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April 2023 Vol. 29, 4

Legislative Action Week showcases power of collective advocacy
Trustees met with more than 100 state legislators to discuss school issues

Over three days in March, nearly 400 school district and county office of education board members and superintendents representing local educational agencies throughout California met virtually with more than 100 state legislators and their staff.

During CSBA’s Legislative Action Week, the association’s flagship legislative advocacy event, members brought their stories, challenges and on-the-ground experience to the Legislature to shine a light on the top issues facing their schools and students. Their support in advancing CSBA’s legislative priorities — which are guided by member input — will be critical to the success of the association’s ability to shape policy on members’ behalf.

illustration of a two yellow and blue child silhouettes, one with scribbled brain and the other with a typical brain
During CSBA’s recent webinar “Trauma-Informed Education: What governance teams need to know,” attendees learned about principles and strategies to use to support staff, students and families.
Access to universal meals boosts attendance
California leads the way in providing free meals for all public school students
Students with access to universal free meals (UFM) in kindergarten have better attendance records than children without this access, according to a February research brief released by Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs.

Among more than 132,000 New York City kindergarteners, attendance increased by 1.8 days per school year and chronic absenteeism dropped by 5.4 percentage points among those getting free school meals compared to those who did not, even when accounting for socioeconomic differences between students who receive meals and those who do not.

And those attendance benefits continued into elementary school, the study found, although gaps narrowed over time. The disparity in chronic absenteeism between those with and without access to universal school meals declined from a 5.4 percentage point difference in kindergarten to a 2.2 percentage point gap in second grade.

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Chief Information Officer:
Troy Flint |

Editorial Director:
Kimberly Sellery |

Marketing Director:

Andy Rolleri |

Staff Writers and Contributors:
Alisha Kirby |
Heather Kemp |
Teresa Machado |
Dana Scott |
Dustin Bindreiff |
Jeremy Anderson |

Director of Graphic Design & Branding:
Kerry Macklin |

Senior Graphic Designer:
Amanda Moen |

Susan Markarian | Pacific Union ESD

Albert Gonzalez | Santa Clara USD

Vice President:
Bettye Lusk | Monterey Peninsula USD

Immediate Past President:
Dr. Susan Heredia | Natomas 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: Susan Markarian

A federal agenda for California schools

Governance teams highlight school issues at Coast2Coast Federal Advocacy Trip
Springtime in Washington, D.C., is renowned for cherry blossoms and field trips to national monuments, but CSBA is building its own tradition — an annual lobbying trip on behalf of California public schools. From April 24-26, we’ll be on the ground in America’s capital making a case for the resources, legislation and policy needed to support public education back home.

It’s not easy to develop an agenda that speaks to the needs of all in a state as vast and diverse as California, but along with our advocacy partners at the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), CSBA has identified a slate of federal priorities to address with lawmakers, policy experts, cabinet officials and political insiders.


School Boards in Action:
5 Questions with Brad Beach, ABC USD
Brad Beach, board president, ABC Unified School District
Brad Beach photographed with elementary aged children during a "Knuffle Bunny" story time
With the school year well underway, what are some promising practices taking place in your district?
Our district is trying to hire a mental health professional at every campus. We are getting close. In an effort to retain employees, we cover 100 percent of employee contributions toward their entire family health benefits. This sets us apart from most other districts and also helps us recruit new hires.
What are your district’s plans for learning recovery and academic acceleration this summer?
At ABC USD, we are offering tutoring in the evenings and are planning to offer in-person summer school for all students. Each school also provides various programs like IXL Learning and Reflex math for students to do on their own time to gain extra skills.
Governance corner
Practical tips from our MIG faculty
What are the benefits of a board self-evaluation?
Vector illustration of woman standing next to big checklist
Deep learning is imperative to high-performing boards. However, neither veteran school board trustees nor newly elected members define “deep learning” as being able to recite the board policies their districts have in place. The Board Bylaws (BB), sometimes called the 9000s, are one category of district-guiding documents that governance team members should seek to understand.

