Monthly Archives: April 2014

Teachers Return to Class as Students for Core Connections

Core Connections Logo

Imagine all of Simi Valley Unified School District’s teachers and administrative staff coming together in the same location at the same time.

That’s what happened on April 21 when more than 900 people came to Royal High School for specialized training in Common Core State Standards.

Called Core Connections, the all-day event featured 118 sessions presented by 95 speakers for staff to choose from. The idea was to inspire and instruct teachers and support staff as all of the district’s schools transition to CCSS in the next school year.

Examples of sessions offered included Non-Fiction Connections to Sophomore Literature, Teaching Your Students to Make Great PowerPoints, Engaging Unmotivated Students and Modeling Quadratics Through Movement.

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Teachers get ready for a class on using Google Docs with Royal High history teacher Brian Dennert.

 

The event was organized and manned by the district’s team of Teachers on Special Assignments (affectionately called TOSAs), who spent months planning and creating the event to support the arrival of CCSS. It was only the second time in recent memory an all-district/one location program for staff development has been held, with the first being in February. Another staff development event will be held next year to continue the CCSS training and support.

Many different companies set up informational tables in Royal's gym to display support materials and information for our teachers.

Many different companies set up informational tables in Royal’s gym to display support materials and information for our teachers.

CCSS was adopted by the State of California and will be fully used in classrooms beginning in the 2014/2015 school year. SVUSD began implementing CCSS in some schools and classrooms over the last couple of years and has been ahead of many other districts when it comes to professional development.

Besides the work of the TOSAs, many community partners stepped in to support Core Connections, and we could not have made this work without them! We’re giving a shout-out below to all of them, but a special thank you goes out to Red’s BBQ & Grillery of Simi Valley. Red’s donated and served all of the food provided to the participants. Thank you Red’s for supporting our teachers!

Red'S BBQ van serving up delicious munchies for our teachers and staff.

Red’S BBQ van serving up delicious munchies for our teachers and staff.

 

 

OUR SPONSORS

  • Book Source
  • College Board
  • Education Station
  • James Gonzales
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Interdealer Trading
  • Keller Williams Realty
  • Kopy King
  • McGraw Hill
  • Pearson Publishing
  • Scholastic
  • Simi Educator’s Association
  • Troop Real Estate

BOARD REPORT: Regular Board Meeting-April 15, 2014

the concept of learning

All five SVUSD Board trustees were present at Tuesday’s regular school board meeting. Held at City Hall, the meeting was aired live on the city’s cable access and an archive copy of the video is available HERE.

As expected, the meeting room was filled with concerned parents, district teachers and staff and community members, mostly attending over the issue of Simi Elementary School’s future. There were other items on the agenda that are significant, but in the interest of space and brevity this report will include those actions that seem to hold the greatest interest. If anyone is interested in something not listed here, post your question in the comments section at the end of the report and we’ll do our best to answer you there.

A link to the full agenda with all back up materials is HERE. Minutes from the meeting will be posted to the District’s website after they are approved by the Board at the next regular Board meeting on May 13.

COMMUNICATIONS:

During Public Comment, two members of the public asked the Board to spend available money to the benefit of the whole district and work on improving the district to attract more families and improve working conditions. Another member of the public praised the district for recent changes in technology and communications.

During the Superintendent’s Communication, Dr. Kathryn Scroggin acknowledged the recent deaths in two unrelated incidents of two Royal High School students during Spring Break.

She also addressed the recent downgrading of the SVUSD credit rating through Moody’s Investor Service. The rating was decreased from A1 to Aa3 with a “negative outlook.” Dr. Scroggin explained that the rating is part of an annual review by Moody’s, and while it is a very strong rating still for the SVUSD, the downgrade reflects the SVUSD weakening general fund position over the last two years and a change in Moody’s rating criteria.

“We believe with a prudent approach, the district can reestablish a higher rating in the next 12-18 months. This change in our rating again cautions us to the importance of rightsizing our district,” Dr. Scroggin said.

CONSENT CALENDAR:

Approved in full by the Board, 5-0 vote; no changes or items pulled.

