At its Nov. 27 meeting, the Carpinteria Unified School District Board of Trustees heard reports on state-wide test results and voted 3-1 in favor of selling the properties at Bailard Avenue, with board members Rogelio Delgado opposing and Maureen Foley abstaining. A vote on the Whitney property in Summerland has been delayed to provide the community more time to study the proposed sale.
CAASPP results discussed
Across Carpinteria and the rest of the state, students performed significantly worse on last year’s California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) test. Results from both Carpinteria High School and Carpinteria Middle School, showed that English learners fared worse than their English-speaking classmates.
CHS principal Gerardo Cornejo presented data to the board on the demographics of the 611 students attending the high school, broken down by ethnicity: 72 percent Latino, 24 percent white, 2 percent Asian and .6 percent multi-ethnic. Cornejo added that 60 percent of the student body were classified as economically disadvantaged. “Last year was a unique year,” the principal said of the 20-days of instruction lost due to the Thomas Fire and debris flows of Jan. 9, 2018. That is “not an excuse,” he said, “but it does take a while to come back.” Cornejo also pointed out that the natural disasters cancelled a lot of test practice time.
The issue of how to best track student progress was discussed, as the CAASPP test for high schoolers is only administered in the 11th grade. CHS has purchased new software to help administrators follow student performance. Currently, the CHS graduation rate is 96 percent. Offering some perspective on the CAASSP results, Cornejo said “This reflects how the students did in one week of the school year.” He added that “Students do very well on AP exams because they matter… this test unfortunately does not hinder whether they graduate or not, it does not affect their grades—it’s just hoping that students take their time and do their best taking this test.”
Carpinteria Middle School Principal Lisa O’Shea reported that only 24.7 percent of sixth graders, 31.9 percent of seventh graders and 40.4 percent of eighth graders met or exceeded the CAASPP standards. English learners at CMS cumulatively had only 7 percent of sixth graders, 12.3 percent of seventh graders and 5.7 percent of eighth graders that met or exceeded expectations. Board member Maureen Foley expressed her concerns, stating “The achievement gap in the sub-categories is really tragic.”
Aliso Elementary to pilot bi-lingual program
Aliso Elementary School Principal Dr. Michele Fox, with staff members Brett Weiberg, Mary Lewandowski, Gretchen Tofflemire, Susan Fredrickson and Claudia Juarez presented the results of research they have conducted over the past year into the form of bi-lingual education they would like to implement at the school. Underscoring the achievement gap between English learners and English-speaking students, the Aliso team explained the reasoning behind their proposed adoption of the FLES model (Foreign Language in Elementary Schools) of bi-lingual education. Based on parent feedback, most of which came from those with a Spanish-speaking background, the Aliso instructors said their school community wanted bi-lingual instruction across the whole school as opposed to a separate program like the two Dual Language Immersion classes at Canalino Elementary. Aliso parents also want the majority of instruction to be conducted in English.
The upshot of the FLES model is that all Aliso students will receive 20 minutes of instruction in Spanish, four days a week. Teacher Brett Weiberg said, “Research shows that students are not only able to learn the language, but are also highly engaged in learning the content through the language. The Aliso team also pointed out that the FLES model will provide students a pathway to earn the California State Seal of Bi-literacy on their high school diploma.
The pilot program will begin in February, 2019. Board member Foley expressed concern that the FLES program at Aliso was not properly posted on the board meeting agenda—a possible violation of the Brown Act. CUSD Superintendent Diana Rigby replied to Foley’s concern by stating: “There are two considerations—we are not taking any action, so it’s not a violation of the Brown Act, and number two, this model is part of [Aliso’s] Single Plan for Student Achievement.”
Foley then stated, “We do the community a disservice by sneaking this through.”
“We’re not sneaking anything through,” Rigby replied. “The way Aliso has chosen to address the achievement gap is through this program.” Foley recused herself from voting on the FLES pilot program over her concern about a possible Brown Act violation, while the remaining board members voted in favor of implementation.
Advisory Committee recommends sale of Bailard properties
The CUSD Real Property Advisory Committee recommended the sale of the properties at Bailard Avenue, and the district’s attorney Craig Price said to the School Board: “You’re deciding, as far as the board is concerned, based on the recommendation of your district Advisory Committee, you believe the property is surplus and that the process for selling the property should commence.”
Giti White of Carpinteria addressed the Board and asked “Why now? Has the School Board looked to future school sites in regard to sea level rise?” White also mentioned the prohibitive cost of land in the area should the district need additional school sites in the future.
School garden coordinator Genevieve Schwanbeck sent a letter to the board which was read aloud, and brought up the possibility of the organic farm on one of the Bailard properties helping to not only provide healthy, locally-grown produce to students, but also possibly offset the cost of the district’s meal programs.
Board member Andy Sheaffer made a motion to adopt the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, but board member Rogelio Delgado said that insufficient time has been given to residents near the properties in question to voice their concerns: “The district needs to know what the community wants or doesn’t want at that site,” adding, “it’s a giveaway at its current price.” Nevertheless, board members Robertson, Fabre and Sheaffer voted in favor of the recommendation to sell, while Delgado voted against and Foley again abstained due to her membership in the Bailard family and the possible appearance of impropriety.
The meeting adjourned soon after, but not before Delgado expressed concern at the lack of transparency in the district’s expenditures, particularly in regard to legal fees. “Transparency, transparency, transparency. I have not seen it. That’s what I want the district to provide me with. If I don’t know, the community doesn’t know (how much is being spent).” Outgoing board members, Robertson and Fabre spoke positively of their time serving on the CUSD School Board, and Andy Sheaffer thanked them for their service.