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.
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.
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 email@example.com, which will be activated Tuesday.