ACTION CALENDAR:

SIMI ELEMENTARY SCHOOL/MOUNTAIN VIEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

(Action- Business & Facilities 5.3, 5.4, 5.5):

Background:

Simi Elementary School is the city’s oldest operating building. Built in 1926, it’s comprised of one main administration building, six permanent classroom buildings and two portable units.

In 2012 and 2013, after a series of serious safety concerns and infrastructure breakdowns in the main administration building, school operations were mostly relocated out of that building, pending the Board’s direction on seismic (earthquake) retrofitting and other modernization needs.

On Feb. 4, 2014, the Board voted to move the Simi Elementary students and staff to Mountain View Elementary because of increased safety concerns with the entire property involving corroding gas lines and other utility issues. Today the school operates separately from Mountain View, with each school maintaining its individual schedules, staff and administrative personnel.

About $2.7 million was set aside in 2006 from the Measure C4 Bond to update the Simi Elementary and there is a potential $900,000 available in state matching funds for the seismic retrofitting ONLY. Those matching funds require a commitment from the District to complete the repairs in a set timeframe and the District has only until June to request the funds. Repairs to the main administration building are estimated at $6.3 million. The rest of the campus will cost up to $4.3 million (estimated) to repair and modernize, making the overall cost of the Simi Elementary modernization about $10.6 million.

The issue has garnered support among the Simi Elementary community as well as debate over the costs among other community members.

DECISIONS:

  • Following the District’s recommendation, the Board voted 4-1 with Trustee Debbie Sandland dissenting to NOT modernize and seismically retrofit the main administration building on the Simi Elementary campus. The estimated cost of the effort was $6.3 million.
  • Following the District’s recommendation, the Board voted 4-1 with Trustee Debbie Sandland dissenting to:
  1. Move forward with the plans and designs of the remaining Simi Elementary campus. This is NOT a commitment to do the repairs and modernization, only to gather the plans and designs of what will be needed.
  2. The Board added Amendment #1 to this motion that the District will provide a cost estimate of what the plans and designs will be at the next special Board meeting on April 29, AND
  3. The Board added Amendment #2 that the original Simi Elementary campus would not be reopened for students and staff until at LEAST the 2017-18 school year.
  • The Board voted unanimously to NOT install chain link fencing around the main administration building of the Simi Elementary School campus and instead research other security options for ensuring the building’s safety.
  • Following the District’s recommendation, the Board voted unanimously to move forward with the modernization of the Mountain View Elementary campus at an estimated cost of $3.5 million. This project will include a new parking lot, remodeled restrooms, accessibility upgrades, updated utility lines, classroom and office renovations and a new fire alarm system. Most of the construction will happen over the next two summers to minimize the impact on staff and students.

SURPLUS PROPERTY

(Action-Business & Facilities 5.1)

Background:

In an effort to help balance its budget, the District has declared several properties it owns as “surplus,” which allows them to be sold. The Blackstock property is a half-acre vacant lot zoned as “commercial” that is located at the corner of Los Angeles Avenue and Blackstock Street near the Simi Valley Adult School. The District has set the sale price of the property at “no less than $390,000.”

DECISION:

  • Following the District’s recommendation, the Board voted 4-1 with Trustee Debbie Sandland dissenting to sell the property.

COPY/PRINT/SCAN SERVICE AGREEMENT

(Action-Business & Facilities 5.2)

Background:

In an effort to save money, the District has researched alternate contracts for multi-function copy machines. Following a bid process, the District proposes signing a new five-year contract for the lease of new copy/scan/print machines throughout the District (these would completely replace existing machines) and the service agreements to maintain these machines, which would realize a savings of $325,560 between the existing agreement and this new one.

DECISION:

  • Following the District’s recommendation, the Board voted unanimously to sign the new contract.

UPDATE:

The new machines will be installed at the schools and offices over the summer.

MODEL FOR PROPOSED TRUSTEE AREA ELECTIONS

(Action-Board/Administration 1.2)

This item is a fairly complex issue and has to do with changing how future School Board Trustees could be elected. Right now, all voting residents of the District vote for School Board Trustees at large. It’s been proposed that to follow emerging state law, School Board Trustees may need to be voted on by regions or areas created within the District.

