The January 13 School Board meeting covered an array of topics. However, in light of the absence of two out of the five board members – Board Clerk Mayra Garza and Board Member Laura Sanchez-Ramirez – many issues the community wished to receive answers on were tabled.
Renita Armstrong, the new Board President, began the meeting by explaining that in the closed session two hours prior, the following matters were discussed: Superintendent’s evaluation/performance, student matters, public employee discipline/dismissal/release, and labor negotiations. Items discussed in open session by board members are as follows:
Superintendent Tracy McSparren shared some communication matters stating that new guidance for BUSD schools were released. Those consisted of upgraded masking for staff and extended masking requirements to students stating masks are only to be off while actively eating or drinking. She acknowledged that staff absences have been challenging and have resulted in teachers subbing during their conference period and in return working extra hours. She says the district is working on getting more administration to schools to sub. McSparren then said that student attendance at high schools since returning from winter break has been in the high 80-90%. Many community members attending the meeting disagreed, most being teachers and students who notice some classes are almost, if not already at only 50%. Lastly, she shared that they received testing kits for students after the end of break and are now testing any kids who were in close contact to Covid in school, are symptomatic, or have Covid.
With an uprising in cases many community members asked that students limit exposure by returning online. McSparren revealed she received many questions and emails asking if distance learning was in the near future. She replied with “The simple answer is No.” She said there was a law change completely ruling out true distance learning and the only option similar is virtual independent study.
Josh Childress Involvemnt
Board Vice President Richard Drowning revealed that himself, President Armstrong and Superintendent McSparren met with Josh Childress recently. They say Childress wants to help the district high schools with potentially providing scholarship opportunities related to Business at UCI. After his donation to Mayfair High School, he remains a generous and present member of the community.
Live streaming Board Meetings
The need for the monthly board meetings to be livestreamed to the public is becoming stronger. Parents have resulted in live streaming meetings on Facebook because the Board has not met the request. McSparren, however, shared that the equipment to do so will be put in place on February 22, 2022. Because the next meeting will be on February 10, 2022, this means meetings will still not be streamed until possibly March 2022.
Annual Citizens Bond Oversight
The current expenses by site in BUSD from the Citizens Bond:
Ramona Elementary- 5%
Thomas Jefferson Elementary- 3%
Bellflower High- 10%
Craig Williams Elementary- 2%
Other sights a combined 24%
Mayfair High- 56%
The Board then welcomed public comments on agenda and non-agenda items.
A big issue brought to light at this meeting was nutrition in schools. Parent Nicole Gates addressed the board saying, “Our students are not being served a well-balanced meal, often our children’s school lunches do not have a fruit or vegetable option. Many kids are still hungry after eating their meal.” Parent Katalina De Hoyos also discussed this issue. She presented and gave the board a poster her and her family made comparing school lunches between Mayfair High and Downey High, where she works. “I work for Downey Unified and every day my kids ask me, ‘mom, what did those kids eat over there?’ and we compare… and yet my kids eat less than me for lunch. Why?” The demand by the entire BUSD community for better school lunches and nutrition is growing every day. In the poster below De Hoyos and her kids show lunch comparisons by districts including Bellflower Unified, Downey Unified, and Paramount Unified. Compared to neighboring districts , BUSD lunches have significantly less nutritional value.
Carolyn Roberts, an active member of the community, commented on agenda item 2.2, Superintendent's Performance. She reminded the Board that a petition presented at last month's meeting that contained 1,000 signatures requesting the resignation of McSparren had not been commented on. The Board did not discuss the petition at this board meeting either.
Parent Andrea Moya spoke requesting the opening of the weight room at Mayfair because it has been closed since November 2021 and students are lifting the old equipment outside. Parent Silvia Jones then addressed the Board, sharing that her family had been exposed to Covid and she wanted to avoid calling the school because of the understaffing, so went online instead. “I began by going to the district website, opening up ‘information about exposure’ and I didn't find any useful information.” The district website has not been updated about testing, exposure or any Covid regulations in more than a month. When she went to the school to get test kits, she was denied. The school informed her that per the district’s rules students may only be tested if exposed at school and that they would have to quarantine for another 5 days. She goes on to say, “Tests should be made available to every student. The district receives tests to be made available to every student.”
Mayfair Senior William Silva commented under agenda item 18.104.22.168, First Reading of Board Bylaw 9150- Student Board Members. Silva reminded the Board of a petition made last month by students acquiring 891 signatures in 5 days to obtain at least two student chairs on the board, asking, “ We also request those students come from Bellflower and Mayfair High.” After his comment, Vice President Drowning stated that the Board had met once and discussed allowing 3 students on the board, one each from Mayfair, Bellflower and Somerset. However, the agenda item was never discussed further during this meeting.
Coreen Youseff, a Mayfair educator for 20 years told the Board, “It goes without saying that a culture of fear has been perpetuated by our superintendent… we have decided to fight.” She encouraged the board members to “enforce checks and balances” with McSparren. Austin Lynch, an active member of the community stepped up as well, saying, “We had a great leader and we lost him because of your actions during the largest public crisis of public education in the last hundred years” (regarding the resignation of Mayfair Principal Mark Kailiponi). He also revealed that in his efforts to communicate with the Board, they responded only on routine matters but when he questioned them further on Kailiponi’s resignation, they did not answer. The community in attendance of the meeting agreed that more needs to be done and said about Kailiponi and they showed that in an uproar of applause and agreement.
The Board withheld agenda item 22.214.171.124, Ratification of Donation from Mayfair High Football Boosters to Bellflower Unified School District because of an inspection that requires them to do additional anchoring work.
The next board meeting will be held on February 10, 2022 where the BUSD community hopes to get answers and a full board of five members.