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February 21, 2020
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The History of HBCUs Salvation Army Stations Canteen in Petaluma Flores named Dean’s list The “Coolerators” dance party at New Cotati Cabaret Rancho Cotate students earn work ready certificate Spreckels Performing Arts Center announces its 31st season with a free party! Starting right here Community Events Calendar February 21 through March 5, 2020 Student artists needed for public art project in Rohnert Park Budget award presented to the City of Cotati Penngrove Community Church hosts breakfast Volunteer's Corner Students to participate in Legacy Project SMART establishes a 50 percent discount fare policy for low income riders Friends for survival meet Community Events Calendar February 14 through February 27, 2020 Yellow tape on signal lights Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria $200k grant to Secure Families Fund Rancho Cotate football team receives a proclamation from the City of Rohnert Park Volunteer's Corner February is Black History Month Understanding career choices with Frame4 Engage with performing artists at the Green Music Center Trees wanted for PEEP program Hub Cyclery celebrates another year I Heart Rohnert Park Community Events Calendar October 5, 2018 through October 18, 2018 Community Events Calendar January 11, 2019 through January 24, 2019 Community Events Calendar February 7 through February 20, 2020 Let’s talk Turkey Recipes sought for B’nai Israel cookbook Annual Jeopardy fundraiser Community Events Calendar September 28, 2018 through October 11, 2018 Community Events Calendar December 28, 2018 through January 10, 2019 Welcome to a new year of reading and writing Back to school supply challenge “Doctors with a heart” benefits “cots, committee on the shelterless” Community Events Calendar August 31, 2018 through September 13, 2018 Community Events Calendar October 19, 2018 through November 1, 2018 Local author donates to Wildfire Relief Charities LIME Foundation partners with local organization Community Events Calendar July 26, 2019 through August 8, 2019 Volunteer's Corner Gore in tune Community Events Calendar October 12 through October 25 Over 100 volunteers wrapping toys Community Events Calendar January 4, 2019 through January 17, 2019 Sonoma County Library Photography Exhibit 2019 Volunteer's Corner Reducing disposable bottle waste at Hahn Elementary JavAmore, Caprara’s Pizzeria hold fundraiser Save Rancho Adobe FPD Sonoma Clean Power partners with Uber Homeless veterans receive greatest gift Volunteer's Corner Back to school bag of tricks Community Events Calendar August 9, 2019 through August 22, 2019 Let’s go out... Celebrating in February… RP Expressway improvements Remo is ready for dessert SSU’s Sakaki names Griffin-Desta as new Chief of Staff Haute Flash takes the stage 2019 Graduation in full swing Volunteer briefs Photography show at library The gift of reading Community Events Calendar January 31, 2020 through February 13, 2020 Community Events Calendar August 10, 2018 through August 23, 2018 Get your hula on for the Penngrove luau A day at Thomas Page Academy Elves clowning around Burton Recreation Center gets a new look How past superintendents impacted CRPUSD Successful approach to fireworks in RP SCP and Country Summer raise donations for local food bank Picturing Philanthropy: Selections from the SSU Art Collection Sutton takes Eagle Scout oath Helping hands at the boosters crab feed Community Events Calendar September 14, 2018 through September 27, 2018 Pastis visits the Ranch A Cotati home has the Christmas spirit 2nd Annual Sweethearts Fairytale Dance Educator Dolkas retires Free backpacks and school supplies for kids Support program delivers items to firefighters Who ya gonna call...? Community Events Calendar January 10, 2020 through January 23, 2020 The history of the Rainbow Flag Bands and DJs playing great music in Cotati Photo exhibit by Penngrove artist sheds light on disability community Free Advance Care Planning workshop Jan. 15 SSU Outreach and events coordinator changes Cycle Without Limits in action again at SSU Library summer reading program Pastor George Russell 30 years