classrooms in the fall and how the Board can prepare and advocate at the State and County level for appropriate and timely public health measures to be set so that planning and community discussion can take place over the summer. “We do have a unique community here and we have to leverage the size of our district and the size of our City to benefit our students and our staff,” said Mueller. No further action was taken.
The next meeting of the CUSD Governing Board will be held on June 4, 2020 at 4 p.m.