CUSD Update: Teacher Training, Bus Service, CoSA Foundation Donation

Coronado Unified School District school board trustees met Thursday, June 23 at district offices where the board approved a contract to restore home-to-school bus services to Coronado Cays and Strand housing, and discussed teacher training supports for LGTBQ+ students.

In her opening comments, Administrator Whitney Antrim shared that agenda item 8.2, which recommended teacher support for the vulnerable LGBTQ+ student population, brought a lot of energy and voice from the community. The report recommended additional supports after data showed rising rates of harassment and bullying. According to the report, 89% of LGTBQ+ students have heard hurtful comments based on their sexual orientation or gender, and 64% have experienced verbal harassment based on sexual orientation.

“I want to make sure everyone in the community knows where I stand. I believe that love is love. And not only do I believe that, but California and federal law protects those rights and requires us to protect them in our schools,” Antrim said. “Everyone has the right to feel safe at school. This is how we achieve academic excellence.

More than ten community speakers spoke out on the issue, including Tami Sandke, who shared her personal experience with her transgender son who attended Coronado Schools. She said she is happy to know that students will be better supported by teachers and staff.

“While speaking with my son last night, he said something that completely broke my heart,” Sandke said. “He said ‘Mom, please tell the board that no more students should have to pretend to blend in and bide their time until they go to college or leave Coronado. , to be who he really is like I did.’ If he feels like that, then how many other kids feel like that?”

Coronado resident and mother Marely Ramirez said the training was desperately needed and referenced the suicide of a Coronado Middle School student last March.

“It’s one life too many,” Ramirez said. “Please take action. Let’s work together and make a profound difference in our district. We can do it.”

School board candidate Jim Fabiszak said that while LGBTQ+ students deserve the same respect and affirmation as other students, the $15,000 expense may not be necessary. He requested more CUSD specific data to support the program.

“Why is this training necessary, when the District Discipline Action Guide provides us with disciplinary action for offensive language and actions directed against the LGBTQ community?” He asked.

Kevin Shaeffer, who is also running for the school board, suggested that the training was too narrowly focused on a specific subset of students and that current data shows that all students need strong mental health supports.

“Why aren’t we devoting our valuable district resources to professional staff development focused on the major mental health and well-being challenges students face every day?” He asked. “The sign behind me says every student, every child, every day. I hope the council will take this into account.

Coronado resident and mom, Monica Piepenkotter, and Gerri Machin, who previously identified herself as the executive director of We the Parents Coronado, have expressed concerns about the age appropriateness of any discussions resulting from the training. .

“I think it’s important to think about the age of the kids,” Machin said. “It’s a confusing topic for young children…talking about what life choices might be like. It’s out of your way. I encourage you to stay in your lane, and that’s academics.

Bill Sandke, Coronado City Council member and father, spoke about the need for the program to help teachers and students navigate difficult subject matter.

“There have been comments about age suitability, and I think that’s a valid concern, and I’m confident you’re going to deal with that and get it right,” Sandke said. “But turning that training into something it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, is frustrating for me as a policy maker…I know it’s the right thing for our kids.”

Dr. Christina Slentz, Coronado Cays resident and mother of a transgender son, also stressed the importance of additional supports for teachers to help the LGBTQ+ community.

“For some kids, it’s a matter of life and death,” Slentz said. “You may not agree with them, or with me, but I hope and pray that you do not wish to see the loss of a child.”

In other council business, Deputy District Superintendent Donnie Salamanca said bus service is set to resume to the Coronado Cays and Strand for a one-year, $400,000 contract. The previous contract, according to Salamanca, was for $200,000. The current offering is the result of more than a year of soliciting requests for proposals from more than 42 San Diego County school districts and 10 private transportation providers.

“I would love to pay what we paid in 2020, but with inflation and gas prices, I don’t think we would be able to get a $200,000 offer,” Salamanca said. “We only have one interested candidate. We would like to approve the contract for one year and then explore other options.

On a more celebratory note, earlier in the evening, members of the Coronado School of the Arts (CoSA) Board of Trustees presented CUSD with a check for $150,000. CoSA, San Diego’s first public art school, provides pre-professional art education to more than 200 high school students throughout the county. Meagan McKissick, Chair of the CoSA Board of Directors, was on hand to present the check on behalf of the CoSA Foundation.

Administrator Dr. Helen Anderson-Cruz accepts the CoSA check from CoSA Board members Andy Newbom, Meagan McKissick, Todd Webber, Rebecca King and Deputy District Superintendent Donnie Salamanca.

“We are delighted to continue to provide professional level arts education to our students and to be able to recruit high quality staff and instructors to all of our conservatories,” said McKissick. “We’ve had a tough few years, but we wanted to thank you for supporting the arts in this community and for our students.”

One of CoSA’s graduate students, Kendall Becerra, just won Broadway’s “Best Actress” award in San Diego, and will continue to compete in New York, according to CoSA board member Rebecca King. Another student, artist Bella Anderson, has been recognized for her murals throughout San Diego, and Austin Lim, a senior in the visual arts program, recently received the Arts Empower Ovation Transformation Award.

Superintendent Karl Mueller was absent from the meeting due to an unforeseen family obligation. The next regular meeting of the Board of Directors will take place on Thursday, August 18e.

Melvin Z. Madore