Building a 16-lane swimming pool during the worst drought since the 1930s Dust Bowl illustrates just how disconnected SVUSD’s school board and management have been to the real needs of Sonoma County and our students.
While water cutbacks are happening and drought kits are being distributed throughout the county, SVUSD management is gambling $12,000,000 of education money betting that groundwaters will stop receding and water won’t become too precious and too expensive to fill the pool. Dr Palazuelos says “other schools will envy the pool”, but they surely don’t envy SVUSD low proficiency numbers that have been falling for years. They don’t envy this district’s lack of ability to keep principals and teachers teaching here because of low pay and difficult environment. Nor will other districts envy SVUSD’s ever growing multi-million dollar budget deficits every year that Bruce Abbott always tells us “not to worry about”.
Measure E money was way too intoxicating to school board members. Their priorities turned to flashy athletic facilities instead of state-of-the-art teaching facilities to improve education and help retain teachers. A second in-town football stadium took priority over community social distance and mental health needs at the start of the pandemic.
Budget deficits are still being overlooked and massive new maintenance and water costs have been added to that financial burden due to new athletic facilities.
The pandemic caused enormous stress and long term emotional damage to students. Now the massive pool project noise dominates campus. This forces SVHS students and teachers to put up with constant noise of jackhammers, bulldozers and heavy construction equipment vibrating their classrooms for the rest of the school year. Is SVUSD management focused on rebuilding our children’s education? The evidence of their actions says no — athletic facilities still take priority over all education needs.
So, as the football teams swelter on shiny new blistering hot plastic grass: the majority of SVUSD middle school eighth graders aren’t ready for high school, 57% of Sonoma Valley High School graduates aren’t prepared for work or college. YouthTruth Survey results highlighted student complaints about the district, painting SVUSD as one of the worst performing districts in the nation. Student proficiency scores continue to fall since 2017 (at the time these numbers were already well below the California state average).
Will Sonoma’s voice ever be heard by Dr. Palazuelos and the school board? “Hey SVUSD! Our students’ educations are drowing. Do something about it!”
Priorities, actions, and spending by Sonoma Valley Unified School District indicate it doesn’t look very promising for the future of Sonoma Valley children’s educational needs.
— Stewart Saunders, Sonoma