Instead of moving forward on this issue, the Board has asked for community input. We’ll release a more detailed Board Report during the week of April 21 to better explain the issue and to also provide supporting maps and other materials.

Students Combat Drunk Driving at Every 15 Minutes

Kenny Dougherty knew better than to drink shots of vodka with his friend Nick Boomhower. After all, hadn’t he always been taught that you don’t drink and drive? But it was prom night and you only live once.

After getting their dates, Kenny took off speeding down Stow Street in Simi Valley and ended the run in a head-on collision with another car. Sarah Baxter, 18, was dead at the scene. Nick, 18, would later die at Simi Valley Hospital. And Kenny, when he sobered up enough to be aware, found himself in jail, facing criminal charges that could send him to prison for many years.

Kenny Dougherty is being taken to jail while first responders remove Sarah Baxter's body from the car's windshield.

Kenny Dougherty is being taken to jail while first responders wait for the funeral home to remove Sarah Baxter’s body from the scene.

No, this did not really happen. But it could have, because the students at Simi Valley High School worked hard to create the illusion of a drunk driving accident as part of the annual Every 15 Minutes program on April 8 and 9.

“It’s a really good program,” said Madisen Richards, 17. “It gives you a whole new outlook on the subject.”

Sponsored through grants and donations of time, money and materials from numerous local agencies, businesses and organizations, Every 15 Minutes seeks to teach teens real life consequences of driving under the influence without the real life trauma.

In Simi Valley, Royal High School and Simi Valley High School alternate the production of Every 15 Minutes each year. At each school, all juniors and seniors participate in the two-day program, ensuring that every student at the two schools is reached during their high school years.

Students are nominated to participate in the program, and their participation is kept secret until the event begins with an announcement over the school’s loudspeaker that every 15 minutes in the U.S. someone dies in a drunk driving related accident. Then, the “deaths” of the participating students are announced every 15 minutes. The effect on the entire campus is somber and chilling.

The students standing behind the crash scene represent the "Living Dead." Their names were called out on the school's loudspeaker throughout the morning.

The students standing behind the crash scene represent the “Living Dead.” Their names were called out on the school’s loudspeaker throughout the morning.

Sixteen Simi High students participated in this year’s program. But Every 15 Minutes is not just contained to the students and campus. Every participating student’s family is integrated into the program, creating a powerful circle of tragic experience through the recreation of the accident, arrest, hospital scene, court case and funeral.

For instance, while participating students were being made up for their roles by students from the Simi Valley Cosmetology School, police and police chaplains drove around the city notifying families of their child’s “death.”

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Sarah Baxter’s fatal back injury is being created by students from the Simi Valley Cosmetology School.

The final result...

The final result…

Even though each family knew that the accident wasn’t real, the impact of opening their front doors on what should have been a normal morning only to be faced with their lives never being the same again, was emotional and sad.

The Hernandez family have just been notified that their oldest son, Alan, has just been "killed" in a drunk driving accident.

The Hernandez family have just been notified that their oldest son, Alan, has just been “killed” in a drunk driving accident.

Families also wrote good-bye letters to their children, which the students read on the night after the crash recreation during an overnight retreat. Students also wrote their own good-bye letters to their families and friends.

On Day Two, an assembly brought together the participants, families and Simi High’s juniors and seniors in the school’s gym. Students tearfully read their good-bye letters and listened to the guest speaker, Corey Reed, share about his own DUI accident in 2005.

Day two's assembly.

Day two’s assembly.

A Royal High School graduate in 2001, Reed played it straight while in school. But in the years following graduation, his partying—drinking, drugging and recklessness—became excessive.

Corey Reed shares his experience from a drunk driving accident that left him blind and without his right leg.

Corey Reed shares his experience from a drunk driving accident that left him blind and without his right leg.

On the night of his life-changing accident, his friend was driving into Simi from a club. Both young men were drunk and after reaching speeds up to 101 mph, the Chevy Tahoe they were in crashed into some trees on Sequoia Avenue. Corey lost his right leg and his eyesight in the accident. He was 23 years old. His friend landed in jail.

