At a special board meeting tonight, the SVUSD Board of Trustees approved and announced some management changes beginning in the 2015-2016 school year. Dr. Stephen Pietrolungo, current principal of Simi Valley High School, will take on the position of principal at Monte Vista School. Monte Vista is the district’s independent study/homeschool program and it has seen steady enrollment growth over the last several years as some families seek more flexible education options while still following state curricular guidelines. Board President Dan White called Dr. Pietrolungo’s appointment “exciting,” and said that the growth of Monte Vista’s programs was a big part of the district’s overall strategy for growth in the future. By expanding the independent study programs offered through Monte Vista, the district hopes to see more increased enrollment. Currently the school is led by Dean May, who is also the principal of Apollo High School. May will remain as Apollo principal. Plans are also in place to relocated Monte Vista to the Abraham Lincoln Elementary School campus next year. Dr. Terri Leon, the current assistant principal at Royal High School, will be moved to Valley View Middle School as assistant principal. Under Deborah Salgado’s leadership at Royal, Dr. Leon oversaw the application and approval of Royal’s new International Baccalaureate Diploma School designation. Patti Myszkowski, the current assistant principal at Hillside Middle School, will assume Dr. Leon’s place at Royal. Nicole Perryman, the current principal of Abraham Lincoln Elementary School (which will be closing at the end of this school year) will become dean at Sinaloa Middle School. Dr. Jason Messinger, current dean, will be reassigned to a classroom next year at a school as yet to be determined. Stacy Walker, the current principal at Justin Elementary (which will be closing at the end of this school year) will be reassigned to a classroom next year at a school as yet to be determined.
From a new superintendent to new board members, there were many changes welcomed in from last night’s (Dec. 9) Simi Valley Unified School District School Board meeting.
Dr. Jason Peplinski, acting interim superintendent, was appointed by the board with a 4-1 vote (Trustee Debbie Sandland dissenting) to become the permanent district superintendent.
Dr. Peplinski began his teaching career in Lancaster, California, where he taught Spanish and led the choir at Quartz Hill High School. He came to Ventura County through Moorpark High School in 2000, where he taught Advanced Placement (AP) Spanish and served in several different leadership capacities.
The Simi Valley Unified School District welcomed Dr. Peplinski in 2004 when he accepted a job as the assistant principal of Royal High School. From there, he served as principal of Abraham Lincoln School in Simi (2007-2009), Moorpark High School in Moorpark (2009-2011) and then Santa Susana High School from 2011-2013.
In 2013, he accepted the position of Director of Educational Services at the district office. In 2014, he was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services. In October, Dr. Peplinski agreed to serve as the Interim District Superintendent, following the retirement of Dr. Kathryn Scroggin. A national search for a permanent superintendent was conducted and the Board of Trustees interviewed three other candidates in November.
Dr. Peplinski earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the Central Michigan University in 1997, a Masters of Arts with Distinction in Educational Administration from CSUN in 2003 and his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from California Lutheran University in 2014. He also served as a Regent for the CLU board from 2012-14.
Two new school board members were sworn in at the meeting. Trustees Scott Blough and Bill Daniels won the two open school board seats at the November election. Trustee Arleigh Kidd did not run again and Trustee Jeanne Davis was defeated in the election.
Trustee Blough works in finance and Trustee Daniels is an officer with the Simi Valley Police Department. Both have children in Simi schools and have been active in other community efforts.
The annual reorganizational meeting for the board was also held tonight. Trustee Dan White was elected board president and Trustee Blough was elected as clerk of the board.
Brad Torti, one of the District’s four Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSA), was named the new assistant principal of Santa Susana High School. Mr. Torti is a former Royal High School English Language Development teacher. He’s worked closely on the District’s Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and several other related projects.
In other business, Assistant Superintendent Ron Todo presented the First Interim Fiscal report for the District, showing that the District is fiscally solvent for the next three years, as is required by the state. The entire report can be found HERE.
The Board took another step closer to closing and repurposing two schools by scheduling the public hearings required for the process. Abraham Lincoln Elementary School will have its public hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. and Justin Elementary School’s hearing will be held on Thursday, Jan. 8 at 6 p.m. Both schools have been in declining enrollment for several years. Lincoln has 241 students and Justin has 216 students. Closing each school could save the District up to $250,000 each year for each school. Earlier this year, the Board voted to close Simi Elementary School, after the aging facility proved to have extensive repairs and renovations required for student use. Right now, a special committee is looking at options for using the property.
At last night’s Simi Valley Unified School District special board meeting, the Board voted to release current Interim Superintendent Dr. Kathryn Scroggin from her position and install Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Dr. Jason Peplinski as interim superintendent effective Oct. 11.
By a 3-2 vote with Trustees Debbie Sandland and Rob Collins dissenting and Trustees Arleigh Kidd, Jeanne Davis and Dan White assenting, the Board agreed to let Dr. Scroggin remain in her position through the next regular board meeting scheduled for Oct. 7.
Candidates for permanent superintendent are already being solicited through the District’s Personnel Services department and Board members said they hope to begin interviewing by the Oct. 7 meeting.