with the Assembly of God Church Japanese students experience American culture, English language Hawaiian luau Penngrove style Weaver shows his sculptures at Hahn Elementary School Retired officers know a good restaurant Becoming Independent wins County of Sonoma shredding business Community Events Calendar January 24, 2020 through February 6, 2020 Cotati’s early morning breakfast Cotatians turned out in droves Sat. to celebrate Oliver’s Market 30th anniversary party Bark After Dark: Dinner and auction to help save animals Enrollment event at SC airport Would you make a great foster parent? RCHS ‘sold out’ crab feed Vacation Bible School in Penngrove Agreement reached with homeless advocates Kindergarteners get a first taste of school The People’s Choice award winner Community Events Calendar November 15, 2019 through November 28, 2019 Help neighbors in need this holiday season Sweethearts Fairytale Dance TLC receives $2.5 million gift from dissolving SoCo Children’s Village to continue SCCV Legacy Community Events Calendar August 24, 2018 through September 6, 2018 Community Events Calendar October 26 through November 8 Community Events Calendar November 9 2018 through November 22 2018 Rohnert Park students to learn bike safety Genealogy library hosts open house in Santa Rosa NorCal Honor Band accepts Analy High School musicians Volunteer's Corner Sonoma Clean Power seeks participants Scholarships help foster youth SoCo. Bicycle Coalition needs board members Community Events Calendar August 23, 2019 through September 5, 2019 Local residents earn degree from WGU SSU names new Dean of School of Business and Economics Ronnie’s bar and grill kitchen is open Ribbon-cutting for new band room at LJMS CPI North Bay fire recovery Sonoma Raceway hosts food drive American Sign Language and police departments Volunteer's Corner Community Events Calendar January 18, 2019 through January 31, 2019 Community Events Calendar February 1, 2019 through February 14, 2019 School’s out – time for camp! Credo High Graduates RP Club serves breakfast and lunch Miss Central California performs at Friday Night Market Petaluma native serves at naval communication center Alumnus Teixeira educational fund with endowment Sonoma County Library launches new early literacy program Monte Vista writing with quills Ribbon cutting for new band room Rancho ASB hosts Spaghetti Feed Dinner Threatened discharge of hazardous waste Photography Show Newest report finds new growth on rare Cotati albino Chimera Tree The work behind “The Art of Resistance” SRS has affordable family concert, Jan. 27, 3 p.m. RP Health Center ensures all children in school district receive dental care Volunteer's Corner Volunteer’s Corner Community Events Calendar May 10, 2019 through May 23, 2019 FREE Movies In The Park CRPUSD needs hands-on leader Community Events Calendar July 12, 2019 through July 25, 2019 Community Events Calendar July 19, 2019 through August 1, 2019 Community Events Calendar August 2, 2019 through August 15, 2019 Volunteer briefs Verity is always here to help Rancho’s Airband performs Community Events Calendar December 27, 2019 through January 9, 2020 Year of the Rat celebration Volunteer's Corner Community Events Calendar September 21, 2018 through October 4, 2018 A Veteran remembers Veterans SSU to buy 90-unit Petaluma complex for workforce housing Decker waves the baton at a concert Richard Crane fourth graders harness the wind Collaborating Together for Peace May the 4th be with you at La Plaza Park Community Events Calendar June 7, 2019 through June 20, 2019 Granny units in local area Nonn talks with Waldo and Tech neighbors Walking in the Cotati Kids’ Day parade Volunteer briefs Quite a dance performance at the Accordian Festival Analy fall music festival New exhibition recognizing emerging artists in So Co Community Events Calendar December 13, 2019 through December 26, 2019 Sarris converses with Raskin Coin show in Santa Rosa Local school shines with STEM It takes a village to honor its past Veterans story Mark Weston Volunteer's Corner Young accepts ‘prez’ of the RP Historical Society Community Events Calendar December 21, 2018 through January 3, 2019 Local nonprofit to host Santa Rosa fundraiser for homeless