Bullets were a hot topic at the Monday night Oakdale school board meeting.
The Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees heard the voices of parents about school discipline and an education finance presentation from Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen at the March 11 regular meeting.
In public comments, several Sierra View Elementary School parents came forward to complain to the board about how a sixth grade student was not disciplined for bringing three bullets to school. The six parents who stated their names, including one who filed a formal complaint with the district, spoke to the board about what they believed was inappropriate handling of the situation.
They said the student was not suspended from school and was allowed to attend sixth grade science camp the following week, which they felt sent the wrong message to other children. One parent said she didn’t want to become “a statistic of school violence.” Others stated that they felt their complaints to Sierra View administrators were “dismissed,” “not taken seriously,” and “handled poorly.” They also stated that they felt there should have been communication to parents from the school instead of hearing the information from their children about the incident. One parent said that her child had three recesses taken away for popping a bag of chips at school – she then demonstrated by popping a bag and also showed the board a bullet, as though comparing the two. Another parent said that children are placed on immediate suspension for making defamatory remarks, but said the child with the bullets was not.
OJUSD Board President Mike Tozzi stated that the board is “very concerned” regarding school safety and added that while they couldn’t respond to the comments at that time, the board directed Superintendent Marc Malone to provide an incident report to them and a transcript of the parents’ comments from the meeting. Tozzi said that the report may or may not be shared in an open meeting, depending on the nature of student privacy issues. He asked Malone to have it to the board for closed session discussion for the next meeting.
“We’re very disappointed that our parents out there think that (we) don’t take school safety seriously. Our body of work shows we do take school safety seriously,” Malone said, noting the recently held board meeting on school safety, practices put in place and other safety measures.
He said the district and board will look at the dynamics of this case to make sure the school site administrators acted in consistency with California Education Code and the district’s conduct code.
Superintendent Malone added that because this is a student issue, it will not be aired in public. He said they are not trying to hide behind confidentiality, but legally they aren’t allowed to talk of the details in public.
“The community can be assured that the board, district, and site will review this to make sure we’re consistent with our own conduct code and Ed code,” Malone said. “We do not take parent concerns lightly. We do not take school safety lightly.”
The district’s conduct code allows for administrators to make judgment calls on disciplinary actions based on several factors and California Education Code also backs that up.
In reports, Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen presented to the board about an amendment bill she’s proposing that will affect school finance. The California State Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) two, would prohibit the legislature from deferring payments to California schools.
She discussed the California legislature’s “continued raid” of education funding that it calls “deferrals.” She said that deferrals are increasing each year and that they are currently at $10 billion dollars, or one-fifth, of the entire education budget for the state. Olsen said that the deferrals can be weeks, months, or even into the next year.
She added that school districts are taking out loans to cover their costs.
“You, the districts, are picking up the state’s slack,” Olsen said, adding that the districts are also servicing the debt.
She said that some districts can’t borrow money anymore to meet their obligations. She also said that lower property tax school districts – largely Central Valley districts – suffer more with deferrals because all districts have the same percentage of deferral applied. OJUSD has $6.6 million in deferrals.
She said with Proposition 30, school should be safe from deferrals for the next seven years but her bill is to prohibit the legislature from doing what it wants and require it to pay the money when it’s due to the districts. Her proposal also doesn’t include debt forgiveness for the state, the debt must be repaid.
Trustee Diane Gilbert said she was delighted to hear of the proposal and asked how it was being received across the aisle. Olsen responded that it is a work in progress and she’s hopeful for bipartisan support but knows it is a long road. Other trustees thanked Olsen for her work and support.
ACAs differ from Assembly Bills (AB) in that they’re not subject to the same legislative deadlines. She hopes for her ACA to go to the policy committee and said it could be two years. She asked for a resolution from the board in support of it, which will come before the trustees at the next regular meeting.
Also in reports, the Leo Volz Scholarship at Oakdale High School has been modified with approval from the courts in order to extend the life of the scholarship. The scholarship has been awarded to 22 students since 1997 and covers full college tuition and books to the awardee. Due to the dramatically increased cost of the scholarship awards and the increase in higher education, combined with a decline in interest rates and stock market returns, the longevity of the fund is in jeopardy. The new terms of the Volz Scholarship will limit the award to $25,000 per year for four years, for a maximum of $100,000. Students who have already received the award will still have the full amounts of tuition and books covered but for this year’s recipient and going forward, the scholarship award will be at the new amount.
In business, the board accepted the district’s second interim report and positive certification. OJUSD Chief Business Officer Susan Dyke reported that revenues and expenditures have both increased from the last financial report. Revenues have gone up by $323,000 and expenditures have increased by nearly $924,000. Deferrals are at $6.6 million from the state and $700,000 from federal. She added that student enrollment numbers look good.
In other business, it was approved to negotiate a contract with Acme Construction for the Lease-Leaseback for the OJUSD Central Kitchen on the condition that an appropriate fee schedule is successfully negotiated. The estimated budget on the project is $1.1 million. The board also approved the contract and proposed scope and fee schedule for DLR Group and partner Gary Geary as the architect for the Central Kitchen project.
The next regular meeting of the OJUSD Board of Trustees will be at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 22 at the Oakdale City Council Chambers, 277 N. Second Ave.