KHSD schaefer

Kern High School District Superintendent Bryon Schaefer presents a report to the board of trustees Monday night.

The Kern High School District board of trustees heard a number of reports during its Monday night meeting, including pushing the 2020-21 school year start date to Aug. 24

The school year was set to begin Aug. 12. With the new approved calendar, the school year will end June 9, 2021.

Initially, because coronavirus numbers in Kern County keep rising, board President J. Bryan Batey suggested it would be necessary to push the start date to Sept. 8. The school year would end June 23, 2021. That motion didn't pass.

By starting later, Batey said it would allow for the district to develop its distance learning curriculum, better align with the California Interscholastic Federation calendar and for students to be able to stay home longer with younger siblings who might not have childcare available.

"We are out of control of the coronavirus," said Superintendent Bryon Schaefer. "We've been trying to buy time, and now it's time to either keep it how it is or Trustee (Joey) O'Connell's motion putting it to a Sept. 8 start."

Other trustees believed teachers and students are ready to get the school year started, and it's still not guaranteed if COVID-19 cases will improve later in the school year.

"You don't have a crystal ball," Trustee Cynthia Brakeman said.

DISTRICT BUDGET

The issue of defunding the KHSD Police Department returned Monday night due to the district's budget returning on the agenda.

The board approved the budget, and there was no discussion on the topic of defunding the police department from trustees.

In June, the Kern Education Justice Collaborative launched a petition to defund the district's police force. In 2019, KHSD spent approximately $4 million on its police force, according to the petition.

Organizers wanted the board to approve a 2020-21 budget that defunds the KHSD police department and diverts approximately $4 million to hiring additional counselors, school-based social workers, psychologists, mental health clinicians and nurses; hiring diverse educators; implementing ethnic studies; and hiring restorative justice practitioners and removing police from all restorative justice models and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.

Many public comments focused on bringing on more mental health services and support staff, which individuals say will be more important than ever following the pandemic.

TEACHERS IN THE FALL

The board approved a motion 4-1 by Trustee Jan Graves to allow teachers, athletic directors, psychologists and other staff members to choose if they want to work from home or their classroom in the fall. 

At last month's meeting, when the board approved a distance learning model for the beginning of the school year, teachers were meant to teach from their classrooms. Graves, however, said if it's not safe for students to return to school, it's not safe to teachers either.

"I don't want to be part of a district that mandates teachers to return because I think this is being vindictive and or punitive to the professionals," Graves said. "If the teacher isn't performing his or her duty, then mandate that teacher to come to school."

Though the motion passed, Brakeman said the move makes the district look like "privileged whiny babies."

"I don’t have a problem with us giving choice, but then I am going to hold these people out here and administrators to the task of making sure those teachers are where they say they’re going to be and doing what they’re supposed to do," Brakeman said. "I fought for teachers to not have to have kids in classrooms, I didn’t fight for them to be whiny babies."

Schaefer said he promises there will be accountability.

ETHNIC STUDIES

The board also heard comments from Kern County Educators for Ethnic Studies, a coalition comprised of more than 60 educators from local districts, hoping to adopt a resolution making ethnic studies a graduation requirement.

The coalition proposed adopting a resolution making ethnic studies a graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2025 (implemented in the 2021-22 school year); increasing efforts targeting Black and Latino individuals to enter the teaching profession and invest in their retention; investing in ethnic studies professional development and teacher preparation; and creating an Ethnic Studies Community Advisory Committee and Ethnic Studies Leadership Task Force.

Brenda Lewis, associate superintendent of instruction, explained the district has explored ethnic studies offerings over past couple of years, such as courses in African American literature and Chicano/Latino literature. The district has also focused on recruiting more teachers of color. 

The board voted to not approve any of the proposed action items. 

SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL MASCOT

Superintendent Bryon Schaefer provided a brief update on a committee dedicated to possibly renaming the South High School mascot. 

In recent weeks, several South High alumni have expressed they would like to see the Rebel man retired as the school's mascot after its long history of Confederate imagery. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Rebel donned a gray and blue Confederate soldier's uniform, and a Confederate flag was common to see as well. Today, the mascot wears a baseball cap with the letter "S" on it and is made to look like a rebel, but not one from the Civil War era.

The committee, led by South High School Principal Connie Grumling, will consist of South High stakeholders and current students. Individuals who would like to share comments on the topic may do so by emailing southhighmascot@kernhigh.org, which will be activated Tuesday.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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(11) comments

BobPrange

The “privileged whiny babies” remark made by Cynthia Brakeman is inexcusable. How can a person with such disdain for teachers possibly be a member of the board of trustees?