veterans Hansel receives honorary doctorate A lesson from Wafflemat Tom with his bucket Farmers’ markets kick off Volunteer's Corner Borrow more materials from more libraries Charitable program linking foster families and churches Give the gift of love to a deserving senior Passing the torch for Rohnert Park City Council Volunteer's Corner Ten years of complementary health care in Sonoma County A new strategy for the Cotati Chamber of Commerce The Native Daughters host CA Admission Day Veterans Day 2018, Rick Norman Community Events Calendar November 23, 2018 through December 13, 2018 A lighter, brighter Cotati Vandalism at Gold Ridge Community Center Community Events Calendar December 14, 2018 through December 27, 2018 Community Events Calendar January 25, 2019 through February 7, 2019 Community Events Calendar March 29, 2019 through April 11, 2019 Volunteer's Corner Enter the Penngrove Parade Community Events Calendar June 14, 2019 through June 27, 2019 Community Events Calendar June 28, 2019 through July 11, 2019 Deliver food to seniors House managers and ushers needed Community Events Calendar August 16, 2019 through August 29, 2019 Be prepared for a medical emergency Bark After Dark... bringing back the memories Volunteer as a Bingocize instructor Action taken at Cotati City Council Volunteer's Corner SoCo Housing Authority opens Project-Based Voucher waitlist in Healdsburg Discrimination and bullying in our schools Volunteer City of Cotati offers Thanksgiving week fun for kids Saving on energy and giving youth jobs DUI/Driver’s License Checkpoint Volunteer's Corner Community Events Calendar February 8, 2019 through February 21, 2019 Cotati chicken BBQ returns Race volunteers and DJ needed Annual senior art show The Sonoma-Marin fair is giving away $35k in awards & scholarships Volunteer's Corner Library offers free summer lunches to youth NPR author Corrigan to speak at RP-Cotati Library Volunteer briefs Rancho: some things old, some things new Volunteer's Corner Bark after Dark Graton Rancheria gives grant to SSU Rancheria Learning Center Support for Kincade Fire First Responders SSU names new vice president FEMA grants $1.2M to CEA to increase earthquake protection Songbird Community Center celebrates Community Events Calendar January 17, 2020 through January 30, 2020 RP Founders’ Day Oct. 6 30 years for Danny's vacuum shop Volunteer’s corner Home Instead partners with local businesses Large affordable housing project breaks ground in Rohnert Park Is your Carbon Monoxide detector chirping? Volunteer’s Corner RP celebrates “I Heart RP” Feb. 10 Volunteer's Corner I can do it! Exposición anual de arte para personas mayores RP-Cotati Library to feature award-winning performance artist Thirteen reasons to fold American flag Fireworks update Kids day in Cotati Friday, 7/19/19 Hometown Headliners Petaluma native serves as member of U.S. Navy Community Events Calendar September 6, 2019 through September 19, 2019 Exhibit commemorating LGBTQ+ history on display at SSU Archive crawl/open house Broadway under the stars Volunteer's Corner RRWA Environmental Column – December 2019 Parting Wisdom: Perspective and guidance from a seasoned storm water inspector A different type of graduation Library urges community to join Winter Reading Challenge Watch for PG&E and other scammers Backpack drive event this Sunday Who you going to call? Adapting to the weather changes SC Public Library Foundation needs directors Athena sits in ‘artsy’ Cotati Community Events Calendar December 7, 2018 through December 20, 2018 Cotati hosts award dinner Volunteer's Corner Free care planning workshop Credo’s Dolcini power rowing to Portland Free, fun, family activities, Sat. Junior League presenting Ride-a-Rig Armed Forces News Strickland becomes president of Rotary Club So. Co. 2019 homeless count shows reduction Rise in young people experiencing homelessness Boys & Girls Clubs is now Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma-Marin Volunteer briefs Writing is powerful 2019 Farm Bureau Foundation of SoCo Grant Program accepting applications Kinsey Sicks in Cotati Honoring the women of Cotati Rotary Clubs come together to help Kincade fire victims Meet Rohnert Park’s upcoming leaders in 