Board Report: Some Management Changes Announced

News concept: Latest News on chalkboard background

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.

Tracking Success at Royal High School’s Stadium

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Royal High School’s stadium proudly welcomes home games for the rest of the year with the opening of the new track and field.

Under construction for about six months–about two months longer than first scheduled to accommodate some project additions–the new synthetic turf field and new track were celebrated at a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday night by students, staff and parents. The ceremony was part of the Future Highlander Night that the school hosts every spring to introduce prospective students to the school’s athletic programs and honor the school’s senior athletes who have signed their Letters of Intent for college.

The $2 million project originally included only the replacement of the field’s turf and the resurfacing of the track. But because the project went out to competitive bid and came in with a price tag less than expected (about $1.85 million), the Simi Valley Unified School District School Board approved the addition of replacing the entire track as well, said Bond Manager Anthony Joseph.

Principal Keith Derrick, Director of Secondary Education Deborah Salgado and Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Dan Houghton all helped cut the ribbon for the new track on Monday. Salgado and Houghton were both former Royal principals.
Principal Keith Derrick, Director of Secondary Education Deborah Salgado and Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Dan Houghton all helped cut the ribbon for the new track on Monday. Salgado and Houghton were both former Royal principals.

“I think we saved several hundred thousand dollars by this bidding process,” Joseph said. “We just would not have had the money without this starting point.”

Competitive bids for the original project from five bidders ranged from $1.85 to $2.5 million, Joseph said.

The project’s money came from the Measure C4 Bond, which was passed by voters in 2004 and paid for facility and technology upgrades throughout the SVUSD. With most of the bond’s $145 million spent, this is likely the last large-scale project to be done on one site, though there are several remaining projects at various school sites scheduled for the near future.

The new Royal track under the rising moon Monday night.
The new Royal track under the rising moon Monday night.

Since the bond’s passage, every SVUSD campus has received facility improvements and technology upgrades. Bigger projects include the Performing Arts Building at Santa Susana High School, the stadiums at both Simi Valley and Royal high schools, extensive infrastructure improvements to utilities at all campuses, WiFi at every campus, the launch of the first phase of the District’s technology plan, which includes iPad and ChromeBook pilot programs, computer labs at all schools, new roofs, new air conditioning and heating units in aging campuses and much more.

“We’d like to thank all of you, as a community, for passing the bond that allowed us to do this project,” said Royal Principal Keith Derrick.

The Royal field project encountered delays from the addition of the new track and the discovery that the stadium’s lighting system needed to be relaid under the track and field, said Joseph, which pushed the completion date out about two months.

Back in October when the finishing touches were being done to the new Royal field.
Back in October when the finishing touches were being done to the new Royal field.

But on Monday, with the bright green turf and red track shining proudly under the setting sun, only praise could be heard for the project’s success.

“I firmly believe that our students deserve not only the best in instruction, but also in facilities,” said District Superintendent Jason Peplinski at Monday’s ceremony. “And we now have a field…that is worthy of our students’ talents and efforts.”

BOARD REPORT: New Superintendent Named; Trustees Sworn In

the concept of learning

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.

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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.

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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.

Drop. Cover. Hold On. The Great California Shake Out At Our Schools

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On Thursday morning, the loudspeaker at Katherine Elementary School airs a recorded message telling the staff and students that an earthquake drill has begun.

With the sounds of shaking and crashing in the background, the voice asks everyone to, “Drop, cover and hold on.”

Part of the Great California Shakeout, the earthquake drill was repeated at every campus in Simi Valley, and is one of several types of emergency drills staff and students routinely conduct during the school year.

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Drills are an essential part of campus safety. The more prepared and practiced the school community is during a simulated emergency, the better they will navigate a real crisis, which could include brush fires, earthquakes, criminal activity requiring a campus lock down and other scenarios.

Every Simi campus has an Emergency Operations Plan and every staff member undergoes regular training in the plan’s procedures. The complete plans are housed in the schools’ offices in binders, and each classroom has a flip chart for immediate emergency procedures.

“Every adult is on this campus for them and their safety,” said teacher Lynette LeBlanc as she looked at her Katherine Elementary third-graders during Thursday’s drill.

Besides regular drills, each school has a seatrain, a secure storage area where all emergency supplies are kept. These supplies are inventoried at least annually. Many elementary schools also prepare go-bags for their younger students, which will have drinks, snacks and comfort items. At some schools, parents are given the option to pay a small amount of money at the beginning of the year for the students’ go-bags. Others give parents the option of putting together a go-bag with a specific list of items. At some schools, the PTA supplements the cost of the go-bags when parents can’t afford them.

