Monthly board meeting at KUSD

By Elise Modrovich
Special to the Sun

The Kernville Union School District (KUSD) held their monthly meeting last Tuesday 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.

This month’s meeting included a presentation by the KREM program students and teacher, the most recent LCAP report, updates on several academic and social programs, the annual Preschool evaluation, and local parents speaking out about serious problems with bullying at Woodrow Wallace Elementary.

The board quickly went through and approved the Consent Calendar, routine items of business and general functions. It was noted that enrollment and ADA percentages appear to be holding fairly steady at the moment.

Then teacher Kathy Dwyer gave her year-end presentation for the Kern River Environmental Magnet (KREM) program. “It has been a very busy fourth year,” she stated, which included putting together a school program on climate change, planting trees with a restoration project, hosting classes at the Audubon, learning to cross-country ski, earning three Junior Ranger badges, field trips to Death Valley, Sequoia National Forest, Channel Islands National Park and our local Audubon Reserve.

“A good time is had by all, and they actually learn things, too,” Dwyer smiled.

Three of the KREM students, Briley Cushman, Kaleth Cushman, and newcomer to the program, fourth-grader Pfeiffer Miller, who coined the KREM’s motto, “Don’t die on a KREM field trip,” all gave impressive and well-spoken presentations about their positive experiences with the program. Dwyer concluded the presentation by thanking the Board for continuing the KREM program into its fifth year.

“It has allowed the kids to grow, mature, gain a lot of confidence and they learned a lot as well.”

Sherry Lanza, newly hired Director of Districtwide Programs, presented the most recent LCAP statistics and survey results. For the LCAP survey, 400 students ranging from fourth through eighth grades, and over sixty parents and sixty teachers were polled on items ranging from Teacher Engagement (up over 51 percent from last year), School Safety and Environment (up 31 percent from last year), Parent involvement, Student Preparation, Course of Study, and Student Attitude towards attending school (up 48 percent from last year).

Lanza also reported briefly on the CAASPP Testing; “It’s going much smoother this year than last year.”

Principal Brian Polston reported on parental concerns voiced at the April board meeting regarding lack of Elementary PE diversity.

Polston announced that he had looked at lesson plans, and while “a couple needed improvement, most were good,” noting that an additional part-time PE teacher planned for the fourth and fifth grades next year should help improve the situation.

Polston then updated the Board on the status of the new Ropes Course, stating that Phase One, “Getting it up and running,” had been completed with the help of Steve Brucker and the community volunteers.

Phase Two, “Training people to oversee activities” is currently in the works, “But since it’s the end of the year, we probably won’t make much progress until the new school year ramps up.”
At that point, they will be able to implement Phase Three, “Scheduling use and access for students.” Polston concluded, “It’s a work in progress, but definitely worthwhile.”

Polston reviewed the apparent success of the recently implemented Makeup Attendance School (MAS) program. Since March, students have made up 379 absences, which translates to a net of almost $12,000 in school revenue.

“We sort of jumped in, not knowing exactly what would be involved,” Polston said.

“We have learned a lot, and next year we will improve with better tracking and set make-up days.”

Polston said that the program has created more of an awareness with the students, and those involved had greater attendance following the program. “It’s been worth the effort, and will pay off more as we move into next year.”

Polston then gave a progress report on the status of the “Leader In Me” program, planned for both Wallace and Kernville Elementary Schools. He was happy to note that he had received “100 percent support from everyone surveyed,” and now it was just a matter of funding.

Efforts were still in progress to obtain funding from Panda Express’s Panda Care Program, as well as pursuing financial support from the “wonderful” corporation. Finally, Polston discussed the details of the new Intervention, Literacy, Reading and Math Comprehension program, stating that the teachers and paraprofessionals, especially Honey Goyette, had been providing “a ton of support to try and move the kids up. They’re really working hard, and it’s showing.”

So far, 68 percent of students had moved up in the reading and literacy comprehension levels, “But there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Next year, the schools will add more “Intervention” teachers to help, and “We are very hopeful to see even better numbers next year.”

Next Nikolle Evans gave an update on a parental concern voiced at April’s meeting regarding lack of adequate bus stop signage and excessive speeding through these zones in Havilah. Evans said she had addressed the matter with Caltrans, but they would not put up more signage because it’s a county road and it is a CHP enforced area, claiming that it is “an enforcement, not a signage issue.”

Evans stated she had discussed this with the parent, and if parents and members of the community were welcome to call and voice their concerns to the CHP and see if they couldn’t get more regular patrols to the area. Evans was pleased to inform the board that the Prop 39 Energy Plan had been approved.

