School Board recap: Supt. search, Valva approved, H1 wrap, Wellness update, and more

At the Wednesday, Aug. 24 Board of Education meeting, Trustee Megan Pillsbury said the Board met in closed session and instructed PUSD to begin the RFP process for a superintendent search firm.The school board announced in the spring of 2022 that it would take a year to conduct a national search for its new superintendent after former Superintendent Randy Booker announced his resignation to assume a new role in the San Mateo Union High School District. Former Berkeley Superintendent Dr. Donald Evans is overseeing PUSD’s transition year.

APT calls for COLA raise

PHS English teacher and APT’s current president, Dr. Elise Marks, addressed the board regarding ongoing salary negotiations. Negotiations between PUSD and teachers and CSEA staff ended last spring with no agreement and were set to resume on Monday, August 29. APT is calling for a 7.5% cost of living adjustment (COLA).

(PUSD Director of Communications Brian Killgore told the Exedra on Tuesday night that “the District and APT negotiating teams had productive discussions on Monday but we have nothing to announce at this time.”)

 “We are experiencing an emergency,” Marks said. “We have to stop the revolving door in Piedmont.” She told the board that teachers are leaving PUSD for better-paying jobs elsewhere in the region, citing salary numbers from the Mountain View school district in particular, earning as much as $30,000 more per year. 

PUSD was able to complete hiring most of its core teachers before the start of the school year, but according to the education job site EdJoin, PUSD is still looking to build its substitute teacher pool and currently has a number of special education positions open, among other classified staff openings. 

Board formally approves appointment of Anne Valva as new Beach Elementary School Principal

The board formally approved the appointment of Anne Valva as the new principal of Beach Elementary School. She will replace Michael Corritone who accepted a new position in Walnut Creek. She received an enthusiastic welcome by members of the Beach teaching community and by trustees. 

“I am thrilled to continue serving the Beach community in this new role,” Valva said in a PUSD press release. “Beach and PUSD have been my home for over a decade and I am grateful for the opportunity to grow and expand my support of students as principal.”

According to the district, Valva has over 30 years of experience in education as a teacher, advisor, and math intervention specialist. After earning a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, Valva started her teaching career with the Etiwanda School District in southern California in 1990. Adding a master’s degree from UC-Riverside in 1995, she later spent time with the Mt. Diablo and Oakland Unified School Districts as a middle school core teacher and a teacher on special assignment (TOSA). Valva joined PUSD in 2011 as a fifth grade teacher at Havens Elementary before moving to Beach Elementary in 2013, serving four years as a fifth grade teacher and the past five years as the school’s math intervention specialist. 

Wellness Center update

PHS Assistant Principal and Wellness Center Administrator Irma Munoz gave a presentation about the district’s Wellness Center to the Board. Since its inception in 2007, the WC has grown to serve students at PMS, PHS, and MHS and now serves as a model for other districts. It uses a “tiered mental health service” approach — providing access to drop-in appts for all students (“tier 1”), plus regular counseling (“tier 2”)  and crisis intervention and counseling (“tier 3”) . Munoz told the board that half of its referrals are for stress and anxiety issues, followed by peer and interpersonal relationship challenges, then depression and other issues such as grief, eating disorders, and more. Dr. Alisa Crovetti, the WC’s longtime clinical supervisor,  told the board the WC does not currently have a waitlist and they have had almost 30 new referrals this year already. 

Munoz said the WC’s plans for this year include expanding lunch drop-in appointments, new counseling groups, additional cooperation with the Berkeley Psychology Internship Consortium (B-Pic), and expanding other partnerships with county and community agencies. In addition to its physical space at Piedmont High School, PMS has an annex space and will offer expanded drop-in hours there this year. 

Last week the Wellness Center Support Committee held its main fundraising event, the Walk for Wellness.

H1 bond program wraps up

It was, as Trustee Amal Smith noted, an anticlimactic moment in the H1 bond program after Facilities Director Pete Palmer (“St. Pete” to many who worked with him over the years) delivered his final report on the five-year construction project to the board. The journey from passage of the H1 measure to the completion of the new STEAM and performing arts buildings was marked by unexpected twists and turns, including the COVID pandemic, extra seismic work and associated increased materials costs, but it nevertheless was completed on time and budget, receiving a certificate of occupancy last spring.

“I hope that you and the community feel we have stretched out bond dollars to the max,” Palmer said, before thanking a host of individuals that ranged from former Superintendent Booker to the construction crews, neighbors, students and staff, custodial crews and community volunteers who worked to keep the project on track. 

