October 16, 2021
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Cotati-Rohnert Park School Board report

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
April 23, 2021

The Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District board held their regular meeting on April 20. It was a hybrid meeting. The board and staff were in-person at the Technology Middle School Library while the public was still online via the district’s YouTube channel. Before and after the open session, the board met in closed session. This was to discuss the performance evaluation of a public employee – specifically that of Dr. Mayra Perez, the Superintendent. 

Public comments continued to be critical of Perez, the board, the teachers’ unions, and the pace of reopening schools for in-person instruction. While some praised her leadership, many saw her as moving too slowly to reopen schools given the changing guidelines from the state and county. Some thought her delays in action “combined with what appears to be more concern for teachers’ unions than our students” showed poor leadership of the district. April Garcia urged “the board to begin an evaluation or assessment of her performance since taking the position in CRPUSD.” 

Frustration was expressed as “our county is open but not our schools.” A central theme was wanting five day in-person instruction using the revised three-foot guidelines. The school year ends on May 28 meaning there are just a few weeks remaining. Nevertheless, some wanted it right now. Most wanted to ensure it happens in the fall for next school year. Trustee Michelle Wing wanted to discuss this, especially the three-foot requirement. But since it was not on the agenda, Board President Chrissa Gillies advised her they couldn’t. Wing requested it be put on the agenda for the next meeting, preferably before the regular board meeting on May 18. Trustee Mark Nelson seconded her request. He said, “we need to multi-task better.” Both said the planning for next year needs to happen “sooner than later.”

Hybrid in-person instruction just started for elementary schools on April 12 and April 19. Middle and high schools are scheduled to start on Monday April 26. Principal Lynzie Brodhun, Thomas Page Academy, and Teresa Ruffoni, Richard Crane Elementary, shared opening day joys with the board by video and pictures. Thomas Page is a K-8 grade school with 365 students in Cotati. Brodhun said 190 have returned to campus. When seventh and eighth grades start next week that number will go up. Ruffoni said 164 kids are attending while 45 remain on distance learning. Perez shared that it was a “wonderful two weeks” going from school to school, seeing the kids back on campus smiling and happy to be back. 

More routine, the district received a letter from the county office concurring that the second interim budget report was indeed “positive.” This means the district can meet its obligations this year and the next two while maintaining the required 3 percent reserve balance for fiscal uncertainty. The board also accepted the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee Annual Report for 2021 and the related Proposition 39 Bond Audit Reports for the year ending June 30, 2020. These related to the school bonds approved by voters in 2014 and 2016. The audit and committee report both indicated all expenditures from these bonds were appropriate to the uses required by the ballot measures. 

The board approved the public disclosure and ratification of the “Tentative Agreements with California School Employees Association which was dated April 9, 2021. They also passed Resolution 2021-5 which “proclaims the month of May 2021 as Employee Appreciation Month to include the California Day of the Teacher, (Wednesday, May 12, 2021), the Week of Classified Employees (May 16-22, 2021) and Recognition of Support and Administrative Staff. In making this declaration, the board honors the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified Education Team for dedicating their lives in service to promoting the success of our children and our community.”

During board reports, Trustee Joe Cimino said the “light at the end of tunnel” was coming and it was “awesome” to have the kids back on campus. Yet, he said, “I want to see the summer school plan.” He also wants to have a timeline on a new Memorandum of Understanding with the teachers and schedules for the fall. He wants to be aggressive on “how are we going to get there.” Gillies, in her comments, asked Perez to plan on having the next board meeting in person at either Lawrence Jones Middle School or Rancho Cotate’s TAG building so that the public can attend and make their comments in person. Trustee Leffler Brown chimed in with “in person works so much better.” He added that it was nice to finally meet Wing and Nelson in person.