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Nov./Dec. 2020 Vol. 26, 11
Covid-19 blood test being marked negative
Updated guidance provides testing recommendations for schools

With COVID-19 tests becoming more widely available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidance Oct. 13 on what K-12 school administrators and public health officials should consider when testing students or staff. “Interim Considerations for Testing for K-12 School Administrators and Public Health Officials” ( provides a framework for determining who should be tested first and how such a screening should be incorporated into schools’ overall strategies for controlling the spread of the virus.

The considerations are intended to provide guidance on the appropriate use of testing in K-12 schools for surveillance, diagnosis, screening and outbreak response. Schools play a significant role in helping to protect students and their families, teachers, staff and the broader community and in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Election is hard on education propositions but bond measure passage soars
people voting at election booth while wearing medical masks
After four days of vote counting and an election year like no other, Joseph R. Biden is the President-elect of the United States. Current President Donald Trump is expected to continue challenging several aspects of vote counting in courts following the call by the Associated Press on Saturday, Nov. 7. As the education community looks toward a new presidency, questions swirl around who will be the next U.S. Secretary of Education and just how much a Democratic president and Republican Senate can accomplish together. Meanwhile, in California-specific results, all three education-related propositions on the ballot failed to pass.
In good news for local educational agencies across the state, however, 55 school districts had general obligation bonds for school facilities revenue going before voters, and the overwhelming majority, from San Diego to Siskiyou County, were on track for approval as of press time. This is a marked turn of events from the March 2020 election, when school bond measures failed at a rate never before seen in this state. In a CSBA analysis of school bond measures, about 80 percent were approved by voters.
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Chief Information Officer:
Troy Flint |

Managing Editor:
Kimberly Sellery |

Marketing Director:

Serina Pruitt |

Staff Writers and Contributors:
Alisha Kirby |
Mike Ambrose |

Graphic Design Manager:
Kerry Macklin |

Senior Graphic Designer:
Mauricio Miranda |

Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez | Azusa USD

Suzanne Kitchens | Pleasant Valley SD

Vice President:
Susan Heredia | Natomas USD

Immediate Past President:
Emma Turner | La Mesa-Spring Valley SD

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.

President’s Message: Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez
Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez headshot
Serving students with perseverance and staying accountable in an unprecedented year
When I wrote my first column as CSBA President back in January, I cautioned that 2020 would bring great challenges for California school boards. As it turned out, that was a massive understatement. Little did I know that this year would present the most rigorous test that our public education system has ever faced. Nothing could have prepared us for the fallout from COVID-19. Yet, even after all that we’ve endured and all that’s yet to come, our mission remains the same: to provide every California student with a high-quality education.

No matter how under-resourced or overwhelmed we become, we can’t lose sight of the fact that 6 million students are counting on us to prepare them for success in college, career and civic life. Even the incredible constraints we’ve faced these past nine months do not relieve us of this responsibility. And the reality is that, no matter how valid our explanations may be, the public is not in the mood for excuses.


GovernanceCorner Practical tips from our MIG faculty

Reviewing the first interim budget
Board trustees have a responsibility to ensure the fiscal solvency of school districts and county offices of education. How is this accomplished? By monitoring the budget at regularly scheduled board meetings. December and March are the designated times to officially review budgets. December’s interim review is the first snapshot of the real numbers for the current school year. The revenues and expenditures from July 1 through Oct. 31 will be reported. The first interim review allows a board to ask important questions about the current budget and look for possible fiscal trends.

CSBA suggests submitting questions ahead of the board meeting to the superintendent and chief business official. Items to consider while reviewing the first interim budget include:

Call for nominations for 2021 Delegate Assembly elections
Ballot being turned into box
Nominations for CSBA’s Delegate Assembly are being accepted until Thursday, Jan. 7. Nominees must submit a one-page, single-sided biographical sketch form and may submit an optional one-page, one-sided résumé.

CSBA’s Delegate Assembly is a vital link in the association’s governance structure. Working with local districts, county offices of education, the Board of Directors and Executive Committee, Delegates ensure that the association reflects the interests of local educational agencies throughout the state. The Delegate Assembly provides policy direction for the association, elects officers and directors, and ensures that the association reflects the interests of school districts and county offices of education.

Elected Delegates serve two-year terms, from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2023. Documents related to the nomination process are being provided online only and are available on CSBA’s website at

state board
Education leaders emphasize progress, adopt shorter statewide exams for next year
State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond opened the board’s November meeting by acknowledging the challenges that the state’s students, teachers, families and administrators are facing while outlining the progress they have made in reopening schools. The board also approved a shorter version of the 2020–21 Smarter Balanced assessment consortium to provide a flexible option for district leaders in an uncertain time, and approved detailed indicators for the implementation of Assembly Bills 1505 and 1507, last year’s charter school authorization package.

