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March 2021 Vol. 27, 3
Governor signs $6.6 billion school reopening bill
$2 billion is allocated to support in-person instruction, but does not mandate districts open campuses

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 86 into law on March 5, a $6.6 billion package designed to get large numbers of students back in the classroom this spring and support strategies and programs to accelerate student learning. The signing of the bill starts the countdown for a target reopening date of April 1 for districts that will receive a portion of the $2 billion set aside for school reopening. AB 86 provides a path to the reopening of schools statewide while retaining local discretion over the return of in-person instruction. Although the bill is not perfect, it addresses many of the concerns CSBA raised in conversations with the Administration and the Legislature and reflects the collective advocacy of CSBA and the state’s education management organizations.

Digital Divide: State digital divide taskforce discusses legislation to expand broadband connectivity
digital divide
Three bills addressing the need for more broadband internet access show some legislators’ impatience with private internet service providers and their willingness to bring connectivity to all students.
U.S. Education Department will not provide assessment waivers
Introduces testing flexibility in light of the pandemic
Stack of papers with a blur filter
The U.S. Department of Education issued a letter ( on Feb. 22 announcing that the department will not issue a blanket waiver for assessment, accountability and reporting requirements for the 2020–21 school year will not be waived. The letter says that assessments are needed to “understand the impact COVID-19 has had on learning and identify what resources and supports students need. We must also specifically be prepared to address the educational inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, including by using student learning data to enable states, school districts, and schools to target resources and supports to the students with the greatest needs. In addition, parents need information on how their children are doing.”
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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.

CSBA & NSPRA logos
President’s Message: Suzanne Kitchens
A girl in your district may be the key to beating the next pandemic
After a half-million casualties in the U.S. from COVID-19 and a full year of disruption to daily life, we are starting to see glimmers of light. While it’s too early to declare victory, subsiding case rates and increased vaccine availability hold the elusive promise of a return to normalcy.

Given how difficult this year has been, it’s easy to forget the modern miracle of how quickly these vaccines were developed — and the work of brilliant scientists who created this ray of hope. There are many heroes whose contributions may never be recognized, but one name that stands out is Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, research lead of the COVID-19 vaccine project at the National Institutes of Health. Corbett’s team collaborated with Moderna to produce one of the two vaccines that most Americans have received to this point. That is worth celebrating, but also a sobering reminder that there are too few Kizzmekia Corbetts.

Governance corner
Practical tips from our MIG faculty
Engaging student board members

One of the most fulfilling responsibilities of a board member is building and encouraging leadership in our students. We model leadership at our board meetings through the way we present ourselves and the way in which business is conducted. Respectful discourse is important to model for all stakeholders — especially for our students. Many county and district boards have student board members. When we examine their role, are we doing all we can to engage with student board members and help them to develop their role?

Questions for boards to consider:

  1. What is our onboarding procedure for students?
  2. What professional development opportunities do we provide our student board member(s)?
  3. How do we engage them during the meeting? Are we asking their opinion on agenda items?
2021–22 CSBA Officers and Board of Directors
Suzanne Kitchens - President-elect
Suzanne Kitchens

Pleasant Valley SD
Susan Heredia Headshot
Susan Heredia

Natomas USD
Susan Markarian - Region 10
Susan Markarian
Vice President

Pacific Union ESD
Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez - President
Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez
Immediate Past President

Azusa USD
Frank Magarino - Region 1
Frank Magarino
Region 1

Del Norte County USD
Sherry Crawford - Region 2
Sherry Crawford
Region 2

Siskiyou COE
Tony Ubalde - Region 3
Tony Ubalde
Region 3

Vallejo City USD
Renee Nash Headshot
Renee Nash
Region 4

Eureka Union SD
Alisa MacAvoy - Region 5
Alisa MacAvoy
Region 5

Redwood City SD
Darrel Woo - Region 6
Darrel Woo
Region 6

Sacramento City USD
Yolanda Peña Mendrek - Region 7
Yolanda Peña Mendrek
Region 7

Liberty Union HSD
Stephen J. Schluer Headshot
Stephen J. Schluer
Region 8

Manteca USD
Digital divide
State digital divide taskforce discusses legislation to expand broadband connectivity
Also announced was the California Digital Divide Innovation Challenge, a cash-incentive call for innovative solutions
Student on the floor working on a laptop
The first 2021 meeting of California’s Closing the Digital Divide Task Force on Feb. 2 provided viewers with a more in-depth look at some the initial proposals put forth by lawmakers to boost broadband access to students and communities.

“For us, this is one of the highest priorities, and now it’s time to get to work,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). “We have exciting proposals [on] making investments in infrastructure, bond initiatives, reforms to existing programs and looking at programs as it relates to affordability. Without a doubt, at the center of all this is our students.”

New CDC guidance provides little new direction for LEAs
California releases Safe Schools for All maps tracking school learning modes
Masked student doing work inside a classroom
In a flurry of activity on Feb. 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health held a series of press conferences on school reopening and issued new tools and guidance meant to support the return to in-person instruction.

Although the CDC guidance was highly anticipated, the final product was somewhat anticlimactic. The agency’s “Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation” (available at provides an overview of steps local educational agencies can take to reopen schools nationwide. It stops short, however, of calling on districts to reopen schools, instead using data to expand on current recommendations to “layer” preventive measures to resume in-person instruction in relative safety.

