Board was asked to reconsider going forward until they have more input from the public

By Christianna Marks

ATASCADERO — A large crowd attended the Atascadero Unified School Districts board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 16. The board continued to thank the community members in attendance as more and more people filed into the room. Fifteen minutes into the meeting, the crowd was asked by Board President George Shoemaker to obtain face coverings for the remainder of the meeting.

“We will have to ask you to please wear a mask, and they are available. If people are not gonna be masked, we will have to take a recess. So I’d like to keep the public meeting order open. In Atascadero, we’ve done our best to maintain as much access as we can for all the public, but that requires a certain level of cooperation from everyone. If you’re not comfortable with a mask we have a room set up next door if you want to make public comment,” Shoemaker continued.

A number of people in the crowd were there to protest mask and vaccine mandates, and 18 minutes into the meeting it was said that the room was going to be cleared due to non-compliance. Twenty minutes later, the board seemed to get back on track, but when they suggested that the crowd was there for a parade, it was brought up that it was not a parade but a protest.

Getting through this together, Atascadero

After more excitement, it was announced at 7:47 that the meeting would be adjourned virtually and return at 8:00 p.m.

On its return, the board meeting got started with Student Representative Gabriela Pullen bringing us up to date on Atascadero High School news, where she announced that the boy’s water polo team won CIF with a score of 11 to 5!

It was then suggested [in the interest of time] that item 12 be moved to the next item, which was quickly agreed upon 7 to 0.

The item, Resolution #9-21-22 is to initiate a transition to a By-Trustee Area Election System area election system commencing with the 2022 Governing Board Election.

Chelsea Olson and Ben Clark [the demographer] gave the presentation.

Currently, the Atascadero Unified School District Board of Education is elected by an ’at large’ election system, and trustees are elected by voters from the whole district. There are three options for voting, including; where all voters vote for all trustees, where board members live in a trustee area, but are elected at large, and By-Trustee area voting. Where board members live in a trustee area and are elected only by voters in that trustee area.

Step one: the board would adopt an intent resolution specifying that they want to adopt By-Trustee area elections, and then it would be on to all the required hearings. A Minimum of two hearings will be with maps [of the trustee areas].

“There’s lots opportunities for the public to participate all throughout this process. Assuming that the resolution is adopted we will do the first pre-map hearing tonight,” said Olson.

The resolution went to a vote and appeared to pass 5 to 2, but the sound went out and the final vote has not been confirmed.

“This

just breaks down the new 2020 census status average that was released. This gives you a snapshot in time of what the population looks like. As I mentioned, we are going to take that 37,356 total population; we’re gonna divide it into seven equal groups, so it gives you over 5,000 per trustee area. And that’s how we’re gonna use that 10 percent variance to move things around and to start this drawing process,” said Ben Clark, the demographer.

By-Trustee voting is meant to ensure that Atascadero has better representation all across the school district.

“I don’t understand why we’re doing this [By-Trustee voting], to be honest. Because we’re elected at large, and we’re here to serve all, and this to me feels like segregation. I’m really, kind of, uncomfortable with it, to be honest. It just counters what I believe in my heart as a Trustee.

I’m here to serve the whole district at large,” said Trustee Corinne Kuhnle.

“Our Trustees want to be able to represent all families in our larger district. All students. And advocate for quality education at every single school,” said president Shoemaker.

When public forum was open the board was asked to reconsider going forward until they have more input from the public. There will be multiple meetings [on By-Trustee Voting] held in public so the community can share their perspective about the maps.

During public comment, community members implored the board not to go through with vaccine mandates–asking the board to be proactive in making choices concerning the mandates.

Interm Principle at Atascadero Middle School, Will Wallace said that pep rallies are back! And as of June that Atascadero Middle School is a National School to Watch. Atascadero Middle School has also added a Intervention Teacher into their fall schedule.

Superintendent Thomas Butler gave an update on Covid-19 cases. Nine students have tested positive in the last four weeks, out of approximately 4,334 students in the district.

The school district also recently received 3,200 brand new Chromebooks at no cost to the district, and 125 WiFi hotspots will be donated to families who are in need of them. All provided by a technology grant.

“We’ve had a good thing going with our community. There have been times where our community has asked us to speak up, and we’ve asked them to speak up. So, I wanted our community to hear that I am either having meetings, or have meetings scheduled with Assemblyman Cunningham’s office, Senator Laird’s office. I’ve reached out to the California Department of Education and the State Superintendent, Tony Thurmond. I’ve been meeting regularly with County Superintendent, Dr. Brescia. I have a phone call in to the California Department of Public Health, but have not heard back. My purpose in those meetings is to talk about the value of education. To talk about the impact that we saw when our schools were closed for approximately 18 months. And about how we can work together, and volunteering myself to be a part of a solution where we can keep schools fully assessable to students in a healthy manner. And keep staff fully employed to do the great work that they’re cut out for,” said Thomas Butler.

All 10 points in the Consent Agenda were approved, with slight amendments to articles 11.6 and 11.9.

The board voted 7 to 0 on Phase 3 at Atascadero High School. Meaning that the project, which includes the demolition of building B, and building out the quad, will move forward.

Assistant Superintendent E.J. Rossi gave the results of the AUSD benchmark assessments. He gave district-wide results as all the results mirrored each other when broken down by grade and school. Students’ ability to read increased by 20 percent and comprehension is up by six percent. We had a 24 percent increase in math as well. And according to Sabors, the students in the district had an increase of 26 percent. All of these percentages are an increase from Spring 2021 to Fall 2021.

The next Atascadero Unified School Districts board meeting will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 7:00 p.m.