2020 Cotati’s fountain tree ablaze Community Events Calendar December 20, 2019 through January 2, 2020 Community Events Calendar January 3, 2020 through January 16, 2020 Stories from Credo High School’s Black Box SC nonprofit arts and culture generates $80.4 M Community Events Calendar November 2, 2018 through November 15, 2018 Multiple Commission, Committee and Board appointive terms expire Dec. 2018 – We have seats to fill! Community Events Calendar November 30 through December 20 Volunteer's Corner Coffee with Cotati cops ‘Just Between Friends’ mega kids’ event Creative Sonoma supports artists impacted by fires Everything bunny in Rohnert Park Cotati Rotary hosts first Humanitarian award Walk the labyrinth in D park Two teachers receive the Lou Colby award RP’s 36th annual fishing derby Looking for SoCo artists An antediluvian house on the hill Newspaper spring-ups through the years Empire graduates Devil Pups, A 10-day Leadership Camp for teens Child passenger safety week Abbleskiever breakfast at Penngrove A functioning sawmill near Sebastopol I won the dog race One cold night cancelled SMART train new schedule to take effect Volunteer's Corner CFSC fire relief grants LIME Foundation hosts NextGen Volunteer's Corner Community Events Calendar September 7, 2018 through September 20, 2018 SAY launches One Cold Night Devil Pups set a new goal Celebrate the holiday season responsibly  Tips for a Grinchless holiday season Church of the Oaks crab feed Feb. 8-9 Miss SC Scholarship competition Local winner at art show Bailey So. Co. Woman of the Year Credo High School to speak at WE conference So. Co. Community Dev. Commission seeks equity in housing Tech High athletic awards ceremony Eureka! Students strike gold! Special Olympic Torch run going through Cotati Community Events Calendar July 5, 2019 through July 18, 2019 Sonoma Raceway to host high speed blood drive Neary starts new business The free Sonoma County Bookmobile Learn to write obituaries Ghosts, witches, superheroes, princes and princesses... Fencing demo and class at RP Library Community Events Calendar November 8, 2019 through November 21, 2019 New pillow giveaway at Thomas Page Academy University Elementary School to host Maker World Past performance equals future results... Refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, recycle and rot Kenneth Bradley, a local photographer showcasing Community Events Calendar August 17, 2018 through August 30, 2018 Staying safe on our local trails North Bay Construction Corps receives statewide recognition Don’t be a victim of a charity scam Be a resource for fire survivors Poetry Out Loud Sonoma County contest Community Events Calendar March 1, 2019 through March 14, 2019 Rancho Cotate Varsity Girls Basketball receives recognition The “Disney” concert in the TAG building Community Events Calendar April 19, 2019 through May 2, 2019 La Comisión de Desarrollo Comunitario del Condado de Sonoma An invitation to the Peace garden dedication Rancho Cotate High School students for May Free seminars for disabled veterans and surviving spouses claim benefits Library to eliminate fines for 80,000 patrons The National Heirloom Exposition celebrates a world of flavor! Community Events Calendar September 20, 2019 through October 3, 2019 Aliotti graduates from Lackland Community Events Calendar October 18, 2019 through October 31, 2019 Students build firebreaks Community Events Calendar November 1, 2019 through November 14, 2019 Answers the call Community Events Calendar November 29, 2019 through December 12, 2019 The end of an era Attempting to prevent the cycle of homelessness Volunteer's Corner Service dog dreams come true for heart attack survivor 20/30 club & Kohl’s outfit students Annual Sonoma County hunger index: 1/3 of residents went hungry in 2017 Volunteer's Corner Fun-filled Cotati stroll Celebrate Black History Month Heavy rain takes toll on drivers Transgender Day of Visibility Community Events Calendar April 5, 2019 through April 18, 2019 Volunteer's Corner SOMO Village vibrant with painted faces and bling Community Events Calendar May 24, 2019 through June 6, 2019 Monte Vista Spring Fling Community Events Calendar June 21, 2019 through July 4, 2019 Civil War days