Mountain View – Los Altos High School District (MVLA) March 2017

The College and Career Guidance Center Coordinators gave a presentation describing improvements made this year in response to visiting various high schools in the region.  Counselors at MVHS and LAHS each created a College Counseling Handbook for Juniors, paid for by the MVLA Foundation.  Board members requested that the two departments work together to combine their handbooks for next year.  Both departments increased advising for seniors and presentations for juniors.

Mike Mathiesen, Associate Superintendent, presented the Second Interim Budget report, which was approved.  The district is in a very good financial situation and will be able to meet its financial obligations for the 2016-17 fiscal year and two subsequent years while maintaining the minimum state mandated 3% reserve.  Additional donations of $160,000 (including $100,000 from the Tides Foundation) increased revenues compared with the First Interim Budget Report.  Lower medical premiums account for reduced expenditures of $821,000.  New board policy calls for a reserve of
the state-required 3% plus 17% (2 months expenses), which would be a total of $16.3 million.  The current budget has a reserve of $13.2 million due to insufficient revenues to meet the target reserve.  Budgets in future years will move towards a full 20% reserve.

The board passed a resolution in support of undocumented students and their families; endorsed Measure B, the Mountain View Whisman School District parcel tax which will be on the May 2 mail-in ballot; and voted for the incumbents in the California School Board Association (CSBA) Delegate Assembly Election.

— Sally Ahnger, Observer


Mountain View – Los Altos High School District February 2017

The board conducted the annual review of Alta Vista High School (AVHS), which continues to be a model continuation high school and the top continuation school in the county.  AVHS has taken over the Terra Bella program for 15 high-risk youth from 4 local high schools, which had been run by the county.  Now called the Alta Vista Opportunity Program, it includes small classes, 1-1 teaching, physical education at the local YMCA, and construction skills classes.

A report was given on the audit conducted by Principals Exchange to help the district identify institutional barriers to narrowing the achievement gap.  The audit found many current programs to be effective and recommended enhancements and a more strategic approach.  Math placement was an important item in the audit results and a separate report on this year’s math placement effectiveness showed that out of 868 ninth graders from partner schools, only 30 schedule changes were processed in the first semester, including 8 students who moved down, 3 who moved up, and 11 who moved from honors to a regular class.

Associate Superintendent Eric Goddard introduced Cynthia Greaves who had just been hired into the newly created position of Communications Director.

The board adopted a resolution supporting the “My Name, My Identity” Campaign developed by the National Association for Bilingual Education to advocate for pronouncing students’ names correctly and learning the stories behind the names.

The controversy over history teacher Frank Navarro’s comments about Pres. Trump continues, with a parent speaking in the board meeting to ask that the board respond to an open letter sent from Navarro to Superintendent Harding and published in the Oracle.  That parent also complained that the school did not inform parents in a timely way about off-campus parties in which a parent provided students with alcoholic beverages.  The San Francisco Chronicle published an article about the parties on Feb 3.

Sally Ahnger, Observer

Mountain View – Los Altos High School District January 2017

June 2016 – January 2017

During the six months that the LWV LAMV newsletter was on hiatus, the Mountain View-Los Altos high school board operated smoothly with few surprises.  Long-time board member Susan Sweeley retired after 16 years on the board.  Only one candidate, Sanjay Dave, filed to run for her seat so there was no need for an election.  In January, Debbie Torok became board president, Fiona Walter Vice President, and Joe Mitchner Clerk.

A major focus for the board over the last six months has been determining how to make room for the expected increase in students over the next five years.  In the short term, Los Altos High School needs three additional classrooms for the 2017-18 school year, which will be provided by converting the weight room into two classrooms and adding a portable classroom.  District enrollment at the end of the 2015-16 school year was 3,993.  This number is expected to grow to 4,576 in the 2021-22 school year, according to a Demographic Analysis presented at the June 2016 meetings.   Results from Facilities Assessment, in which engineers assessed the condition of buildings (including heating, A/C, plumbing, electrical, etc.) to identify improvements needed, were reported at the October 2016 meeting.  The assessment concluded that the district takes remarkable care of its facilities compared to other school districts, but still found buildings that need repairs, especially the Freestyle Academy buildings.  The development of Education Specifications is currently underway, which will document what facilities current and future educational programs need, including requirements for classroom loading, student safety, etc.  The final deliverable, the Facilities Master Plan, will combine information from the Demographic Analysis, the Facilities Assessment, and the Education Specifications to create a proposal for the board that includes drawings and site plans.

The meeting on December 5 drew a big crowd of students and parents who attended to voice support for history teacher Frank Navarro, who had been temporarily put on paid administrative leave on November 10.  The student newspaper, the Oracle, had reported that “Navarro … said that his leave was prompted when the parent of a student… sent an email [that] said that the student was upset by Navarro’s statements which equated Donald Trump with Adolf Hitler.”  Speakers at the board meeting defended Navarro, who is an expert on the Holocaust, and supported his right to draw fact-based historical comparisons.  Because it was not on the agenda the board was not allowed to discuss the matter, but Superintendent Harding said that the administrative leave was due to a confidential student safety issue.  Mr. Navarro returned to his classroom on Monday, November 14.

A new part-time position, Director of Assessment and Evaluation, has been created to continue the investigation into why test scores have declined recently and to prepare an action plan to remedy the situation.  Brigitte Saraff retired at the end of December from her former position as Associate Superintendent to take this new position.

Jeff Harding, now in his second year as Superintendent, has commenced a detailed review of all the board policies.  This year the board has been having more working sessions and fewer formal meetings (once a month instead of twice).  Over the past six months the board has, among other things, held annual reviews of all the schools, reviewed summer school results, discussed progress in broadening access to AP classes, supported expansion of student wellness programs, and monitored the district budget.

—Sally Ahnger, Observer