Darling-Hammond outlined the impact that a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a climate crisis and a civil rights crisis stemming from a long overdue reckoning with systemic racism have had on public education. At the same time, she shared news indicating that, while there is a long way to go, more students are engaged in learning. While more than 90 percent of students started school in online learning, as of the end of October, there were about 750,000 students attending in-person classes in 21 mostly rural counties. In 20 counties serving about 1.7 million students, there is a mix of districts offering in-person instruction and distance learning. Now, only 17 counties report they will remain in full distance learning models until at least through Jan. 1, 2021. Those counties serve about 3.6 million students and include some of the largest urban districts in the state.

native american heritage
CSBA Director-at-Large, Native American reflects on teaching Native studies
Crystal Martinez-Alire headshot
Crystal Martinez-Alire, CSBA’s Director-at-Large, Native American and trustee in the Elk Grove Unified School District
November is National Native American Heritage Month, a time to recognize the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States. California School News talked to Crystal Martinez-Alire, CSBA’s Director-at-Large, Native American and trustee in the Elk Grove Unified School District, about her research on the Native community, what is missing from the current ways Native American studies is being taught and how board members can best serve Native American students. Martinez-Alire is a member of the Miwok Tribe.

Can you tell us a little about your research interests related to the Native American community and education?
My dissertation was on tribal leadership, education and cultural knowledge. I looked at tribes across the United States for historical background and here in California and interviewed people to find out what emerging themes are critical within the Native community and how that impacts education. I’ve also published researchin the Journal of Transformative Leadership and Policy Studies with a colleague, where we focused on American Indian ways of educating through stories and culturally embedded practices while building pathways toward student success. I have previously helped with authoring a chapter in the ethnic studies curriculum that was adopted by Sacramento City Unified School District, Our Stories in Our Voices, by Dale Allender and Gregory Yee Mark. My colleague and I authored the chapter on California Native American history, which included Native community member stories.

AEC General Session spotlight: Hadi Partovi from
CSBA’s 2020 virtual Annual Education Conference is fast approaching, with the Dec. 3–4 conference set to deliver attendees critical insights, informative sessions, digital interactivity and powerful speakers. Virtual preconference activities are happening from Nov. 30–Dec. 2. Visit by Nov. 24 to register.
This year’s General Session speakers offer an incredible array of talent and perspectives: Jason Dorsey, president of the Center for Generational Kinetics; Hadi Partovi, CEO of the education nonprofit, tech entrepreneur and investor; and Leslie Odom Jr., multifaceted Tony and Grammy Award-winning performer.

California School News spoke with Partovi about the importance of digital literacy during distance learning, closing the digital divide and what progress the leading provider of K-12 computer science curriculum has made in making the subject more accessible for all students.

Litigation and school districts: Providing FAPE amid the COVID-19 pandemic
Despite the remarkable efforts school districts have made to meet the legal and practical requirements of educating all students during the COVID-19 pandemic, lawsuits related to distance learning and school closures were inevitable, including lawsuits related to educating students receiving special education services. For some students, there may be a disconnect between the services that schools have been able to provide during these emergency closures and the requirements of a student’s individualized education program. The California Department of Education has provided guidance for school districts, “Special Education Guidance for COVID-19” (, that continues to be updated to reflect the options and requirements for districts and students. However, many of the cases now working their way through the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) and the federal courts address special education services provided by districts at the beginning of the pandemic, prior to the updated guidance.
California’s new anti-hate initiative aims to make lasting change through education
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced on Sept. 21 the Education to End Hate initiative, designed to empower educators and students to confront hate, bigotry and racism through a series of strategies — including educator training grants, partnerships with community leaders and virtual classroom sessions — that leverage the power of education to create a more just society. Organizations including Equality California, the National Equity Project and the Simon Weisenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance have said they will offer professional development and resources through the initiative.

“Education continues to be one of our most powerful tools for countering hate and for promoting understanding and tolerance,” Thurmond said during a press conference announcing new educator training grants, partnerships with community leaders and virtual classroom sessions.

National Assessment of Educational Progress results reveal decline for 12th-grade students
Amid a global pandemic, widespread school closures and fear of student learning loss, the just-released 2019 scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed a slight decline in 12th-grade reading compared to 2015, with scores holding steady overall in math. The results also show an alarming and widening gap between students who generally perform well in school, and those who already struggle academically, with the lowest-performing students contributing to the drop in scores.

Administered every four years, test results are reported as average scores on a 0 to 500 scale and as percentages of students performing at or above the NAEP achievement levels: Basic, Proficient and Advanced. The average 2019 reading score dropped two points since 2015 on the NAEP, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, and the percentage of students at or above Proficient held steady at 37 percent. The average math score did not differ significantly from 2015 — 24 percent of students performed at or above Proficient in 2019.

county boards
The Year in Review
By CCBE President Janet Wohlgemuth
Janet Wohlgemuth Portrait
What a year 2020 has been! Here are some of the highlights from the California County Boards of Education this past year.
In January, executive board members spent three days working on plans for this year, getting to know each other and building the calendar of events and trainings. We also clarified the year’s main tasks and the vision for this year’s conference.

I had the privilege to go to Washington, D.C. with our elected officials and represent CCBE to speak about school funding, special education, using Title II for funding and the need for more teachers. I had the opportunity to speak with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s representative and many other elected officials.

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Statement of ownership, management and circulation (Required by 39 U.S.C. 3685)
Statement of ownership, management and circulation (Required by 39 U.S.C. 3685)
Title of publication: California School News

Date of filing: September 28, 2020

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Location of known office of publication: 3251 Beacon Blvd., West Sacramento, CA 95691

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Name and complete address of Senior Director of Communications and Managing Editor: Troy Flint and Kimberly Sellery, 3251 Beacon Blvd., West Sacramento, CA 95691

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ATTENTION: All in-person CSBA events are cancelled through 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. For more information about events, visit
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