Trustee board will allow Cuesta College ETHN 230 course at Atascadero High School

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Trustees met for its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m. 

At the beginning of the meeting, the board recognized Atascadero Middle School (AMS) staff members for the CORE value of teamwork, earning AMS designation as a “School to Watch.”

“Our middle school recently applied and was recertified as a ‘School to Watch,’ that’s one of the most prestigious awards a middle school can earn in the State of California,” said AUSD Superintendant Tom Butler. “What’s neat about this, in this case about the school, is this is really a collaborative effort, and you’re going to hear about how the teachers and classified staff participate and all the efforts that they have to support the students at the school site alongside the administrators. It’s important to note that this award requires a visitation from an outside person who’s usually an educator from another middle school or middle school-type setting across the state. We’re here to celebrate the success of Atascadero Middle School.”


AMS Principal Brent Vander Weide addressed the board and stated that it was about the daily work that the staff at the middle school puts into the institution that made things possible, in addition to Kara Farrell, Megan Kok, Julie Davis, Heidi Cooper, Tim Schamp, and Joy Taylor, who were recognized at the meeting.

“In order to achieve this designation, schools must participate in an extensive application process followed by a validation visit from qualified representatives, like Mr. Butler talked about,” said Farrell at the meeting. “It is not an easy or a quick process. The application itself is over 30 pages long and must include specific information about how each school is meeting the ‘Schools to Watch’ rubric. Domains in the rubric include academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity, and organizational support and processes.”

The designation must be reapplied every three years. AMS received “School to Watch” status in March 2020 and was recently selected as a redesignated “School to Watch” this year. Next month, the school’s ILT team will attend the Annual California League of Educators Conference in Monterey, and will officially be recognized. 

Both the minutes from the Feb. 6 meeting and the Consent Agenda passed unanimously.

Assistant Superintendant of Business Services Jackie Martin presented the board with the Arts, Music, and Instructional Materials Discretionary Block Grant Expenditure Plan. 

“This is funding that was allocated back in 2022-2023 that requires an expenditure plan prior to expending,” Martin said. “Many positions have been funded through the Federal COVID Funds, and so this is trying to reduce some of those positions along with trying to sustain a couple of key positions, and this is a way to do it.”

The item passed unanimously.

Assistant Superintendant of Educational Services E.J. Rossi then addressed the board with an item that would allow the Cuesta College ETHN (Ethics Studies) 230 course to be offered to Atascadero High School senior students during the school day.

“This would be a course that is not an AUSD course. Students would not get credit for this course on AHS transcripts,” Rossi said. “It is a Cuesta course that we would allow them to take during the school day under the supervision of a certificated AUSD teacher.” 

AHS proposed to run the college course for senior students in preparation for creating their own ethics class in response to a bill that was enacted in 2021, which states that all California high school seniors will have participated in an ethics study course as a graduation requirement for students in the graduating class of 2030. So, all districts must begin offering a semester in the 2025-26 school year.

“This would be a one-semester course offered in the fall,” Rossi said. “At the end of the course, the students would not have a follow-up course, but they would have enough credits that that would be allowable, and then in the second quarter semester of next year, that’s when that teacher would work to review how the material was presented, review what materials would be needed to meet a course requirement for the state and begin to develop an AUSD version of an ethics studies course as required by the state,” added Rossi.

High school students will elect to take the class, and parents will have to give informed consent for their children to participate as it is not an AUSD course. Parents will attend a parent meeting where all of this will be discussed.

The item passed unanimously.

The next regularly scheduled AUSD Board of Trustees meeting will be on Tuesday, March 5, at 7 p.m.