returns to Duncans Mills Volunteer's Corner Free Lacrosse clinics at M Park Community Events Calendar October 4, 2019 through October 17, 2019 Dance for good! Unity Day at Monte Vista Elementary School Largest ball of lint: Dryer Vent Wizard Cotati set Guinness Records™ title The Salvation Army begins assistance operation for Kincade Fire survivors A Day of Remembrance... Donate blood at the 14th annual Bucket Brigade Blood Drive Challenge Accordion Festival gives donation to community Garbage rate increase may keep compostable materials in county Sonoma County reads ‘Kindred’ Be a resource for fire survivors STEM at SSU Community Events Calendar February 15, 2019 through February 28, 2019 Japanese Internment Remembrance Day Credo students demand strong environmental action Coffee with a Cop  Free family bicycling workshop Learn about water-wise gardening this weekend Volunteer's Corner Inaugural construction trades training class prepares to graduate Volunteer's Corner Free workshop for adults 60+ Big bounce cancelled Volunteer's Corner Help keep the leaves and grass out of storm drains Would you like to shop for the Cottage families? RP Veteran’s Day celebration Coppola Winery establishes a scholarship at SSU The Salvation Army continues to help restock empty refrigerators Volunteer's Corner Community Events Calendar December 6, 2019 through December 19, 2019 Homegrown Sonoma Trio sing original folk and rock at New Cotati Cabaret Community Events Calendar August 3, 2018 through August 16, 2018 A warm day with dancing and good food Community Events Calendar November 16, through December 6, Volunteers needed to ring a bell Volunteer's Corner Volunteer's Corner  Senior art show registration for artists age 60+ One Planet Youth Summit and Credo High School United Way ensuring community gets fair share in 2020 census RCRPC hosted Annual Community Award night Rancho Cotate HS students for the month of April- Perseverance Cotati Chamber hosts music festival Community Events Calendar May 31, 2019 through June 13, 2019 A new feature at the Cotati Farmers’ Market Rohnert Park teacher wins summer Fellowship Community Events Calendar August 30, 2019 through September 12, 2019 Bringing Mediterranean culture to the community Rivers of Life Volunteer's Corner Community Events Calendar October 25, 2019 through November 7, 2019 Credo open house cancelled New date for Jason Mraz and Raining Jane Science night at John Reed Elementary Library unveils innovative new teen collection Donations for needy families Mobility is freedom…with a Purple Heart truck run Train as a coach to help older adults prevent falls Rotary District 5130 provides multiple fire relief grants A New Coalition: Forming alliances for barn owls Grand opening at Acme Burger Penngrove buries time capsule Volunteer's Corner Libraries = strong communities Community Events Calendar May 3, 2019 through May 16, 2019 Tech elects new student body for year 2019-20 Volunteer's Corner Green Music Center presents its annual fundraising event Connect to nature Volunteer's Corner Farm animal rescue in Cotati provides much needed services Public invited to discuss ways to improve Bay Area Transportation Volunteer's Corner Free mattress collection Zero Waste Sonoma and Bye Bye Mattress team up for a free three-day collection Cotati Rohnert Park Co-op Nursery School receives donation The Rotary annual toy wrapping happened last Saturday Seniors are targets for telescammers CTE Foundation invests in local schools Our invisible but critical water source Future leaders of the community Rohnert Park Democratic Club Free job fair matches local employers and job seekers TAG building ribbon-cutting/dedication ceremony Creating a teacher recruitment and retention plan K/1 students to present a jobs and business expo An invitation to attend “Avenue of Flags” Educator Friedland retires after 35 years 6th annual luau fundraiser Zero Waste Sonoma and Bye-Bye mattress team up Free conservation toolkits at your local library Peace and Justice Center Awards & Fundraiser Sonoma County Library expands Menstrual Equity Program Volunteer's Corner Credo’s Trashion owns the runway Thomas Page Academy gets a big check Volunteer's Corner SSU named one of the