Dunbar School staff: We’re OK with closure, but…
Posted on March 8, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun
Sonoma Valley Unified School District’s enrollment has declined by approximately 1,000 students since 2015-2016. In order to maximize its resources for students and staff, the District is reviewing options for changing school configuration, including campus closures, in 2023-2025. Link to the Community Survey: https://forms.office.com/r/JFp4VGBg47
Dear School District Trustees Ching, Landry, Knox, Winders, and Kelly,
We, the staff at Dunbar School, have been advised by administration that the Sonoma Valley Unified School District will likely close Dunbar at the end of this school year. We understand the reasons why. Declining enrollment has been significant on our campus, for better and worse. We also understand that you, as our trustees, must do what’s best for students districtwide. We support you in this. Children first!
That said, we hope that as you make difficult decisions you will consider the following:
- Be clear with us. The ongoing ambiguity of Dunbar’s status has generated an undercurrent of stress for Dunbar’s students, staff, and families. If Dunbar will not be in regular operation next year, we need clear guidance so that we can best support our students and their families as they transition to a new school. We also need to know soon — before April 20 — so we can make plans to celebrate our long history as a public school and begin the process of determining our futures.
- Provide necessary support for students and staff. Dunbar is currently operating without a bilingual community liaison, TOSA, a permanent teacher in fifth grade and in the K-2 self-contained class, and other support services critical to providing optimal and equitable education to students. If Dunbar remains open next year, we understand student body numbers will probably be so low that mixed-grade or multi-grade classes will be required. Mixed-grade and multi-grade classes require additional resources to support students with the current curriculum. Please ensure additional support will be available to Dunbar in this configuration.
- Staffing levels. As noted above, Dunbar is already operating with a skeleton crew. If projected enrollment is as low as anticipated and the campus remains open, we have these questions: a) What staffing cuts are expected?
- b) How and when will staff be notified?
- Lateral transfers. If Dunbar closes, we have these questions:
- a) Will the district be offering lateral transfers for both certificated and classified staff? b) Will Dunbar staff have any input into the positions they can consider, and at which site? c) What happens to staff members in positions, such as principal, office manager, and library media specialist, since most schools already have staff in those jobs?
- Answering questions from our community. Dunbar staff has been dealing as best we can with questions from family, friends, volunteers, and other community members about the status of the school. Moving forward:
- a) How will the trustees and district support us in communicating about closure and what that means for all stakeholders?
- b) Will staff be compensated for their time if they are fielding questions outside contract hours?
- c) Will there be a bilingual hotline for families to call with questions?
- d) How can families learn more about their options for the campuses that are available to their students?
- Imminent closure concerns. When closure occurs, we have these questions: a) Will extra counseling support be available on the day a formal closure announcement is made so that our school psychologist is not overwhelmed?
- b) If a new school is planned for Dunbar’s campus (i.e., Woodland Star), when will that news be communicated to our community? Will current Dunbar students be offered the opportunity to attend or prioritized for admission?
Change is hard. But at Dunbar, we are champion change-makers. We have come together with our students and their families in powerful ways over the last few years. Wildfire, pandemic, and distance learning could have shattered us, but instead we have bonded. We are community. We may be small, and we may not be a traditional neighborhood school, but we are mighty in our commitment to each other and to making sure our children — our scholars — come first.
Elizabeth Stevenson, Principal; Brandy Melendy, Teacher; Mara Irvin, Teacher; Karen O’Hara, Teacher; Mekiele Perkins, Special Education Teacher MA; Maria Ptucha, Teacher; Lauren Stashak, Academic Coordinator/Teacher; Linda Dehzad, Office Manager; Riamei Ruebush, RSP; Tracy Salcedo, Library Media Specialist; Angelica Rodriguez, Health Technician; Jeanine Breslin, Instructional Aide; Michelle Hyland, School Psychologist; MJ Arner, Dunbar Mentor Center; Jolene Brade, SpEd Instructional Assistant; Janelle Thibert, SpEd Instructional Assistant; Karina Humaran, Instructional Assistant; Erika Jason, SC Instructional Aide; Christian Quiñonez, Custodian; Wanda Smith, Substitute Teacher
Read: Trustee John Kelly on district realignment