Equity Issues Boil Over at HUSD Meetings

Published by The Equity Initiative on

By Heather Bailey, Staff Writer, The Healdsburg Tribune, heather@sonomawest.com – Jun 13, 2018

Ever since the Healdsburg Unified School District Board of Trustees voted at the May 9 meeting to fund a new staff member for the Healdsburg Charter School (HCS), unhappy rumblings that had been present in the community for some time bubbled over.

These rumblings are the result of a controversial ruling at a special meeting the previous week to guarantee funding to HCS, during an item that was meant to prioritize funding for various endeavors at all the schools, should money become available following the governor’s revised budget.

During the May 9 meeting, the committee for funding prioritization and the board were largely in agreement, save for the HCS Upper Grade configuration, which the committee ranked the least important and the board ranked most important. The “averaged rank” still should have placed it last, but the board elected to fund it immediately, guaranteeing spending on the extra teacher.

At the May 16 meeting, public comment overflowed with concerns over the actions taken by the board, and the potential conflict of interest for board president Judy Velasquez who has a grandchild at the school, in the grade in question, a fact she referenced when making a motion to fund the position.

In addition to those concerns, many in the community have felt the action was the latest issue in an ongoing concern with equity and inclusiveness at the Fitch Mountain Campus, between Healdsburg Elementary School (HES) and HCS.

Rumors of Latino families being encouraged to enroll in HES over HCS and concerns about the application of the Accelerated English program, as well as class sizes and curriculum have been some of the issues whispered about in town. By May 16, the whispers became shouts.

At a June 6 meeting, concerned community members turned out once again, this time with a particular request — to place an item to discuss the disparities and perceptions at the June 13 meeting, a request that has been granted.

According to the agenda, “In April, Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel presented a report to the (board) highlighting district strategies to insure equity in all HUSD programs and the need for the district to take an intentional role in breaking down barriers that divide our school community and the community at large. Superintendent Vanden Heuvel will update the board on actions taken and plans for the district to proactively address these issues in the coming school year. Laura Flores, a Healdsburg Elementary and Charter School parent, who represents a concerned group of community stakeholders, will also present a report to the board. In her report, she will ask the district to address issues of equity, better educate all stakeholders on district programs and urge HUSD to actively examine these issues moving forward.”

The item is listed as a discussion item, meaning no votes or decisions will be taken. However, community members are encouraged to voice their thoughts during the public comment portion of the item.

Other items on the agenda that night include presentations on physical education curriculum on grades K-5, a presentation on the math Innovation Design Team plan for the district (a working group to research, discuss, and investigate math curriculum, practices, pedagogy, course sequences, etc. in order to draft a plan to improve math achievement by all students in HUSD), and new courses being offered at the high school.

There will be a new policy with regards to immigration enforcement to be voted on, a resolution on climate change, and a the second reading for approval on the recent Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation visit at HHS.

Finally, there will also be common housekeeping items relating to credentialing and budgeting as well as the annual LCAP presentation and a discussion of the initiatives being funded by the Healdsburg Education Foundation for the coming school year.

The next meeting of the Healdsburg Unified School District Board of Trustees takes place Wednesday, June 13 at 6 p.m. at the Healdsburg High School library, 1024 Prince Street.

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