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San José Unified — Area 4 Monthly Recap April 2018

Michael Melillo
May 8, 2018 · 8 min read

Summary: In addition to the board meeting, I attended 16 other events and meetings. I discuss the town hall meeting, and give some details about my comments during this month’s board meeting.

Welcome to another monthly review. The year continues to fly by, and spring break is now in the rear view mirror. As we head into the end of the year, it’s important to focus on the remaining tasks we have in front of us, namely approving next year’s budget which includes how the district will spend our Measure Y (parcel tax) funds.

On April 30th, the district held their third and final town hall meeting of the year, and by far the most discussed topic in the public commentary was Measure Y. For those not familiar, Measure Y was a ballot measure that proposed a parcel tax of $72 per year for all homes in within the district. You can read a full review of the measure at Ballotpedia.

And here is the full text of the ballot question:

“To improve education in local neighborhood schools by supporting core academic programs in reading, writing, math, the arts and science, preparing students for college and careers and attracting and retaining high performing teachers and educational staff, shall San José Unified School District authorize an annual $72 school parcel tax for 8 years, raising approximately $5 million annually, with independent citizen oversight, no funds for district office administrators’ salaries, a senior citizen exemption and all funds benefiting local neighborhood schools?”

At the start of the meeting, we did an informal poll asking the audience which of the three items mentioned on the ballot they supported. They were:

  1. Supporting core academic programs in reading, writing, math, the arts and science
  2. Preparing students for college and careers
  3. Attracting and retaining high performing teachers and educational staff

The vast majority voted in favor of #3.

Of all of the questions asked about Measure Y, I would say they mostly fell into two categories. First, there were questions asking why the public hasn’t heard anything about the money being spent despite the measure passing in November 2016. Secondly, there were questions about what the money would be spent on. This topic seamed to stem from the fact that much of the campaigning in support of Measure Y pitched the ballot measure solely as a means to raise money for teacher salaries.

To address the first issue of timing, even though the measure passed in 2016, the first tax collection just began this past December as Deputy Superintendent Stephen McMahon explained to the audience. Since the district works on an annual budget system, which starts on July 1st, the new budget that will be approved in June will be the first opportunity to spend the Measure Y funds.

The second issue is more complex. For context, the amount of money raised by the parcel tax will amount to roughly 1% of SJUSD’s annual budget. So while it will help, it will not solve the problem that the state of California is among the bottom 10 states in the country in terms of funding education.

The district has been listening to all of the feedback with regard to Measure Y, and when the budget is reviewed and approved, the specific items that Measure Y is going towards will be a transparent part of the budget. For anyone interested in following along with the budget process, I urge you to attend the remaining three board meetings on May 17th, June 14th, and June 28th. For those that can’t attend, recordings are available here.

April Board meetings:

April 5th: The only board meeting this month, due to spring break, started out with two presentations about our SAT prep courses at San José High School and Leland High School. While the two schools used different strategies for their prep courses, both showed evidence that the students who participated in the SAT prep courses benefited significantly. In addition to these two presentations, during my tours of Pioneer and Gunderson High Schools, Principals Espiritu and Camilleri both provided me data on their SAT prep programs that showed increased scores for the students that participated in the SAT prep program. I look forward to seeing how we can build on this success, and see how much progress we can make next year.

The next topic I would like to recap was agenda item M8: Santa Clara County Treasury Investment Portfolio Status December 2017. As a consent agenda item, these topics are usually approved without any discussion, but upon reviewing the report prior to the meeting, I had some concerns.

The county manages a fund with over $8 Billion in it, and as such a small increase or decrease in the rate of return can have a big impact. If you’d like to read the full report, you can download it here. To summarize, there are 18 parameters that the fund must comply with, and it was found in compliance of all of them. My concern stems from the yield of the fund (1.43%) underperforming both 6-month(1.53%) and two-year (1.89%) treasuries.

We are currently in a rising interest rates environment, and the county fund has lagged the federal treasuries considerably as shown in the image below from the report.

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Dotted lines show treasure yield increases compared to the county fund (dark blue)

I look forward to receiving the follow up report on this agenda item as well as keeping a close eye on these Quarterly Investment Reports from Santa Clara County.

That concludes the wrap-up of the April 5th board meeting.

As my first full month as a Board Trustee, April was also full of meetings and tours.


April 2nd: The Silicon Valley Leadership Group hosted a fireside chat with Senator Dianne Feinstein. The luncheon was well attended by board trustees from around Santa Clara County, and the topics ranged from school safety to traffic and transit issues (such as those addressed in Regional Measure 3.)

