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April 2021 Vol. 27, 4
California solidifies school reopening plan
Efforts to reopen schools will be further boosted by the signing of the American Rescue Plan
students with mask sit at attention in class
Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 5 signed Assembly Bill 86, also known as the school reopening bill, to incentivize the resumption of on-campus instruction by April 1. AB 86 melded elements of the Governor’s Safe Schools for All Plan and the Legislature’s Safe and Open Schools Act with new components that respond to concerns raised by CSBA and others.

Those concerns were discussed by board members, superintendents and CSBA staff in a March 9 webinar separating fact from fiction in the details of the bill and highlighting the efforts that were underway to reopen campuses well before the Governor signed AB 86. Participants also considered the benefits of the legislation, new hurdles it creates and issues it fails to address.

young girl sits at laptop
Cases of child abuse rose significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic while reports decreased. Ahead of Child Abuse Prevention Month, a webinar hosted by CSBA Business Affiliate Keenan & Associates spread awareness on the issue.
What will governing board meetings look like after the pandemic?
A case for updating the Brown Act
In March 2020, as many schools were forced to close and begin distance learning in response to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed executive orders suspending portions of the Brown Act to permit governing boards of school districts and county offices of education to meet virtually to conduct the business of the board while allowing the public to observe the deliberations and participate remotely.

The executive orders authorized governing boards to hold public meetings via teleconference during the pandemic without having to comply with restrictive Brown Act requirements such as having at least some members of the board physically present at a specific location.

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Chief Information Officer:
Troy Flint |

Managing Editor:
Kimberly Sellery |

Marketing Director:

Serina Pruitt |

Staff Writers and Contributors:
Alisha Kirby |
Heather Kemp |
Mike Ambrose |

Graphic Design Manager:
Kerry Macklin |

Senior Graphic Designer:
Mauricio Miranda |

Suzanne Kitchens | Pleasant Valley SD

Susan Heredia | Natomas USD

Vice President:
Susan Markarian | Pacific Union ESD

Immediate Past President:
Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez | Azusa USD

CEO & Executive Director:
Vernon M. Billy

The California School Boards Association is the essential voice for public education. We inspire our members to be knowledgeable leaders, extraordinary governance practitioners and ardent advocates for all students.

California School News (ISSN 1091-1715) is published 11 times per year by the California School Boards Association, Inc., 3251 Beacon Blvd., West Sacramento, CA 95691. 916-371-4691. $4 of CSBA annual membership dues is for the subscription to California School News. The subscription rate for each CSBA nonmember is $35. Periodicals postage paid at West Sacramento, CA and at additional mailing office. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to California School News, 3251 Beacon Blvd., West Sacramento, CA 95691.

News and feature items submitted for publication are edited for style and space as necessary.

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President’s Message: Suzanne Kitchens
Fighting anti-Asian sentiment: an unheralded equity issue
The past 12 months have been some of the most trying in modern American history. It was nearly one year ago that a country struggling to combat a pandemic and adapt to the upheaval of everyday life, experienced a second shock following George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police. The gruesome footage of Floyd’s death sparked worldwide demonstrations and a national dialogue about race and equity. While protests flooded the streets of major cities and dominated the airwaves, incidents of violence against Asian Americans rose at an alarming rate while remaining mostly under the radar.

On March 16, the nation was forced to pay attention when the hateful rhetoric, harassment and assaults against Asian Americans culminated in the murder of eight people, including six women of Asian descent in Atlanta, Georgia.

SBE approves Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, federal assessment waivers
State board applies for full range of assessment flexibilities offered by Biden administration
Illustration of a group of people that are all ethnicities

The State Board of Education met virtually March 16–18 to discuss a number of big-ticket items that drew passionate debate from the public regarding the final adoption of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, waivers from federal assessment requirements and more.

Board President Linda Darling-Hammond expressed hope that the state was beginning to turn a corner with the rapid administration of COVID-19 vaccines and momentum building across the state in reopening schools.

