The August 19 Governing Board meeting began with nearly three hours of public comments from approximately 45 speakers. Passionate community members addressed three major issues during the public comments section of the meeting; the ‘No Place For Hate’ program and critical race theory; the Governing Board letter published on June 20 after the CIF championship basketball game; and mask mandates and classroom air quality. Each of the subjects was eventually addressed by staff and trustees during the meeting.
No Place For Hate
Although the Board referenced letters received in support of the program, public comments on this item were almost universally against the continued use of the anti-bias, anti-bullying school climate program created by the Anti Defamation League. Most speakers cited the inclusion of critical race theory and activist components in the program’s activities as reasons for concern.
Director of Special Programs Shane Schmeichel presented the No Place for Hate update to the Board. During his report he said that No Place for Hate was brought into the district in September 2020 in response to students who spoke last summer about a need to address bullying and bias. He confirmed that was not ‘adopted’ curriculum, nor the district’s character education program; but conceded that during the 2020-21 school year the program’s activities “may have exceeded traditional club boundaries.” Schmeichel explained the Administrative Regulation [AR 6145.5] which defines the rights and restrictions for student-led campus clubs. He said that No Place for Hate fell into the category of a club and that effective immediately all site principals were directed to ensure that if students established a No Place for Hate club at any school site, the club must adhere to the same regulations as all other clubs. Included in the AR is the stipulation that “meetings shall not interfere with regular school activities,” and also that student initiated groups cannot be denied on the basis of “religious, political, philosophical, or any other content of speech to be addressed.”
Superintendent Mueller added that he is preparing to invite students, staff, parents, and representatives from local service clubs, and youth organizations to come up with a homegrown campus culture/character education program for consideration by the Board.
Post Basketball Game Statement Amended
After adjourning to closed session the Board reconvened to open session and completed their final agenda item, which was to ‘Approve a Board Statement regarding the June 19 Boys CIF Basketball Game.’
There has been backlash in the community since the strongly worded statement was issued, and the discussion began with more public comment from those who had stayed until nearly midnight asking the Board to retract their June 20, 2021 statement that read in part, “The Trustees of the Coronado Unified School District acknowledge these acts to be egregious, demeaning, and disrespectful. We fully condemn the racism, classism, and colorism which fueled the actions of the perpetrators.”
During deliberation the trustees considered numerous options including completely withdrawing the statement, leaving it as written, and various amendments. They eventually settled on the simple statement: Dear Orange Glen Community, On behalf of the CUSD Governing Board, we extend a full and formal apology to the Orange Glen High School athletes, known as the Patriots, as well as their peers, parents, teachers, and staff. The CUSD Governing Board supports the statement of Superintendent Mueller.
After much discussion the Board voted 4-1 (Keszei voting No) to conduct a censure hearing for Trustee Keszei at the Sept. 9, 2021 Board meeting. Board Bylaw 9005 defines censure as “a formal resolution of the Board officially reprimanding one of its members. Censure is an appropriate punitive measure when the violation of law, bylaw or policy is deemed by the Board to be a serious offense. In order to protect the overriding principle of freedom of speech, the Board shall not impose “censure” on any of its members for the exercise of his or her First Amendment rights no matter how distasteful the expression was to the District and Board.”
Trustee Valdes-Clayton asserted, “These are serious charges. We have never entertained a censure motion against a trustee.” She added that it was an issue of breach of confidentiality that prompted the motion. “I don’t think there is anything political about it. It is specifically about information from closed session being leaked to the public.”
“We are talking about our integrity and ability to operate as a Board,” said Trustee Antrim. Both Valdes-Clayton and Antrim said they had read the censure motion and wanted the hearing process to be evidence-driven with Trustee Keszei having the opportunity to speak to the issues.
The Bylaw that will guide the hearing states, “At the public hearing, the member of the Board subject to censure shall be given the opportunity to respond to the charge(s) and to provide the Board information and material(s) relevant to the charge(s). The proponents of the request to censure may also respond to the presentation and members of the Board may ask questions pertaining to the matter at hand. The member subject to the charge(s) may be represented by legal counsel at his or her own personal expense and may have the representative speak on his or her behalf.”
Learning Department Report
Director of Learning Dr. Megan Battle, presented information to the Board about opening the school year. She outlined what the district’s Independent Study [IS] program would look like at each school site. She reported that all students were given the option to access IS for health or other reasons at the request of parents. District staff have held meetings with parents considering IS to ensure there was an understanding of the program. To date fifteen families in the district across all grade levels have requested IS.
Dr. Battle also reported that a short term IS program was in place for students directed to stay home for contact tracing, exposure, and quarantine related to COVID. The program will allow students to livestream directly into the classroom.
Facilities and Masks
Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca reiterated that schools were prepared to open for full on-site programming under the mandate that all persons must wear masks while indoors. He said the mask mandate is issued by the California Department of Health and that he received a letter from the district’s insurance carrier that defiance of the order could result in potential loss of coverage; which would expose the district’s General Fund and potentially individual trustees to liability. Salamanca also reported that the district is prepared to deploy CO2 sensors in classrooms and provide an air quality report to the Board.
The 8 hour and 10 minute meeting adjourned at 12:10 a.m. The next Board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9 at 4 p.m.