July 7, 2020
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May 19, school board meeting update

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
May 29, 2020

The Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District held their board meeting once more on-line, May 19. The two-hour meeting was a mixture of thanks for the past year and worries about next year and beyond. The earlier portion of the meeting was dedicated to recognizing folks to include 2020 Community Volunteers, District Retirees, and the Student Board Members. Board President Leffler Brown also reported out that in closed session, Melissa Quinn has been hired as the new principal at Lawrence Jones Middle School.

Assistant Principal Julie Synyard introduced the 2020 Community Volunteers for each school site. Using power point slides, she explained why these volunteers were selected to be recognized by their schools. Currently you could see those slides and the board meeting on the CRPUSDtv YouTube channel. Hopefully the district will post them soon on the district website at: Following is the list of volunteers and their schools:

• Janine Duensing – Evergreen Elementary

• Floyd Blaney – John Reed Elementary

• Christal Barquero – Lawrence Jones Middle School

• Brittney and Ashley Talbot – Marguerite Hahn Elementary

• Apryl Lopez – Monte Vista Elementary

• Lana Crow – Rancho Cotate High School

• Krishnell and Catherine Sharma – Richard Crane Elementary 

• Amy Davis – Technology High School

• Nikki Miller – Technology Middle School

• Frandi Keeler – Thomas Page Academy 

• Shannon Weese – University Elementary at La Fiesta

Synyard introduced various speakers who highlighted the distinguished careers of those teachers retiring this year. Those presentations can also be viewed on the CRPUSDtv YouTube channel. The board thanked all of them for their many years of service and wished them well in their future endeavors. The board then turned to recognizing Devin Deatherage and Juliet Kaufman. Deatherage from Rancho Cotate High School and Kaufman from Technology High represented their schools as Student Board Members this year. The young ladies then delivered their final reports for the school year. 

After routine reports and actions, a final report was delivered to the board. It concerned the School District’s Special Education Review. The presentation led by Special Education Director, Rachel Allen and consultants from WestEd summarized the findings of this report. WestEd is a nonprofit research and development agency. During 2019-2020 they were contracted by the school district to perform a comprehensive review and study of the district’s special education program and the instructional delivery models employed by the staff. This report highlighted the strengths of the existing program as well as areas for consideration and growth to improve outcomes for students and families. The full report will be posted on the district’s website. 

Robert Marical, Chief Business Official, then presented his monthly fiscal update and planning review. It wasn’t pretty. Although not much change in enrollment or current budget as of April 30, 2020; the projections for the future were certainly gloomy. Although exact figures are still unknown, with lack of contributions from the casino because of their closure and the projected reduction of funding from the state due to the COVID-19 fiscal impacts, a budget deficit is highly likely next year. It could be over 5 million dollars if offset funding isn’t found by the state. And that doesn’t account for likely increased costs required for opening schools safely, if they open, in the fall. More will be known in June and the board is likely to hold a special meeting to explore these negative consequences.

Finally, a public hearing on the naming of the theater at Rancho Cotate HS was held. A recommendation was made to name it after a beloved drama teacher, Mr. James Pitt. Three distinguished speakers from the schools and community spoke in support of that recommendation. No one spoke in opposition although Trustee Jennifer Wiltermood floated an opposing viewpoint. Because of the fiscal picture, Wiltermood suggested the board might want to consider seeking to sell naming rights to the theater to business interests as a means of raising funds. The board scheduled a vote to name the theater “The James Pitt Theater” for the next meeting on June 9.