BB 9400 highlights the importance of boards intentionally monitoring themselves as a much-needed accountability measurement. The bylaw language affirms the need for a formal process of board self-evaluation. Brazilian author Paul Coelho elegantly sums up the wisdom of stepping back to monitor and evaluate effectiveness when he said, “Always ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.” The board has an unspoken obligation associated with BB 9400 to evaluate its operations and accountability in serving the needs of students in their communities.

COVID relief aid spending in California
Spring 2023 update
a face mask, hand sanitizer and two COVID tests on a green background
The first spending deadline for the historic federal COVID relief funding known as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER I) fund and the Governors’ Emergency Education Relief (GEER I) fund was Jan. 30, 2023. These 2020 funding packages were the earliest federal relief aid issued to help local educational agencies address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. CSBA has been monitoring COVID relief funding for all California school districts and county offices of education (COEs) and issued its first report on the progress of spending federal aid in June 2022. CSBA also published an update in December, reporting on the use of all ESSER and GEER funds after the deadline to reserve funds on Sept. 30, 2022.

As with previous releases, the spending data for all packages reflect what LEAs have already spent, not what they have earmarked for use. This is particularly important for ESSER II and III as LEAs still have time to spend these funds. For deeper insights into the priorities, spending strategies and implementation challenges of COVID relief funding, check out CSBA’s second report on emergency aid, which contains survey data on these topics from a representative group of 239 LEAs across the state.

CSBA webinar explores the basics of trauma-informed education
From policy-setting to resource allocation, boards can support trauma-informed education
Trauma is a complex subject and the events or conditions that cause it or how it will manifest itself vary by individual.

During CSBA’s Feb. 21 webinar “Trauma-Informed Education: What governance teams need to know,” attendees learned about principles and strategies of equity-centered, trauma-informed education that they can use in their local educational agency to support staff, students and families. While many resources related to trauma-informed education are designed for administrators or classroom educators, this forum was designed with the board member role in mind. From policy-setting to resource allocation, governance teams can support trauma-informed education.

Parental rights: Existing law and established boundaries
A review of current law amid proposed federal legislation
a young girl wearing a plaid backpack smiles up at a woman with whom she is holding hands

On March 1, 2023, the Parents Bill of Rights Act was introduced in the United States House of Representatives. The rationale, as stated in the bill’s fact sheet, is to “make clear to parents what their rights are and [make] clear to schools what their duties to parents are” as “many school districts have been ignoring the wishes of parents while special interest groups try to criminalize free speech.” The bill, H.R. 5, would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), and comes amid ongoing political debates about the appropriate role and rights of parents in public schools. The bill proposes to add in the ESEA five specific rights for parents while their children receive a public education:

  • To know what children are being taught
  • To be heard
  • To see school budgets and spending
  • To protect their children’s privacy
  • To keep their children safe

If passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden, H.R. 5 would add to existing parental rights as they are defined in various federal court cases that set the contours for the exercise of parental influence and involvement when a child is enrolled in public school.

Earth Day provides students an opportunity to advocate for climate change efforts
Programs like those at Rialto USD support students with environment-based learning experiences

More than 50 years since the first Earth Day was held to raise awareness of the need to reduce pollution and protect the planet’s natural resources for future generations, students continue to take on the challenge.

In Rialto Unified School District, students organized a free event on April 21 — the Youth Climate Action Summit — for any interested high school student in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

“The purpose of the event is to inform students about environmental burdens and climate issues in the Southern Inland region, and then inspire them to volunteer, organize and advocate action around these local topics,” said Juanita Chan-Roden, Rialto USD science and career programs agent.

Policies and practices to anchor highly mobile students
Senate Bill 532 expands and strengthens exemptions available to obtain a diploma
close up of a little girl at a food gathering, holding a plate and standing in front of a woman
Many educators and board members are passionate about helping students who are most in need. The challenges faced by highly mobile students — including foster youth, students experiencing homelessness, former juvenile court school students, children of military families, migrant students or newly arrived immigrant students — participating in a newcomer program can tug at anyone’s heartstrings.

