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Superintendent Board Meeting Report - January 13, 2022

January 13, 2022

Good evening Trustees,

My report will be much shorter tonight as we have a lot to cover on the agenda, including the anticipated COVID-19 update report from staff. 

COVID-19 Update

As an introduction to the report, I would like to say now that, with this new highly transmissible variant of the virus, the systems in place across our state and nation must change to reflect the new realities of the virus — our school district included. The public health departments, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to the California Department of Public Health, to our own Santa Clara County Public Health Department are rapidly changing their approach and guidance to the general public and to schools across the nation. 

As we know from each past transition in this pandemic — for a time — guidance changes rapidly, anxiety mounts, and work increases. What we also know is that our layers of safety mitigation work to keep covid transmission out of our schools. Our schools can safely stay open. And, we have the best staff here in SCUSD… we are able to collaborate with our CUDOS team to plan, communicate, and launch solutions to challenges quickly. We also have a supportive community of families and students who have flexed with us through each transition. Together, we will adapt again.

I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for the efforts of our team through this surge.

Tonight you will hear about public health department updates to isolation and quarantine guidance that aligns to the newest CDC guidance, and allows students and staff to return to campuses sooner. You will also hear about public health updates to contact tracing and notification guidance that will allow faster and more transparent communication to the community, even while we experience a high volume of work during the surge.

Another light at the end of the tunnel — according to CDC and Dr. Fauci, we may soon begin to see a plateau and steep decline in new daily cases. This combined with the new CDPH guidance for contact identification and notification processes will alleviate the heavy workload of our staff and anxiety felt by the community during this time. 

Community Activities

Next, a brief update on some of my recent community activities.

  • I wanted to visit earlierToday, CBO Mark Schiel and I visited Cabrillo and met with Principal Flora to walk the campus and plan next steps to address facility challenges for their music program. The staff is empowered to collaboratively develop solutions. The principal will form a committee to identify facility shifts that can happen on the school site to provide a short term solution while a more permanent solution is identified, approved by the board, funded, and implemented.
  • Monday night, District Council PTA meeting to provide an update and pitch a joint project idea that I will talk about in just a few minutes. 
  • Today I joined a call with other SCC Superintendents regarding various issues related to school districts including a check in regarding the impact of the TK program on community-funded school districts; the strings associated with the new Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant’s lack of flexibility given the perimeters of the program and limited resources (available and qualified staffing in particular).  We issued a plea to the Senator for help with the regulatory environment that we are facing in our schools. As we are serving as disaster workers, there has been no reduction in the accountability plans. Moveover, we are seeing a significant decline in interest to fill critical positions due to the unstainable workload.  Senator Laird expressed his support to take these messages back and invited us to connect with him to provide specifics.

Kudos

Partner gifts we would like to recognize are: 

  • Thank you to Infoblox, a Santa Clara based company, for their donation of 200 novels on the topic of cybersecurity to our District Libraries.  These books are valued at $5,700. These Works will be used by our secondary school libraries and support Computer Science Education.
  • Thank you to the Cordevalle Youth Golf Program for their donation of $2,000 to Santa Clara High School. The funds will support Santa Clara High School golf program.
  • Also for Santa Clara High School, we received $1,000 from the Silicon Valley Woodturners Inc. The funds will be used to establish the P.V. Meenaskshi Ammal Memorial Scholarship.
  • Thank you Central Coast Section CCS, for their donation of $3,000 to Wilcox High School. The funds will be used to cover travel expenses related to the CIF State Football Championship.
  • Thank you to the California Interscholastic Federation for their donation of $8,800 to Wilcox High School. The funds will also be used to cover expenses for travel for the CIF State Football Championship.
  • Thank you to Zanker Landfill for their $1,000 donation to Mayne Children’s Center for their grounds project at the preschool.
  • Last but not least, thank you to Peterson Middle School PTSA for a donation of $1,100. The funds will be used to support school clubs and classroom enrichment.

Call to Action

At the beginning of this school year, we discussed the possibility of launching a volunteer support system should the number of employees absences or increasing workload due to COVID affect operations. We are able to cover staff absences, but some of our schools and programs could certainly use extra hands. We recognize that we are in extraordinary times and that it will take the entire Santa Clara Unified community to see us through this surge of COVID-19.

After conversations with our labor partners and our Parent organizations, we are working on a way to connect those that are ready and able to volunteer to help meet the growing needs of our students. Our staff is nothing short of heroic but we can’t do it all alone.  Next week we will be launching “Santa Clara Together”, a call to action to our community and parent volunteers so that learning stays in person. The latest COVID surge has impacted schools across the country creating challenges to remain open. Beyond classroom substitutes, SCUSD will need assistance addressing the needs when our support staff is impacted.

  1. COVID Testing and School Site Support: Assisting either COVID Clinic (Grapefruit) or school staff with the logistics and coordination of testing;
  2. Food Services: Assisting students with meal checkout/cashier process (no cash handling - scanning student IDs and helping students to enter their PIN #);
  3. Light Custodial Assistance - wiping down desks and surface areas at the end of the school day, placing classroom trash outside of rooms to help with custodial shortage; 
  4. Office Assistance - making copies, supporting office staff, helping prepare materials as needed; 
  5. Supervision Assistance - lunch, recess/pickup/drop off and possibly activities/events;
  6. Classroom Support - Specific needs to be identified as staffing and support needs develop.

Details about the volunteers:

  • Volunteers would have to be fully vaccinated; Our current volunteer system is in place to handle this.
  • Volunteers would be eligible for the district weekly COVID-19 screening program. This is a logistical piece that we are working out.
  • We would allow volunteers to identify preferred schools, but may deploy centrally.
  • Schools will not be required to participate in the program. Principals will make the request for support. 
  • Steve Neese is leading the project and is looking for a community volunteer to support him as a volunteer coordinator.

I am working with staff and PTA leaders to help identify interested volunteers and a way to allocate those volunteers to the schools with the most urgent needs.

While work is underway, I share an outline of what to expect from the Santa Clara Together initiative.

  • A volunteer interest form will be going out to our community next week.
  • Volunteers can include both parents and non-parents that are connected to the district through school-connected organizations or community and business partners with a strong relationship with the district. 
  • All volunteers will need to be fully vaccinated 
  • All volunteers will be eligible to participate in COVID testing at the school site they are supporting
  • High School students can volunteer for service hours as long as the volunteer role is appropriate and does not conflict with their school schedule.
  • After a potential volunteer completes the interest form, the School site-appointed person will work with Principals to contact and schedule based on the needs of the campus.

While not all of our community members can volunteer, there are other ways our community can help. Please consider helping to create or coordinate carpools. This would help address transportation concerns related to bus driver staffing and shortages.

CLOSING

I want to welcome Jean Burrell, the new Administrative Secretary to the Superintendent. She has truly hit the ground running since she started last month. Thank you to our community for welcoming her to the District and supporting her in the transition. I’m excited to have Jean on our team and look forward to working with her. 

This concludes my report this evening.