Governance corner
Practical tips from our MIG faculty
Identifying your board’s unity of purpose

Governing bodies work most effectively when they establish a rational and purposeful framework to focus and guide their efforts. One of the most important things we do as a governance team is identify our “unity of purpose.” What is this, and how is it different than a mission and vision? A unity of purpose is a clear and unambiguous purpose, which can be a written statement or shared understanding, that becomes the inspiration for all efforts, and the lens through which those efforts are viewed. The unity of purpose is an all-embracing sense of what the organization is, what it stands for and how the governance team functions.

The unity of purpose is the umbrella under which the board’s mission and vision live. The vision determines where we are going, and the mission provides the plan for how we will arrive at our destination. A strong unity of purpose conveys the values that guide behavior, defines the character of relationships, and frames the style and culture of the organization. It represents the overarching goal that transcends individual agendas and special interests.

Legislative Action Week lets board members advocate virtually
Board members contribute crucial voices that advocate for their local educational agency needs

More than 370 board members and superintendents representing school districts and county offices of education across the state came together March 15–19 for CSBA’s Legislative Action Week to meet with their state senators and assemblymembers — all from the comfort of their own homes and offices.

“No one will advocate for us unless we are also willing to do the work of advocating for ourselves,” said Lori Cunningham, a Cupertino Union School District school board member. “They need to hear the firsthand stories and real-world implications of the decisions they are making in Sacramento.”

Environmental education after a year of fires, COVID and virtual learning
Board policy can promote instruction in environmental literacy
Drawing of Earth before and after Covid
Earth Day always provides a good opportunity to revisit educational goals related to the environment — and this is especially so this year. A convergence of factors over the past year has highlighted the urgency — and promise — of environmental education. A record fire season has reminded us of the critical need for environmental literacy. The COVID era has sparked new interest in outdoor learning opportunities. And a year behind computer screens has left students in sore need of the type of hands-on, real-world learning that environmental education provides. For all these reasons, now is a good time for school boards to set expectations with respect to environmental education.
Rapid COVID-19 tests a potential tool in safely returning to campuses
Test results are reliable, delivered in 15 minutes and a fraction of the cost of PCR tests
The California Department of Education explored how rapid COVID-19 tests are a tool that can aid in the safe reopening schools during a March 10 webinar. The event focused on the use of Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW tests, which deliver results in 15 minutes and cost just $5 each.

A pilot program on the testing strategy and how it prevents the spread of the disease is currently taking place in 11 school districts across the state. The tests will also be used at the three State Special Schools, where students often reside for the duration of the week.

Nominations open for 2022 CSBA Officers
President-elect and Vice President nominations accepted through Tuesday, June 1
The CSBA Nominating Committee encourages CSBA members to participate in this year’s election process for the offices of CSBA Vice President and President-elect. The following criteria will be used to evaluate potential officer candidates.
A CSBA leader:
  • Communicates effectively on behalf of public education and, as the face of CSBA, advocates CSBA’s vision, mission and governance structure.
  • Leads successfully in the face of extreme change and challenges.
  • Demonstrates advocacy for and knowledge of the diverse educational, social and emotional needs of all students throughout the state through the lens of equity.
Tips for spotting signs of abuse during distance learning
Spreading awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month may be more important than ever this April
Person leaning on their elbow and using a laptop in bed in a dark room
Cases of child abuse rose significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic while reports decreased, but there are strategies teachers and school officials can use to identify the signs, even in virtual learning, according to a recent webinar hosted by CSBA Business Affiliate Keenan & Associates, which can be viewed here at

The event featured presenters from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California. Focused primarily on internet crimes against children, federal prosecutors Mira Chernick and Michael D. Anderson gave an overview of the situation and offered advice to educators on how to spot and report abuse remotely as well as tips on prevention.

“Traditionally, about a fifth of the reports of child sexual abuse are made by educators,” Anderson said. “It’s really valuable to make sure that even in the online environment, we’re still getting good reports and educators know how to make those reports effectively.”

CSBA’s Climate Change Task Force provides resources for LEAs
Task force emphasizes the importance of listening to student voices
Over the past six years, wildfires have devastated much of California and resulted in learning disruptions for hundreds of thousands of students. According to CalMatters, before the 2015–16 school year, no California school had reported losing 15 days or more to wildfires. Since then, closures of that duration and longer have happened at more than 70 California schools. In addition, wildfires create billowing smoke that can spread for miles, leading to school closures far from the site of the fire. In November 2019, hazardous air quality from the Camp and Woolsey fires resulted in the closure of schools in 180 school districts at some point that month.

