When Plumas Unified School District held its regular board meeting July 11 in Quincy, the big issue of the night was the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between PUSD and Plumas Charter School (PCS), which the board eventually approved.
The public had lots to say on this matter. Three speakers spoke in favor of the MOU, which specifies the terms under which Greenville High School (GHS) and PCS grades seven – 12 will share space, teachers and resources.
Supporters believe that by joining forces, students will have more options for classes. They believe this one-year pilot program will pave the way for future collaboration that will only benefit cash-strapped districts.
PUSD board president Chris Russell read a letter written by Jonathan Kusel, who could not be present to make his comments.
Kusel’s letter requested tabling the MOU so that there could be a public hearing. He does not support the approval of the MOU at this time and asked that director Bret Cook, who has children attending PCS as well as Greenville schools, abstain from voting because of a conflict of interest.
The second request Kusel made was to have a group familiar with Plumas County do the search and hiring of the new superintendent for Plumas County and PUSD, rather than the out-of-town firm the board selected.
Both requests were rejected. Cook spoke eloquently about his duty to serve as trustee for constituents and was confident in supporting the MOU, which was recommended by the 7-11 committee that met for months researching possible solutions to the district’s budget shortfalls and other school issues.
Board members voiced their concerns over some of the language of the MOU, which is available for public viewing at PUSD offices during business hours.
Concerns about PCTA regulations and possible grievance issues were also voiced. Terry Oestreich reported that its members had agreed to the MOU.
Concerns that the board would not have oversight were also voiced and allayed; it is already inherent in the board’s structure that it has oversight.
Sue Weber, director of Indian Valley Academy (IVA), which operates under the umbrella of PCS, is a key player in crafting the MOU.
Weber stressed the importance of the quarterly review process.
A joint committee composed of administrators, teachers, students and parents of PCS and PUSD would monitor, assess, reflect and revise the MOU as needed.
She suggested the addition of PCTA and CTA representatives. Weber said that the more key players at the table, the more consistency and strength the pilot program would have.
Weber also answered questions regarding the criteria PCS uses for its elective teachers, community members not necessarily possessing teaching credentials.
Weber gave assurances that all teachers were qualified and had credentials of some sort that gave them the teaching skills required to teach their respective courses.
PCS potential elective courses include welding, small engine repair, art, Native American studies, ballroom dancing, fencing/martial arts and choir/drum line.
GHS elective courses include culinary arts, natural resources, business and band.
Elective courses will be offered to students from both schools, pending administrator approval.
PCS students will be able to participate in school sports.
Self-proclaimed “rabble rouser” Mark Mihevc, of Graeagle, was opposed to the MOU. He compared PCS to the grand lottery winner, and asked, “If charter schools are so awesome, why are they so dependent on the district?”
After nearly an hour of discussion, a motion was made to approve the amended MOU and was passed unanimously. Board Director Sonja Anderson was absent.
There were two comments during the public input period alleging harsh teaching conditions and negative atmosphere created by Portola’s elementary school principal.
An increased workload, burdensome observations and evaluations of teachers, and 50- to 60-hour workweeks have left an experienced 35-year teacher disheartened and pleading for help.
A second comment was made that spoke to the many inexperienced principals PUSD has hired that lead to micromanaging, low morale, poor communication and students suffering from lack of leadership and curriculum.
“Teachers should not be victims of inexperience,” said Faith Strailey, retired grievance officer and past president of Plumas County Teachers Association.
Speakers believed that inexperienced principals felt the pressure of having to prove themselves to the school board, which led to behaviors that create a negative environment.
The board met in closed session to discuss two issues: the appeal of complaint resolution, and the superintendent position.
After about one hour, the meeting resumed with Russell’s statement: “Nothing to report.”
Future agenda items include renaming Greenville Elementary School, naming Greenville’s gym, the superintendent search report and the usual department reports including the ever-changing and concerning budget.
If statewide tax initiatives don’t pass in November, schools are looking at receiving less money, requiring more reserve funds to be spent.
The next regular meeting of the PUSD board of directors is scheduled for Aug. 8.
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