nation’s “Most promising places to work” Community Events Calendar February 22, 2019 through March 7, 2019 Mayor Belforte reads at Monte Vista A new student center in RP Nor Cal Aging, Disability and Advocacy Expo Transgender march and rally RP Easter egg hunt Volunteer's Corner Color is fun Jones receives proclamation Flags are a beautiful sight Stockham of Cotati named Global Scholar Greater Farallones Marine sanctuary seeks Maritime Advisor Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation is awarded three new grants Maher will provide free care during Nov. News from Knox College Griffith named to Dean’s list at Palmer College of Chiropractic Volunteer's Corner New Entrepreneur in residence at Sonoma State University Sonoma County STEAM Showcase Transgender day in the square Apply to represent So County’s older adults Community Events Calendar March 22, 2019 through April 4, 2019 McLea’s receives AAA banner SonomaFi coming to local libraries Letter carriers stamp out hunger Woolery loves a clean environment A library luncheon becomes a birthday party Mayors challenge Cougars Sonoma and Mendocino selected for regional electric vehicle charging No fault of their own Earle Baum Center celebrates 20 years Community Events Calendar October 11, 2019 through October 24, 2019 Credo High School hosts open house Community Events Calendar November 22, 2019 through December 5, 2019 Cross and Crown celebrates 50th Anniversary Monthly CalFresh benefits to arrive March 1 Community Events Calendar March 15, 2019 through March 28, 2019 SSU to screen ‘Big Sonia’ to honor Holocaust and Genocide survivors Volunteer's Corner Showing off their talents Creative Grants for Summer Arts Youth Programs RP seeking applicants for leadership program Volunteer's Corner Thousands of PG&E customers could benefit from monthly energy discount Community Events Calendar September 13, 2019 through September 26, 2019 She serves Cotati well It’s the time of year for fall curbside cleanup Celebrating different cultures, traditions and history Volunteer's Corner Explore foster parenting talk Feb. 25 Cross and Crown Church reaches the big 50 Looking through the glass at Arch’s for 55 years Senior center prom Community Events Calendar April 12, 2019 through April 25, 2019 Paparazzi day... Let the egg hunt begin… Rotary clubs of Rancho Cotati and Rohnert Park are hosting the dedication of a Peace Park Today’s children, Tomorrow’s leaders Sonoma County Mayors’ award breakfast Community Events Calendar September 27, 2019 through October 10, 2019 Dancing in the bubbles Rube Goldberg night at Tech High Crew does a fine job It’s “American” History Volunteer's Corner SSU to sign landmark commitment to sustainability Volunteer's Corner SSU takes top honors at United Nations conference Cal Ripken celebrates opening day Making Rohnert Park age friendly Learn more about CASA’s impact Military basic training graduates Volunteer's Corner Giving thanks at Homestead Gardens Clover Sonoma supports free concerts for youth Residents give high marks to Cotati living Event volunteers needed Free LGBT awareness training for caregivers RCHS Guard and drumline competition Sgt. Thompson named So. Co. bike commuter of the year Happiest sprint on the planet Librarian Kleban retires CASA Volunteers Sonoma State presents the first-ever production of ‘Origin Story’ Volunteer's Corner SSU Library presents ‘Alchemia’ exhibit Community Events Calendar March 8, 2019 through March 21, 2019 Art students big on art Space for reflection Community Events Calendar April 26, 2019 through May 9, 2019 Tech. upgrade for Cotati sewers/water Duckett all set to install tile Choosing to man their table Sonoma County schools hold International walk and roll to school day Volunteer's Corner Rancho Cotati Rotary Club visited Thomas Page Academy Artists showing off their works Join us on Easter Sunday Caregivers offered free awareness training Rancho’s Top Twenty Dinner: a fifty-one-year tradition Sweetman explains expo Pumpkin night is a magical time The Rohnert Park Sister City Committee is in full swing Parkour Speed competition Volunteer's Corner Ranger retires after 36 years Community Events Calendar May 17, 2019 through May 30, 2019 Meaningful Sayings