At the meeting, Dr. Scroggin told the Board that the three assistant superintendents, Dan Houghton, Ron Todo and Dr. Peplinski, have all said they did not intend to apply for the position of permanent superintendent.
On Sept. 30, the board will schedule a special meeting in order to determine its criteria for selecting a new superintendent. The time and location are pending, but the board will solicit public input on the criteria.
The Board also voted unanimously to adopt a new self-funded insurance plan for the District’s health plans that would save the District between $1 and $2 million in premiums over the first two years alone. The projected longterm savings through the new plan would be even greater, said Ron Todo, assistant superintendent of Business and Facilities.
Almost all of the current benefits and providers will remain in place, but some small changes will come with how prescriptions are filled and hospital co-payments, for instance. More detailed information outlining all of the changes in the existing health plans will be given to employees later this month and October has been designated an open-enrollment month to allow for any health plan changes employees wish to make as a result of the new benefits.
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Tuesday’s regular meeting for the Simi Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees is the last of the school year and several important actions were taken by the Board that need to be reported. The full agenda pack with back up materials can be found HERE, as well as the meetings recorded video.
1. (Action Item Educational Services 3.1) The Board unanimously approved the District’s Local Control Accountability Plan for the 2014-15 school year. This plan, newly mandated by the state in 2013, requires all California school districts to provide a three-year goal-setting and implementation plan for each district to follow. Part of the process of developing the LCAP required intensive input from “stakeholders” in the local educational community–students, teachers, parents, administrators and community members. The eight priority areas each District’s plan must address are: student engagement, student achievement, school climate, basic services, Common Core State Standards, access to a broad curriculum, parent involvement and other student outcomes. The LCAP is required before any school district receives funding from the state. More information about the LCAP and the final plan are found HERE.
2. (Action Item Educational Services 3.2) The Board voted 4-1 with Trustee Debbie Sandland dissenting to close Simi Elementary School in the 2015-2016 school year. The school has been operating independently at the Mountain View Elementary campus since February when the Board agreed to close the campus because of safety concerns affecting the entire property. Over the last few weeks, the District began consolidating some logistics. Simi Elementary Principal Kate Snowden was reassigned to Wood Ranch Elementary and Mountain View Elementary Principal Jenny Goldman will oversee both schools this year with the assistance of a dean. Simi Elementary students will continue to be bussed to the Mountain View campus as requested.
The vote also included the Board’s directive that a community-based committee be created to oversee the preservation and future use of the historic property. The front/main building of the Simi Elementary campus was the oldest operating building in the city of Simi Valley, but repairs needed to seismically retrofit were estimated at $6.3 million from quotes obtained a couple of years ago. Additionally, the cost to upgrade the remainder of the property was estimated at up to $4.3 million, again from quotes obtained a couple of years ago.
Closing the campus is estimated to save the District between $350,000 and $400,000 the first year and if the property is repurposed, that estimate drops to $200,000 to $250,000 annually. In 2013-14, about 235 students were enrolled in the school. For 2014-15, about 109 students are expected to remain in Simi Elementary School. More information documenting the maintenance issues at the campus can be found HERE.
3. (Action Item Business & Facilities 5.2) The Board unanimously approved the District’s 2014-2015 proposed budget. With expected revenue of $142 million and expected expenses at $144 million, the District will make up the difference through surplus reserves remaining from the 2013-2014 budget year, leaving a surplus after reserves are accounted for of about $411,000 at the end of 2014-2015. The next two year’s budget estimates also project small surpluses.
Declining enrollment continues to be a factor in the budget with an estimated student loss of 418 students for a projected enrollment districtwide of 17,935 students. There are also increases in some employee health benefits, including a 11.54 percent increase in PPO coverage and a 3.08 percent increase in Blue Cross HMO coverage. To help balance the budget, employees will now pay for some of the medical coverage provided to their spouses under the District’s benefit plan.
But, all potential teacher layoffs–38 total–were rescinded because of the overwhelming response to the District’s early retirement incentive plan (PARS). There will still be three furlough days on the next year’s school calendar and the Kindergarten through third grade class size will be reduced to 26:1.
This is only the preliminary budget and the Board will once again be asked to review a revised budget after the State Legislature and Governor approve a state budget. For more specific information about the District’s budget, go HERE.
4. (Action Item Business & Facilities 5.6) Related to the Simi Elementary closure, the Board also unanimously agreed to look into exterior fencing to protect the front/main building on the Simi Elementary campus. Believing it would be less visibly obtrusive, District staff recommending exploring an interior bracing system to support the walls until repairs could begin on the building, but several community members asked that fencing be considered instead so as to not cause further damage to the building’s walls. The Board agreed and staff will gather estimates and options for different types of fencing.
5. (Action Item Business & Facilities 5.4) The Board unanimously agreed to repair/replace the roofs at the following schools: Atherwood Elementary, Big Springs Elementary, Hillside Middle School, Hollow Hills Elementary, Royal High School, Santa Susana Elementary, Sinaloa Middle School and Valley View Middle School.
These schools were identified as having the most deteriorated roofs. The estimated cost to repair these roofs is $2 million and will be paid for through the Measure C4 bond, leaving a balance in the Measure C4 bond account of about $11.6 million.
