By Shannon Rapose
Kern Valley Sun
In Board President Dale Creighton’s absence, Clerk Sherry Nichols called the South Fork Unified School District Board Meeting to order at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8.
The board started the evening with a little ceremony honoring Beth Gagnon in recognition of her recent retirement after 30 years of service at South Fork School. The board showered Gagnon with gifts, well wishes and hugs. Superintendent Kim Villani acknowledged a celebration that took place at the school earlier that day where Gagnon shared cookies and milk, per her request, with the students that she had devoted her life to for so many years. Nearly 280 students, along with faculty and many of Gagnon’s family and friends, gathered in the South Fork School gymnasium to share stories and present cards.
“Today was one of the greatest joys of my life,” said Gagnon. “It’s not about me, it’s just about these kids. It was perfect.”
Gagnon went on to say that she intends to come back and volunteer or substitute at the school, but learned that she would have to wait until the next school year.
“It’s hard to say good-bye to her, but I wish her the best,” said Nichols.
Moving on to the formal agenda, the board approved the Consent Calendar and Routine Items of Business.
During the MOT Report, Bob Shive informed the board that they are still waiting on the funds from Prop 39 that will help fund the construction of the “Field of Dreams” project.
Student Council member Ed Bunting delivered the Student Body Report where he stated they are working on paying off debts such as Camp KEEP. Villani also added that Student Council is working on upcoming fundraisers and had a successful Red Ribbon Week.
During the After School Report, Director Jake Rudnick stated that for the last 29 days, since the last board meeting, the After School Program has had 102 percent attendance, not including sports, with one student on the waiting list. Rudnick also mentioned that they were able to purchase a new van to transport student’s home with the Frontier Grant the program received. The STEM Legos have arrived, and they intend to implement them into the curriculum soon. The program recently received new art supplies and a new printer as well.
Board Member Karrie Bunting gave the South Fork School and Community Foundation Report where she stated that they are planning their annual Trap Shoot Fundraiser and will send out the information on the event in the near future. Bunting also announced that the Foundation has a 5K/10K Fun Run planned for April 14 that will help raise money for the construction of the school’s new track and ball fields. Nichols also added that the “That’s My Brick!” order arrived and now the Foundation just needs to decide on a date and place to lay the 29 bricks that came in.
Villani delivered the School Site Council Report, where she stated that they discussed the school’s updated safety plan during the last meeting on Nov. 1, and that the next meeting would take place on Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. in the Fay Ranch Campus Cafeteria.
The Staff Report was given by Crystal Carver, in which she stated that only about half of the parents attended the recent Parent Teacher Conferences, and the school’s Annual Fall Festival, which took place on Nov. 3, raised nearly $6,000. The Veterans Day program on Nov. 8 also had a good turnout, and the Kindergarten through third grade students will be visiting Murray Family Farms on Nov. 16. Carver also mentioned that the school will be having a winter music program and Santa’s Secret Shop in December.
During the Superintendent Report, Villani stated that the district office will be closed from Nov. 20-24 in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. Villani also discussed information she had received from the county office in regards to updating the schools standing on the California School Dashboard. According to their website, “The Dashboard shows how local educational agencies and schools are performing on the indicators included in California’s new school accountability system” and is intended to provide information that schools can use to improve.
The report indicated that South Fork School had met their Priority 1 criteria of appropriately assigning teachers, accessible curriculum and instructional materials to both students and teachers, and that the school was safe, clean and had functioning facilities. The school chose to do the Self-Reflection Tool for Implementation of State Academic Standards, which showed that South Fork School has fully implemented and met Common Core standards for English Language Arts, English Language Development aligned to English Language Arts Standards and Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. The report also indicated that the school is in the Beginning Development stage for implementing Next Generation Science Standards and History-Social Science Standards since the school does not currently have state approved curriculum for those subjects, but they are working with what they have in place and look forward to adopting new curriculum in those areas. For Parent Engagement, the report was based on the last school year’s attendance during the Parent Teacher Conferences, which showed only a 68 percent attendance rate for the first quarter and 61 percent for the second quarter. To encourage parent engagement, the school is trying to increase communication through Blackboard, notes home to parents and updating the school’s website to inform parents of upcoming events, meetings and conferences.
In the 2015-2016 school year, the district administered the California Healthy Kids Survey to South Fork students and staff, which indicated that 58 percent felt close to people at school, 45 percent were happy at South Fork School and 50 percent felt safe while at school. The district is administering a new California Healthy Kids Survey next month to get updated data to continue the school’s efforts to implement positive behavior interventions and support systems to improve student connectedness and safety at school.
Also, in honor of Native American Heritage Month, Villani stated that the Native American Enrichment through Outreach and Cultural Education is teaming up with the Owens Valley Career Development Center to come to South Fork School once a week to give lessons in native language, share crafts, storytelling and will conclude with a native American dance at the end of the month.
Villani updated the board on the possession of a concealed firearm on school grounds policy that South Fork School District did approve. However, as of January 1, 2018, in accordance with the AB 424 revision of the Gun Free School Zone Act, Penal Code section 626.9, schools can no longer authorize personal who hold “concealed carry weapons” license to carry a firearm on school grounds.
Villani also thanked Bob Shive for handling CHP inspection last week. The school passed with no violations. She also thanked all the students and staff for their participation in the Veterans Day program and for putting together Gagnon’s cookie party.
Nichols then opened the meeting up to community members to address the Board of Trustees, at which time Kelso Valley resident Darl Snyder requested their assistance in addressing the sandbar issue that washes over the south end of Kelso Valley Road every winter. Snyder hopes that with the board’s influence, CalTrans or another entity will be quicker about clearing away the area before an accident can occur. He also requested that the board invest in a solar panel and flashing LED lights for the stop sign at the entrance to the school to encourage people to stop there before pulling into oncoming traffic. Shive offered to look into the cost of the lights and will report back to the board.
The board moved on to the Personnel section of the agenda and approved the stipend positions, employment of a new cook, and the resignation of Lynette Thomas as Kern Valley Aquatics Director. Nichols commented that she greatly appreciated the 9 years that Thomas put into developing the Aquatics Program.
“It has really developed into a program that works in our community; it supports kids in activities in the summer time, like free swimming lessons through the grants we received, thanks to Kim and Lynette,” said Nichols. “It’s working beautifully, and I will miss her.”
When the board reached the Curriculum and Instruction section of the agenda, which discussed the 2017-2018 goals for the South Fork School District, Nichols asked how the goals were designed and if they could be measured. Villani elaborated that the goals correlate with the school’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) and can be measured with the data collected through the LCAP. The board then approved the 2017-2018 District Goals.
The meeting moved onto the Business and Finance section of the agenda where the board discussed the Superintendent Evaluation Tool and Procedures, and decided to discuss revising the current evaluation tool at the next meeting.
The board then approved the Appointment of Labor Negotiators, Contingent Tax Liability, and the Proposition 39 Facility Solution Agreement with little discussion.
For the last 30 minutes of the meeting, the board met in closed session for further discussion and then adjourned at 7:30 p.m.
The next South Fork Union School District Board meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday, Dec. 14, at 6 p.m. in the Kelso Valley Campus Cafeteria.