The end of the school year is right around the corner! I’m excited to be attending my first graduation ceremonies at the Rose Garden, and promotion ceremonies at the SAP center. This time of year allows us to reflect on all of our students’ achievements, and look forward to the opportunities ahead and the work still to be done.
Before I get further into the May recap, I wanted to circle back on one of the topics in the April recap: Santa Clara County Treasury Investment Portfolio Status December 2017. After I called attention to the portfolio underperformance during the April 5th board meeting, I received an update with a partial explanation. The first piece of the explanation was that some of the portfolio is in cash and extreme short-term assets which allows for the account to be used to pay out payroll for all of the entities that are a part of the pool. I knew this at the time, and didn’t think that it accounted for the underperformance.
The second part of the explanation was that the investment team was caught off guard by the steep increase in interest rates, and that they know they need to improve their yields. While it’s good to hear they know they have work to do, it’s unfortunate that we suffered a quarter with below satisfactory results. As I said during the board meeting, the returns that this fund accrues translates to real money the district can spend on salaries and staffing.
Also in last month’s recap, I discussed Measure Y and how the community thought it should be spent. At the May 17th board meeting, the district provided the board and the public with the first look at how those funds might be spent.
Above is a chart taken from the staff’s presentation at the meeting. Starting with the largest piece of the pie (Retention), 68% of the funds would be distributed to all high-performing staff in the form of two bonus checks. The “College and Career” section would go towards expanding hours at all of our library and career centers so that they are open during the entire school day. The additional hours worked by the staff will result in an increase of take home pay.The “Instruction” section will be allocated to schools to pay for consumable instructional materials. As all parents in the district are probably aware, teachers spend a large amount of their own personal money to pay for classroom materials, and this should address that issue.
The final piece of the pie is one that has had the most discussion. And while it is only 10% of the funds, I think it’s worth discussing thouroughly to ensure that we are acting in good faith with our partners, and remain consistent with the ballot measure language that the voters approved. There are several concerns about this piece including, but not limited to:
- Would it violate the current contract with SJTA
- If so, would the money sit idle for a year while it was negotiated
- Would the compensation overly differentiate between two employees of similar jobs
There are arguments in favor of the recruitment portion as well. The types of positions that this is intended to support are chronically open positions. As an example, a school may have constant vacancies to fill math teachers, which places additional burdens on the math department at that school.
I think the right thing to do is to punt the recruitment portion this year, and allow for the negotiations with SJTA to take place with the good faith assumption that the piece will be present next year. This allows for a larger retention portion to go into next year’s budget, and provides the parties enough time to negotiate.
May Board meetings:
May 3rd: The meeting had a short agenda and there isn’t much need to recap anything here. I did pull agenda item M7 off of the consent calendar for further explanation: “Memorandum of Understanding Between First 5 Santa Clara County and San Jose Unified School District (ACTION).” Broadway High School provides child care services for teen parents who attend and First 5 provides training for all of the care givers on campus.
May 17th: I have already spent time covering my thoughts on Measure Y above. The other special item on the agenda was an update on Early Literacy provided by Anne Darling and Lowell Elementary schools. The Early Literacy Institute Program that all of our elementary schools are now using was universally praised, by both principals and teachers, on all of my tours of the elementary schools in my area. This is a great example of how the district was able to innovate with its curriculum while still meeting all of the state mandated Common Core standards.
The month of May continued to be a busy month of tours and meetings.
May 1st: I toured Gunderson and Pioneer High schools. The first impression I got at both schools was how strong the leadership is. Both principals are incredibly engaged with the students and deeply involved in their education. Having seen the SAT prep presentation during the April Board meeting, I asked both principals how their programs went. At both schools the SAT prep programs were a success, and will be expanding next year.
Later that evening, I attended the Reed Elementary PTA meeting. The PTA is planning their transition to new officers who will be taking over the executive board next year.
May 2nd: I met with Councilmember Don Rocha to discuss a budget proposal for the 18/19 fiscal year. As part of my role as a commissioner on the San José Library and Early Education Commission, we advocate on behalf of the library staff to share their priorities with our City Councilmembers, and since I live in District 9, I met with Councilmember Rocha. This particular subject is relevant to San José Unified since it impacts our students. A proposal was put forward to eliminate fines on all youth materials, something that is a barrier to many students taking advantage of all of the library services. The final budget will be decided in June, but I have a good feeling that this will get included.
May 7th: San José City Council held a special session where they invited SJPL and Santa Clara County staff to present information on the benefits of early education and the challenges of preschool acccess and affordability in San José. As a result of the meeting, the recommendations below passed unanimously. I look forward to working collaboratively with the City of San José to create a better overall educational environment for all students.
May 8th: I toured Hacienda Elementary school in the morning. Principal Loy will be missed by all of the students at the school, and incoming Principal Todd Weber has big shoes to fill. The outdoor classroom, which features a pond, trails, and lots of garden area, really is a highlight of the campus.