“The next step is to get the contracts out and work scheduled.”

Full funding is due in July, and they are hoping to get the project completed over the summer. Evans finished her report with more good news: the Kindergarten Complex closeout paperwork is virtually complete, and as soon as one final box is checked, they will be certified.

This summer, the erosion landscaping plan, including drainage, planting sod, putting in a bigger sandbox, and spraying for weed abatement and erosion control, will be implemented, performing most of the work in-house for substantial savings. The entire project should come in under $5,000. “We’ll have a really busy summer,” Evans concluded.

The board quickly went over the end-of-year calendar and events, including acknowledging the KUSD Staff Appreciation Week (May 1 through May 5), thanking and giving appreciation to school volunteers for their significant contributions, the Woodrow Wallace Middle School Awards Ceremony scheduled for May 25 at 6 p.m., the Woodrow Wallace Middle School Graduation Breakfast scheduled for May 31 at 8 a.m. and the Graduation Ceremony scheduled for May 31 at 6 p.m. all set to take place in the Wallace Gymnasium.

Superintendent Shive gave her report, announcing that Sherry Lanza had written two grant proposals to help with LCAP numbers. One for a multi-tiered system of support for social, emotional, intervention and academic programs totaling $50,000 a year for three years and another to procure $25,000 a year for the next three years in funds to reduce chronic absenteeism, suspensions and truancy.

Shive also announced the new “STOP IT” anonymous anti-bullying program, due to be launched in May, would now roll out in August. “We want to give it a nice strong start,” she said. The program purchased by the KUSD’s insurance company, would provide training, promotional and marketing materials and phone lines.

“Students can call from home, even text, all which helps provide anonymity for the kids,” said Shive.

Apropos to the subject matter just presented, the board then opened the meeting to members of the community to address listed agenda items or any matters of specific concern. Kelly Bowman Behill gave an impassioned plea on behalf of her 9-year-old fourth grade daughter about serious and widespread bullying problems at Woodrow Wallace Elementary School. Behill read a letter from her daughter’s friend detailing the kind of abusive and racist taunts, as well as physical abuse her daughter is subjected to on a daily basis.

“These kids say and do things that no child should have to endure,” Behill said, adding that her daughter had gone from a happy, very-involved student to a child who cries before and after school every day.

“It’s a struggle every morning to get her to go.” Behill stated that the problem went beyond her daughter’s troubles.

“It’s not just my kid. This is happening to a lot of the kids, especially the bi-racial ones. It’s a school-wide problem.” Behill was quick to add that “We love this area, and we love the school. Most of the kids are even great, but there are a lot who aren’t. The teachers, Principal Polston, we have talked to them and we know they’re trying. But there needs to be stronger, better measures in place. My child deserves a safe place to learn. Something has to change.”

Superintendent Shive agreed to meet with Behill and other concerned parents to see what could be done to address the problem.

The board quickly went through and approved personnel job descriptions, resignations, reassignments, and new hires before turning the meeting over to Verlona Tate, who presented the annual evaluation and program goals for the Preschool. Tate stated they had become a “full-inclusion” preschool this year, which had “Its challenges and rewards.”

At the beginning of the year, they had one preschool, and have ended with two, allowing them to double the amount of students they could support, from 48 to 96. Tate reported they had spent the year working on improving social/emotional skills (improving to 65 percent of goal), and language/literacy skills (improving to 57 percent of goal).

“We will work on it again next year and try to improve our results.”

Many parents had asked repeatedly for expanded hours, but administrators found it was not “financially feasible” to expand to a full-day program at the moment. Superintendent Shive and Lissa Robinson both stated they were still “looking for loopholes, and trying to see what we can do.”

Under Business and Finance, the board approved electrical installation of portables over the summer. The final agenda item up for approval was the request for signature support for the KVHD Parcel Tax. As a KVHD employee, Chairman Greg Davis first explained the importance of the funding and maintaining an independent Health Care District in the Kern River Valley, and then recused himself from the vote.

Superintendent Shive presented legal parameters for a governing board like KUSD for endorsing the measure. Board members Allison Bogart and Lucian Whitman both approved the request, but Board Member George Stahl abstained from casting a vote. Since three votes are required to pass it, and with Wendy Russ absent, the board could not officially approve the request at this time.
After the board members briefly took time to make personal comments, this month’s KUSD Board Meeting was adjourned.

Next month’s meeting will be held in the Woodrow Wallace Elementary School Cafetorium on Tuesday, June 6, 2017, at 6 p.m., with closed session to follow immediately after. The Board will meet twice in June as well, with a second regular meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 20.