Showing posts with label #MidgleyField. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #MidgleyField. Show all posts

Friday, April 21, 2023

Questions from the Press, Friday, April 21, 2023.

Siena Kelly.
Per past practice, questions from the Sonoma Index-Tribune I received about last night's Sonoma Valley Unified meeting, and the answers, are below. The questions concerned the school resource officer (SRO), Dunbar Elementary, school consolidation and configuration, and the naming of Midgley Field. The picture is of my daughter Siena, who was recently named the MVP of the JV soccer team at Sonoma Valley High, (well done Siena!). 


1. What was your impression of the discussion about possibly bringing back a school resource officer? Are any additional steps planned?

The School Resource Officer (SRO) program began as a partnership between the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office and the Sonoma Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) in 2004. From 2013 to 2020, the City of Sonoma joined the collaboration, forming a financial partnership among the Sheriff's Office, SVUSD, and the City. With an approximate cost of $240,000, the expense was shared by the three agencies. The SRO, a Sheriff's Office employee, served SVUSD with an office at Sonoma Valley High School and devoted their full time to various campuses within the School District.

In 2020, the City's budget saw significant reductions in the Police Services contract, including the elimination of three positions. Although the City's share of SRO program costs was included in the 2020 budget, the program was put on hold at the beginning of the fiscal year due to uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizational budget impacts, and the shift to virtual learning. Despite SVUSD approving a contract to continue the SRO program into 2021, it was discontinued when the Sonoma City Council voted against the proposal on December 14, 2020. At that time, a request was made by SVUSD to maintain the funding, if not for an SRO, then for mental health services. The City cut it anyway.

Now, the City of Sonoma has included school services in its contract with the Sheriff's Department for 2022-23 using one-time funding. However, the City faces the same funding challenges as it did in 2020. The City of Sonoma's budget continues to be under pressure and relies on one-time funds for recurring expenses. The question remains: where is the stable funding mechanism that would allow the City to pursue an SRO contract, and why hasn't the City sought an agreement about that funding with SVUSD? If a future city council decides to reduce funding again, SVUSD would have to cover the shortfall, potentially facing long-term expenses to maintain the program.

In the context of School Resource Officers (SROs), it is helpful to understand the current presence of SROs in various high schools in the region. There is unconfirmed information about a temporary SRO at Montgomery High School, while Petaluma High, Casa Grande High, and the rest of the Santa Rosa High Schools are reported not to have SROs. It appears that Analy High School's SRO position may have lapsed. The Windsor Police Department states that they provide SRO services at Windsor High; however, it remains uncertain whether the high school has a dedicated SRO. Rohnert Park employs SRO Debbie Lamaison, who is believed to be on campus at Rancho Cotate. There is no available information about an SRO at Healdsburg High, but a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) exists between Cloverdale and their high school concerning the provision of an SRO.

It is important for elected officials to address these concerns and offer more information on the current status of SROs in the area. It appears that in many of these cases, cities may bear much of the expense for SROs. If the SRO contract from 2020 had been adopted by the City Council and the SRO program continued through today, the situation would be different. However, the fundamental funding questions remain unresolved, and consequently, no action can be taken at this time. My notes reflect that the direction to staff was to discuss funding with the incoming city manager, continue outreach and assessment with students and staff regarding the provision of mental health services, and otherwise seek to continue to collaborate with the Sheriff’s Department during that work.

2. What are your thoughts regarding the discussion and decision (if one was made) on regular agenda item No. 2, to suspend student enrollment at Dunbar Elementary School beginning in the 2023-24 school year?

The Dunbar students will, by and large, attend El Verano Elementary. That is the school located in the trustee area I serve. I know that the El Verano community will welcome the Dunbar students with open arms. El Verano is our healthiest, most community-oriented school, and with the outstanding new facilities at that location, the Dunbar students will be well served.

The relocation of those students from Dunbar, as difficult as it will be, allows the community to move forward. I strongly doubt the trustees will as a consequence be willing to disturb the new equilibrium that will be established at El Verano. We will not make these students, teachers, and staff move again.