Two steps forward... one step back

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
December 20, 2019

The last school board meeting of 2019 for the Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District was held at Mountain Shadows Educational Center Conference Room, 7165 Burton Avenue, Rohnert Park, Tues., Dec. 17 from 6:15 p.m. until 9:29 p.m. Much of this three-plus hour meeting, involved the normal end-of-year reporting and designation of roles and committees for the new year. This included election of the Board President Leffler Brown for a second year in a row. Trustee Chrissa Gillies was again elected Board Clerk. Trustee Jennifer Wiltermood was once more elected to represent the district on the Sonoma County Committee on School District Organization. Various trustees were designated to represent the board on a wide variety of committees to include budget, facilities and Special Education. 

The schedule of regular board meetings for 2020 was not approved; only the Jan. meeting was approved. That was because after discussion the board indicated they wanted twice per month meetings with a second meeting being a “Study Session” and possible business meeting as needed. Therefore, Superintendent Watenpaugh will restructure the 2020 meeting schedule and request approval by the board at the Jan. meeting. After the normal Student Board member and other reports, the Consent Agenda was approved by a vote of 5-0. This agenda contained multiple non-controversial items ranging from the approval of previous minutes to commercial warrants (bills) for the district from Nov. 2019; from approval of personnel actions and services or contracts to acceptance of Credo’s annual report. The rest of the meeting, perhaps the heart of the meeting, was focused on Educational Services, Business and Operations Services and Board Services. 

Perhaps a bit of background explains why these three areas deserve the most focus by the board. The first half of the 2019-2020 school year has been a challenging period for the board and the school district.  Those challenges include finding a permanent Superintendent to lead the district, fiscal issues to include deficit spending and declining enrollment within the district as well as an Achievement Gap between student measurements and State Standards. Board President Brown said all issues needed to be dealt with; however, the one that keeps him up at night is Student Achievement. He said, “we could be a lot further if we had more parental involvement” and he’ll be looking for ways to increase that aspect of closing the gap next year.

One ongoing challenge has been in finding a permanent replacement for Dr. Robert Haley, the former superintendent who resigned suddenly in Sept. of 2018. In Oct., the board, on a divided vote of 3-2, hired former Superintendent Tony Roehrick of Rincon Valley School District in Santa Rosa as the interim Superintendent. In June 2019, just before the start of this school year, it looked like the search for a permanent superintendent to guide the district forward was successful. At the regular board meeting that month, it was anticipated the announcement for the new superintendent would be made. Instead Board President Leffler Brown reported that the selected candidate withdrew their name from consideration for personal reasons. In July 2019, the board voted 4-1 to bring on Dr. Michael Watenpaugh to serve as interim superintendent until Nov. 30, 2020 while they again commenced searching for a permanent superintendent to lead the district forward. The goal appears to be to find that candidate early in 2020 so they can be in place for the 2020-2021 school year.

The other major continuing challenge is the fiscal status of the district. The Chief Business Official, Robert Marical, makes a monthly report at each regular meeting. This month’s report again shows declining enrollment with another decrease of 17 students from the previous month. All year, each regular board meeting has shown the same trend line; rising costs and declining enrollments. This board and the district staff have been working hard on these issues. They’ve used a budget committee to recommend savings.  The board, and Watenpaugh, also met with Marical for a special board “Budget Study Session” on Dec. 10 designed to bring the board up-to-speed on budget and spending concerns. 

One bright note, at this meeting, the board was able to approve by a vote of 4-0-1 the First Interim Report as of Oct.31, 2019. This report certifies the district’s ability to meet its financial obligations for the remainder of the current fiscal year as well as the following two fiscal years.  In addition, the district is projected to meet the required three percent reserve for economic uncertainties for the remainder of this fiscal year. The current multi-year projections indicate that the district will meet the three percent reserve for economic uncertainties in all three years. 

Yet it appears for every two steps taken forward, especially on fiscal issues, the district is forced to take a step back. 

On the horizon next year are potential increases in expenses such as negotiated contracts with the district’s teachers and the associated increases of benefits and contributions to health and pension plans.  Also, the minimum wage for hourly workers continues to rise each year. And every year the costs of materials, equipment replacement, and costs such as electricity and other services rise. With declining enrollment, revenues aren’t expected to increase. For every 10 students lost, the district loses approximately $90,000 of revenue. When expenses continue to increase, and revenues decrease you get a deficit.  When this is a trend regardless of the economy, it is known as a “Structural Deficit.”  Trustee Gilles said this has been the trend “for at least five years.” Thus, to eliminate such a deficit, you either have to raise revenue (taxes or increased enrollment) or decrease spending (cuts). So, unless the declining enrollment can be reversed it is likely that the board and the district will have to wrestle with those decisions again next year.

