Roughly 50 members of the West Sonoma County Union High School District community assembled in front of the district office in Sebastopol on April 8 at 3 p.m. for a “United Rally to Revote” demonstration, urging for the board of trustees to revote against consolidating Analy and El Molino high schools.

A small group of participants first met in an Analy parking lot before marching to the district office where most of the parents, alumni, students and younger school-age gathered. The crowd was mostly from the El Molino community, according to Tasha Mattison, one of the recall effort committee leaders trying to unseat the three trustees who voted to proceed with a plan to consolidate.

Altogether, the dozens of participants marched from the district office on Johnson Street past the nearby Laguna High School and poured onto the sidewalk headed towards downtown on North Main Street. Signs bore messages like “Revote now,” “Recall now,” “Wrong time, wrong plan,” and “Save El Molino,” while a younger child carried a sign that said “El Molino Class of 2028.” 

The demonstrators flowed through the shopping corridor and chanted “Reconsider, revote!” eventually reaching the intersection of North Main Street and Bodega Avenue, where passing drivers honked in recognition.

The protesters split up, some remaining in front of the Westamerica Bank while others continued to the Sebastopol Plaza. Numerous cyclists from the El Molino Mountain Bike Team flew by, some weaving around and through the plaza back out onto the street.

Also in attendance was Jeanne Broome, the board’s El Molino student representative and a senior, who said many students she’s talked to will leave the district. Broome said students ask her a lot of questions because many are busy and exhausted from Zoom, “so I completely understand if they don’t want to come on a three-hour Zoom to speak for two minutes.”

Broome said she will return to El Molino this Monday for the end of her senior year and an emotional and reflective time for staff and students.

“I’m really grateful to be able to go back because I think if nothing else, it might provide a little bit of closure if we don’t end up getting the revote that we want,” she said.

She continued, “But also I think it will provide a space for students to communicate in a way that they haven’t on these issues and maybe even come up with some new ideas on consolidation if it happens and how to prevent it, if that’s what they want to do. I think it’ll be a productive time.”

From the plaza, the demonstration rolled back towards North Main Street and fanned out on its sidewalk, a string of participants later stationing themselves on the sidewalk closest to Community First Credit Union. 

El Molino and west county community speak out

Naomi Huffstutter of Guerneville, a parent of twin eighth-graders, said far west county residents of the El Molino area contribute most of the district’s tax revenue but now face longer commutes to the Sebastopol school. 

Though they are not final numbers, Sonoma West Times & News received WSCUHSD’s estimated revenue by boundary for the 2020-21 fiscal year from Dawn Calahan,

manager of the property tax accounting division of the county’s Auditor-Controller Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office.

The document, dated Nov. 24, 2020, estimates that the El Molino boundary area contributes 64.69% of the district’s Measure B parcel tax, while the Analy boundary area is estimated to provide 31.07% of the revenue.

“It’s not that we don’t love Sebastopol, but it’s very confusing that if we really do need to push these children together in one school, why perhaps Sebastopol students couldn’t come our way, especially we serve all the way to Fort Ross and Jenner, far far west,” Huffstutter said.

A parent said managing life in the pandemic and their children’s education has been excruciating “because we’re also working from home, we’re also caring for our kids,” and the kids’ mental health is at some risk. “A lot of these kids are socially stuck in last March in 2020 and they’re really struggling to feel like they’re supported,” she said.

While she said her daughter could get from Forestville to Analy alright, she said she worried about families living further west, “This is a very very large community and there’s a lot of pride and I think it’s vital that the school board hear it and really really stand for the entire group they represent.”

Ninth-grader Bree Tyler said she had yet to attend El Molino in person and greatly preferred a small school environment. Tyler said her mom is now trying to enroll her at Santa Rosa High School for the fall with no luck so far.

She said she’d eventually accept the move to Analy because her friends would be there, too, but said that the consolidation decision upset her.

“Eventually I’ll just get over the fact that my school didn’t matter to the board at all, I’ll get over the fact they just chucked my school aside and put me in this bigger school,” Tyler said, “But until then, I’m probably not going down without a fight.”

A number of attendees said the district could use incoming pandemic-related state and federal funding to maintain separate campuses in at least the immediate term.

However, according to Chief Business Official Jeff Ogston in an email early Thursday morning, funds from the state AB86 grants, the American Rescue Plan and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act are restricted and intended to address learning loss over the past year and COVID-19-related impacts on procedures, like testing and cleaning.

Ogston delivered a presentation on the incoming state and federal funding and their allowable uses at the March 30 board meeting.

The AB86 grants are to create a learning recovery program that provides additional instruction, social and emotional supports and offers meals for largely at-risk and prioritized student groups, like students eligible for free and reduced-cost meals, homeless students, foster youth, English Learners and more, he said. 

Per his presentation, AB86 funds can also be used for providing more instructional learning time beyond what’s required, like summer school and after-school programs, addressing learning gaps with tutoring, addressing learning barriers by offering trauma-related programs, meal access, health services and counseling, and staff training.

