February 2022 BUSD Board Meeting: “The board is in support of the superintendent’s employment.”
BUSD's latest board meeting held on February 10 shed light on past and present concerns and many promises for the 2022-23 school year. All board members were present, allowing them to discuss what was tabled last month due to absences.
Board President Anita Armstrong opened the meeting by responding to the concerns about school lunches presented at the previous board meeting. She says the issue is being taken seriously and being investigated, “The staff has been working throughout the year to address school lunches, supplied issues, and staffing challenges.” She says she plans on visiting the school sites in the upcoming weeks to ensure equality and quality in meals across all schools in the district.
She then moved on to the topics discussed in the closed session, mostly regarding the employment of Superintendent Tracy McSparren. The board had a vote to evaluate superintendent McSparren prior to the meeting, and although the specific votes or number of votes were not revealed, the board decided she was still fit to serve as superintendent. Armstrong spoke on behalf of herself and the board when she said they read the emails from parents and all the public comments, however, she states, “The board has studied and discussed those emails and comments and at this time we are in support of the superintendent’s employment for the 2022-23 school year.”
Those in attendance including parents, staff and students were disappointed. The reputation of McSparren has been challenged in the past months after Mayfair’s former principal Mark Kailiponi was forcefully removed from his position.
The board discussed the mid-year LCAP recap, sharing that at qualifying schools including Mayfair, they will be providing temporary counselors to increase group and individual counseling and to support current counselors. They also plan on adding technical staffing, additional COVID staffing as in testing and contact tracing, and outdoor wi-fi access.
The board shared a summary of the BUSD’s draft plan for UC A-G completion improvement grant. They plan on decreasing the cost of AP tests and employing more counselors for before and after school.They plan on adding programs before, during and after school to help complete A-G requirements, and to contract with additional tutoring services for students. They explained the importance of A-G and have set a point to host a parent support night.
A presentation regarding BUSD career technology education for students was also shown. It showcased pictures of BUSD students engaging in CTE activities and assignments. They announced that although Mayfair has 6, Bellflower has 7 and Somerset has 2 CTE pathways, students from any high school may visit other school’s programs in an after school program provided by CALAPS. The process of adding the “Energy environment and utilities” to Mayfair.
They gave updates on what's to come after the completion of Mayfair’s STEM building, revealing it focuses on the Garner Hold “Education Through Imagination” BioAnimaker Lab. This lab will allow students to create and design animatronics. The Garner Hold program specializes in theme park animatronics for Disney, Dreamworks and Pixar films. They plan to integrate technology, engineering, visual and performing arts, robotics, and health science into one phacility. Students will be able to design, build, and animate hands, feet and robots.
The final slideshow presented to the board provided criteria and an election process for a student to obtain a seat on the BUSD governing board. In a petition provided to the board in December’s board meeting, Mayfair students got over 900 signatures to add a student to the board. According to the rules to do so, the board had 60 days to respond, and during this board meeting, on exactly the 60th day, they responded. There will be elections held at the schools of BUSD where all students 8-11may vote and any junior can be nominated. The student board member’s start date will be July 1, 2022.
The meeting then welcomed public comments on non-agenda items.
Alumni and parent of students from BUSD, Steven Lopez, approached the board regarding the continual employment of superintendent McSparren, “At this time I would like to ask those of you on the board who voted to retain the superintendent, reconsider your position. Have the courage to do your job and exercise the will of the people in the community you serve. That’s what you were elected for.” He went on to say that because of the decision to keep McSparren as Superintendent, that she will be voted out in November when elections occur.
Carolyn Roberts, an alumni and parent approached the board a few times also referring to the superintendent, asking the board, “Do you not see the pain that it’s causing these kids by not having the right leadership in place?” She mentions she will attend meetings for as long as it takes, even after her son graduates or until election day if that is when the board will decide to deem McSparren unfit for her position.
Brianna Escamilla, a parent, brought an issue to light at the meeting regarding hydration in schools. Escamilla thanks the board for replacing water fountains with water bottle refill stations and PE teachers providing tubs of water after class, but some students don't have water bottles. She says schools should provide water for kids after PE class and in all classes because even though some teachers sell water for a dollar, “What if a kid doesn't have a dollar? Our children need access to water all day even if they forget it or lose it… Yes they should learn responsibility but water should not have to be a learning lesson.” She thanks the board for looking into the lunch imbalances across schools as she was also planning on addressing that issue.
Mayfair teacher Robin Balogh brought many topics to the board’s attention including the staffing shortage at mayfair, revealing that in neighboring districts like LAUSD, 8 principles are actively on campus and the principle-student ratio is 1-600 whereas BUSD has half, making it 1-900. She shares that the principals are also overworked and overworked, induced with fear culture, “Look what happened to Mr. K, the message was sent. Do what is right, stand up for your teachers and students and be prepared to look for a new job.” She shares that although the district provided students with chromebooks, there are no chrome charging carts in rooms ensuring that contract time isn't wasted, nor were protective sleeves provided, potentially causing the board even more money. The amount of chromebooks on campus have diminished. Lastly she shares that BUSD is inefficient with hiring substitute teachers, calling them at 6 a.m. in the morning and offering them $138 to sub for 6 periods whereas LBUSD pays $198-240 and can make their schedule weeks in advance.
The next board meeting will be March 10, 2022 where parents, teachers and students hope to find more answers that they have been questioning.