At this meeting, the board was provided an overview of student enrollment data during the summer of 2019 by Matt Marshall who is the Director of Student Services. The data highlighted student transiency and schools of choice and compared enrollment numbers from May, Sept. and Nov.. The transiency rate was seven percent which means that 428 students that submitted registration packets did not show up to start school in the district. Of that number 284 students were identified as having moved: 70 out-of-state, 78 out-of-county and 136 elsewhere in Sonoma County. 144 students were found to have chosen a different school (117) or other miscellaneous reasons (27) such as graduated or earned a GED during the summer. Of more concern to Trustee Gillies and others were the 60-plus students that left after school started. That meant a loss of over a half million dollars in planned revenue from the budget. The board wants to see the reasons, if possible, for those losses too. Dr. Watenpaugh said they were working on gathering that type of data.

The board also took up the fiscal issue of accelerating the payment of minimum wage to $15 per hour in advance of that required by current California law. Marical outlined the current requirement of $13 on Jan.1, 2020; then $14 by Jan. 1, 2021; and, finally $15 on Jan. 1, 2022. He shared the increased cost for just following state law on the district’s budget and then the impacts if the board decided to accelerate the minimum wage to an earlier date than required. All trustees appreciate the work of these employees, many part-time and the contributions they bring to the schools; and, they would love to approve implementing the $15 minimum wage earlier than required by law. However, given the current trend of deficit spending, declining enrollment and increasing costs; fear was expressed that voting to approve this was a lose/lose situation. Such an acceleration might result in a loss of a position or two elsewhere or require additional cuts in the budget going forward. Nevertheless, Trustee Gillies moved to accelerate the minimum wage effective Jan. 1, 2020. The motion was seconded by Trustee Nonn but was defeated on a vote of 3-2.

In other related matters, Julie Synyard, the Assistant Superintendent, presented the board an overview of the School District’s dashboard.  The California Dashboard is the state’s accountability system that details outcomes for students.  The California Dashboard is an interactive online tool that describes how local educational agencies are meeting the needs of all of their students.  The Dashboard contains information and reports regarding school districts and individual school site performance.  This is where much of the Achievement Gap can be seen especially for English language learners and disadvantaged youth such as foster or homeless kids and those in Special Education programs. The district is investigating ways to improve student achievements but Synyard noted the below standard achievements are not limited just to our district but also to most other districts in the county and state.

Shifting to better news, the board also received the annual report of the Parcel Tax Oversight Committee at this meeting. Two meetings were held in 2019 and the annual report shows that all Parcel Tax money was appropriately spent and accounted for during the year. The board also approved on a vote of 5-0 the updated policy and associated administrative regulation on bullying which includes cyberbullying among other updates. Watenpaugh and other trustees spoke about the Rancho Cotate Cougars Division 3-A CIF State Championship Game and congratulated them on their outstanding season. Watenpaugh and Brown both spoke with pride about the district getting the Business Journal’s Top Projects in the North Bay Award for the Theater, Academic, Gymnasium (TAG) Building project at the Rancho Cotate High School. Watenpaugh also announced the Lawrence Jones Middle School Showcase and Ribbon Cutting ceremony will be Jan. 30, 2020.

Marcial said while both revenues and expenses are up, the short-term ability to meet fiscal needs are being assisted by one-time dollars and the ability to draw down the reserves. Watenpaugh also has the board’s approval to establish a Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Committee consisting of himself, Marical, two  board members and a number of committee members drawn from district parents, unions, school sites and the district office to meet at least once a month to explore ways to deal with budget and fiscal issues in 2020 and beyond. In summary, the district is doing okay but there are storm clouds on the horizon to be concerned about and hard decisions will have to be made next year.