The final motion:

The board approved the release of the final payment to Overaa Construction for the completion of the new Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) building and Performing Arts Center (PAC), and the Board was asked to approve the remaining change orders and authorize the increase to the total contract amount. The original contract with Overaa was for a guaranteed maximum price of $49,973,479. Additional work that was outside the original scope totaling $3,034,084 was reviewed by staff, the Facilities Steering Committee and the Board over the course of construction. The final price is $53,007,563.

PEF announces $3,350,402 grant to PUSD for 2022-23 school year

Title IX, school lunches

Parent Kim DeYoung and her daughter Bree spoke to the Board on behalf of the girls volleyball team, expressing frustration that the girls volleyball program still lacks assistant coaches, access to facilities for conditioning, and access to an ice machine for the team.

A self-audit by PUSD last winter revealed that PUSD was not in compliance with Title IX and outlined steps it was taking to remedy the situation (see reporting below). At the June 7 school board meeting Title IX district coordinator Stephanie Griffin said the Board would receive another update in October 2022. 

New school lunch program has rocky rollout

A Piedmont Middle School parent called in to the meeting to highlight the rocky rollout of the new free lunch program that she said has caused many students to miss out on lunch, and asked for better communication around the new program so that families can better prepare. This year California public schools are required to offer free brunch and lunch options to all students, a departure from past PUSD practice.

Later, interim Superintendent Evans acknowledged recent problems with the new food service program and asked for patience as they sorted out logistics.

Piedmont High School is actively recruiting volunteers to help the new food services director and staff.

New student board member

After a student petitioned the Board of Education to create an official student board member position last month, the school board revised what had been a relatively informal position and now is accepting applications for the more formal position. For the 2022-23 school year, the PUSD Board of Education will appoint two eligible students (one from Millennium High School and one from Piedmont High School) to serve on the Board for a one-year term. The student board members will function as preferential voting members of the Board. (This means students can vote to express an opinion on a motion but their vote is not counted in determining the vote required to carry any measure before the Board or whether a quorum is in attendance at a Board meeting.)

One thought on “School Board recap: Supt. search, Valva approved, H1 wrap, Wellness update, and more

  1. I’d like to gently point out an addition, and an edit, to the PHS Girls Volleyball / Title IX section referenced in the article above.

    The entire PHS Girls Varsity Volleyball team + coach left practice early and attended this School Board meeting, standing beside my daughter Bree while she spoke at the podium. When a PHS teenager again addresses the School Board (as she did three months ago), asking for some immediate action items for the in-season PHS girls volleyball program to experience an equivalent athletic experience, I held my breath that the School Board, or someone within PHS, PUSD, or the district Title IX coordinator, would have sent Bree and the Girls Volleyball Team student athletes an email letting them know their student voices were heard. Unfortunately, that did not occur. Disappointing.

    Regarding the edit of this current sentence in the article: “Parent Kim DeYoung and her daughter Bree spoke to the Board on behalf of the girls volleyball team, expressing frustration that the girls volleyball program still lacks assistant coaches, access to facilities for conditioning, and access to an ice machine for the team.”
    –> the Seniors on the girls volleyball program know firsthand that the Girls Volleyball program (the largest turnout of all sports in the fall last year) have lacked assistant coaches for four years.
    Re: “access to facilities for conditioning”… no, it’s literally asking for consistent access to facilities. Binks gym. Full stop. Not just access to facilities for conditioning (though that is a request as well, and was identified in the June 8th memo by previous Superintendent Booker to the School Board as an immediate action item to hire a Girls Strength & Conditioning Coach). All coaches should be able to access all the facilities they need for their program.
    Re: access to an ice machine. It’s more than access to an ice machine… it’s access to ice itself, in the event of an injury for *every* sports team that practices/plays in Binks gym. A year ago, my freshman daughter was badly injured during PHS volleyball practice. The only ice machine was locked in the Boys Locker Room inside Binks. No ice – none, not even instant cold packs – were available to her, until another freshman teammate remembered she had one instant cold pack. This was brought to the attention of PUSD a year ago, and again during Title IX audit. I again addressed the School Board at the first meeting of this school year on 8/10 asking why there was still no ice available in Binks… and the following week, there occurred the terrible irony that my oldest daughter had been injured during vball practice in Binks — again, no ice! No instant cold packs. No ice. That’s what my oldest daughter Bree was also requesting to the School Board in this meeting: *all* sports teams that play in Binks gym must have access to ice. Period.
    So again, why did PHS Girls Volleyball team leave practice early, and why did Bree address the School Board. Well, to quote another parent, “they [PHS Girls Volleyball female student athletes] have a right to expect better, not amazing, just as good as what is provided to other sports.” Thank you for reading.

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