Board receives Initial Bargaining Proposal for 2021-2022 from AUSD to Atascadero District Teacher’s Association 

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero Unified School District (AUSD) held their regularly scheduled School Board of Trustees Meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. with nothing to report from closed session.

Board President George Shoemaker asked everyone in attendance to put on a mask; then he asked a second time. He then asked one audience member specifically to put on a mask. The woman—who, judging from the live-stream video, appeared to be at least 10 feet away from the nearest individual—declined to put on a mask. He then asked her to wait outside until her name was called for public comment, to which she agreed.

Executive Director of Technology Candy Smet and Network Coordinator Brian Miller then approached the podium to present a grant of approximately 1.5 Million dollars that will be used toward new technology and equipment, including acquiring Chrome Books for students to use at home.

Getting through this together, Atascadero

Student Representative Gabriela Pullen from Atascadero High School (AHS) provided a monthly update. She reported on a successful Homecoming Dance with over 700 students in attendance. The Marching Band—which has grown from 60 members last year to 74 members this year—just had a very successful Band Camp. They also performed at the Homecoming football game, the Colony Days Parade, and Pioneer Day. The Model U.N. will be attending their first conference this year virtually on Oct. 23-24 and debating ways to promote equal access to education with an emphasis on humanitarian aid for women and girls in Afghanistan. AHS Choir performed the national anthem on Sept. 10 for AHS’s Patriots’ Day Assembly as well as Atascadero City’s Patriot Day Memorial on Sept. 11. They are now allowed to sing inside once again as long as they are wearing masks.

The board then recognized and accepted the donation from the Atascadero Rotary Club to Mary Reynolds, Principal of the Creston Elementary School of $1,000 and donation to the AHS physical education department for Mr. Spiller in the amount of $500 and 60 one-month gym memberships from Josh Donovan, owner of Give Fitness.

Kat Holmes, Principal of San Benito Elementary School, reported that they are a Gold-Level, Green-Ribbon school, and just recently named one of the best elementary schools by U.S. News & World Report.

Oral Communication was then opened to the public.

Darcy Kristy spoke first and thanked the Board for their open transparency with the public. She provided an update on a petition expressing opposition to the vaccine mandate, which had been sent out to parents within the district, and that it is up 1,208 signatures. She reported that many of the people on that list have been vaccinated themselves. She also presented that an estimate of parents ready to leave the district if a vaccine mandate goes into effect is somewhere between 20-30 percent.

“We’re ready to walk away from the public school system, as happy as we are with this district,” said Kristy. “I love this district, I love the teachers, but enough is enough.”

Rebekah Koznek spoke next and agreed with the first speaker. She reported that she had attended an “anti-mandate rally” in San Luis Obispo on Monday, where there were approximately 250 people in attendance. She noted that many vaccinated people were in attendance who did not support mandating vaccines. She also spoke on her concern over a rise in bullying at Atascadero schools.

AHS Teacher Robin Dery spoke next and started off by saying, “I’d love to have a typical year.” She wanted to shed some light on some of the struggles that teachers are facing and talking about. Her first concern was this year’s implementation of “late start” and the scheduling conflicts it is causing with students in the athletic programs.

“We did not push back our sports engagements in tandem, so what’s happening instead is we have many, many athletes who are missing their 6th and 7th period classes because the sports are still taking place at the same time, but the school day is ending much later, so they’re missing much more school, and there’s really no coherent plan in place for them to make-up that missed instruction or to make-up missed assessments.”

She added that the school used to have an early release on Fridays, which was great for students participating in the many sporting events that take place, sometimes out of town on Friday afternoons. This year, Fridays were switched from “Early Release” to “Late Start”, and is causing these students even more scheduling conflicts.

Another AHS teacher, Jennifer Neiswanger spoke next.

“I love our school, I love our school district,” said Neiswanger. “Robin and I are both just very passionate about helping our students and the teachers so that we can all thrive together.

She expressed that the quarantine policies have been a really huge challenge for teachers and students and that there is currently no plan in place to help kids who have been quarantined for ten days. She spoke of working all through her weekends and on her lunch break in order to help these kids catch up.

“I love these kids, and I’m willing to do that, but I know there’s a better way.”

Krista Abma spoke next and asked why middle schoolers don’t have Chrome Books while High School students and Elementary School students do. She thanked the board for not endorsing Critical Race Theory and then expressed her concern over reports that Aeries Parent Portal is adding on a COVID-19 section in which every six months, students would need to receive a vaccine booster in order to be considered fully vaccinated.

“None of it makes sense,” said Abma, “and I know you have been fighting for our kids—Atascadero’s just amazing for caring for our students where so many other school districts are just glossing over, so I just want to say thank you for supporting our students, and if you weren’t aware of it to maybe check on this Aeries system, and if it is something that they’re putting into effect, to find a different system so that we continue to stand for our kids.”

