This month’s Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) meeting took place on Thursday, Nov. 18, where the trustees introduced a new public comments policy, discussed the $2.3 million Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Grant, and approved a new civility policy.
The new public comment rules require speakers to make general comments at the end of the meeting, as opposed to the beginning. Item-specific public comments are also to be presented at the beginning of each agenda item. Each speaker is allotted three minutes total. Total public comment on one agenda item is limited to 20 minutes. There is no more sharing of minutes allowed, as public speakers were formerly allowed to give their minutes to another speaker, allowing them more time to speak.
During general comments, several speakers expressed their disapproval of the new public comments policy, pointing out that working parents and military families with deployed spouses have to make further arrangements to attend. Another speaker cited that the former policy allowing shared minutes allows for the necessary thorough examination of community concerns. She recommended a reimplementation of the policy.
Several public comments kicked off the proposal to rewrite the current California School Boards Association (CSBA) civility policy. Some called for the revision of the policy and better civil behavior among CUSD community members. Others voiced further concerns for how the policy would affect their free speech at meetings.
Trustee Whitney Antrim clarified that the proposed amendment to rewrite the civility policy revolves around not the content of speech, but rather how that content is exchanged. “My objective,” she said, “is to not affect the content of anyone’s speech in any way….I was very mindful in crafting this to only conform with decorum and behavior in this room so we can exchange ideas, communicate, correct the record if we need to, and not any type of content of speech rather than how we present it and how it’s exchanged.” Trustee Antrim proposed a revision prohibiting the interruptions of proceedings, however, because of the revision’s vagueness, board members sought to exclude it.
Another proposed revision to CSBA policy, item 4.2 to Adopt Revisions to Board Policy 5145.9 Hate-Motivated Behavior was tabled to a further meeting.
In textbook updates, Motions passed for the approval of new Marine Biology, and College Preparatory (CP) World History textbooks. During these agenda items, Director of Learning, Dr. Megan Battle, emphasized that teachers are the largest part of the textbook committee, and therefore played a significant role in the selection of the new textbooks.
Next, Student Board Member, Declan Dineen, shared updates from across CUSD schools, including Village Elementary math assessments, and the Silver Strand “Holiday Shoppe” supported by the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). At Coronado High School (CHS), Dineen described students’ responses to the 4x4 schedule, stating that students have adjusted and become more proactive and confident in their learning.
As for another look inside CUSD schools, Principal of Silver Strand Elementary, Jennifer Moore presented Silver Strand’s Annual Report. She discussed the demographics report, showing that 76% of Silver Strand students are military affiliated. She went on to describe the various levels of support military students are provided, such as a Military Life Counselor, the Anchored4Life Club, Veteran’s Day Family Recognition, and Letters to the Troops. Ethnicity demographics also showed that Silver Strand’s largest subgroup is hispanic. The school’s goals reflected an emphasis of support for their hispanic students, specifically in English language development, as well as reading and math.The report also detailed that Silver Strand is back to pre-Covid enrollment levels, and still has space to serve full capacity.
Moore concluded that Silver Strand Elementary’s areas of focus moving forward will be curriculum, Multi Tiered systems of support (MTSS), small group support and enrichment, special education, the designation of funds, and taking care of facilities.
In an additional agenda item, a group of fifth graders from Village Elementary presented their petition proposing freedom of association during lunch and recess. These students garnered 320 signatures in a week and a half, and presented their argument to the board. “We want to play with our friends,” the petition reads. “We want to sit with our friends, but this is not allowed at Village. This makes no sense. There is no scientific evidence that COVID is spread from playing on the playground with others, so why are we not allowed to choose our recess activity? There is, however, evidence that kids need to socialize with other people. Other children from other schools have this freedom, so why don’t we?” Their presentation was met with a large applause from the audience.
In other news, Dr. Megan Battle presented the Learning Department Report, detailing the $2.3 million DoDEA grant to benefit all students K-12, which will be allocated towards new world language programs and opportunities in Coronado. Battle also reported a significant decrease in AP scores, a trend she suggested is related to outdated instructional materials, distance learning, the effects of the pandemic, new instructors for AP classes, and less students taking the exams this year. From 2015-2020, scores continued to increase up to 87% of students who earned a 3 or higher in 2020. In 2021, this figure dropped to 67%, reflecting a nationwide trend of lower AP scores after the pandemic.
Following Battle’s report, Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca detailed a CASLE update regarding the installation of solar blocking window film that reduces classroom temperatures 10-12 degrees across CUSD schools, and ongoing maintenance repair in ventilation systems, underscoring the great work of CUSD maintenance professionals who have executed these projects.
In the Long Range Plan Update, Superintendent Karl Mueller explained new efforts to prepare CHS students for life after graduation. He highlighted efforts for students to receive the state Seal of Biliteracy Award, as well as to create opportunities for career technical education.
Mueller expanded on opportunities for the Ethnic Studies graduation requirement as well, citing a partnership with Southwestern Community College where CHS students can receive their credit for free with a choice of up to 13 courses. Students may even include their parents in attending these courses.
On a more profound note, a moment of silence was held for CUSD Coordinator of Special Education, Jeff Kozlowski, who died earlier this month. Trustee Antrim spoke of Kozlowski saying, “He brought an incredible energy and light within the short time he was with CUSD. He brought energy, and needs, and equity to our Special Ed department. He brought us to full staffing for the first time ever in a matter of months for those kids that need it the most.”
Before the meeting wrapped up, general public comments proceeded for 30 minutes. As previously mentioned, many expressed their disapproval of the new public comments procedure. One speaker, a student from San Ysidro, Jose Luis, addressed the board regarding his observed conduct of CHS students towards their hispanic peers, citing several alarming instances of racism. One of these instances included Instagram posts of CHS students dressing as Mariachis for Halloween. “School is supposed to be a safe environment preparing students for their future,” said Luis. “I stand here tonight united with students from several districts and school sites from San Diego county. We all want the same goal: to put an end to racism in public education. We are not a trend and we are not a costume, we deserve respect.”
In concluding board member comments, Trustee Valdes-Clayton addressed Luis, “We hear you, but also a lot of the Latino students who live here have the same statement that you have made today. We are all one community. A bridge should not separate us.”
The board will reconvene on Tuesday, Dec. 14.