The West Sonoma County Union High School District held their final meeting of the year on December 16. Again, they were online, through Zoom and YouTube. There were around five dozen attendees. Unlike recent meetings, this one was relatively short, lasting approximately two-half hours compared to their normal five-hour marathon sessions. Like many school boards, their focus was to reorganize the board for 2021 and approved the required first interim budget report.
After a few routine items, reorganization of the board took center stage. The first order of business was to certify the 2020 election results. Outgoing trustee Ted Walker made his final motion as a trustee to approve the election results. It was seconded by outgoing trustee Diane Landry. They joined the other trustees in a 5-0 vote to approve. Then as a preview of what was to follow, trustee Kellie Noe stepped forward to kick off heartfelt comments in recognition of Walker and Landry. Among the many thanks and words of praise sent their way, notable was Walker being described as “such a caring person,” “with a big heart;” and Landry being known as “do everything for the kids.” Walker and Landry then made a few comments before waving goodbye and leaving the meeting.
Board President Jeanne Fernandes brought in the two new trustees, Julie Aiello and Laurie Fadave. Noe then administered their Oath of Office. With the new board seated, the next order of business was the election of officers. All votes were unanimous. Noe became the new Board President for 2021, Fernandes became the Vice President and Trustee Angie Lewis became the Board Clerk. Aiello then accepted the role of Voting Representative for the Sonoma County Committee on School District Organization with Fadave taking on the alternate role. The final reorganization item was approval of the board meeting calendar for 2021.
The middle portion of the meeting was dedicated to various reports. The student representatives from Analy and El Molino led off. The teacher’s union followed with their association report. All three high school principals went next. Being the end of the year, as you can imagine the reports were lengthy and full of acknowledgements and thanks. Board members followed with their own reports. By the time Superintendent Toni Beal’s turn came, there wasn’t much to add that hadn’t already been said. However, she did want to express her thanks to the District Task Force for all their hard work including looking at alternatives for graduation.
Resolution #13 Dec. 2020-2021 was approved. This was declaring the instructional method for the 2020-2021 school year would remain distance learning at least through March 19, 2021. That represents the end of the third quarter. If the pandemic situation changes before then, the board could revisit this resolution; but, given what they know now it is unlikely significant change will occur before March. They also had the first reading of recommended CSBA revisions with updates for board policies and administrative regulations. In January the board will approve these changes.
Then Chief Business Official Jeff Ogston addressed the budget items on the agenda. He presented the monthly budget update which was approved. The key item was approval of the “First Interim Budget Report.” He recommended this report be submitted as “Qualified.” As usual his supporting presentation was well constructed. In a clear, concise PowerPoint presentation he walked the new board and community viewers through the numbers and rationale for his recommendation. In summary, the budget can be reported as either Positive, Qualified or Negative. Positive means the district can meet its financial obligations this year and the following two years. Qualified means the district can meet those obligations this year but may not be able to meet them in the following two years. Negative would mean they couldn’t meet their obligations this year.
The Second Interim Budget Report will be due in March 2021. By that time, the situation may change. The Governor’s Initial Budget proposal for 2021-22 comes out in January. There may, or may not be, financial help for school districts in that budget. In February, the staffing and enrollment estimates will be known for the next school year. That may also impact on the budget. Depending on the Parcel Tax and Transient Occupancy Tax vote on the March 2 ballot, additional revenue may be forthcoming although that may not be known by the March 10 board meeting. So, a Fiscal Recovery Plan will be proposed in March, but if necessary Ogston will present a Third Interim Budget in May if significant changes in revenues or decreases in expenses are found before the end of the budget year in June.