MVWSD Board Meetings 2018: February 1st and 15th, March 1st and 15th

The Mountain View Whisman Board of Trustees met on February 1st and 15th, and March 1st and 15th. Trustees reviewed curriculum, construction, budget assumptions for the 2017-2018 school year, and voted to pilot a full day preschool program next school year. The board also released and/or reassigned administrators, voted to close the independent study program, and heard two draft recommendations from the Enrollment Priorities Task Force. Due to the volume of items taken up in February and March, this report focuses on the latter.

Principal Release and Reassignment

During closed session on March 1st, board members voted unanimously to release three principals at the end of the 2017-2018 school year: Steve Chesley of Landels Elementary School, Marcela Simões de Carvalho of Mistral Elementary School, and Kim Thompson of Graham Middle School. For the 2018-2019 school year, Assistant Principal Heidi Galassi of Graham was reassigned to be the new principal of Landels, and Principal Ryan Santiago of Theuerkauf Elementary School was reassigned to be an assistant principal at Graham.

At the March 15th board meeting, community members filled all of the seats in the Graham multi-use room, and dozens more stood in the back. Speakers questioned the principal evaluation process, the quality of the school climate results that may have been used in the evaluations, and what they felt was a lack of transparency in the principal release and reassignment process. The meeting was also attended by Telemundo, and the Mountain View Voice has written articles about the original release decision and the parent response. At the April 5th meeting,

Superintendent Dr. Rudolph gave a presentation on the evaluation process for district leaders.

Independent Study Program

After a presentation on the Independent Study Program (ISP) by Assistant Superintendent Carmen Ghysels on February 1st, the board voted on February 15th to end the program in June 2020. Four parents of students who attended or graduated from the program and the program’s teacher addressed the board at the second meeting, asking board members not to end the ISP.

Assistant Superintendent Ghysels presentation included background on the ISP. The program is about seventeen years old and currently has twelve students enrolled. A credentialed teacher works on an hourly basis to support students using a classroom at Monta Loma. The district also funds field trips and curriculum for students. MVWSD is the only district in the area that still has an ISP – other local districts have discontinued similar programs. Newer home schooling options for families include the California HomeSchool Network, the California Virtual Academy, and The Home School Association of California.

The Mountain View Voice published an article about the program closure, the parent response, and an opinion piece calling on the board to rescind the decision to close the program.

Enrollment Priorities Task Force

At the March 15th meeting, the board reviewed two draft recommendations from the Enrollment Priorities Task Force (EPTF) and gave direction for the continued work of the task force.  The EPTF is tasked with revising the enrollment priorities for the district and deciding whether to grandfather students slated to change schools when the new school boundaries go into effect in 2019-2020. There are currently 26 enrollment priorities, and the district has an open enrollment policy that allows families to apply for an intradistrict transfer to any school in the district if there is space available. When the new school boundaries go into effect with the opening of Slater School in 2019-2020, some students will be rezoned to new schools.

Recommendation A from the EPTF is to reduce the existing twenty-six enrollment priorities to nine, continue to allow intradistrict transfers between schools, keep a similar lottery process for the two choice programs with weight given to siblings, and not grandfather students when the new school boundaries go into effect. Recommendation B is to require students to attend the the school they are zoned for, grandfathers fifth graders who are impacted by the new school boundaries, and calls for measures to increase the diversity of the district’s choice schools.

The superintendent, Dr. Rudolph, shared the process to date undertaken by the district and the task force. The district has solicited feedback from a range of parent groups and stakeholders, all of whom called for grandfathering at least fifth graders. Seven community members addressed the board, with several parents asking for the board to allow students to finish school at their current location.  

Trustees gave direction that fifth graders should be grandfathered and possibly fourth or third graders. Younger siblings of grandfathered students should be allowed to attend the same school until the grandfathered sibling finished fifth grade, then would be required to transfer to their neighborhood school under the new zoning. The board had mixed feelings about allowing intradistrict transfers.

— Devon Conley, Observer