WSCUHSD board recap from May 12 meeting: approves third vice principal, seals fewer layoffs

By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, May 24, 2021

wscuhsd_RECAP

While the choice of a new name for the consolidated high school was the biggest news from the May 12 West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD) board meeting, the trustees also approved a third vice principal for the future consolidated school, a bell schedule that allows students to take advanced electives at the El Molino campus and finalized fewer layoffs than originally issued. Here’s the recap:

El Molino math teacher becomes consolidated school’s third vice principal

A trio of vice principals will aid current Analy Principal Shauna Ferdinandson in leading the consolidated high school to launch this fall, known as West County High School for now.

In Noe’s absence, the rest of the trustees voted to approve El Molino math teacher Rachel Lasek as the third vice principal. Analy Vice Principal Erin Elliot and El Molino Vice Principal Dani Barese have agreed to continue in their roles, the district’s human resources director Mia Del Prete said at the March 16 board meeting.

Lasek graduated from Analy as the daughter of a longtime Analy teacher and went on to teach at El Molino for 15 years.

Her contract starts on July 1 and runs for one year, “just like the rest of the administrators,” Del Prete said. She said Lasek will also receive a $1,000 stipend for her master’s degree, a car and cell phone allowance, health benefits and a life insurance policy.

Lasek’s contract will be placed on the district’s website following the board’s approval, the human resources director said.

Community member Heather Dale Best said that although she opposes consolidation and disagrees with most of the board’s decisions, she completely supports the selection of Lasek as a vice principal.

“I think that’s one tiny, tiny, tiny step that may, may, may possibly, possibly, possibly help this community, the El Molino community, move forward should we have to move forward with this scenario,” she said. “It’s not our choice, but Rachel Lasek is, much like some of our board members, she bleeds black and red and she is an amazing soul and she has done so much for our kids.”

SCOE calls for a third interim report to address budget concerns

In an unusual request, the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) has directed the district to submit a third interim budget report due June 1, Superintendent Toni Beal said, to be presented at the board’s May 26 board meeting.

She read from a May 5 letter from SCOE, repeating “serious concerns about the district’s historical and ongoing deficit spending and the potential for masking the structural deficit with the influx of one-time state and federal dollars,” since an earlier April 15 letter.

Among the concerns in the letter was that multi-year projections indicated an ending fund balance surplus starting in 2021 from one-time funds, Beal said.

“While this one-time increase in fund balance provides some relief to the general fund, the ongoing structural deficit spending must be addressed,” she read from the letter. The district and some community members have disputed in recent months whether incoming state and federal funds related to COVID-19 could go towards delaying consolidation.

SCOE’s letter dated Jan. 1 called for a board-approved fiscal recovery plan to confront deficit spending and uphold minimum reserve levels “in all years,” troubled by the deficit and “the deterioration of the district’s fund balance,” according to Beal.

Most teacher layoffs averted

The district managed to avert most of its preliminary layoffs for teachers by the time the board voted to finalize certificated employee layoffs for the coming school year at the May 12 board meeting.

Now, the district is laying off one teacher, the human resources director told Sonoma West Times & News on May 24.

Originally, the board approved the full-time equivalent (FTE) of nine preliminary layoffs in March that, after some chose to retire, dropped to 5.6 FTE layoffs, Del Prete said. Seven teachers received notices in March because some received only partial layoffs, she confirmed May 24.

The district was able to keep five teachers, so when the board voted to finalize 1.6 FTE layoffs, two teachers remained to be issued final notices. Since then, one teacher was able to be partially brought back for next school year, leaving one FTE layoff to stand, according to Del Prete.

“Sadly, aye,” said Trustee Laurie Fadave and Vice President Jeanne Fernandes when the board had voted to seal then-1.6 FTE layoffs on May 12, in a resolution bound with reducing or cutting some certificated services for the coming school year.

Ringing in a new bell schedule

Analy Vice Principal Erin Elliott presented the proposed bell schedule for the next school year, structured to allow students to take advanced elective classes at the El Molino campus.

The main classes planned are advanced dance, advanced culinary, “AG Farm to Table,” viticulture and advanced workshop, using El Molino’s specialized facilities, per the presentation.

The board approved the schedule that evolved over rounds of revision, developed by a committee with representatives of Analy, El Molino and the district.

Elliott said a number of “non-negotiables” guided their work: keeping an 8:30 a.m. start time, an advisory and tutorial period at least twice a week, covering at least 64,800 instructional minutes as the state requires, and last, access to specialized facilities on the El Molino campus for advanced electives.

On Mondays, students will have all seven periods, each about 50 minutes long, with brunch after the first period. Seventh period ends at 3:33 p.m., according to the schedule.

The rest of the week takes a block schedule that differs depending on whether the student is taking a specialized class at the Forestville campus. Classes are about 93 minutes each, Elliott said.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students take their even-numbered periods, with brunch after the first class again, followed by an advisory or tutorial period for roughly 30 minutes. The schedules split after lunch, where some students may go straight to sixth period on campus and others would travel to the El Molino campus for specialized electives, Elliott explained.

“And we’re hoping that it would be about 30 minutes based on talking with the transportation department and talking with people who’ve made the drive,” she said.

After sixth period, those students would either be dismissed from class or travel back to the Sebastopol campus to then head home, Elliott said. The travel time means students who take classes in Forestville would get out of school later, ending sixth period alone at 3:08 p.m. while in Sebastopol, students would get out at 2:43 p.m.

Wednesdays and Fridays begin with a breakfast period at 8:00 a.m. before the first period starts at 8:30 a.m., instead of offering brunch, Elliott said. The schedule has students go to fifth period after lunch and then either stay on campus for seventh period or travel to Forestville.

Students there would travel back to Sebastopol or be dismissed from class from there at 4:03 p.m., while students who stayed in Sebastopol would end seventh period at 3:38 p.m.

The schedule did not factor in start times or end times for those who take zero and eighth periods, but Elliot said there are plans to make the information available soon.

Further, Elliott said the committee discussed needed adjustments to sports start times with athletic directors Mike Roan and Joe Ellwood, who she said already made some changes.

The superintendent said the district is in conversations with its current bus services, West County Transportation Agency, to shuttle students between the two campuses, costing $30,000 for the additional routes.

The buses would take some students home first and then the others back to the Sebastopol campus at the end of the day, she said.

Richelle Stoufer, bilingual paraeducator and committee member, thanked Elliott but said the committee didn’t have consistent El Molino representation in terms of meetings.

She also voiced concern about zero and eighth periods and potential overlapping with sports and staff meetings in the schedule.

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