The San Ramon Valley Unified School District's Board of Education convened for its first meeting of the year Tuesday, resolving to combat issues that had built up over the course of 2010.
The board discussed various aspects of school infrastructure, including recommendations for new positions and the future of students in the Dougherty Valley. But while the meeting ended on a hopeful, proactive note, it started off with a very somber speech from a district employee.
Rancho Romeo Elementary PE teacher BJ Byrd addressed the board, pleading for action after being the victim of a hate crime last Monday. A student scrawled an offensive, explicative-riddled message on her equipment locker that referenced both her name and sexual orientation which was meant to "hurt and question who I am and what I stand for."
"This has changed the fabric of who I am," Byrd said, occasionally sobbing. Byrd's chief complaint was that no one from the district contacted her about the incident until Friday, despite having filed a report with the Sheriff. Byrd said she felt like her colleagues didn't know how to handle the situation.
"As a district, I'm disappointed," she said. "To think that who I'm employed by wasn't willing to stand up and rally around me is a shame."
As Byrd encouraged the board to train and educate staff on how to handle hate crimes as "a frontline of defense," Assistant Superintendent Jessica Romero said school principals will undergo training this Thursday as part of the district's new http://www.danvilleweekly.com/news/show_story.php?id=4780 anti-bullying policy. Parents and teachers will also receive a notice about the training that afternoon.
"What you allow, you encourage," Byrd said. "If my teachers…don't know how to respond to me, how will they know how to respond to a student?"
After board Vice-President Greg Marvel assured Byrd that if the culprits were found there would be "serious consequences" and applause, support staffing reorganization was considered.
Superintendent Steven Enoch described four positions -- Technical Support Supervisor, Child Nutrition Director, District Financial Controller and Lead Groundskeeper – which the board might fill to help aid the 30,000-plus students the district expects to hold in the 2011-2012 school year.
But after a detailed description of each, Enoch said he only recommended that the board fill the Child Nutrition position, as the Food Service Fund (FSF) would be able to cover most of the increase in cost. The current structure has the Director of Custodial Services in charge of food services, with five percent of his salary coming from the FSF.
"Until we know what happens in (the June special) election, I can't in good standing recommend that you fill these positions," he said.
While the board concurred, several said the inability to fill the support positions was disheartening.
"The state continues to disappoint me, but we're forgoing things that will eventually cost us money," Councilmember Denise Jennison said.
Assistant Superintendent Christine Williams gave a presentation on growth challenges in Doughtery Valley schools, five of which are over capacity. The four elementaries were built to house 900 students, Williams said the schools can expect at least 5,000 students once Dougherty Valley is built out.
"The problem expands as the students matriculate," Williams said. "Even though we aren't experiencing the immediate concern at the high schools, it will happen soon at that level."
After batting around ideas to solve the immediate elementary overcrowding problem (including diverting students to other schools, increasing class sizes and building additional elementary facilities), Superintendent Enoch said he had been speaking with Shappell Homes and the City of San Ramon (which owns the land in question) about building a multipurpose facility that could be used as an auxiliary school.
Shappell is under obligation to build a community center and had initially planned to build one near the community college, Enoch said. They now have "serious interest in pursuing" a temporary school in a planned future park area along Monarch Road near Quail Run Elementary. The school would have 10-20 classrooms and house 260 to 500 students, depending on grade level and class sizes.
While talks are preliminary, an agreement with Shappell should look similar to other city/district joint use agreements and would include the multipurpose facility, stub utilities and placement of re-locatable classrooms.
"This would be a gift from the heavens," Councilmember Rachel Hurd told Enoch. "Please do pursue it."
The board will discuss plans further at their next meeting on Jan. 25. The Danville Express will follow this story with a more in-depth article on Dougherty Valley schools later this week.