President Biden issues series of executive orders addressing immigration
Many of the previous administration’s executive orders around immigration are being rolled back
In his first days in office, President Joe Biden has issued a series of executive orders revising U.S. immigration policy, raising questions for governing boards about the potential impact on students and schools. The executive orders roll back many of the immigration objectives of the last administration, including some of the measures that impact students and schools, but governing boards likely will not need to make policy changes in response.
Immigration policy under President Trump
In early 2017, students, families and education leaders expressed concern for undocumented students in California schools after then-President Donald Trump signed executive orders revising U.S. immigration policy. While numerous changes were made, school leaders expressed particular concern about policies increasing the number of immigrants considered a priority for deportation, the anticipated risk of students failing to attend school to avoid contact with immigration authorities and the potential disruptions to school campuses and learning environments as a result.
Creating connections through art
Arts Education Month provides a chance for LEAs to reflect on how they use art to strengthen connections with students
kids water paint at table
Scroll through El Monte City School District’s Facebook page and you’ll find students have recently visited the Getty Museum, put on choir performances, danced together and even learned how to pluck an entire song on the violin in complete unison.

March is Arts Education Month and while the annual recognition of the importance of quality school arts programs is a time to celebrate and show support, it also marks a full calendar year since many California schools began distance learning.

How policy can support a positive school climate
Policies addressing bullying, discrimination, harassment and hate violence must be posted to district website
little girl comforts her seat mate on the bus
In addition to supporting the academic achievement of students, school boards should prioritize creating a climate on district campuses that supports the physical and social-emotional well-being of students. The American Psychological Association has found that not only are these attributes of student wellness important in and of themselves, but a positive school climate correlates with better attendance and study habits, motivation and commitment to succeed academically, engagement in more cooperative learning, and achievement of higher grades, test scores and subject mastery. A significant impediment to a positive school climate is bullying, discrimination, harassment and hate violence. Bullying has a far-reaching impact on victims, perpetrators and observers, as well as the overall school climate.
CCEE debuts new ‘field guide’ to support immediate learning needs during pandemic
The agency cites its own continuous improvement model as key factor in responding to changes in the educational landscape
In its first meeting of the year on Feb. 4, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence reviewed the organization’s 2020–21 goals, provided an update on the System of Support and debuted a new website designed to provide assistance directly to educators and administrators in key areas related to education during the pandemic. Like the System of Support that the CCEE has created, presenters throughout the meeting referenced how the organization has been able to build its own capacity and evaluate its projects in a cycle of continuous improvement since its inception in 2013.

“We’ve shifted a lot from the work in those first few years,” said CCEE Director Tom Armelino. “A lot of that work was around collaboration, but it was often very hard to measure impact. How do we know the work that we did in professional learning networks actually had an impact? So, everything that we do now, we’re really specific about how we are going to measure impact and get feedback so that we can make sure it is serving the students we are supposed to be serving.”

Cyber security more critical with the expansion of virtual learning
Hand typing on key board with lit-up red keys
With K-12 schools already a top target for hackers prior to the pandemic due to the combination of high-value data available and the often lower level of cybersecurity measures in place, lawmakers and policymakers have emphasized the need to better protect educational institutions.

A recent report from the Consortium for School Networking found close to 100 cybersecurity bills were introduced in 27 states in 2020 — California accounted for four of those bills, though none made it to the Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. The report, found here, cited an additional 10 proposals introduced at the federal level.

Sonoma COE hosts student voices forums to hear their perspectives about race
Partnering with Santa Rosa City Schools, each webinar included concrete next steps for school leaders
Last summer, as the nation reeled from the killing of George Floyd and grappled with issues of racism and equality, a group of local students approached the Sonoma County Office of Education with a request: To have a platform where they could address educators directly on topics of racism and social justice.

In partnership with Santa Rosa City Schools, the largest school district in Sonoma County, Sonoma COE developed a plan to hold a series of four Student Voices forums on the topics of racism, equity and social justice. Each forum included between five and 12 high school students of a given race/ethnicity from around the county: The first focused on Black student voices, the second on Latinx voices, the third on Native American voices and the fourth on Asian/Pacific Islander voices.

Robert Rivas named CCBE Legislator of the Year
CCBE recently presented its 2020 Outstanding Legislator Award to Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) of the 30th Assembly District for his leadership in working to improve California’s public schools and his support of local school board governance.

For the last several years, CCBE has annually bestowed a Legislator of the Year Award upon one or more state or federal lawmakers who have been actively involved in legislation or activities supporting the work of county offices of education and their programs.

CCBE kicks-off 2021 conference planning
Collage of people video chatting in a black space
The California County Boards of Education’s 2021 conference planning committee, chaired by President-elect Joe Ross from the San Mateo County Office of Education, held its first meeting Feb. 9. After reviewing the positive reviews and feedback from CCBE’s first-ever all-virtual conference in 2020, the committee decided it was unlikely the COVID-19 situation would allow for a return to a fully in-person event by the conference dates of Sept. 10–12. Instead, the committee is planning a hybrid conference with the possibility that it may later need to pivot to an all-virtual model. If in-person attendance is possible, the conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Monterey.
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
GOVERNANCE WITH AN EQUITY LENS: A Systemic Approach to Closing Equity Gaps in Public Education

March 27 | 9 a.m.–12 p.m. | All Groups
April 17 |  9 a.m.–12 p.m. | North and Bay Regions
April 24 | 1–4 p.m. | North and Bay Regions
May 1 | 9 a.m.–12 p.m. | North Region
May 8 | 9 a.m.–12 p.m. | Bay Region
May 15 | 9 a.m.–12 p.m. | Central Region
May 22 | 9 a.m.–12 p.m. | South Region
June 5 | 9 a.m.–12 p.m. | North Region
June 12 | 9 a.m.–12 p.m. | Central Region
June 19 | 9 a.m.–12 p.m. | Bay Region
June 26 | 9 a.m.–12 p.m. | South Region

Learn more about the training at

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Thanks for reading our March 2021 newsletter!