Other allowable uses include staff training, supporting credit-deficient students, academic services like benchmark assessments and getting students access to high-speed internet and technology through “community learning hubs,” according to Ogston.

Meanwhile, Ogston presented federal funding that allows uses like coordinating COVID-19 responses, training staff on sanitation and serving the particular needs of homeless students, English learners, foster youth, students with disabilities, students with low income and racial and ethnic minority youth.

Other uses allow for buying sanitation supplies, technology for students, facility maintenance and upgrades for air quality and ventilation and more, in addition to activities allowed by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.

Ogston said that the state’s allowable uses are stated very specifically and require the board to adopt a spending plan. “Admittedly, while the federal money has more allowable uses and could be considered more flexible, the idea and intent behind the money remains the same, and because of the longer spending deadlines, provides the district the opportunity to create a student support plan that could last multiple years instead of just one,” he said.

In an April 7 interview, Superintendent Toni Beal said the allowable uses for addressing COVID-19-related expenses and learning loss do not cover maintaining El Molino at the Forestville campus.

(5) comments

CCrow

Here is the bill https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB86

(c) (1) In addition to the amounts specified in subdivisions (a) and (b), the sum of five hundred thirty-nine million nine hundred twenty-six thousand dollars ($539,926,000) from the General Fund and the sum of four hundred thirty-nine million eight hundred forty-four thousand dollars ($439,844,000) from the Coronavirus Relief Fund are hereby appropriated to the Superintendent for allocation in the 2020–21 fiscal year to eligible local educational agencies. For purposes of making this allocation, funds shall be apportioned proportionally on the basis of the eligible local educational agency’s local control funding formula entitlement determined as of the 2019–20 second principal apportionment certification, pursuant to Sections 42238.02 and 42238.025 of the Education Code, or subdivision (e) of Section 2574 or subdivision (a) of Section 2575 of the Education Code, as applicable. For purposes of this section, entitlements shall include apportionments allocated pursuant to Section 41544 of the Education Code and Article 7 (commencing with Section 48300) of Chapter 2 of Part 27 of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Education Code.

(2) Consistent with Section 2576 of the Education Code, a county office of education’s local control funding formula entitlement for purposes of paragraph (1) shall include funding that the Superintendent of Public Instruction transferred to the county, wherein a pupil is enrolled, equal to the amount calculated for the school district of residence pursuant to Section 42238.02 of the Education Code for each unit of average daily attendance credited to the school district of residence as of the 2019–20 second principal apportionment certification.

(d) Funds apportioned to eligible local educational agencies from the Federal Trust Fund pursuant to subdivision (a) shall be used from March 13, 2020, to September 30, 2022, inclusive, funds apportioned from the General Fund pursuant to subdivision (c) shall be used from March 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, inclusive, and funds apportioned from the Coronavirus Relief Fund pursuant to this section shall be used from March 1, 2020, to May 31, 2021, inclusive, for activities that directly support academic achievement and mitigate learning loss related to COVID-19 school closures. Funds may be used to support individuals served by local educational agencies, including, but not limited to, those enrolled in a childcare program, California state preschool program, kindergarten, any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, and adult education programs, and shall be expended for any of the following purposes:

(1) Addressing learning loss or accelerating progress to close learning gaps through the implementation, expansion, or enhancement of learning supports that begin before the start of the school year and the continuation of intensive instruction and supports into the school year.

(2) Extending the instructional school year by making adjustments to the academic calendar, increasing the number of instructional minutes provided during each week or schoolday, or taking any other action that increases the amount of instructional time or services provided to pupils based on their learning needs.

CCrow

What people need to hear the community side research- and we are still reading about what Ogston had to say, he already spoke at the meetings and misrepresents the federal and state fund uses amongst others. This letter was sent to the WCHSD :

jaiello@wscuhsd.org, jfernandes@wscuhsd.org, lfadave@wscuhsd.org, alewis@wscuhsd.org, knoe@wscuhsd.org, tbeal@wscuhsd.org, and board defines some important data:

Please consider sending a letter in your own words - that makes a difference with being heard! THANK YOU!

----------------------

Another PLEA to keep El Molino Campus OPEN at LEAST one more year

I am HOPING that with money allocated for COVID mitigations* our district has enough money to KEEP El Molino open for the 2021-22 school year.

We need TIME!

We need traffic studies.

We need economic impact studies.

We need consideration for Forestville and all communities west and north.

Numbers don’t tell the story…PEOPLE do. This school campus is a Far West County community center as well as a school.

Our community is HURTING because of the decisions you made to consolidate in the 2021-22 school year.

Our SMALL SCHOOL means students get roles in theater, dance, sports…the cream of the crop reaches farther into the student body for any situation where there is a limited number of members on a team, etc. THIS IS IMPORTANT!

Our SMALL SCHOOL means students get attention, feel comfortable, feel secure. People who live in the forest are not the same people who thrive in dense populations.

If all you are seeing are numbers and advantages of large schools LOOK AGAIN! VOTE AGAIN!

