VSALEXIQUE – The next Calexico Unified School District superintendent will need to successfully navigate change and uncertainty, be trustworthy and of integrity, and possess a positive track record for running a school district with similar demographics.
Additionally, it is hoped that this individual will help resolve contentious ongoing contract negotiations with the teachers’ union, strengthen ties with the board, and prioritize academic, safety, and support services for all students.
These attributes, and more, represent the collective desires of district stakeholders who were recently interviewed and whose feedback was compiled into a consulting firm’s report as part of the ongoing search for a permanent superintendent.
The findings of the report were presented by Education Support Services consultant Gary Rutherford to the District Council at its regular meeting on Thursday 14 April.
The presentation came as members of Associated Calexico Teachers and their supporters gathered outside Cesar Chavez Elementary School, where the meeting took place. At one point, as the council adjourned behind closed doors and marched from the school auditorium to another building, the crowd of teachers present repeatedly chanted “Strike, strike, strike.”
A second mediation session between the district and the union early in the week of April 11 resulted in no resolution to the contract disputes that have now dragged on for several months.
As concerning as the current contract dispute is for ACT members, longtime Calexico Unified Elementary School teacher Bob Nelson said it doesn’t bode well for future contract negotiations either.
“We’re getting this settlement, we’re not done,” Nelson said before the start of Thursday’s board meeting. “What about the next two or three years? Negotiations here at Calexico are far from over.
Sharing Superintendent Search Survey Results
Other findings that emerged during the stakeholder engagement process facilitated by Education Support Services were that local participants’ responses to a range of questions were not as disparate from one another. others whom Rutherford of ESS said he had occasionally encountered.
On occasion, it’s not uncommon for stakeholders in a surveyed school district to offer such varied characterizations of their district’s situation that they seem to be talking about completely different entities, Rutherford said. This is not the case with Calexico.
“I will tell you that despite the challenges you face, every band we spoke to knew they were talking about Calexico,” he said. “And I think they’ve charted a very clear course.”
Yet, as Rutherford acknowledged during his presentation, the path forward for the district comes with its challenges. Not the least of which is resolving its protracted contract negotiations with the Associated Calexico Teachers union and repairing the relationship between the district executive cabinet and its board of directors.
“It’s no secret that there have been conflicts and challenges between the board and management, and the community has recognized that as a goal,” Rutherford said. “And there are clearly strained working relationships that have been tested over the past year.”
The report’s findings, titled “Voices of Calexico Stakeholders,” also had some positive highlights.
According to those interviewed, the district has a rich history and a proud tradition of success for its alumni. Many of its teachers and staff had attended school in Calexico and now have children and grandchildren enrolled in the district as well. And a deep appreciation exists for its talented and committed workforce.
The survey, which the Cerritos-based company conducted online and through focus groups and one-on-one interviews, is a preliminary step in the company’s efforts to provide the District Council with a roadmap who will help him in his search for a permanent superintendent.
“Our goal is to kind of hold up a mirror to the community and share with you what we found reflected, for your consideration,” Rutherford told the board.
Currently, Dr. Brian Thurman, assistant superintendent of human resources and risk management for the district, serves as the acting superintendent. A resolution to discuss and possibly approve Thurman’s employment contract with the district was on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting, but was tabled.
He replaced former superintendent Carlos Gonzales, who resigned on March 31 and whose contract was due to expire on June 30 after a majority of the board voted in November not to renew it. Gonzales has since been hired as the associate superintendent of the Imperial County Office of Education.
The stakeholder survey compiled feedback from 292 online respondents and more than 90 others through focus groups, email correspondence and in-person meetings, including with board members. ‘administration.
Based on information provided by stakeholders, Education Support Services will draft a profile of the ideal district superintendent candidate and submit it to the board on Monday, April 18 to assist in the selection process. The application period for the position also ends on the same day.
On April 25, Education Support Services will provide the District Council with a confidential classified analysis of the nominees along with its supporting rationale. The board is set to convene for a special meeting on April 28, where it will decide behind closed doors which candidates to invite for in-person interviews.
These confidential interviews will be scheduled for May 14 and 15, according to Rutherford’s presentation.
Following the conclusion of the presentation, council adjourned in camera. As they exited the auditorium of Cesar Chavez Elementary where the meeting was being held and made their way to a nearby building, the crowd of ACT members present began chanting “Strike, strike, strike” at several occasions.
Failure of the second round of mediation; Ongoing investigation
Chants by district teachers and others in attendance to support them reflect the growing frustration of faculty members who have worked without a contract for more than two years and have not received a cost of living adjustment for nearly five years.
Although a state-appointed mediator was unable to reach an agreement between the two parties after an impasse in contract negotiations was declared in late October at the request of the district, this mediator has again met with the two sides for further negotiations, but to no avail, ACT President Xavier Rodriguez said during a break at Thursday’s board meeting.
Those most recent negotiations took place over two days earlier in the week, while the fact-finding portion of the contract dispute is still ongoing. The current standoff could end if both sides accept the investigative panel’s eventual recommendation.
If both parties reject the recommendation of the inquiry process, the district may impose its final and final offer. The proposal would offer ACT members a 20.5% pay scale increase, along with a total off-schedule payout of 3%, under a contract spanning the 2017-18 to 2021 school years. -22.
If the district took such action, the teachers’ union would have the legal right to strike. The strike decision would also require the union to notify the district, so it can prepare for the eventuality.
“The goal is to try to come to some sort of resolution,” ACT president Rodriguez said. “Whether we go on strike or not, we still have to negotiate.”
Faculty members have long argued that the district has the funds to increase the proposed salary increases. Currently, teachers in the district are among the lowest paid in the valley, making it difficult to retain and recruit experienced teachers, ACT members said.
The district has also proposed placing a $21,500 cap on the amount of money it spends on a teacher’s annual health benefits, which the teachers’ union also opposes.
Contentious contract negotiations still appeared to have been part of the eight years Roswen Partida, a second-grade independent studies teacher at Rockwood Elementary, was employed by CUSD.
Although a strike would present financial hardship for her household, especially as the price of gas and consumer goods continue to rise, Partida said she was prepared to do so in order to “fight for what is just”.
“I think most teachers are ready to do that,” she said before the board meeting began.
About 10 years ago, the district spent about $24 million of its $72 million council-approved operating budget on teacher salaries, recalled Joong Kim, a former board member of the CUSD, during its public comment session.
This school year, teachers received about $44 million of the district’s projected $185 million in revenue, said Kim, who used public records from the California Department of Education to back up her claim and blame the advice to dismantle the local education system.
As part of the Education Support Services Stakeholder Engagement, he had asked his respondents how they would describe the quality of education in the Calexico Unified School District, pre-pandemic.
About 19% rated it as above average, and 52% rated it as average. Some 22% rated it as below average, while almost 7% rated it as mediocre.
“So there wasn’t a strong rating of excellence,” said ESS consultant Rutherford.