Damon Meeks came up next and thanked the board and the teachers of AUSD as well as the Technology Services Department. Meeks stated his opposition to Critical Race Theory and thanked the board for standing up against it. He also stated his opposition to the vaccine mandate and would ask the board to fight against it for at least 7-10 years before he would consider it a reasonable amount of time to study the long-term effects.

Dr. J.D. Megasun spoke next and began by thanking the board. He addressed the “heinous and callous nature of Governor Newsom’s mandate that, besides disrespecting the rights of parents to be the first guardians of their children’s health, he is in fact ignorantly subjecting our children to possible harm.” He then listed a long series of side-effects reported from the vaccine, many of which were cardiac in nature which would require specified services from a pediatric cardiologist. He reported that currently, our county has one pediatric cardiologist whose office keeps hours one day a week in San Luis Obispo but whose primary practice is in Bakersfield and that he does not have practicing rights in any of the hospitals in San Luis Obispo County.

“Our County and many more other rural Counties… are not prepared to provide medical care for these adverse reactions to these vaccines,” said Megasun.

“Finally, tonight as I came here, I found out a very distressing concern,” said Megasun. “I was informed that in a sixth-grade class, that a gentleman by the name of Mr. B was using pornography and that children saw the pornography and they heard the pornography, and the parents were not informed of this situation… I am hoping that you will make sure that Mr. B does not teach at another school in this district. If I find out that he is, I am going to be there with protest signs and flyers.”

The name of the next speaker was indecipherable, but she followed up on the previous speaker’s concern regarding the Middle School teacher.

“My son was in that classroom,” she said. “And I was not even notified. I had to find out from my son. I didn’t receive an email or anything about what had occurred that day with my son in the classroom when that had happened. I had to do my own research and try to find out what exactly happened.”

The speaker’s biggest concern was the lack of communication from Atascadero Middle School to the parents of students involved notifying them on what is going on with their children at school.

Stacy Emak, the woman who had previously been made to leave the room, spoke next and began by thanking the board and stating, “I’m in all the districts, and they are all so jealous of Atascadero. You guys are doing great, so thank you.”

She then referred to her segregation from the room, saying, “that situation is not okay… if somebody has a reason why they can’t wear a mask, to be treated second-hand like that is definitely an ADA situation. I’m not your person you have to worry about, but somebody else might be, and I would hate to have it become a problem.”

Emak projected that once the vaccines are mandated for students, that the employees are going to have to get them as well, which would subject AUSD to having a lot of its staff walking away, “and I don’t think your district can really survive that.”

The Superintendent’s Report was next. Superintendent Tom Butler thanked the tech department for pursuing the aforementioned additional funding for technology. He thanked Pullen for presenting on the High School and Holmes and the staff at San Benito Elementary. He then addressed the incident with the Middle School teacher and the alleged pornography use in class.

“I can assure our community that the student reported it immediately. We immediately activated Atascadero Police Department. We take those matters very seriously, and of course, we always attempt to reach out to any student who was involved, and we usually try to do that in collaboration with the Police Department to determine which students may have been affected, but if there are other families, then I would be happy to talk to them directly, so please feel free to give me a call.”

Butler then provided an update on COVID-19. I appreciate everyone coming down and speaking about that. We have yet to receive anything official, and we are still waiting on that. I got into this field committed to helping every kid that I could, and I remain committed to that.

Butler explained that there were quite a few positive COVID cases the first week—then flattened out.

Butler provided statistics for the last four weeks. 

  • Sept. 20-26, there were 10 students and 0 staff with positive cases
  • Sept. 27-3, there were 10 students and 0 staff with positive cases
  • Oct. 4-10, there were 7 students and 1 staff with positive cases
  • Oct. 11-17, there were 7 students and 3 staff with positive cases

“I’m proud to share those numbers with you,” said Butler. These numbers come out of a grand total of 4,634 students and staff.

Butler then reported on an “excellent Atascadero Homecoming game and dance.” He stated that USD will begin having overnight field trips within the state once again and that they would be looking into what out-of-state travel might be possible for groups like the Atascadero Greybots, who have a world championship from their robotics competition in Houston.

Board Members made their reports next, and all were thankful to the Tech Department for pursuing the aforementioned grant. Trustee Buban stated that he wanted to talk about the reported Aeries tracking and went as far as to say, “We’re not doing that, or we’ll find somebody else.”

Action Items came next, and the minutes of the meeting on Oct. 5 were approved 7-0.

The Consent Agenda was approved 7-0.

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Plan was presented by Assistant Superintendent E.J. Rossi, which would allow funds for safe and continuous in-person instruction (COVID testing, nursing staff, custodial), addressing lost instructional time, and any other funds, specifically technology. It was approved 7-0.

The Initial Bargaining Proposal for 2021-2022 from AUSD to Atascadero District Teacher’s Association (ADTA) was received and acknowledged by the board 7-0.

The Initial Bargaining Proposal for 2021-2022 from ADTA to AUSD was received and acknowledged by the board 7-0.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:59 p.m., and the next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.