At this week's regular meeting of the , members voted to rename a gym, approve a school calendar with fewer than 180 instructional days, and to post an array of agenda items online.
Board member Andrew Blumenfeld summarized the board's actions Wednesday in his Education Action Committee Newsletter, reposted in its entirety here:
The Board unanimously approved a recommendation to rename the North Gym the "Hotchkin Family Gymnasium." At the December 6th meeting, the Board approved new policies that permit renaming facilities to recognize significant financial contributions from the community. The Hotchkin Family's lifetime contributions, including a recent pledge, amount to giving in excess of $1 million.
The conversation at the meeting, however, centered on this family's truly remarkable set of contributions that extend far beyond dollars, and spread across three generations. The family has had everything from students, to educators, to volunteers in our district for many years.
As I mentioned at the meeting, I consider the opportunity to recognize such giving beneficial in any number of ways for our schools and community. As a current student at a University where everything is named after alumni, classes, and other groups/individuals, I find the practice makes visible the extent to which we are part of a community and a family, and the lengths we all go to participate in the success of that community.
The Hotchkin family epitomizes these virtues, and so it is fitting that they occupy the inaugural position of this new tradition.
School Calendars Approved for 2012-13 and 2013-14
By a vote of 3-2, the Board approved the adoption of the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school calendars. Joel Peterson and I were the dissenting votes. You can find the calendars here.
I provided a brief explanation for my dissent at the meeting, and will summarize those thoughts here. I am concerned about the looming and potentially inevitable reality of furlough days in the coming years. Furloughs- days removed from the school calendar to save money on salaries- have become more accessible and popular than ever for California school districts, given the massive budget cuts and the recent legislation from Sacramento that permits their use in larger numbers.
In addition, we know we have had some that have caused us to have unexpected losses to the instructional calendar. Given these realities, I couldn't support a calendar that had anything less than 180 instructional days.
Board Agendas, Packet Info, Will be Posted Online
At previous meetings, the Board had asked staff to investigate a transition away from our current agenda practices, to an online format. Currently, the top page of our agenda is available online. However, the full board packet- including the accompanying proposals, memos, supporting materials, etc.- is available for pickup by members of the public (and are accessible at the Board meetings).
AgendaOnline is a program that will allow all of these materials to be uploaded and accessible online. This will save the District money in printing costs, and- most importantly- make the work of the Board more accessible and transparent. We are in the final stages of this transition, and anticipate having the first meeting with electronic materials in early September.
Board Will Explore Federal Competition for Grant Money.
Some of you may know about the US Department of Education's major grant program implemented under the Obama Administration, known as "Race to the Top." This program used stimulus money to award major grants to states that applied to the Department, and could extensively demonstrate commitments to many education reforms. There were ultimately three rounds of this competition. California did not win in the first two rounds, and didn't even submit an application in the third. Now the Department has created an iteration for which Districts can apply directly.
LCUSD does not have the necessary student demographics to qualify alone, but the competition permits the creation of consortia that, together, satisfy all the qualifications for application. Winning districts and/or consortia (of which there will be only a small handful across the country) are eligible for approximately $20-25 million grants, over five years. The possible payoff here is enormous, but the odds of success are very small and the work necessary to put together an application will be significant.
At [this week's] meeting, I requested the Board direct staff to work with me in exploring the most pivotal questions to discover if there is a viable and reasonable path to success, and to recommend to the full Board whether or not this is something worth executing in its entirety. The Board was very supportive of this. As such, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette and I will be working to explore this possibility in depth ahead of the next Board meeting. You can access the proposed guidelines for the competition here.
The next regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Aug. 7.