For all practical purposes, the consequence of this decision is that El Verano will be off-limits to further changes. I think that is the right outcome. El Verano is our one walkable community school for our working-class families. Its unique combination of community services and social support is probably the future of our District. I hear from my constituents around El Verano that that is what they want. I am glad that looks like it will be the future they will receive.

Cojoined with that news was the letter from Woodland Star Charter School's board that they are interested in utilizing the Dunbar campus as soon as this August. This will result in an additional approximate savings for the District of $500,000. It further frees up capacity at Altimira Middle School, where Woodland Star had previously been located. Altimira Middle School is our one site that is large enough, as is, with the Woodland Star buildings, to serve all of our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders as a middle school. As a practical matter, the cooperative and collaborative approach of the Woodland Star community is helping the District be in a position to achieve a 3-1-1+1 configuration (three elementary, one middle, one high school, and one continuation high school) in the near future.

3. What are your thoughts regarding the discussion and decision (if one was made) on regular agenda item No. 3, to consider approval of the school configuration and consolidation plan?

The presentation was far different from the materials included in the packet. This was largely due to updated guidance from the California Attorney General to school districts on laws governing school closures and best practices for implementation. This guidance, issued on April 11, 2023, was and is consistent with our current plans outlined in the school reconfiguration presentation. However, and importantly, the guidance highlights steps to address racial equity, which we will ensure is integrated into our school configuration and consolidation process. I am very supportive of implementing the guidelines from the Attorney General with fidelity, as our District has in the past made a series of decisions that impact resources for schools primarily serving students of color. Sonoma Valley Unified must ensure equal educational opportunities for all students, even when resources come from external organizations like PTOs.

Based on the new information, the superintendent amended her recommendation during the meeting to establish a School Consolidation and Configuration ("SCC") Committee. This committee will recommend campuses for consolidation, develop a plan, and prioritize middle school consolidation before elementary school planning. The board agreed that the SCC committee will be charged with reviewing a 3-1-1 proposal, and the composition will include a parent of a special needs student, and a native Spanish speaker. I had wanted specific deadlines for the SCC Committee to present its work, specifically November of 2023 for the middle schools, and April of 2024 for the elementary schools, but the board, after discussion, chose to keep that flexible rather than set specific dates for the delivery of those reports. The committee will collaborate with the staff to create a plan that incorporates equity analyses, addressing past and current district decisions that impact resources for schools primarily serving students of color, and again ensuring equal educational opportunities for all students.

The District aims to link consolidation planning to the "Portrait of a Graduate" work and strategic planning. Ideally, this will establish baseline expectations for elementary, middle, and high school programming as the consolidation process proceeds. 

4. What was your impression of the discussion regarding the naming of the Sonoma Valley High School field, and the decision (if any) that was reached?

The Board decided to name the Sonoma Valley High School Athletic Field the Robert "Bob" Dale Midgley Jr. Field, to be known as "Midgley Field." Bob Midgley taught at Sonoma Valley High for 25 years before passing away on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. Bob passed just weeks after doctors discovered cancer, which had already spread throughout his body. Coach Midgley had attended Prestwood Elementary, Altimira Middle School and was a member of the class of 1984 at Sonoma Valley High School, before attending SRJC (where he played football) and Chico State. He earned his teaching credential at Sonoma State, where he played for the Seawolves (then Cossacks) football team as well. Bob had been a P.E. teacher at Altimira and Sonoma Valley High, as well as the head football coach and athletic director.

There were a number of meritorious individuals who were also suggested to have the field named after them. However, the loss of Coach Midgley so suddenly reminded me of how many families have been touched by cancer in our Valley. For so many years, Relay for Life has taken place at our high school track, and I closely associate (and I think many in our community do as well) the field and track at the high school with our community's efforts to grapple with the terrible impacts of that deadly disease. Naming the field after a coach we lost too soon to cancer somehow seems fitting, and recognizes that we will continue to all mourn the loss of our loved ones taken from us before their time.