The Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District held two meetings this month. The first was a two-hour special meeting held on December 8. The second was a three-hour regular board meeting on December 15. The special meeting was the last meeting for outgoing trustees Jennifer Wiltermood and Dr. Tim Nonn. The regular meeting was the initial meeting for incoming trustees Mark Nelson and Michelle Wing.
The special meeting recognized Wiltermood and Nonn for their service contributions to the school district. Comments included board president Leffler Brown thanking Nonn for “how hard you fought for special education kids” and Wiltermood for her work on the bond efforts over her eight years. The other main agenda item was a “Hybrid Planning Update” presented by Superintendent Dr. Mayra Perez and principals from the various schools. Perez stressed that this was a draft and continues to be a work in progress. She also reminded everyone that currently the schools are “not authorized to reopen” while in the Purple Tier.
Perez then provided a report of her findings from her “Listening Tour” as previously promised. This tour included 75 interviews with staff, parents, students and community members. Some key findings were a desire for better communications and community engagement. She reported many said communications were inconsistent, there was limited opportunity for stakeholder input or adequate opportunities to be actively engaged from the Latinx community.
The regular meeting had numerous agenda items to cover. Leading off was for Wing and Nelson to execute their oath of office. Then the required reorganizations of the board occurred. Chrissa Gillies and Joe Cimino were both nominated to serve as Board President; however, Cimino’s nomination failed for lack of a second. Gillies was elected on a vote of 4-1 with Nelson voting against. Cimino was then nominated for Board Clerk and elected on a 5-0 vote.
Gillies then announced representatives to District Committees as follows: 2x2x2 - Brown and Cimino with Gillies as alternative; LCAP - Gillies and Wing with Brown as alternative; Facilities Gillies and Cimino with Brown as alternative; Budget – Brown and Gillies with Cimino as alternative; Special Education – Wing and Nelson with Cimino as alternative; Wellness Committee – Wing and Nelson with Cimino as alternative; and DELAC (English Language) – Wing and Nelson with Gillies as alternative.
Budget reports and purchases were next. The Parcel Tax Oversight Committee’s Annual Report was accepted and all uses of those funds were appropriate and within guidelines of the ballot measures. The board also approved four purchases related to preparing for possible Hybrid reopening of schools when allowed. These included the remaining Ionization Air Purifiers for HVAC units; 1710 individual desks to allow cohort trainings while maintaining required social distancing for in-person instruction; a Crisis Go Safety iPass system to facilitate documentation and contact tracing efforts; and the necessary equipment for Health Screenings. All purchases are funded by the CARES 2020 Act.
Chief Business Official Robert Marical announced some good news. He advised that the Community Investment Funds from the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria are anticipated to start again. Being cautious, he is estimating just $630,000 for the first two years but then 1.2 million for the third year. He then presented the required first interim budget report for board approval. The budget is positive which means they can cover their current year and the next two without dropping the reserves below the required three percent. However, he also highlighted the current fiscal challenges of deficit spending because of flat revenues and increasing costs. The one-time funding from sources such as the CARES 2020 Act help in the short term but won’t fix the structural deficit caused by declining revenues and increasing costs in the long run.
The board then convened to closed session to conference with Perez and Marical on the ongoing teacher’s union (RPCEA) contract negotiations. They also finalized the hiring of an Assistant Superintendent. Upon return, they provided an oral summary pertaining to the hiring of Dr. Luzelena Perez (no relation to Superintendent Mayra Perez) as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. Her contract runs from January 19, 2021 through June 30, 2023. Her annual salary will be $152,629 with an annual stipend of $1,416 for a master’s degree and $2,835 for a Doctoral Degree. Other benefits include the same health and welfare entitlements for Certified Staff, a $200 monthly stipend for use of her personal cell phone and reimbursable expenses for her personal vehicle. Her work year will be 220 days and she’ll earn 20 vacation days annually. The district will also pay her professional organization’s membership fee.
Luzelena Perez was previously Director of State and Federal Programs in Modesto City Schools (34,000 students) since July 2020. Before that she served as Director, State and Federal Programs and Office of Language Acquisition in the Sweetwater Union High School District (40,000 students) from November 2015 until June 2020. She was also a Principal at Monterey Heights Elementary School in the Lemon Grove Union School District. Other positions she has held were Literacy Specialist, Instructional Coach, Teacher of Special Assignment – English Learners and Teacher – dual language immersion program.