With no action taken in the closed session, the second school board meeting of 2021 kicked off at 7:05 p.m. After the pledge of allegiance, CSEA President Christina Garcia went straight to business with an update on a letter of agreement and a memorandum of understanding that she hopes to receive by Wednesday. Garcia ended her brief trip to the lectern by solemnly acknowledging the death of fellow CSEA member John Teixeira.

“We had one of our members who had just recently retired, we lost him. John Teixeira. It’s really heartbreaking because he really didn’t get to enjoy his retirement,” said Garcia. “...I just wanted to let you guys know. John Teixeira [from our maintenance and grounds.]”

Introduction of COVID-19 Specialist

Next up on the agenda was the introduction of the new COVID-19 Pandemic Specialist, Kiran Sandhu, whose responsibilities will include contact tracing and helping out with employee testing. Sandhu has previous experience working with school districts and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Administration.

“I’m really honored to be here,” said Sandhu. “I feel like this role is perfect for what I went to school for and I love working with everybody at the Patterson School District and all the staff and students and families. Everyone has been super welcoming and I’m here to help in any way that I can.”

Employees of the month

Creekside Middle School principal Catherine Aumoeualogo introduced employee of the month, Nolan Cluff. Cluff, a technology lead at Creekside, was recognized as having played an integral role in helping staff and students to become more comfortable with distance learning classrooms and software.

“When my colleagues call on me and they say ‘how did you do this, how did you teach your teachers to do that?’ I say, oh wait you don’t have a Nolan,” said Aumoeualogo. “That’s my motto for this year, I have a Nolan...He’s always one hundred percent there. Nolan is truly the definition of what it means to be part of the Panther family.”

The next employee to be recognized for their exemplary work was Brandy Schaa and she was introduced by Alysonn Cassidy.

“I need to tell everyone about what a remarkable employee [Brandy is]. Brandy is the kind of employee that we all want. We all want dozens of Brandys,” said Cassidy. “...Another key feature to this incredible woman is the fact that when PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports) rolled out, I set up a program that would be ASP specific to PBIS, we connect with the county and we connect with the private consultants and Brandy has become the ASP PBIS Ambassador.”

Governor’s Budget Update

The 2021-22 Governor’s Budget Update was led by Assistant Superintendent Jeff Menge. The presentation highlighted the budget themes such as job creation, access to housing and healthcare, economic recovery from the California wildfires and COVID-19, rebuilding the state’s financial reserves, increased effort to return students to classrooms and increased funding from early childhood to the UC system.

“The reason that the state budget hasn’t been as impacted as you would think it would with all the shutdowns and everything is that most of the state’s revenue comes from personal income tax and most of the personal income tax comes from the top one percent which have been relatively unaffected by the pandemic, but that’s shifting,” said Menge. “You see a lot of businesses leaving California for various reasons, taxes being one of them, I’m sure you’ve heard some of them are moving to Texas or other states that are little more tax friendly, or business friendly so that’s concerning [because] you kind of build this house of cards on all that and if that starts to crumble that can really hurt the state and obviously the school’s funding.”

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Phil Alfano presented the board with a school reopening update. The presentation started off with an introduction on the state’s different reopening plans since the pandemic started, up to the fall semester when the tier system was implemented.

“That was actually something that I think a lot of us were actually glad to have,” said Dr. Alfano. “We were using scientific matrices to determine when or not schools would open or close, and if you recall we pushed back the start of the school year because we were in the most restrictive tier at that time, which was purple, and the idea being that at some point in June or whenever we get there our students would recoup about a month worth of in-person instruction.”

When speaking on the latest school reopening plan announced by governor Newsom, Dr. Alfano touched on the confusing and contradictory nature of the plan which still leaves the future of school reopening murky.

“Counties must have a new case rate of twenty-five per one-hundred thousand or below, and so you’ve got this very tight time-frame to get the plan submitted by February first, which we did, but not knowing whether or not you’ll even qualify to reopening under this plan,” said Dr. Alfano. “Right now we are sixty point six in Stanislaus County and only four counties in the entire state would qualify for this.”

The new reopening plan also requires weekly COVID-19 testing for all students and staff in the purple tier, which according to the CDPH, would be voluntary.

“The good news is we did pilot test rapid antigen testing just this Friday. It went very, very well. The test administered results probably in ten minutes each, but it is a fairly invasive process. It’s a little bit more uncomfortable than some of the other ones...I would not recommend that type of testing for children. I think they would find it pretty difficult, don’t know that it’s necessary and again the testing we did clarify is voluntary.”

It is unclear whether or not grants for reopening will be lost if schools don’t qualify per the required case rate ratio.

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