Superintendent Phil Alfano swore in returning and new Area Trustees at the Patterson Joint Unified School District Board Meeting on Dec. 14. “I am looking forward to working with our three new trustees and the entire board. These are challenging times, but there is definitely much to be optimistic about as we enter the new year. Patterson is poised to experience growth again, and our trustees can work together with the community to help shape our future,” Alfano said.
Carlos Fierros ran unopposed and returns to his post as Trustee in Area 3, a seat he has held since 2015. Heaven Goins also ran unopposed and now represents Area 7.
Deja Nair was selected over Virginia Melius to represent Area 5. Nair, a product of Patterson schools, said, “I am excited to embark on this new and exciting journey with all of you. This district has continued to do a wonderful job of providing our students with a quality education in a welcoming learning environment and I have nothing but great things to say about our local school system. However, there is always room for improvement. I look forward to being part of the great work that is to come and have nothing but high hopes for the future of our school district.”
Kieran Carter, an unopposed applicant, was selected as the Trustee for Area 1.
Michele Bays, Ryan Segoviano, and Amanda Lozano are mid-way through their terms which end in 2022.
After the swearing in ceremony Trustees commenced nominations for the positions of President, Vice President, and Clerk of the Board.
Lozano nominated Segoviano for the position of President. The motion was seconded and passed by a vote of six, Fierros was the lone “nay” vote. Segoviano previously held the position of Vice President. “I am eager to bring our new board together to get to work and address the issues that we have been facing due to COVID-19 and its effects on our students and staff. I want to commend our staff at PJUSD, administration, and students, as well as their families for their resilience and all of the work they’ve put into adapting to our current situation. I hope to help create an even more supportive community within our district that will prioritize student and staff needs.”
Bays nominated Lozano for the position of Vice President, after being seconded the motion was approved by a vote of seven. Lozano previously held the position of Clerk. Lozano later told the Irrigator, “I would like to wish everyone a safe holiday break! My wish is to be able to have everyone return in person safely and continue to serve you all.”
Nair was nominated for the position of Clerk by Goins, her nomination was also approved by a vote of seven.
Brittany Atkins, a parent of two PJUSD students expressed her family’s frustrations due to the delayed in-person blended attendance model. In her written public comment she told board members that her third grade student was upset that his younger sibling was allowed to return to school but he wasn’t. She said that he wants to return to class and is having increasing difficulty paying attention during his virtual instruction. She also sited multiple academic studies that reveal schools have transmission rates much lower than previously anticipated.
That thread was picked up by Alfano when he presented his report to the board. Although there have been 25 COVID-19 positive staff members since Nov. 1 there has been no spread on campus. All cases of COVID-19 have been traced by county standards and were determined to not have any connection to Patterson campuses.
Parents of PJUSD students can feel confident that the mitigation efforts of district staff have clearly had a preventative effect on campus. Unfortunately, eight classes have had to be closed resulting in students returning to virtual classes only (two classes at Northmead, three classes at West Valley Learning Center, two classes at Walnut Grove, one class at Apricot Valley). Five of the eight classes were directly closed due to public health guidelines that force the closure of a classroom when there is a single positive case. The other three in-person classes were closed due to a lack of substitute teachers, a phenomenon that Alfano said is being experienced across the state.
To hopefully circumvent further disruption due to potential positive cases and the lack of a reliable supply of substitute teachers after winter break Alfano recommended the board agree to push back the start date of third through fifth grade students. Students were expected to return to campus on Jan 4. Alfano’s recommendation was approved by the board by a vote of seven. Third through fifth grade students will now return to school on Jan 19. The extra two weeks will act “as a buffer,” Alfano said.
The board approved the creation of a short-term job for a Coronavirus Coordinator. The short-term position is expected to be necessary through the end of the school year as the employee will be responsible for contact tracing, notifying parents and staff, and communicating with public health. The board can readdress the need for the short-term employee at the end of the year if the position needs to be extended.