A critic of the controversy surrounding a Coronado High School staff member was told he couldn't speak on the matter at the May 31 School Board meeting because it wasn't on the agenda. File photo.

Equity training, a block schedule for Coronado High school students, and a new contract for teachers were the key issues at the Coronado School Board’s monthly meeting on Thursday.

The meeting drew a handful of critics who addressed the board about the district’s decision to send 25 educators to an equity conference that cost $11,500. The district, which has battled racial issues the past two years, on Wednesday issued a two-page press release justifying the expense and training.

However, two people took aim at the board during public comment.

One person mirrored last month’s request that the district disclose who the 25 CUSD employees were who attended an Equity Conference last month, and whether the information they learned is already implemented into classrooms.

Ann Sonne said the district has “refused to give the public a list of the staff that attended this conference.”

The district in its press release disclosed the names of a few educators who went. 

Another audience member questioned why the district spent $20,000 for an Equality and Excellence Audit from the SDSU Research Foundation, but Trustee Scot Youngblood defended the expenditure. 

“The goal here is to try to get someone to come in and review our educational practices and if there’s a chance that they can help with that… then I think that it is a worthy undertaking based on what I’ve been informed,” he said. “However, I do think we need to continue to be vigilant about what it might contain.”

4X4 Committee

While the board didn’t publicly discuss the equity conference, it did focus on the 4×4 Committee, which is to perform a comprehensive evaluation of the new block bell schedule at the high school. 

The committee’s purpose is to assess the impact on student achievement and opportunity for academic growth with an aim toward identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement under the block schedule.

The 4×4 committee has met twice and unanimously decided to have weekly closed meetings and produce a report by May 18.

The group will publish its calendar of meetings online and keep input and data confidential.

For any communication, the community may reach out to Trustees Alexia Palacios-Peters and Youngblood. 

Board President Renee Cavanaugh encouraged the audience to reach out to both trustees to ensure everyone’s opinion is heard and considered.

However, this did not sit well with Sonne, who shared two public comments.

“At the January board meeting, Ms. Cavanaugh insisted that two board members serve as non-voting members on a 4×4 committee charged with evaluating the schedule after a year and a half of implementation,” she said. “The motion pass clearly stated that these meetings are to be open to the public. It didn’t say that the first meeting could be closed and I understand now that there’ve been two closed meetings.”

She added several community members were turned away from the first meeting.

Other issues

In other matters:

The district and teachers union are set to have “multiple opportunities for public input” on a new contract, according to Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca. He noted that salaries and benefits for school employees are over 80% of the district’s budget. He said negotiations with the teachers union will begin after the March school board meeting.

The Village Elementary School choir, about 20 students, performed “A Salute to our presidents” and “All in.” Concluding this spotlight presentation, they thanked boosters for funding a field trip to the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad next month.

Safe Harbor, a 25-year-old organization, presented its  low-cost counseling services to the Coronado community. 

Trustees shared their school visits for the month, with Malachy Sandie learning about CoSA’s digital arts and Palacios-Peters observing classrooms and learning about seating arrangements at Silver Strand Elementary School.

Coronado Schools Superintendent Karl Mueller reported at the February school board meeting that all four district schools received a prestigious award. Staff photo by Willem Quigley.

Cavanaugh and Superintendent Karl Mueller also attended Rocky Herron’s presentation about the dangers of fentanyl use at Coronado Middle School in late January. Mueller is looking at potential dates for Herron to return in the spring

Mueller also reported that all four of the district’s schools received  the prestigious purple star designation, which seeks to reduce the burden on military connected students and their families. The program signals which schools are the most committed and best equipped to meet unique needs, he said.  

In another item, Cavanaugh thanked three donors for donating $15,550 to support Coronado USD students. 

The board moved onto nominating Antrim, Delia Dominguez Cervantes (Chula Vista ESD), and Rhea Stewart (Cardiff ESD) for the 2023 California School Boards Association Delegate Assembly Representatives. The CSBA Delegate Assembly is the “primary policy making body of CSBA” and representatives are nominated by member boards in subregions. 

During the Approval for 2023 Governance Protocols, the board discussed the implementation for future action items from public comments. Although Cavanaugh aimed to integrate a method requiring a written request to allow public comments to become action items, the board decided to abide by existing practices.

This means that it remains the trustees’ responsibility to consider public comments and solicit a second trustee for support in bringing forward topics for future discussions as agenda items. 

College Board request

Another item was to approve a letter to the College Board. 

This letter asked the College Board trustees to offer flexible options for Advanced Placement (AP) Exams. 

At the January meeting, Sandie said  that the block schedule helps CHS students by allowing them to take more classes. However, the students who take AP courses during the fall, must wait until the Spring semester to take respective AP exams. 

The letter considers that “once-a-year testing time, while perhaps easier to administer and manage, does not necessarily promote meaningful assessment, efficiency and equity in education.” For this reason, the district wants “equitable opportunity for students whose only option is to take a fall term AP course.” 

However, no action was taken during this meeting, as Antrim and Palacios-Peters will revise a letter to be “more aggressive” while “keeping the nice stuff” to ensure that change can come from this request, they said.

During the ACT Report by union president Jennifer Landry, she shared that 32 new educators have been hired by the district since August, a rise from the usual 10. 

However, the lack of instructional aides has impacted the classrooms because students know they need help but do not have a comfort level with other educators or substitutes who they may not know too well, she said.

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Julieta is a reporter for The Coronado News, covering education, small business and investigating the Tijuana/Coronado sewage issue. She graduated from UC Berkeley where she studied English, Spanish, and Journalism. Apart from reporting, Julieta enjoys reading, traveling, and spending quality time with family and friends.

The Coronado News is a 24-hour news website and direct-mail free newspaper to all residents and businesses of Coronado as we cover city government, schools, businesses, entertainment and the Navy.