By Michael Hernandez
THOUSAND OAKS—The superintendent, board and public gave feedback via livestream on the Conejo Valley Unified School District coronavirus crisis response which has closed all schools and put all students into an online education platform.
“I definitely stepped outside my comfort zone,” said CVUSD Supt. Dr. Mark McLaughlin. “This is new. There is no playbook for this. We will continue to make adjustments as we transition through this period.
“We run a well-run machine and turned it upside down and keep it running,” said CVUSD President Cindy Goldberg. “It is daunting…more than we could hope for—the Conejo Way—Step In and Step Up. We are unified.”
“Thank you, parents and teachers. How many truly care for children,” said CVUSD Vice President Jenny Fitzgerald. “We have come together as a community too many times. We will adapt as best as we can.”
“I thank the staff and teachers for all the hard work they did in this difficult and unusual undertaking,” said board member Sandee Everett. “I want to thank all our hard-working teachers in keeping our students involved and working to continue education under these circumstances,” said board member Bill Gorback.
Public comments included:
- A parent asking that the district give families in the proximity of EARTHS Magnet an opportunity to attend the school;
- A parent asking the district to recognize April as Autism Month and to continue to support students with developmental disabilities;
- A parent asking the district to recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month and to continue to provide mental health support for all students;
- A parent thanking the district for continuing to provide meals to families in need;
- Three comments, 40 emails and a petition with 200 names asking the district to support the pickleball community;
- A challenge to the minutes by a parent in regards to district use of money; and
- An allegation that the CVUSD was not following the Governor’s March 17th Executive Order concerning suspension of the Brown Act for public meetings;
(Editor’s Note: The Ventura County Office of the District Attorney sent a Brown Act Advisory Notification to Supt. Mark McLaughlin on March 9th stating that “we ae closing our file” in regards to a Brown Act violation by the district in regards to a district bond oversight committee complaint issued by a Thousand Oaks resident.)
Dr. Mark McLaughlin, Superintendent: “How will we celebrate our students going through graduation especially those in 12th grade—our seniors—will it be a postponed graduation? I have also received emails from parents of fifth and eighth grade students. We will have more students and parents interested in home school opportunities (next year).”
“Our schools have deployed personnel to contact families and to check how we can engage students (in learning). We are looking into high school students as well as substitutes doing some mentoring and tutoring of grade school students and we will be finding out if children in younger grades are interested in doing so through Zoom classes.”
Mr. Luis Lichtl, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction: “We need to be better next year as a school district and have been learning new skills that will support teaching and learning for a long time.”
Dr. Victor Hayek, Deputy Superintendent, Business Services: “Our children nutrition services department served 30,00 meals to students in our community. We are pushing out 2,000 meals per day and serve meals at 12 locations. Our technology services department worked with custodians to hand out over 4,000 (computer) devices . Our printing shop produced and then we distributed instructional packets to students.”
Dr. Lisa Miller, Assistant Superintendent, Student Services: “Our social emotional task force now has mental health and well-being up on our website. Parents and students can access resources. We recognize that for many students and families they are going through more mental health issues. We will be staffing a health line number—not a crisis hot line—but a help line to navigate social emotional feelings and we will be scheduling appointments with our counselors.
“We have a group of dedicated staff that is connecting to our most vulnerable populations to try to make sure they have the resources and technology they need.”
Board approves contract raise and facility agreement with Chinese School
In other CVUSD board action, pay increases of 2.5 percent for the 2019-2020 school year, 2 percent for the 2020-2021 school year, and 2 percent for the 2021-2022 were approved.
Adoption of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Conejo Schools Foundation (CSF) and the school district was postponed.
After much discussion, the CVUSD board approved a facility agreement for the Chinese School for two years for $70,000 each year. The direct costs to the district are $57,000. Facility use agreements for other users is pending new negotiations currently in process.
“I am uncomfortable at overcharging the Chinese School at more than the direct cost when everyone else had a deal. This just does not look good,” said Board Member Sandee Everett. “They don’t know what others are being charged. We need to make every deal public.”
Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online
news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].