From John Kelly, Trustee, Area 3 — Sonoma Unified School District
Dear Members of Our Sonoma Community,
Education is a process whereby we build and rebuild our community, one student and one teacher at a time. Preserving and protecting Sonoma’s community has featured prominently in all of our trustee discussions of realignment — making sure we keep what makes Sonoma special.
Our District has outstanding teachers and staff, and yet it consistently has turned in poor, and indeed sometimes terrible results. We have all long known that leadership from the board is necessary to ensure the dedicated professionals we have working for SVUSD are able to implement educational strategies to address the systemic inequities in Sonoma Valley.
We all, together, have to have the courage to be willing to make the changes necessary to preserve the community we all have worked so long and so hard to build. Sonoma’s best days are ahead of it, but only if we all come together to ensure that the next generation enjoys the outstanding education we all know our teachers can and do deliver, and only if we make sure the District is administered and run with educational effectiveness and the elimination of waste as its twin objectives.
Using a process established more than 30 years ago, I have agendized a realignment plan that ensures we use our educational dollars to maximize educational effectiveness. The board can only evaluate proposals and act when an item is so agendized, and this agenda item gives trustees an opportunity to discuss proposals, and choose to act on all, some, or even none of those brought forward. But make no mistake, the board is following its long established and well-understood process. Any claims otherwise are simply false.
By repurposing sites, Sonoma Valley Unified has the potential to become what is, I think, the first “net zero” employer in terms of its impact on local housing. As the largest employer in the Valley, that would both make a meaningful impact on our housing crisis, and serve as an example for other employers and government agencies. Further, increasing the supply of housing in the Valley is one of the best things we can do to help our working and middle class families, as well as our own teachers and staff. All of this can be done without bond expenditures, and by retaining ownership of all our sites that are repurposed, this plan can yield long-term financial benefits.
As proposed, we will keep all the campuses in the Springs open, which is where most of our students reside. We can eliminate the District’s current use of un-credentialed teachers, and reduce our need for scarce substitutes while protecting all of our employees’ jobs. Middle and high school students will concentrate at the Broadway campus. This will ease the strain on our transportation department, as previous District studies have shown. Even better, our District’s financial analysis indicates realigning in this fashion would allow a one –time increase in teacher and staff pay of nearly 9%, on top of all other scheduled increases. That is a real, concrete step in the right direction for those who deserve it most.
We need to move promptly to ensure families, teachers, staff, and our community are aware of the District’s plans. Nothing is more disruptive than ineffective instruction. Our District has fiddled in a dilatory fashion for years on this issue, and given the waste our current alignment causes, we cannot let it continue. The sooner we let everyone know our plans, the better. That’s why we need to act now.
Public education is the most radical method ever conceived to ensure that the hope of us all, that every student has a fair chance to make the most of themselves, is brought to fruition. Our schools have long been distracted by secondary objectives that do not serve the interests of our students, or indeed of our community. Our board must focus on eliminating waste and ensuring educational effectiveness, and must not let any other things get in the way. By repurposing sites, concentrating on educational effectiveness, and adhering closely to the well-established rules designed to govern this process, we can protect our community for generations to come.
It is not enough for the board to work on this alone — we need to hear from our community. The District has established a web site that allows us to hear from everyone. Our District can only function effectively when our constituents and stakeholders will freely share what they know with the Board. It is:
I hope that many of you that read this will take the opportunity to make a contribution. Further, I and the other trustees have office hours, and we want to hear from you – my next office hours are at 1:30 PM on March 9 at El Verano Elementary. I encourage you to seek out the trustees, ask questions, and above all, please, make democratic self-governance in our Valley a reality.
— Sincerely, John Kelly