I also attended the Terrell Elementary school PTA meeting that evening. Some of the topics discussed were the upcoming Game Truck, Title 1 funding, and the success of the Little Heroes program.
After Terrell, I went over to the Pioneer PTSA meeting. Principal Espiritu highlighted a program through Stanford that the school will be looking into called “The Resilience Project.” The project will be lead by Mr. Glasser who completed his last year as National Honor Society advisor.
May 9th: I took a tour of the Metro Ed district’s Silicon Valley Career Technical campus. As I mentioned last month, the school provides career training for 11th and 12th grade students from the following school districts:
- 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
What stood out the most on this tour is that almost every teacher said that their students have either job offers or apprenticeships lined up as soon as they graduate. For students that don’t have an interest in college and want to immediately join the workforce, this program is really phenomenal.
In the evening I attended John Muir’s PTSA meeting. The topics included preparing for career day, the end of the year activities, and the promotion ceremony at SAP center.
May 14th: When I was appointed back in March, one of my first priorities was to tour all of the schools in my area of the district. Once that was completed, I looked for some schools that have come up for discussion during our board meetings, and one of them was San Jose High School. As I mentioned in the board meeting, everyone that has an experience with SJHS has a tremendous sense of pride in the school, from students, to teachers, to alumni.
That evening I attended Reed Elementary’s community feedback meeting for their principal vacancy. Ms. Mendoza is leaving to take another position outside of the district, so similarly to last month’s meeting at Carson Elementary, the parents provided the district with guidance as to what they are looking for in their new principal.
May 15th: Another school that I wanted to tour based on discussion at board meetings was Burnett Middle School. The school is changing away from their block schedule and it has been heavily discussed by parents and teachers during our public comment section of the meeting. Principal Luz informed me that while they are not able to keep the block schedule, they did work out a compromise that will be as similar as possible to the block schedule. I also got to see the Burnett Teacher of the Year Mr. Canser in action has he lead his orchestra class through a rendition of the Super Mario Brothers theme song.
Also on the 15th, Gunderson High School hosted the end of the year employee recognition award ceremony. Each school had teacher and classified staff of the year receiving recognition, and then district wide award winners were also announced (and surprised!)
And after the award ceremony, I attended the Carson Elementary PTA meeting. This meeting was incoming principal Anna Chitwood’s first opportunity to meet with parents at Carson, and give them an update on her schedule for taking over from Principal Arratin.
May 16th: I attended the SJTA rep council meeting where I introduced myself to approximately 120 teachers who represent their schools with the union. After my introduction there was a brief Q&A section.
May 17th: Early in the morning, San Jose Evergreen Community College hosted their Chancellor Breakfast. Mayor Sam Liccardo presented Chancellor Budd with an award for her years of service, and the school also announced the launch of their new San Jose Promise mentorship app. It’s great to see that hard work is also being done by our partners in higher education.
May 18th: It was great to celebrate so many careers at the district’s retirement party for teachers and classified employees. Every single retiree had a story told about them, and were honored for all of their years of service. It will be hard to replace so many long-time employees that have a tremendous amount of experience.
May 21st: Since I am the alternate for both the CAC-SE and DAC committees and they were meeting at the same time at the Lenzen building, I split time between both meetings. The CAC-SE meeting was covering the instructional methodology that the district is following, and the DAC committee was collecting feedback on the LCAP.
May 22nd: I had the honor and privilege of attending Principal Gloria Marchant’s naturalization ceremony at San José High School. When I was touring the school the week before, she let me know that the event was coming up, and I simply couldn’t miss such an important occasion. Board Trustee Teresa Castellanos gave a keynote speech, and after all of the new citizens were sworn in, Principal Marchant also gave a very passionate speech about the long and difficult journey to citizenship.
After dinner I headed over to Gunderson High School for their Senior Award night. It really is the best time of year when all of these students that have worked so hard for the past 4 years get recognized for their achivements.
May 29th: Del Mar High School hosted a forum and panel by the Winchester Neighborhood Association about Teacher’s Villages and how to solve the problem of affordable housing for teachers in the area. The housing crisis is impacting almost everyone in the area, but teachers in particular and we need to constantly be investigating for potential solutions.
May 30th: John Muir Middle School’s Oscar Award Night was held in their auditorium complete with red carpet and “Oscar” trophies for award winners.
May 31st: As part of the San José Public Library “Summer Learning” Program, the library is offering free lunches to children and families at seven different locations. As a kickoff event, Councilmember Lan Diep read a story to some Anne Darling 4th graders at the Educational Park Library branch.
And for the last event of the month, I attended Pioneer High School’s Senior Award Night. It was a truly impressive showing of scholastic, and community service award winners!
And that’s it for May. I’m looking forward to June with its graduations and budget approvals!