Wildfires are not the only environmental hazard affecting students today, of course. Research shows that climate change has disparate impacts on low-income communities, communities of color and other vulnerable populations, who are less likely to have the resources and capacity to prepare for and recover from extreme climate events and issues such as poor air and water quality.

California’s Black students suspended at far higher rates than their peers
Suspension rate for Black students is more than 2.5 times higher than state average
A student and their parent in a classroom
While the average statewide suspension rate during the 2018–19 academic year was 3.5 percent in public schools, the average rate for African American students was 9.1 percent — higher than any other racial group, according to a recently published report by the Black Minds Matter Coalition.

“This rate is 2.6 times higher than the statewide average and should serve as a clarion call to educators and policymakers alike,” according to “Suspending Our Future: How Inequitable Disciplinary Practices Disenfranchise Black Kids In California’s Public Schools.”

Experts say assessments are due for an overhaul
Report recommends assessments must be contextualized this year and make recommendations for improving equity future tests
Experts say assessments are due for an overhaul
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced school districts and policymakers to innovate at warp speed when it comes to the use of technology and personalized learning in education, community outreach, development of wraparound services and more. That same flexibility and openness to change should be applied to student assessments, according to a new report.

The report, Educational Assessments in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond, is based on an online roundtable convened by the National Academy of Education that featured scholars, policy leaders and educators discussing the “how” and “why” of testing in both the special circumstances of 2021 and beyond. Panelists concluded that while most people agree that critical data is needed to measure academic knowledge, there are a number of issues with assessments — including how tests are administered and how scores are used — that continue to afflict education systems and students.

Riverside and San Bernardino County Boards pass resolution UN vision on universal human rights
The Riverside and San Bernardino County Boards of Education together pledged to embrace diversity and support all students when they passed a joint resolution in March commemorating the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The day observes what happened on March 21, 1960, in Sharpeville, South Africa, when police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid pass-laws.

Riverside CBOE President Bruce Dennis, and San Bernardino CBOE President Ken Larson, described in a joint statement the resolution’s purpose. “Our goal as non-partisan board members is to bring us together and give our communities the support they need in education and future career opportunities,” wrote Dennis and Larson. “In our conversations, we were searching for something that would allow us to be able to learn from history, and together support a resolution that had the essence of our vision.”

New CCBE board members take on dual role
When the annual CSBA Delegate Assembly elections occur, county board members who run are committing to an additional responsibility. If elected, not only do they represent the county boards in their region on the Delegate Assembly, but they also serve on the Board of Directors of the California County Boards of Education.

CCBE is a section of CSBA and partners with the association to provide educational leadership while serving the unique needs of all county boards of education in the state. The CCBE Board of Directors establishes the vision, mission and goals for the organization, and ensures that activities and programs remain focused on those goals, as well as the issues identified in CCBE’s Policy Platform.

Trinity County trauma-sensitive alternative school wins CCBE Apple for Excellence Award

Trinity County in Northern California is so rural that it doesn’t even have a stop light. But what it does have is an award-winning, comprehensive alternative school serving at-promise K-12 students who need a second chance to succeed.

Operated by the Trinity County Office of Education, the R.I.S.E. Academy is this year’s winner of the CCBE Apple for Excellence Award. The award recognizes outstanding programs administered by county offices of education reflecting the depth and breadth of a county education program necessary to address students’ changing needs. The award is given to the top county office of education program that is a winner of the CSBA Golden Bell Award.

UpcomingEvents info: 800-266-3382
Attention: All in-person CSBA events are cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. For more information about events, visit
Virtual Events
July 16–17
MIG Course 2: Student Learning & Achievement/Policy & Judicial Review
July 26–28
MIG Course 1: Foundations of Effective Governance/Setting Direction 
August 6–7
MIG Course 3: School Finance
August 19–21
MIG COE Course 1: Foundations of Effective Governance/Setting Direction
August 20–21
MIG Course 4: Human Resources/Collective Bargaining
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Thanks for reading our April 2021 newsletter!