Lunch budget

The Healdsburg Unified School District Board of Trustees worked on tying up loose ends on school business, education and report items at the board’s last meeting before they take a break and resume meetings on Aug. 20.

Among the several items discussed was the differentiated assistance report on increased student suspension. The report discusses what the district wants to focus on improving based on data dashboard results and Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) criteria.

The board also passed the Healdsburg Charter School revision, which paves the way for establishing one kindergarten program, and passed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Navigator schools for collaborating in math instruction strategies.

Differentiated Assistance Report

What is differentiated assistance?

It is a relatively new, state accountability and continuous improvement system and the second tier of support that’s available to the district from the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE).

Data from the California Data Dashboard works hand in hand with differentiated assistance in that it steers which benchmarks a district may want to focus on such as test scores, student attendance or suspension.

A district can get differentiated assistance if it does not show improvement across more than one state priority for one or more student groups.

One of those priorities is school climate, which encompasses student suspension. Other state priorities include state academic standards, parent engagement and pupil achievement.

According to district data Healdsburg Junior High School saw a 15% increase in student suspension for the 2018-19 school year, resulting in a 4% increase in the number of days suspended overall.

For the 2018-19 school year at HJH, there were 35 students suspended for one or more days for a total of 193 days suspended.

The main cause for suspension was violence, or threatening violence on another person.

“We felt like Erin Fender (the district’s director of curriculum and instruction) and I were working on students with disabilities ... and English learners with relationship to academic performance, one thing we hadn’t really delved into was the suspension rate and what we’re doing to help support students who are really struggling in that area,” said Diane Conger, district director of student support services.

Conger and Healdsburg Junior High School Principal Chris Miller decided to analyze suspension rates at the school and to work out an action plan to tackle the subject.

“So we decided our work with SCOE would mostly focus on priority six, which is school climate,” Conger said.

Both Miller and Conger emphasized that the suspension numbers do not take into account cumulative enrollment data, so the figures may look different in the fall after the data dashboard and the enrollment data becomes available.

“We think we’re going to look better next year,” Conger said.

Still, Miller said, “There are a few things we’re doing straight away to begin addressing this.”

He said one important step will be having more consistent behavioral standards and expectations as well as creating a “nest of understanding” for students with emotional support and restorative practices.

They also want to implement more education resources and restorative circles for incidents like students getting caught vaping instead of sending them home.

“One of the things that we talked about and were able to implement in the second semester was utilizing the tobacco prevention tool kit, which is a curriculum out of Stanford University, and is actually the one that SCOE recommends as well, and we’ve provided an alternative to suspension for the first vaping offense,” Miller said.

At the high school, there is an approximate 12% decline in suspension and the total number of days suspended were cut in half.

The plan to address high school suspension involves having faculty and staff get more expertise in trauma informed practices through professional development, continue using restorative practices, increase vaping awareness with ninth and 11th grade seminars and by partnering with Team Success/S.O.S. Community Counseling for mental health prevention and intervention.

There was no action taken on the item since the report was for informational purposes, but Board Vice President Donna del Rey asked why the two strategies seemed slightly different.

According to Miller, HJH’s plan differs slightly because it does not currently have the S.O.S. program and the biggest concern with suspension is violence, which they will be trying to focus on first.

He did point out that the school does have outside counseling service that provides counseling with youth groups, which the students seem to connect well with. 

Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel said there are a lot of counseling opportunities at HJH.

Charter school revision

Trustees took action on the next step in creating one kindergarten program at Healdsburg Elementary School by passing the Healdsburg Charter School revision.

The vote to adopt the revision was unanimous.

Earlier this month, the Healdsburg Charter School Governance Council met and made the recommendation to trustees to revise the charter to have only grades one to five.

Trustees said they were excited for the move and applauded the work of the Equity Task Force in taking on the difficult issue of school equity and coming up with a solution in a timely fashion.

Memorandum of Understanding with Navigator

Other notable action items included entering into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Navigator Schools, for collaboration and aid from Navigator on math instruction development, principal coaching and other staff development work.

The board voted 5-0, adopting the MOU.

Work with Navigator started about four years ago when Fender and a team of Healdsburg Elementary School teachers and principals set out to find the highest performing elementary schools with a similar school population of English learners and low-income students in order to learn about, and perhaps adopt the school’s best practices.

“I like to ask, ‘What’s their special sauce? What’s one or two things you like to do?’” Fender said.

They visited several schools, but Navigator was the standout school since they consistently rank in the top five of Bay Area schools for underserved students, according to Fender.

“Their data really was impressive, they essentially closed the achievement gap between low-economic, English learners, ect.” Fender said.

Since visiting the south bay schools, the district has worked with Navigator, which shared school resources on math curriculum and held professional development workdays.

Now, both organizations want to partner systemically with the assistance of a grant from the New Schools Venture Fund and a second grant as a part of the MOU.

“We won’t be replicating their model, but we borrowed a lot of what they do,” Fender said of the partnership. “So we are going to formalize our partnership with Navigator, partly because they got a grant and they have another grant out there. They came to me about mid-year and said we’re writing this grant and we want to write Healdsburg into it to provide these services to your principals and to your schools.”

Fender said they also have a second grant pending that they’ll hopefully make a no-cost obligation.

With the MOU, the district will get three days of leadership/training, three days of instructional training, as well as virtual tech support.

“They have been amazing partners over the last few years,” Fender said.

Trustee Mike Potmesil asked if there will be professional development training for administration workers and paraprofessionals. Fender said training dates have already been set for district paraprofessionals.

During public comment resident Erin Meyers said she hopes the district looks at this training in terms of how it could be a part of a cohesive first- to fifth-grade program.

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