La Jolla schools take one step closer to greater autonomy
by Mariko Lamb
Feb 28, 2013 | 102735 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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The La Jolla Cluster Association (LJCA) held a town hall meeting on Feb. 19 at Muirlands Middle School to announce progress made so far on the association’s partnership agreement, a proposed contract requesting that La Jolla’s five public schools have greater autonomy from the school district in areas of instructional decisions, governance options and financial obligations.

The LJCA, a group of parent, teacher and principal representatives from each of La Jolla’s five public schools, formed in 2010 after schools districtwide were hit hard by millions of dollars in budget cuts.

“At the town hall [meeting] three years ago, most of the questions revolved around local control,” said LJCA parent representative Fran Shimp. “Parents and educators were tired of the one-size-fits-all policies that had been implemented at the district and the state level.”

One goal that emerged from that meeting was the creation of an agreement with the school district that would allow the cluster to have more flexibility and control over its curricula, governance and finances.

“While we were researching the feasibility of a cluster-wide agreement, the San Diego Unified School District enacted the community education reform model and began encouraging us to create this document, as they, too, realized one size did not fit all,” said Shimp.

La Jolla’s cluster is blazing the trail for other clusters to create their own partnership agreements with the district.

“The school district now has community school agreements. Singular,” said Mike Price, retired Area 6 school superintendent. “They don’t have a cluster agreement yet. We’re going to be the first one.”

La Jolla’s role as the pioneer comes with high expectations from the district of garnering as much community support as possible.

“One of the things the board was very adamant about was community engagement,” said Price. “They didn’t put a number on it. They didn’t put a percentage on it. What they wanted was the group of people to engage in conversations and presentations, so the community was informed as to what was going on and they had some agreement going forward.”

After three years of gathering research from educators, reviewing state and district policies and conducting a series of surveys and presentations, the LJCA’s third survey is ready for public vetting.

“Now that all the pieces are finally falling into place, we felt ready to bring it to the parent community,” said Shimp. “This agreement will not be approved by the district unless we can show full community support.”

The survey, which will be available until at least March 1, has been distributed via eblast, presented at each of the five school sites and is available on LJCA’s website. Once the survey is completed, the LJCA will review the results to begin crafting either a draft of the partnership agreement itself or another survey if further information is required. Either documentation would be presented again to the community for final or further approval, after which cluster representatives will present it to the SDUSD for adoption, with the hopes of having the agreement approved by the end of the current school year.

“We really can be a national model with this program, and SDEA, the union, is really behind that and really wanting to see us be a model for community school reform, as is the district. This is our chance to really do something that can really impact not just our community, but be a leader,” said LJCA teacher representative Julie Latta. “This could really turn into something special.”

For more information about the partnership agreement or to take the survey, visit www.lajollacluster.com.

Need-to-know components of the agreement

The La Jolla Cluster Association’s partnership agreement survey highlights 12 areas where educators recommended greater autonomy from the district and state. A full explanation about how the district currently handles each of the following roles now and how the LJCA would like them carried out in the future are fully expanded on within the survey itself, which can be retrieved from www.lajollacluster.com.

Professional development

Would you support the individual schools’ ability to determine the professional development content and meeting days and times?

Position allocations

Would you support the Governance Team in conjunction with the School Site Council at school sites to determine position allocations from discretionary funds in accordance with collective bargaining agreements? This does not include main classroom teacher allocations or special education teachers but would include support teachers.

Filling vacancies

When filling certificated vacancies, would you support the school site interviewing all qualified applicants in accordance with the waiver process outlined in the SDEA bargaining agreement?

Special education

Would you support decision making authority at the site and cluster levels to create service models to pool resources to effectively serve special education students while maintaining their enrollment in the cluster? These service models would conform to state and national guidelines.

Assessments

Would you support the individual schools’ ability to decide which district and/or non-district assessments to administer and develop a timeline that will be followed …

Scope and sequence

Would you support the individual schools’ ability to determine courses of study, scope and sequence, curriculum, instructional strategies, text selection and program materials, guided by the state standards? The course of study must follow the Education Code and the district graduation policy. Would need a state waiver for textbook adoptions that are not on the state mandated list.

Classified staff

Given that the assignment of classified staff must be in accordance with the CSEA/OTBS contracts and subject to an evaluation process, would you support school sites to allow classified staff to remain in their positions during reduction in force?

Start and end times/calendar

Would you support our cluster having control over daily start and end times and/or school calendar?

Repairs

When the district cannot fulfill a work order request within 48 hours, would you support the option of having your site contract with a district-approved vendor to make the repairs and be reimbursed for costs?

Purchasing

Would you support your site having the option to purchase supplies, including technology, directly from vendors?

Local control over funds

Would you support your site to have control over restricted and unrestricted funds?

Priority attendance

Would you support the right to give priority attendance to pupils whose parent or legal guardian is assigned to a cluster school as his or her primary place of employment?

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