BOARD BRIEF: January 18, 2022

BOARD BRIEF: Top things to know from the January 18, 2022 meeting
Posted on 01/20/2022
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BOARD BRIEF: Top things to know from the San Marcos Unified Governing Board Meeting

January 20, 2022

The commitment from our Board of Education is to provide our staff, families, and community with clear, open and transparent communication. This Board Brief has been created to share key decisions and outcomes from the Board after each meeting. The Board Brief will be distributed by the end of the week after each Regular Meeting.

The following Board Brief highlights important items from the January 18, 2022 San Marcos Unified School District Governing Board meeting:

1. Superintendent, Dr. Andy Johnsen, provided an update to the Board and community. 

Dr. Johnsen began his presentation sharing the exciting return and welcome of students back to school after Winter Break. Dr. Johnsen also explained upon the return from break we immediately began to experience the unfortunate surge in COVID cases. However, Dr. Johnsen noted the district’s very successful testing program over the break, which administered 2,800 tests to staff & students, and the first week back from break, administering 2,500 tests to staff & students, as well as receiving and distributing state test kits to students. 


COVID Update

Dr. Johnsen further shared the current COVID surge has also caused staffing shortages. The Monday returning from Winter Break the district experienced 139 staff members out, which increased during the week, and like nearly every industry the district is moving ahead with outreach and recruiting to fill critical positions like substitute teachers, bus drivers, and nutrition service staff. 


Dr. Johnsen also detailed additional measures SMUSD is taking to keep staff healthy and working, including social distancing of at least 6 feet, moving to virtual meetings, limiting contact that exceeds 15 minutes, as well as complying with a current California Department of Public Health (CDPH) order to wear masks indoors. 


Dr. Johnsen acknowledged the frustration of families and staff with the many Decision Tree changes and detailed staff protocols with every new Decision Tree, that causes staff to stop, meet, evaluate changes, and then work to effectively communicate to staff and families. “Last year we had a one-page Decision Tree; this year we have a four-page Decision Tree. At one point, in the course of about a week, the Tree changed 11 times. We understand and share the frustrations of our families at the complexity and frequency of changes coming down to us,” shared Dr. Johnsen. 


He also specifically clarified that the emergency legislation allowing districts to engage in virtual or distance learning is no longer in effect, and school districts do not have the option to conduct distance learning. “We’ve heard that parents are overwhelmingly happy to be back in-person, but realize some families are wondering why we don’t just pivot back to distance learning temporarily, but that simply isn’t an option for us,” said Dr. Johnsen. “We are working extremely hard to keep all schools open safely.” 



Budget Update

Dr. Johnsen shared a budget update, recapping the December action of the Board directing staff to identify $15.5 million in budget reductions, along with guiding principles to develop the budget. Two main factors that are driving the budget adjustments are declining enrollment and how we are funded. “I have heard the question ‘we always hear cuts are coming, but why is this year different?’, and the answer is that we have lost 1,200 students and do not receive the same funding as our neighboring districts,” explained Dr. Johnsen. 


The funding formula is an issue the Board and Superintendent have been advocating to change, including a recent CalMatters article featuring Dr. Johnsen vocializing concerns based on how budgets are currently funded. “Budget right-sizing must occur to create a stable & sustainable budget so we do not find ourselves in this situation again.” Additionally, Dr. Johnsen highlighted another point of frustration is the conflicting timelines between when the Governor finalizes the state budget and the SMUSD budget deadline. “Per education code, we need to make staffing decisions before we know how the Governor’s budget will settle out, this is a real constraint we are under,” stated Dr. Johnsen.


For a complete Budget FAQ and details, please click here. 


Portrait of a Graduate

Dr. Johnsen then switched gears to highlight the recent launch and kickoff meeting of the Portrait of a Graduate work of SMUSD. Dr. Johnsen shared that 83 community members, comprised of elected officials, administrators, teachers, parents and most important of all, students, were present in the recent kickoff meeting, which aims to create a portrait of the skills and attributes of every SMUSD student upon graduation. 

“We cannot allow COVID or budgetary concerns to take away from our core work of educating students,” remarked Dr. Johnsen. He also stated this work is intended to be specific to our community and our San Marcos Unified students. 

There are three remaining meetings that will occur over the next several months. For details and updates on our progress, please visit our Portrait of a Graduate webpage here. 


2. Governor’s January Budget Proposal Update. 

Assistant Superintendent, Erin Garcia, presented an overview of the Governor’s January Budget Proposal. Garcia shared overall budget themes pertaining to K-12 education. 

In addition to a cost of living increase funded by the state, the Governor’s budget proposal did not offer any changes to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) base funding, which is the largest funding source school districts receive from the state.

