Several district employees alleged a lack of financial and structural support for teachers from the district at the school board meeting last week, including Jay Hotchner, president of the Carpinteria Association of United School Employees, Crystl Hotchner, a math teacher from Carpinteria Middle School and Kelly Vergeer, a science teacher from Carpinteria Middle School.

At the Sept. 27 Carpinteria Unified School District school board meeting, Crystl said the district “continues to ignore” its staff’s issues. 

“Teachers, support staff and union leadership have been encouraging the district to embrace a more effective posture regarding staffing, substitute teacher coverage and compensation, for years,” Crystl said.

She also called the district’s $2,000 signing bonus for incoming teachers for the 2022-23 school year “a mere Band-Aid for a much bigger problem that could’ve been handled years ago.”

Several teachers, including Vergeer, have cited this lack of support and proper funding as a reason the district has lost valuable teachers, and been unable to attract qualified candidates. 

During her comment, Vergeer requested financial records of raises and bonuses for several district administrators from 2017 to present, including Superintendent Diana Rigby, the assistant superintendent, and principals of Aliso, Canalino, Summerland, Carpinteria Middle School, Carpinteria High School and Rincon High School.

“Many people on this list have gotten bonuses on schedule and off schedule that I’d like to compare to teacher compensation,” she said.


AHA! Director speaks on district partnership

The school board heard an end of the year report from AHA!, or the Attitudes, Harmony and Achievement program, for the 2021-22 school year at its Tuesday night meeting. 

AHA! is a social and emotional learning program focused on social awareness, relationships and social skills, to help improve students’ mental and academic outcomes. The Carpinteria Unified School District has been working with AHA! for more than 15 years, according to the organization’s executive director Roxy Petty.

Petty talked about her work facilitating conversations between kids who do and don’t get along, and how those conversations impacted more than just the students involved.

“The work that we do is not just about conversation and talking,” Petty said. “It is about what we can bring to our youth, their parents, their educators, the staff they work with at their schools and for you to experience it as you walk down your streets.”

During the 2021-22 school year, AHA! served over 1,148 students through Hero assemblies, 860 students through Peace Builder groups and presentations, 45 educators through educator workshops and 32 parents through parent groups and education workshops, according to Petty.

Melissa Lowenstein, the adult training director of AHA!, said CUSD was “way ahead of the curve” in terms of understanding that social emotional learning must be taught to students and adults to be truly effective. 

“It has to go to the kids, it has to go to the teachers, and it has to go to the parents, and that’s how it impacts the whole community,” she said. 

Later, the board’s student representative Neida Garcia announced some upcoming events at Carpinteria High School, including Coffee with the Principal event for CHS parents at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 7. in the Administration building and the Homecoming dance on Saturday, Oct. 15. 

The board also approved a new board policy, due to the recent passing of Assembly Bill 367 – the Menstrual Equity for All Act – which requires any school site serving students grades six through 12 to have an adequate supply of menstrual products available and free of charge for students. 


Board Announcements

Andy Sheaffer, vice president and clerk of the board, gave updates on pedestrian safety projects in the district. 

The general scope of work for improvements to the Carpinteria and Palm Avenue intersection, near Carpinteria Middle School, has been approved. Sheaffer said the design is complete, and the project will likely be completed before the end of the year. 

The Carpinteria High School crosswalk safety improvement project is now in the hands of Caltrans, Sheaffer said, due to Foothill Road being a state highway.

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