Later that evening I attended a candidate forum at the Cambrian branch of the San José Public Library for City Council District 9. San José Unified’s Area 4 resides mostly within District 9 so it’s important to hear what the candidates are saying about the current issues, especially education.

April 6th: Coffee and Conversation with Senator Jim Beall. Senator Beall hosts these meetings regularly so that his constiuents can speak with him directly.

April 12th: I spent the morning touring the school at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. The Hospital School falls under the juris diction of Palo Alto Unified School District and has been serving children since 1924. When children are hospitalized for extended periods of time, they can attend the school so that they don’t get behind, and the school provides grade level curiculum via credentialed teachers. Students who can’t leave their rooms can be taught right in their own hospital rooms.

I also attended the Alum Rock school board meeting on the evening of the 12th. I think it’s important as a new board trustee to see how other school districts operate, so that I can gain perspective. During this meeting there was a lovely presentation by middle school students at Renaissance Academy.

April 16th: On the evening of April 16th, I performed double duty. First I attended my children’s spring concert. Reed Elementary splits up their spring concert by grade, so the TK, Kindergarten, and 1st grade all performed in the same night with each grade performing three songs. After the concert, I attended the District Advisory Committee of which I am an alternate respresentative. During the meeting we discussed the recent Climate Survey and a review of the district’s LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan.)

April 17th: I attended the Pioneer High School PTSA meeting. The highlights of the meeting were: the success of the Guys and Dolls production, and planning for the Senior Breakfast event.

After the meeting Coach Berticevich (also the Athletic director) gave me a tour of the renovations underway of the “small gym.” The updated facility will have a half basketball court and modern weight room with modern audio-visual equipment.

April 18th: I had hoped to attend 4 meetings this evening, but I only made it to three. I started out the night by attending the Metro Ed governing board study session. The focus of the session was on the upcoming budget and JPA funding. Metro Ed offers career technical education for 11th and 12th grade students ranging from dental assisting, veterinary science, to mobile app development for 6 districts in the area:

  • Campbell Union High School District
  • East Side Union High School District
  • Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District
  • Milpitas Unified School District
  • San José Unified School District
  • Santa Clara Unified School District

Next, I headed over to Carson Elementary to talk with parents about the vacancy of the school’s principal position. Principal Aratin announced that he has taken another principal position closer to his home, so the district has begun to process of collecting feedback from parents. Some themes that were repeated throughout the meeting were:

  • a principal who is a strong advocate for the students
  • someone who is organized and a strong communicator
  • someone who will stay around for a while and establish continuity

Lastly I attended my Library and Early Education Commission meeting at the Berryessa branch. The branch highlighted their teensReach program that helps teenagers develop leadership skills. The commission also discussed the upcoming special meeting with City Council on May 7th where City Librarian Jill Bourne will be presenting to council a proposal to leverage the SJPL as the heart of a collaborative network between the city, county, community and school agencies. The Library and Early Education commission would serve as the oversight committee for this new initiative.

April 19th: I met with a group of parents that reached out to me about meeting to discuss concerns they had with their children’s education. All of the parents had one or more special education student, and some of them had attended San José Unified schools. It’s not easy to listen to harsh criticism of our schools and our district employees, but I think it’s important that I do it. As a trustee one of the responsibilities is to provide community leadership on behalf of the district and public education, and that’s why I attended this meeting.

April 20th: San José Unified Council of PTA had their annual luncheon and award ceremony. The council awarded Lincoln High School alumnus Don Bowden for all of his years of volunteer service, and each school had one member of their PTA receive an award as well.

April 23rd: I attended Pioneer High School’s National Honor Society dinner. The program has been under the care of Mr. Peter Glasser for the past 18 years, and he has decided to pass the torch. In 2000, there were 8 NHS members at Pioneer, and now 18 years later, there is over 70 this year. A truly remarkable accomplishment by the students and staff. I’d also highlight the incredible level of parent engagement at the event, which was a pot luck dinner with tons of great food and desserts.

April 25th: This evening I attended the Hoffman awards dinner which is held by the Santa Clara County School Boards Association. It was great to see some innovative programs from neighboring districts get recognition. Mountain View-Los Altos won for their PEAK (Pathways, Exposure, Academic Connection, Knowledge) program, and Campbell Union won for their Exemplary Attendance program.

April 27th: I’m very familiar with the Reed campus, but I had my official tour from Principal Mendoza on the 27th.

April 30th: Last but not least, I toured Broadway High School which is the district’s alternative learning environment high school for students that are over 50 credits behind. Principal Bui talked about how their success is due to a three way commitment — the students, the school, and the family all agree on the plan.

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