In terms of relief for declining enrollment and the average daily attendance, or ADA, which fuel the funding formula for districts, there are some options in the proposal to address how ADA is calculated. These proposed calculations could provide some financial aid to school districts in California, to address the sweeping declining enrollment phenomenon across the state. However, these proposed changes would only help temporarily ease the financial cliff to give school districts time to re-adjustment their budgets in subsequent school years. 

The Governor’s budget proposal also addressed ongoing funding to expand transitional kindergarten, special education, child nutrition, and the expanded learning opportunity program, providing a 9-hour school day for low income students in TK-6th grade.

Next steps include monitoring state budget negotiations through June 2022, while moving forward developing the SMUSD second interim budget due by March 15, 2022. 

An FAQ regarding why budget adjustments in SMUSD are necessary, can be found by clicking here. 


3. Student Board Representative Update. 

In an effort to encourage student participation and cultivate student leadership skills, the Board has three student representatives that participate in Regular Board Meetings throughout the year. The January 18th meeting featured student representatives, Ren Casillas from Twin Oaks High School and Chanel Davis from San Marcos High School.

Casillas’s presentation provided an overview of Foothills High School and San Marcos Adult School.  Foothills High School is an independent study program that offers flexible, self-paced online instruction, ideal for those who cannot attend school in-person due to  learning disabilities, social anxieties, or students in need of credit recovery. Due to the pandemic, Foothills expanded to now serve grades TK-12, with a growing wait list. Additionally, Casillas shared an overview of San Marcos Adult School, which offers adult learners, age 18+ an opportunity to earn a high school diploma, not a GED. Due to the unique structure of the program, there are no electives required so students can graduate faster, with in-person support with teachers. These flexible learning options offer non-traditional students the opportunity to graduate and achieve educational goals. 

Davis’s presentation included an overview of activities since resuming school from Winter Break, as well as upcoming student social activities. Davis also shared that their philanthropic efforts, raised through a Giving Tree donation drive, garnered over $10,000 for students and families at San Marcos High School. Davis concluded that the ASB recently sponsored a staff lunch to show their appreciation for all of their hard work and dedication.  



4. Principal Update: Joli Ann Leichtag Elementary School.

The Board welcomed the addition of a regularly occurring presentation from school principals in the district as a monthly agenda item. Principal Linda Heinrich, provided an update on Joli Ann Leichtag Elementary School. The presentation highlighted an overview of the student body as well as Heinrich outlining the goals of the school, which are to increase the academic achievement, create a safe and welcoming environment, strengthen teachers through professional learning communities, and implement research-based strategies to support student engagement. Assistant Principal Todd Marquette highlighted community-building efforts and events, and how students are taught to lead with empathy and kindness. 


5. The San Marcos Promise Overview & Update.

Lisa Stout, Executive Director of The San Marcos Promise (TSMP), shared a presentation providing an overview of the San Marcos Promise and current upcoming initiatives. The mission of TSMP is to work with the district to establish more partnerships and provide resources and tools to help students successfully launch their careers. By providing programming from elementary to high school students, TSMP works with key community partners to provide experiences and opportunities. One specific program is the launch of the coming Future Centers at both San Marcos High School and Mission Hills High School. By refurbishing the old College & Career Centers at both schools, the Future Centers will serve as a one-stop shop for resources and questions. This central hub has been designed by students, for students, and will offer partnerships with local companies and serve as the go-to place for future planning.

For details and how you can get involved, please click here. 


6. Census and Trustee Area Maps Update

Following each federal census, the Board must approve adjustments of trustee area boundaries, to better reflect our community and ensure demographic equity for each area.

School districts with trustee area systems are required to review and, if necessary, adjust their trustee area map by March 1, 2022 to ensure population balance. As a result, SMUSD is partnering with Cooperative Strategies and Fagan, Friedman, and Fulfrost to make minor adjustments to the SMUSD Trustee Areas to obtain the needed population balance. 

This presentation outlines how the area has grown and offers three conceptual options for new trustee area maps. The Governing Board is currently in the process of gathering community input. To share your feedback regarding the minor adjustments needed to the trustee area maps, please click here. 

The Board plans to adopt final trustee area maps at the February 15, 2022 Governing Board meeting.


7. New High School Courses 

Dr. Tiffany Campbell, Deputy Superintendent, shared a presentation detailing new proposed high school electives courses. Dr. Campbell began by sharing the background of how new courses are developed and the requirements they must meet. Proposed new high school courses include Ag Physics, Esports Marketing, Video Production II, and Pre-AP World History. The new proposed courses will return to the Board for approval at the February Governing Board meeting. 


8. Gifts to San Marcos Unified School District. 

The Board also approved multiple gifts donated to the district from generous parents, business and community partners. Gifts include donations to purchase instructional materials and supplies, support for the Adult Transition Program, iPads, and a new batting cage for Mission Hills High School.  


For a complete and detailed overview of any of the items above, please see the full Board Meeting Agenda by clicking here.

For a link to the Board Briefs on the SMUSD website, please click here.






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