These students often face some barriers to high school graduation, many of which are caused by lack of a stable community. For example, many foster students move from home to home, causing them to miss tests, fail classes and lose credits. In some instances, this instability can cause students to fall behind and lose hope of graduating high school. Similarly, it is not uncommon for the mobility involved in migrant work to cause students to fall behind. In the past, districts had little flexibility in finding ways to keep these students engaged in school and working toward a diploma.

Cybersecurity recommendations for K-12 schools
School leadership is important to establishing a cybersecure culture
close up of a computer screen with a "System Hacked" alert
Current threats and recommendations on how schools can prevent or mitigate cyberattacks are outlined in the report Protecting Our Future: Partnering to Safeguard K-12 Organizations from Cybersecurity Threats, released in January by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

Schools have been subject to ransomware and denial of service attacks, email compromise scams, data breaches, defacement of website and social media accounts and invasions of online classes and meetings.

Attacks are happening at an escalating rate, according to CISA, with cyberincidents involving schools’ systems taking place across most states since 2018. In 2018, 400 incidents were reported, compared to 1,300 by 2021. The introduction of more technology in recent years due to the pandemic has brought on heightened risks and consequences that can include monetary losses and learning disruption.

Learning recovery can be aided by tutoring
Implementation and frequency factor into the effectiveness of a program

While tutoring has become a popular tool for academic recovery post-pandemic, not all tutoring programs are created equal and the strategy alone will likely not be enough to catch students up, experts said during a recent Education Week webinar, “Tutoring: What the Evidence Says About What’s Working and What Isn’t.”

Across the nation, state assessments have shown drops in student performance. Thomas Kane, an economist and faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, said that on average, school districts in the U.S. lost about a half year in math proficiency and roughly a quarter of a year in reading in grades 3–8 during the height of the pandemic, with some local educational agencies suffering even more severe learning loss.

Dashboard changes take shape during State Board of Education meeting
CDE preparing for release of individual student-level growth data in 2024
illustration of a laptop with a measuring dial on green

During its March 8–9 meeting, the State Board of Education laid the groundwork for developing updates to the 2023 California School Dashboard, which will be finalized later this year.

The 2022 California School Dashboard, released in December following a two-year pause prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighted chronic absenteeism as a particularly troubling indicator, with 30 percent of students marked as chronically absent in 2021–22.

Board leaders questioned the possibility of indicating on the Dashboard through disaggregated data whether students missed out on instructional time as a result of COVID precautions or other events outside of their control.

Failure is not an option
Juvenile court community schools succeed where others fail
a teenaged student is supervised by an adult man while working with a welding tool in a shop class
Camille Creek Community School in Napa serves the educational needs of students who are under the protection or authority of the juvenile court or those who are referred from school districts due to truancy, behavioral issues or expulsion.

Camille Creek’s mission is to empower Napa County’s most disenfranchised youth moving them toward a productive future through restorative relationships, targeted instruction and inspiring opportunities for growth. The school aims to help students gain the social and academic skills they will need for employment or further education and the interpersonal skills they will need to maintain positive and meaningful relationships, despite issues they may have had in the past.

“Never say never,” said Napa County Office of Education Superintendent Barbara Nemko. “Hard work, innovative programs where kids are helping others instead of others helping them, where they are recognized for their contributions, plus personalized interactions between teachers and families can have surprisingly positive outcomes.”

UpcomingEvents info: 800-266-3382
Attention: For more information about events, visit
Virtual Events
April 26–27
MIG Course 1: Foundations of Effective Governance/Setting Direction

May 9–10
MIG Course 2: Student Learning & Achievement/Policy & Judicial Review

May 11–12
MIG Course 1: Foundations of Effective Governance/Setting Direction

May 13
MIG Course 2: Student Learning & Achievement/Policy & Judicial Review

May 16–17
MIG Course 3: School Finance Parts 1 & 2

May 23–24
MIG Course 4: Human Resources/Collective Bargaining

June 6–7
MIG Course 5: Community Relations & Advocacy/Governance Integration

In-person events

April 24–26
2023 Coast2Coast Federal Advocacy Trip | Washington, D.C.

May 2
MIG Course 5: Community Relations & Advocacy/Governance Integration | Santa Cruz

May 19
The Brown Act | Santa Clara
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Thanks for reading our April 2023 newsletter!