KUSD discusses foundation, low scores

By Elise Modrovich
Special to the Sun

The Kernville Union School District (KUSD) held their monthly meeting last Tuesday, Oct. 10, to discuss ongoing issues and programs for the school year. Present at the meeting were Board President Greg Davis, Board Members Allison Bogart, Lucian Whitman and George Stahl. Board Member Wendy Russ was absent. Also present, representing the administration, were Robin Shive, Superintendent, and Lissa Robinson. At this month’s action-packed meeting, a lot of old and continuing business could be addressed, resolved and checked off the books.

The board quickly went through and approved the Consent Calendar, Routine Items of Business and General Functions. Greg Davis noted that enrollment and ADA percentages looked good. Robinson stated that the numbers were actually higher than reported, and she would try to adjust them for accuracy for next month’s meeting.

During her administrative report, Sherry Lanza went over the California statewide test results for KUSD. Superintendent Shive first broke down the graphs, explaining what they meant in terms of percentages for the third through the seventh grades. While some grades were better than others, overall, only 30 percent of the students were meeting the standard. Lanza then showed comparative statistics between the KUSD and county and statewide results, with KUSD’s numbers still coming up short. Lanza had also gone back three years and found that the percentages “were consistent over all three – not improving.” While the board silently absorbed the report, Shive said, “These are definitely troubling statistics – discouraging and troubling. It took us all by surprise. We had done significantly better in preliminary testing done over the summer.” Several Board members asked what steps were being taken to try and rectify the situation. “I am talking to our administrative staff and asking around to try and find out the root causes,” Shive replied, adding, “We have to figure out what we can and need to do to make a difference and change it around.”

Superintendent Shive then went over her own report, including sharing information and cost estimates for the upcoming CSBA Conference for any board members interested in taking part in the team-building opportunity and passed along the Amendment Form 700 to the board to use if necessary. Shive then discussed the Mental Health Substance Abuse (MHSA) Collaborative, wherein KUSD would be partnering with KVHD and the Family Resource Center to help bring awareness and help for the serious problem of ongoing high rates of abuse in the valley. The Collaborative will be hosting special informative events during Red Ribbon Week in their efforts to reach out to and involve the community.

Next, Shive brought the cafeteria expansion of the PBIS awards to the board’s attention, commending the cafeteria manager and staff with seeking ways to support positive recognition efforts with fully reimbursable meals for the kids, who could participate using their Colt Card credits. Recent events had included “A Taste of Italy,” where the cafeteria was set up like a faux Italian Restaurant and a special full breakfast where students had to fulfill certain behavioral criteria in order to participate. The cafeteria staff is currently cultivating partnerships with Taco Bell and Pizza Factory for future events. Finally, Shive gave a Bond Oversight Committee update. The committee had recently met to discuss disbursement of the $6,000+ remaining from the Kindergarten complex project. A priority list was made, which included improving the lower parking lot, installing shade structures, upgrading the portable bathrooms, upgrading the phone system, and erecting fencing for Kernville Elementary. It was determined that the parking lot and phone system could be addressed through other avenues, and since the remaining three items were all relatively inexpensive, it is believed the funding can cover all three, which is great news for the schools.

Nikolle Evans gave a brief update on the status of the Kindergarten complex and Prop 39 Funds projects. The crews were set to break ground Monday to address erosion, walkways, and gutters, with estimates that the entire remaining items should be finished in three weeks and then the complex project would officially be complete. “Finally!” Evans smiled. “It’s really exciting.” Evans stated that Monday would also be the start date for the installation of the Prop 39 funded HVAC units, noting that the crews would be working from 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. and Saturdays so as not to disturb school hours.

Bogart asked Evans to relate the “Classroom-sized aquarium” situation to the Board. Evans explained that, in their efforts to address the heating/cooling piping problems at Kernville Elementary, their “temporary fix” had blown apart under the stress of transitioning from cooling to heating for the recent drop in temperatures, and, as a result, had badly flooded rooms 5 and 6 at the school. “Poor Mrs. Alten,” Evans said. “She’s really had a tough time of it up there. But we did clean up and repair it, and should have the permanent fix in soon.”

The board quickly went through and passed items under Personnel, which included revising Job Descriptions in Accounts Payable, Payroll and Administrative. “These had not been updated since 1994 and were completely outdated,” explained Shive. “We had to bring them into the 21st Century. Now these are accurate reflections of what they’re actually doing.”

The board then turned their attention to Curriculum and Instruction, specifically the 2017-2018 District Goals and Objectives. They went through the items, and with a few minor revisions, approved the document. “It’s a big list, but we’re going for it. We’re there.” Shive said.

Under Business and Finance, the board unanimously passed the proposals between KUSD and CSEA Chapter 635, 2017-2018 Fundraisers, Board Policy/Administrative Regulation Updates, and gladly approved the new Passenger Van Lease Agreements. “They went into use for the first time yesterday. Everyone is so excited,” smiled Evans. The Board was also happy to approve the purchase of several new student computers, which enable the middle school students to complete a 1:1 student to computer ratio, “plus backups,” said Shive.

Evans discussed the updated 5-Year Maintenance Plan, explaining that the current focus is on “getting Kernville back up to where they should be,” including the major predicted projects of improving the parking lot and concrete, redoing the gym floor, painting buildings and repair work. Evans also noted that these were current estimates only, and costs would inevitably change and most likely rise the longer it takes to get the projects completed. Robinson noted that the funding is restricted and would be carefully tracked. The Budget Calendar, Revolving Cash Funds and TK Expansion action items were passed as well. Shive explained that expanding eligibility for the TK program would allow opportunities for families who don’t qualify for pre-school to participate without impacting current pre-school enrollment.

Shive then reviewed the proposed KUSD Community Foundation with examples from the CSBA and comparisons to neighboring established foundations from South Fork and Caliente. The Board discussed the pros and cons of establishing a 501(c)3 Foundation, and after a long discussion, determined the merits of creating a separate charitable entity that could concentrate on and fund educationally-focused projects in the community-at-large would be both positive and beneficial for all involved. Shive noted that establishing a 501(c)3 takes a couple of months and includes naming a board, bylaws and a mission statement, and that if they wanted to launch before the end of the calendar year, she “would like to get moving so we can create an action item for the next board meeting.” Bogart and Whitman both expressed interest in serving on the foundation’s board when it is ready.

The final order of business was accepting the After School Education and Safety Grant in the amount of $216,030 for those programs. Shive heartily congratulated Sherry Lanza on procuring the grant funds. “Persistence paid off,” said Lanza. The Board finished the evening’s meeting with personal announcements. George Stahl thanked everyone for all the continued hard work. “We’re active, getting a lot done and have the kids’ best interests at heart. The community sees it, and I believe it’s reflected in donations for things like Leader in Me and Reach Back, and I’m just glad to be a part of it.” Alison Bogart thanked Sherry Lanza “for growing money and for all you do for our kids. They’re super precious to all of us.” She then added a sobering comment. “I am very disappointed in these test results. Our teachers and staff work so hard and care so much, and it’s not being reflected in the data.” Bogart looked over to the superintendent. “When relating the data table, please tell the teachers we appreciate their efforts and we know how hard this must be.”

The meeting was adjourned without convening to a closed session for this month. The next KUSD Board Meeting is set for Tuesday, November 14, 2017, at 6:00 p.m. in the Woodrow Wallace Elementary School Cafeteria.