“We were both victims of our lifestyle choices we made that night,” Reed said.

 

A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE AND ORGANIZATIONS WHO HELPED TO MAKE THIS YEAR’S EVERY 15 MINUTES A SUCCESS:

  • Simi Valley High School PTSA
  • California Highway Patrol
  • Simi Valley Police Department
  • Ventura County Fire Department
  • American Medical Response
  • Simi Valley Hospital & Healthcare Services
  • Dave’s Towing
  • Reardon Simi Valley Funeral Home
  • Ventura County Superior Court
  • Best Western Posada Royale
  • Simi Valley Police Foundation
  • Simi Valley Education Foundation
  • Rotary Club of Simi Sunset
  • Rotary Club of Simi Valley
  • Kopy King
  • Rancho Simi Recreation & Parks District
  • O’Connor Brothers Photography
  • SVHS students, faculty and staff
  • Dave High Ink
  • Robert Arabian
  • Corey Reed
  • Susan Cohen

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON EVERY 15 MINUTES, SEE LINKS BELOW:

Video of crash and assembly:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvN02AdjnCs

Every 15 Minutes-National website:

http://www.every15minutes.com

As covered by the Ventura County Star:

http://www.vcstar.com/news/2014/apr/08/simi-valley-high-students-get-lessons-from-mock/

On Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/SimiValleySchools

 

BOARD REPORT: Special Board Workshop on Measure C4 Bond

 

On April 8, 2014, the five-member SVUSD Board of Trustees met for a Special Board Meeting-Measure C4 Bond Workshop to discuss how to spend the bond’s remaining $17.1 million.

As of Feb. 28, about $75 million in bond funds remain for bond-authorized projects. Of that, $57.8 million is already committed to projects in varied states of progression. The remaining $17.1 million still needs to be decided upon.

As this was only a workshop and not a formal board meeting, District staff asked the Board what projects might move forward. This means that from a dense list of projects suggested, the board would remove those projects it didn’t want to consider. There was no commitment made by the Board to move forward with any of these projects; only direction to staff to gather more information from staff about each project’s costs and needs.

The projects for consideration totaled about $28.7 million with Simi Elementary School’s projects adding almost $10.6 million. The total of all the projects under consideration is $39.3 million.

The list of projects and potential costs is linked HERE. You’ll find it on page 3 of the meeting agenda. From that list, the board removed proposed improvements to the Education Service Center (District office) for $2.9 million. All other projects remain for consideration.

The Board members discussed the history behind the unfinished Measure C4 bond projects. For several years at the start of the bond, there was a boom in public school bonds and modernization projects throughout California. As a result, construction costs rose substantially, making many of the originally planned projects throughout the district’s schools too expensive to complete. At that time the Board prioritized projects that solved health and safety concerns and upgraded technology. Every campus was left with projects that were not completed.

The Board indicated that when they continue considering the listed projects that they will likely take the same approach and place a higher priority on those projects that are needed for health and safety concerns, such as the roofs at eight school sites, refurbishing the HVAC systems at several schools and concrete pavement repairs and improvements.

Public Comment:

Nine people commented publicly at the meeting. Seven were in support of allocating remaining Measure C4 bond money to Simi Elementary School’s improvements. One speaker, speaking as a member of the ICOC, asked that the board consider all of the projects NOT completed from the bond due to increased construction costs in the bond’s early days which caused some projects to be taken off of those schools’ lists. And one speaker, a teacher from Royal High School, asked for the completion of a student patio at Royal High School. This project is listed for consideration.

Simi Elementary concerns:

While the Board was not making any decisions about Simi Elementary’s future, trustees did ask District staff to obtain a more accurate cost for the repairs needed at the school. Also, staff was asked to provide the process for transitioning an elementary school into a magnet model, following one of the suggestions to transform Simi El into a performing arts/technology magnet elementary school.

The next regular SVUSD Board Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 15 at City Hall. Closed session starts at 5:30 p.m. and open session will begin at 6:30 p.m. The full agenda and back up materials will be posted to the District’s website by Friday afternoon.