We are saddened that the number of students in the school district has decreased significantly in recent years, with the likelihood that it will decline further — largely, we fear, because the rising cost of housing is driving working families out of the Valley.
We are nonetheless pleased that the school board has acknowledged the need to reduce the number of schools and now is taking steps to do so. We appreciate that one of the first steps is to establish a committee to recommend campuses for consolidation.
We see that, in his April 11 letter to you and other school boards, Attorney General Rob Bonta has suggested that “best practices” require that such committees reflect the ethnic, age group, and socioeconomic composition of the district. We see that he repeatedly emphasizes the need for public involvement in the consolidation process.
Therefore, we encourage the board make its method for choosing members of the committee both public and transparent and to provide a way for the community itself to nominate candidates.
We understand that the consolidation committee is to consist of 7 to 12 members, and that the board has already decided on seven categories: a native Spanish-speaking parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the district; a parent of a special needs student enrolled in the district; a teacher in the district; a classified employee of the district; an administrator in the district; an organization representing the business community located in the district; a landowner in the district, with preference given to neighborhood associations; and a member of the community at large.
● We would like to suggest that if a homeowner (landowner) is going to be on the committee, then a renter should also be on the committee. A high percentage of Valley families rent, and that percentage is highest among families with children.
● We would like to suggest that, if a business representative is going to be on the committee, then perhaps a representative from the churches or other grassroots groups should also be invited.
● We wonder if there should not also be a student representative, bringing their more immediate experiences and concerns to the committee.
● In the interest of racial equity, we would expect a non-Hispanic white parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the district to have a place on the committee.
● We would like to draw your attention to the likelihood that as many as a third of the parents of students in Valley schools today are undocumented. We think that is of primary importance to ensure that those parents are represented on the committee and that every effort is made to make them feel that they are an equal part of the planning process.
We look forward to the formation of the committee.
— Dave Ransom, chair
Sonoma Valley Housing Group