We have the potential of ElMo becoming a Career Tech high school serving our predominantly blue collar population. Career tech classes will encourage students to NOT drop out but to continue until they get a high school degree and certification in a trade that moves them right into a job and career in much-needed fields.

Our LARGE El Molino school boundaries tell the tale of a district that not only pays for our own school but also pays for Analy.

You can see that the El Molino HS boundary pays the majority of the property taxes for this district.

Prop 13: EM = 55.44% vs. Analy = 37.86

Meas B: EM = 64.69 vs. Analy = 31.07%

One would think that El Molino could garner support with these figures in mind.

Please RETHINK your decision. Our community and our students need your support!

----------------------------------------------------------------

Jeff Ogstons presentation tonight - 22 allowable uses for AB 86 Spending deadline of 8/31/22 starting 2020-21 school year

In-person learning Grant $539,000

Expanded learning grant $1,290,383

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* Here are the newly issued figures for extra funds coming or already arrived from Federal Relief Packages.

West County Unified High School District:

CARES Act: Federal 3/27/2020 $146,120

CARES Act: State 3/27/2020 $1,033,710

$900B Covid Relief Bill: 12/27/2020 $473,050

Est. Rescue Plan: Federal 3/11/2021 $1,051,780

____________________

Total. Monies to our district: $2,704,660

The District may use these funds flexibly. Allowable uses include…

Activities and services to students who are low income, have disabilities, English language learners, racial and ethnic minorities, homeless youth, and foster youth.

Technology for online learning

Continued employment of existing staff

Also, new funds from the state include $500+K on May 20-21, and another

$500+K in August.

Funds from an even larger pot of State money are slated to be added on top of normal apportionments. Again, uses are flexible.

jaiello@wscuhsd.org

These facts and figures show that the District does not have to rush to closure of El Molino, crowding more students into Analy classrooms and traffic into Sebastopol. Staff, programs, and electives can be retained.

Mary Bracken

$2.7 million federal COVID funds + $1.1 million state state funds for reopening and expanding learning opportunities + increased Title One funds for foreseeable future + rosy 2021-22 state education budget = three award winning, autonomous high schools for at least two years. This windfall of state and federal dollars provides the bridge funding we need to properly plan and provide our youth the 21st century education they deserve. Dear WSCUHSD board of trustees, please reconsider and revote.

Crow

We wanted to share the issues behind the rushed consolidation: West County high school closure from an equity perspective: Why rush?

By Debbie Ramirez

We often hear that combining our two West County high schools is inevitable because of declining enrollment. The West Sonoma County High School District can afford to delay consolidation of our high schools by a year in order to make sure something this complicated and important is done well. As it turns out, the slashed budgets that California schools were anticipating due to the pandemic did not materialize as expected. In fact, schools are being funded higher than they have been for many years.

While the current WSCUHSD funding model provides revenue to schools based on average daily attendance, Basic Aid schools are funded based on property taxes. This allows schools in rural areas with a large tax base, such as the El Molino attendance area (green in map below), to support relatively fewer students with a higher level of per-student funding. The El Molino attendance area tax base brings in the lion’s share - more than double, $1.2M per year - of the revenue raised through the Measure B parcel tax passed last year.

The Measure B parcel taxes passed in 2020 raise significantly more revenue from the El Molino attendance area than from the Analy attendance area. This table (see images below) provided by the Sonoma County Auditor‐ Controller‐Treasurer‐Tax Collector represents the 2020‐21 actual levy at $79 per qualified parcel.

Six budget options were presented to the school board at their March 10th meeting. Only one of the options called for immediate closure of El Molino High School; the other five options included some form of reduction to the 7 period day class schedule. It is worth taking the time to examine whether this is the best and most equitable use of district funds in the long run. According to district reporting, only 48% of Analy students take 7 periods and 20% of Analy students take Office Aid or TA ‘classes’ without instructional content to fill their schedules.

The timeline to consolidate in August 2021 is clearly rushed and there is little time to engage those most affected by a merger.

El Molino provides a high quality education for some of the most underserved residents in Sonoma County, and many families hardest hit by the pandemic.

Speeding through the steps to create an inclusive and functional consolidated school cannot provide a high quality end result.

Without bankruptcy looming in June 2022 any longer, the district ought to take the time to follow California’s Closing a School Best Practices Guide. This calls for deep involvement of stakeholders in a decision that will impact students, families, and residents for generations to come.

The community has been in uproar since the vote to close El Molino. Another meeting was quickly planned for March 16 to discuss ‘rebranding’ the remaining district schools. In response to the district’s commitment to new colors, mascot and school name for the unified high school, a protest petition against these changes has begun circulating.

Meanwhile, the Lions are organizing.

More than $40,000 has been raised to fund their efforts. A drive-through BBQ fundraiser is planned for April 10. More information can be found at

https://www.saveelmo.co

OneinHealth

Thank You for the very helpful information Debbie - I notice though that the link you provided at the bottom is missing "m" as I found it to work when changed to: https://www.saveelmo.com

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