These posters were presented to the Coronado Schools governing board during public comment at the April school board meeting. Staff photo by Julieta Soto.

Community members made LGBTQIA+ training an issue at the Coronado School Board meeting on April 20, with people bringing pictures of Alok Vaid-Menon — an internationally renowned gender non-conforming writer and performance artist — as they addressed the trustees.

Discontent regarding a listed purchase order in the April school board meeting agenda approving a $15,000 payment for services related to LGBTQIA+ training from July 2022 through the end of June 2023, sparked the controversy.

The purchase order was for payment on a contract that was approved by the Governing Board in June 2022, CUSD Public Information Officer Maria Simon told the Coronado News in email. Four of the five current board members took office in December 2022.

“The district engaged in the service as a result of teacher survey feedback asking for training in how best to support students while adhering to recent changes in the California Education Code and the law.”

-CUSD Public Information Officer Maria Simon

“The contract was for services provided by the San Diego County Office of Education for teacher training,” said Simon. “The district engaged in the service as a result of teacher survey feedback asking for training in how best to support students while adhering to recent changes in the California Education Code and the law.”

While the payment is a fraction of the district’s budget, conservative community members blasted the district for wasting taxpayer dollars. However, another community member told The Coronado News that those criticizing the board were mouthing “nonsense that our school system is some sort of illicit recruitment center seducing students into an immoral LGBTQ lifestyle.”

Culture wars

The battle in Coronado is playing out in the rest of the country, where conservatives have engaged in culture wars with local school boards. Yet, recent elections in Midwestern suburbs saw many school board candidates losing who focused on race, gender identity and parent involvement in classrooms, according to Politico.

At the Coronado meeting, Carolyn Rogerson—who regularly criticizes the board—questioned district expenditures during public comment on multi-day conferences she considers have nothing to do with academics.

Rogerson asked the board if LGBTQIA+ training will continue after June 2023, and whether additional funds would be allocated to support similar training.

The Association of California School Administrators is currently advertising to its members the Lead With Pride Summit Leading in May, whose keynote speaker is a person devoted to degendering fashion and beauty, she said.

Presenting the board with two posters regarding the conference, Rogerson proceeded to express her concern for this “dedicated to pride” conference.

“Please be careful with where you choose to spend our money.”

Community member Carolyn Rogerson to the Coronado Unified School Board.

“Please be careful with where you choose to spend our money,” said Rogerson.

“Homophobic” comments

A couple of other public comments mirrored Rogerson’s, but three separate community members expressed opposition calling the LGBTQ+ training comments homophobic.

They also encouraged the board to implement The Trevor Project, which is focused on suicide prevention among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth.

CUSD parent Mercedes Molina presented the board with statistics regarding LGBTQ youth mental health resources for emotional distress and suicide risk. Half of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, she said.

“If you care about kids, and you care about their safety, I think a gay and alive child is much better than a dead gay child.”

-CUSD parent Mercedes Molina

“If you care about kids, and you care about their safety, I think a gay and alive child is much better than a dead gay child,” said Molina. “It says a lot about the community that there’s more people against helping kids be their authentic selves than those who are willing to advocate for them as someone who has a child who benefits from these resources.”

Other community members, such as Donna Manning, said they consider comments like Rogerson’s to be hateful homophobic attacks on state-mandated school system policies that make school communities feel unsafe and jeopardize overall academic performance.

Other business

In other business:

Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca reported that bus transportation would remain under a contract with San Marcos Unified School District at the price of $500,000, before the state reimbursement is expected to lower overall spending to $200,000.

The district approved The California Schools Healthy Air, Plumbing, and Efficiency Program (CalSHAPE) Resolution, applying by the end of May. This grant makes the district eligible to receive approximately $630,000 in funding to cover complete upgrades and retrofit costs.

The board also approved the Annual Declaration of Need for Highly Qualified Educators for the 2023-2024 School Year.

In a report from Association of Coronado Teachers President Jennifer Landry, she shared that new Education Specialist Josh Cooper has joined the Village Elementary School staff.

However, she said more colleagues are leaving the district this summer as other districts in Southern California are attracting  and retaining highly qualified teachers through salary increases and lowered class sizes.

Echoing previous reports from prior board meetings about the lack of instructional aides, Landry said instructional assistants are essential.

Additionally, teachers want carpets in some school classrooms to be replaced, she said.

4X4 bell schedule

Other public comments expressed support and concern on aspects of the 4×4 bell schedule.

Regarding the 4×4 bell schedule committee, outreach or stakeholder meetings have concluded, but feedback surveys are still pending.

CUSD parent Jim Fabiszak shared that his two daughters excel in the 4×4 schedule but considers that additional time would be helpful for parents to provide proper responses once surveys are sent.

The focus on face-to-face instructional time and data analysis on student scores rather than testimonials are topics that the committee would benefit from, he said. His comment was mirrored by another parent.

Board Recognition

Earlier in the evening, the board recognized April — Month of the Military Child — and referenced  The Purple Star distinction of support to  military students, which compose 40% of the district.

The board also congratulated 2022 classified employees for each school site including district departments.

Board Recognition Congratulating Classified Employees of the Year 2022: Alanna Rickards, Coronado High School; Megan Pettit, Coronado Middle School; Andre Murphy, Village Elementary; Yolanda Gonzalez, Silver Strand Elementary; Traci Orth, Technology Dept., and Aaron Flores Pelayo, M&O and District Classified Employee of the Year. Staff photo by Julieta Soto.

The next regular board meeting will be May 18, at 4 p.m. at the Coronado Unified School District office.

Corrections: This story has been corrected to clarify comments from community member Carolyn Rogerson.

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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.