I am not a teacher, but have two siblings who teach. Both have spent their summer “break” purchasing, (with their own money) computers, microphones, cameras, desks, enhanced internet services, and office supplies in order to effectively teach remotely, from home. I do not know about other schools, but the equipment in their classrooms do not have the technology needed to teach kids remotely. Both my brother and sister have spent the summer learning new software and enhancing new “online” curriculum in order to make this new learning experience as meaningful and exciting to students as possible. Both my brother and sister have been collaborating with other teachers (remotely), exchanging ideas and knowledge on behalf of students. Never once have I heard my brother or sister “whine” about having to spend their own money or summer break on this temporary paradigm shift. They, like other teachers, are professionals who only voice concern about student safety, health, and learning experience.

The “privileged” remark was appalling. My sister, living on a teacher’s salary, has been without an oven and cook top for six months. She had saved up enough money to buy one over the summer. However, that savings went for the distance learning equipment and supplies mentioned above. Again – no whining and certainly not privileged.

Teachers are professionals. Thousands of other professionals are working from home. Why should teachers be any different? Their health and safety should matter to us. There is a pandemic going on. Kern County has 20,000 cases with over 150 dead. I love my brother and sister. They are good people. I do not want them to be a statistic.

It’s a stressful time. Teachers need our support right now. These professionals are going above and beyond right now. They certainly don’t need to be mocked with comments like “privileged whiny babies.”

Martha Elias

“Whiny babies” wow...

Ledzepplin4800

This is an action behalf of safety this is an action on behalf of commerce what’s gonna happen in the next 26 days are you serious what is Walmart push this or target so they can get their sales in unbelievable shut this place down let’s get on top of this COVID-19 we keep playing people keep dying and hands are all on you we’re all looking up to you stop making that a clear picture

Boris25

This is so much garbage! If there is a virtual classroom , why not have the teachers report to work? They are isolated in their classrooms. They don't have to "socialize" with other teachers. Park your car walk to your classroom and teach. Stay in your classroom, when finished for the day walk to you car and leave. As far as "Schaefer said he promises there will be accountability". When the KHSD shut down in March, they "promised" students would have a choice of receiving a letter grade or Pass/Fail. That promise wasn't kept, because many teachers didn't grade work or instruct online and all students received P/F on their report cards. How is a college suppose to evaluate a P in a GPA for admission?

Crystalina

The reason it was moved to P/F is not because teachers didn’t instruct online. It was because the state’s mandate was to “hold harmless” the students because the transition was part of a crisis situation, and many students in the district do not have reliable internet access. Yes, they could have done as several other districts have and offered the choice, but those other districts are not as massive & diverse as KHSD.

Teachers will not be able to walk directly to their classrooms as they will need to do temperature/symptom checks at a single entrance and will share bathrooms and, especially in the case of athletic directors and psychologists, office space. We’ve all heard about the teacher in Arizona who tragically died after contracting COVID while working in a school without students. IF teachers can work effectively from home, then just as is the case with other professionals who are now working remotely, they should be allowed to do so to minimize risk as much as possible.

The new online system, Canvas, logs ever user’s time on the site with enough detail to make it easier than ever to identify teachers and students who are not engaged enough.

Anyway, your aggravation is understandable, but I have high hopes that the mostly unpaid work teachers have put in this summer will result in an entirely different online learning situation this fall. Feel free to revisit this and call me out in December if I’m totally wrong. 😄

Boris25

Open schools, 99-plus percent of the people who died from coronavirus are those who are elderly or have comorbidity.”

RefereeB

Bulls eye Boris. There is no accountability in the KHSD. What happened with the CLETS system where administrators illegally searched records and violated privileged information? Another situation: They pay 10 MILLION DOLLARS dollars for a court determined blatant act of mis-management and make no staffing changes. If this isn’t the “Good Ol’ Boy” network at its worst I don’t know what is. An internal house cleaning is deserved - expediently! This could never happen in the private sector without heads rolling. Stockholders would demand it!

Masked 2020

Just Rebranding “The Rebel” with all its SouthHigh historical baggage……. Is like some Dixiecrat wink and a nod hooded ploy…. to make something that is appear like it isn’t……the history is what the history is….. and in 2020…. dumping the Rebel would be progress ………..

Crystalina

It amazes me that it’s still around. My elementary school in Taft dropped their “Indian” mascot for a Condor back in the early 90s.

Moardeeb

People you are not paying attention. For example...Major League Baseball has all the money in the world to spend on every safety protocol and it is FAILING to stop the spread. You are going to release children into confined indoor spaces and expect them to social distance? You are dreaming. You are going to create hoards of super spreaders who are going to come home to you and their Grandparents? Oh what a sordid tale of woe this is going to be.

Crystalina

Absolutely.

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