The Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District (CRPUSD) held another lightly attended Special Board Meeting on Mar. 5, in the Mountain Shadows Educational Center at 7165 Burton Avenue in Rohnert Park. This public meeting was a town hall and the purpose was to afford the community an opportunity to provide input to the district as they embark on developing the next generation of the Local Control Action Plan (LCAP). The town hall kicked off at 6 p.m. and ran until 7:25 p.m. Attendance was sparse with a mix of school board trustees, district staff and members of the public. Total attendance was no more than two dozen participants.
After a welcome by Superintendent Watenpaugh, Julie Synyard, Assistant Superintendent, stepped in to give a short presentation about the LCAP process and to facilitate a series of small group exercises designed to solicit public input for LCAP development which is now underway. The presentation included an overview of the history of these plans, the purpose of this town hall, a review of state and local goals. So, let’s review the background first.
Local Control Action Plans are a tool for local educational agencies to set goals, plan actions, and leverage outcomes for student achievement for at risk youth attending district schools. You may see the term Unduplicated People Count (UPC) which a designation for these at-risk students. It includes those on the reduced lunch fee program, in the foster care program and the homeless student population. Approximately 46 percent of the more than 5,800 students attending the 11 schools in the district are considered part of the UPC. About 4.7 million dollars are carved out of the district’s budget to support extra programs and services to help improve achievement for this at-risk group. Thus, the LCAP addresses the needs and measures the progress of these youth.
State Goals broke down into four broad areas which were Student Development, Student Engagement, School Climates and College/Career Readiness. The measurements for these goals included things such as California Assessment test scores and English Learner progress, as well as graduation, suspension, or chronic absenteeism rates. Local indicators or goals included five broad areas. These were basic services and school conditions, implementation of state standards, parent engagement, school climate and access to a broad course of study and course offerings.
The feedback, public input, exercises consisted of four small group exercises. The first focused on brainstorming and sharing what was working well for the district. The next one centered on what the participants felt needs to be improved. The third was soliciting input on how the district could increase parental involvement in participating and improving the district. The final was an effort to identify what new programs, resources, or efforts desired for the district to consider.
A theme overheard in many of the discussions was why is the district struggling to get the community involved. Also, how important it was for them to be engaged. Although there is parental participation at the school sites especially for fun nights or sports activities, participation at board meetings, town halls like this one and parent/teacher meetings is minimal. Yet these things are as important in setting the direction and goals for the school district and making sure our kids get the best education possible.
The district has come a long way in the last couple of years, through some difficult times but there is more work to do. A local control action plan is a roadmap of sorts but without community involvement and input it runs the risk of not being as strong and as active as it can be. We are all busy and must deal with multiple items and responsibilities; yet, the education and future success of our children hopefully is one of our most important priorities. The schools and teachers can’t do it without you!