Staffing changes dominate school board meeting
On the surface, the March 16 school board meeting seemed quiet. It’s agenda, however, was dizzyingly eventful, with a slew of human resource item making district operations look a bit like a game of musical chairs.
First, though, came a business services matter, with the board authorizing the district to go to bid for a $3.5 million district-wide roofing job funded by the 2016 passage of Measure G. The bid underscores the fact that capital projects will monopolize the attention of facilities staff in the coming years, which has spurred significant personnel moves.
The district hired outside managers after the passage of Measure Y in 2000, partly because that bond included significant infrastructure overhauls. With Measure G featuring a number of routine jobs like lighting and HVAC upgrades, the district feels it can manage most of the work in-house.
Narrower focus, brand-new titles
It starts with a significant administrative change-up.
Since coming to the district in 2009, Rick Cota has fielded two key and disparate administrative roles: executive director of facilities and executive director of nutrition services.
At last Thursday’s gathering, the board approved a new job description for Mr. Cota that no longer encompasses food services. As of July 1, his new title will be executive director of facilities and project management.
Felipe Delvasto, senior coordinator of alternative education and nutrition, will likewise be leaving cafeteria duties behind. Come the end of the school year, his new title will be senior coordinator of alternative education, facilities and project management.
Project management has also been added to the plate of Terryl Noreen, who will now boast the title of senior coordinator of facilities, project management and custodial operations. Of the three facilities staffers, only Mr. Noreen will receive a slight bump in pay as he moves to a higher management level.
Mr. Cota’s new role would have left the position of executive director of nutrition vacant, but hungry students need not worry. The role has been filled by Sumner Principal Kristin Robinson, who will become head of CUSD’s food services department at the end of the school year.
Mr. Cota is determined to make the transition smooth.
“I’m going to be a resource to her as long as she needs. I’m going to be working hand-in-hand with her as we develop a new student center and food prep area for CHS,” Mr. Cota said, referring to another pending bond project.
Sumner/Danbury to share ‘one heart’
Ms. Robinson’s departure will leave Sumner Elementary School without a principal.
Adjoining Danbury Elementary School, which focuses on educating disabled students—particularly those who are orthopedically handicapped or medically fragile—has also been short a principal since Stephen Hamilton took a mid-year retirement. Former Danbury Principal Arnie Bloom has been serving as interim principal in his absence.
In the blockbuster news of the meeting, attendees learned that rather than replacing two outgoing administrators, CUSD will combine the two schools under one principal beginning the 2017-2018 school year.
The schools have long prided themselves on an association that sees students sharing classes and resources. In fact, their mutual school song begins with the words, “We share one heart.”
Joe Tonan, a fifth/sixth grade teacher at Sumner, shared a bit of background on the schools’ relationship. The district brought the two schools together in 1997, moving Danbury from Danbury Road to a site adjacent to Sumner. The staffs also undertook lots of joint training but with many of those teachers retired, some of the programs uniting the campuses have died out.
“There’s been some drifting apart of the two schools. There’s not as many classes pairing together,” Mr. Tonan said.
The district has been seeking input from Sumner and Danbury employees in recent weeks and has consistently heard that they need more support, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Kevin Ward said.
There has been a lot of professional development at CUSD over the past couple of years. While teachers see the value in the new approaches and programs, they want help implementing them, according to Mr. Ward. In response, the district will put in place a teacher on special assignment (TOSA) who will serve as an instructional coach to help teachers district-wide implement the training.
Sumner staff has also asked for support with the increasing number of special needs students they are encountering in their classrooms.
“Sumner has had a good reputation for really being able to help kids that don’t exactly fit into the typical elementary school model. Because of that, more and more students with higher education needs are coming to Sumner,” Mr. Ward said.
It would be easy to assume the district is opting to have the schools share a single head administrator to save money. Mr. Elsasser and his fellow administrators, however, have assured the staffs at Sumner and Danbury that they will be buttressed by even greater administrative support.
“In the two-principal model, there was some overlap, with the administrators doing the same work specifically for their own site,” Mr. Ward said. “In terms of bodies, there’s going to be slightly more than what we had existing. There’s not really going to be a cost savings. It’s not being done from a budgetary perspective—it’s programmatic.”
Those bodies include an assistant principal to handle student services like classroom placement issues, discipline, attendance and counseling, as well as a part-time board-certified behavior analyst. In addition, a program specialist whose primary job is to assist with orthopedically handicapped and medically fragile students will likely see their headquarters moved from the district office to Danbury.
Another part-time teacher on special assignment will be enlisted to support Danbury’s special day classrooms, where students with conditions like autism or Down’s syndrome are taught. No additional aides will be hired, Mr. Ward said.
Rick Dutton announces retirement
There was one more significant human resources item on the board agenda. Claremont High School Athletic Director Rick Dutton will retire at the end of the school year.
Mr. Dutton was a CHS football coach from 1978 to 1997 and took on the position of athletic director in 1995. Look for a full article on his legacy in a future edition of the COURIER.