Even though the middle and high schools accommodate many more students, they also stock a two-to-three day supply of water and rations.

All emergencies are monitored and coordinated with the district office. The district’s senior staff collaborates with emergency service agencies (police, sheriff, fire) during emergencies, and maintain emergency communications systems. Regular training through FEMA and other agencies is required and the district holds drills, too.

One of the biggest concerns for parents during an emergency is getting to their children at a school site. It’s important to remember that a school’s staff will do everything possible to protect their students. Here are some tips for handling a crisis during school hours:

  • PLEASE REMAIN CALM! Every staff member at every campus regularly trains in emergency procedures for numerous scenarios. They will do everything possible to keep your child(ren) safe, and they are prepared and equipped to stay on the campus for several days if needed.
  • PLEASE DON’T CALL THE SCHOOL. The phone lines need to be kept open for emergency calls. In some types of emergencies, like earthquakes, phones lines are often “shut down” in order to ease emergency communications. The district’s website, simivalleyusd.org, will post emergency information on its home page for all of the schools. The local media will also be updated with status changes. The city of Simi Valley maintains an emergency radio station, 530 AM, where damage reports and updates are reported. Please also know that students will be asked to turn off their cells phones until the principal or lead administrator at the school sites advise otherwise. As soon as it is safe, students will be able to contact parents through text messages or calls.
  • PLEASE DON’T IMMEDIATELY DRIVE TO THE SCHOOL. The extra traffic can impede the ability of emergency vehicles to get to the school, and, in certain types of emergencies, can place you in danger. Please stay at home or at work until you are given instructions from the school.
  • REMEMBER THAT YOUR CHILD(REN) WILL ONLY BE RELEASED TO THE ADULTS YOU LISTED ON YOUR EMERGENCY CONTACT LIST! It’s important to update this information through Aeries each year. Whoever comes to the school to remove your child(ren) will be asked for identification and will have to sign the child out. Never take your child from the school without signing out with the staff member in charge! School staff are constantly counting heads to make sure they have all of their students with them.

As of this year, all students in Simi Valley schools are required to have their information updated through Aeries, the districtwide computer system for managing student information and grades. At the beginning of the school year, parents were asked to log on to Aeries to complete the permission forms and Acceptable Use Policy for tech devices, to update insurance and medical information, and to designate emergency contacts for each student.

The medical and emergency contact people are especially important to have updated each year in case there is a crisis event. Each school site has staff on-hand to help any parent or guardian who might have trouble using Aeries, or who doesn’t have access to the Internet. Having each student’s information in Aeries allows faster access to a student’s information during an emergency. It’s that important.

The district is currently revising its Parent Emergency Information pamphlet and will soon release it to school sites and post it on the district’s website and school websites.

BOARD REPORT: New Interim Superintendent Named-Special Meeting Recap

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.

If you don’t want to miss any news published here about Simi Valley schools, please sign up for email notifications in the upper right hand area of this page. We usually post District news one to three times a week. Any questions or article ideas? Contact Jake Finch at jake.finch@simivalleyusd.org. Also follow us by “liking” our Facebook page, or on Twitter. 

BOARD REPORT: Regular Board Meeting June 24, 2014

Education. School, teaching and educational concept blackboard.

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.

Simi Elementary School: A 10-Year Timeline and History

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Simi Elementary School, 1947

On Monday, June 16, 2014, the Simi Valley Unified School District will hold a Public Hearing on the potential closure of Simi Elementary School. This is not a board meeting and no decision will be made at the hearing. The hearing’s purpose is strictly to hear public comment on the issue.

Simi Elementary School has been the topic of many SVUSD School Board meetings and much public discourse for several months, beginning with the District Advisory Committee’s (DAC) request in January that the School Board decide what would be done to repair the front/main building before the DAC makes a recommendation on the school’s future.

Shortly after this, the entire school body was relocated to Mountain View Elementary, amid serious concerns about the safety of the entire Simi Elementary School campus. The physical campus has remained vacant since then, pending further School Board action, but the school continues to operate separately at the Mountain View campus.

The link below will direct you to a comprehensive timeline documenting the history of Simi Elementary School’s physical campus over the past 10 years, beginning shortly after the 2004 passage of Measure C4, the $145 million facilities and technology bond to modernize all of the District’s campuses. This information has been gathered to factually answer the many questions and concerns about how the campus was maintained over the years; what Measure C4 Bond funds and additional monies were spent on maintaining and improving the campus; and how the District and School Board responded to the rapid physical decline of the campus.

Simi Elementary Timeline