6. (Action Item Business & Facilities 5.5) The Board unanimously agreed to replace the broken air-conditioning and heating units at the Education Service Center for almost $150,000. Two of the four units in the main building stopped working in April. District maintenance staff will install the new units, which are expected to provide better energy efficiency.
The next regular SVUSD School Board meeting is scheduled for August 5.
On April 29, 2014, the SVUSD Board of Trustees met for a Special Board Meeting-New Technology Bond Workshop. The purpose of this workshop was to update the Board on what the process would be for placing a voter-approved bond on the 2014 election. There were also two action items that the Board members decided upon. Three Board members were present for the meeting: Arleigh Kidd, Dan White and Rob Collins. Trustee Debbie Sandland called into the meeting from out of town. Trustee Jeanne Davis was absent. A full transcript of the meeting agenda and back up materials is available HERE.
Personnel Services, Action #1:
By a 4-0 vote (Davis absent), the Board agreed to rescind three certificated staff development furlough days from the six originally scheduled for the 2014-15 school year. Money expected from the State of California to help fund the implementation of the Common Core State Standards will be used to for these staff development days for a cost of $981,912.09, as is allowed under the State’s guidelines.
Personnel Services, Action #2:
By a 4-0 vote (Davis absent), the board approved the agreement with Public Agency Retirement Services (PARS) to manage a supplementary retirement plan (SRP) for eligible employees. (More commonly referred to as the district’s early retirement plan.) The board also agreed to extend the deadline for SRP applications to May 9 to allow for additional applicants. This will not affect the standing applications. The District reported that a total of 94 eligible employees applied for the SRP, including nine from certificated management, 40 from certificated, 6 from classified management and 39 from classified. Early numbers estimate that the District will save $1.2 million over the next five years.
Superintendent Dr. Kathryn Scroggins said Wednesday that there was more than enough participation in the SRP to rescind almost all of the Reduction in Force (RIF) notices sent out in March. In other words, almost no RIF layoffs are expected as there was enough participation to offset the cost savings sought from the RIF.
“Most of the people who have received RIF notices are being contacted that the PARS has been approved by the board, and based on that action, their RIFs will be rescinded on May 13,” she said.
NEW TECHNOLOGY BOND WORKSHOP:
In 2004, voters approved the $145 million Measure C4 bond by 62 percent of the vote. As of now, all of the bonds have been issued and almost all of the funds from the bonds have been spent. Every campus in the SVUSD has received some improvements from the bond, but almost every campus also has remaining projects that could not be completed because there was not enough money from the original bond, mostly due to rising construction costs and changing needs.
In November of 2011, a poll showed that there could be enough voter support for a new bond that included a modest tax rate increase to fund unmet and new technology needs. Another poll was conducted in December 2013 and January 2014 again showing voter support for a new bond.
The SVUSD Board asked District staff to further explore the potential for launching a new bond effort, targeted for the November 2014 election to meet technology needs and other facility upgrades not met by Measure C4.
As this was only a workshop and not a formal board meeting, District staff only asked the Board if there was enough interest in continuing to gather information on a new bond to move forward in the process.
The District has until Aug. 6 to file the required documentation with Ventura County to establish a campaign and election for Nov. 4. The District’s bond consultant told the Board that at this point in the process, overriding categories and estimated amounts needed for what the bond could pay for were all that would be required; the District and Board would have time after a potential bond was passed to decide on specifics.
The amount of the bond is determined partly by how much the tax rate could be. The bond consultant proposed a range from $10 to $18 a year per $100,000 of property value, which is charged through District’s homeowners’ property tax bills. For example, if you own a house within the District valued at $300,000 and the bond passes with a $10 assessment, your property tax bill would increase by $30 a year for the term of the bond.
There are about 72,000 voters in the District. The bond consultants also estimated that a November 2014 election would bring about 41,000 voters (based on 2006 and 2010 voter turnout). Passing a bond based on these numbers would require about 22,600 votes.
The Board did ask the District to return in May with more detailed information about what items were slated for funding through a potential bond and how much money was being sought. From the information provided in the agenda report (link above), some of the items on the needs list were funded from an $8 million allocation the Board made last year for technology needs. Also, Trustee Dan White asked that a committee be created among community members with technology expertise to better define a long-term plan for the District’s tech needs, and preferred a November 2016 election. Trustee Arleigh Kidd also asked about a November 2016 election for the bond instead of one held later this year. Trustees Debbie Sandland and Rob Collins supported moving forward with a bond this year.
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.
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.
Approved in full by the Board, 5-0 vote; no changes or items pulled.
SIMI ELEMENTARY SCHOOL/MOUNTAIN VIEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
(Action- Business & Facilities 5.3, 5.4, 5.5):
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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
(Action-Business & Facilities 5.1)
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.”
- 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)
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.
- Following the District’s recommendation, the Board voted unanimously to sign the new contract.
The new machines will be installed at the schools and offices over the summer.
MODEL FOR PROPOSED TRUSTEE AREA ELECTIONS
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.
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.
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.