Good news on many fronts reported to end the school year. Tue. evening, May 21 saw many people and programs celebrated at the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District’s school board meeting.
While Superintendent Tony Roehrick huddled with trustees in closed session discussing a special education agreement and listening to Cosca Group consultants explain where the district was in hiring a superintendent, the Tech Middle School library filled with spectators beyond standing room only. Many people came to honor volunteers and retirees, to find good news about the school district budget, to learn about district marketing and enrollment and to hear the Special Education Committee’s Report.
No dark clouds spoiled any of the celebrations. From the reporter’s point of view, this is the most positive school board meeting in over seven years, all of the reports and recognitions reflected the recent district policy of openness and transparency.
The open session began the evening with one hour of celebrating volunteers and retirees. Principals first honored 11 volunteers presenting each with flowers and a certificate of appreciation while citing the many contributions these people made to the schools: Shannon Barbato, Brandy Tibbetts, Jimmy Barajas, Amber Griffith, Steve & Chrissy Wilson, Kathryn Smith, Fran Russell, Elisa McCreary, Ryan Ballentine, Scot Worden and Ron Campbell.
Emotions soared as teacher and staff retirees stood at the podium while principals praised their career works and accomplishments. Then each retiree walked the friendly gauntlet shaking hands with the trustees and the district administrators.
One display captures the intense feelings expressed for all of these dedicated educators. Nancy Aiona’s former second grade student, now a fifth grader, stood at the podium with a bouquet of flowers and showered her favorite teacher with all the words one could hope to hear after thirty-six years of working with students. Mrs. Aiona wept openly in the audience to hear such distinct yet passionate praise.
Other honorees: Beth Field, Steven Smith, Diane Rasmussen, Lisa Dolkas, Eileen Dabbs, Diane Scott, Sheree Stenberg, Deborah Brooks, Mary Schaffer, Steven Friedland, Stephanie Chapman, Barbara Gegan and Donna Munger.
Student Services Director Matt Marshall offered a report on enrollment and district marketing that suggested hope for the future. The bottom line, an increase of students by 102 may be attributed to recent marketing efforts. A plan to measure the efficacy of marketing using tangible standards showed the new district propensity to deal with concrete effects rather than with empty words.
School Board Student Trustees Carolina Lenzi and Emilia Torres submitted their final reports. Carolina’s good news about Tech High included positive information about testing, a successful grad night trip to Disneyland, a packed house for a Tech drama performance and the recognition of Hollie Campos as teacher of the month and the year. Emilia told of Rancho’s big event, the opening of the TAG building, prom, and all of the year end activities that belong to Rancho’s tradition. Both expressed appreciation for the opportunity to serve on the school board.
Evergreen teacher Lisa Dolkas, who had just been celebrated for retiring after serving the district for 28 years, presented, with many students, the enriching experiences of outdoor education. The students described themselves as technically oriented and reported that the outdoor education gave them a new perspective. They love the hikes, the beach, the bonfires, hands-on learning. They actually like the outdoors and said that this type of education teaches responsibility, learning about nature and prepared them for more such trips in middle school.
Next Assistant Superintendent Julie Synyard then gave an update on the Local Control Accountability Plan. She will work with Chief Business Officer Robert Marical to examine funding hoping to discover new possibilities.
Rachel Allen then proceeded to deliver the Special Education Committee Report. The importance of examining the committee’s work led to a few conclusions: there was purpose in gaining an understanding of the student population, in recognizing gaps in special education practice, in discovering what services the district needs to contract out and studying district and state data and district surveys. The committee visited three schools that had invited members to meet with staff. Problems with the BEST classes for social, emotional, behavioral issues need attention. More work must be done with IEP development as well as determining eligibility. Clearly, the committee acknowledged the need to train and retain staff. Now the committee wants to see recommendations implemented. And more good news as the board approved a West Ed Agreement for Review of Special Education Supports and Services as the district looks to serving this population of students as well as it can.
CBO Robert Marical gave an update on the district’s financial position in the Third Interim Report. The district now shows a projected positive balance for the next three years and expects to receive a positive certification from the county. The board approved the report, 4-0.
The evening wound down with board and superintendent reports, all of a positive nature. So, the tone of the evening, reflecting so many accomplishments of students, teachers, administrators and community members ended the school year with a celebratory note, the school district’s good news in May.