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October 2020 Vol. 26, 10
Class room door being locked
State debuts new standards for reopening schools and the economy
Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled on Aug. 28 a new classification system for measuring COVID-19 risk and reopening the economy, including schools, in the state’s counties.

The plan, called the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, establishes four categories to indicate the severity of COVID-19 spread in California. Each of the state’s counties are placed in one of four color-coded categories — purple, red, orange or yellow — in order from highest to lowest risk. Purple counties, which are essentially counties that were on the prior state “monitoring list,” are considered at highest risk and have the most restrictions. Local educational agencies in the purple tier are not allowed to open for in-person instruction, but are eligible to apply for an elementary school waiver, provided they work with their county public health department and submit a safety plan.

The new plan requires each county to stay in its tier for at least three weeks. To move into another tier, counties must meet that tier’s criteria for the prior two consecutive weeks. New assessments will be performed weekly on Tuesdays. It’s important to note that the standards for an individual county may exceed those in the state’s framework.

State audit of local suicide prevention policies finds lack of stakeholder engagement
State law mandates that all school districts, county offices of education and charter schools adopt policy on student suicide prevention, intervention and postvention after consulting with specified stakeholders. Beginning in the 2020–21 school year, the policy must apply to all grades K–12.
A report issued by the California State Auditor’s office at the end of September found that the policy adoption requirement was met by the three school districts reviewed in the audit. They all used the December 2018 version of CSBA’s sample board policy and administrative regulation 5141.52 – Suicide Prevention, which the auditor’s office determined met all of the legal requirements for the policy. However, the districts did not consult with school and community stakeholders and suicide prevention experts in the development of their district policies, as required by law.

“Local educational agencies are reminded that all CSBA sample policies are intended to serve as templates, and districts are encouraged to give thoughtful consideration to revising the policies to meet local needs,” said Diane Greene, senior policy services consultant at CSBA. “In the case of suicide prevention policies, the law mandates that districts work with specified stakeholders to develop strategies tailored to their local circumstances. Although all districts should already have suicide prevention policies in place, the requirement to engage stakeholders applies to policy revisions as well.”

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Chief Information Officer:
Troy Flint |

Managing Editor:
Kimberly Sellery |

Marketing Director:

Serina Pruitt |

Staff Writers and Contributors:
Andrew Cummins |
Alisha Kirby |
Mike Ambrose |
Diane Greene |

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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
Teaching students that civic engagement is about more than elections
In just a few weeks, the United States of America will hold its 59th Presidential Election. It’s a momentous event that has dominated the news and casual conversation for much of the last year. Yet, politics and civic engagement are much greater than a quadrennial election and there are so many ways we can impact our society beyond casting a vote for president.

As school board members, we have a unique responsibility to create conditions that help produce informed and engaged students who will strengthen their communities and their country. The California Department of Education had similar goals in mind when it launched the State Seal of Civic Engagement, a new tool for encouraging students to learn about civics and apply that knowledge in the real world. In order to earn the seal, students must participate in civics-related projects and contribute to their communities, as well as demonstrate an understanding of the California Constitution, the United States Constitution and the American governance system.

Covid 19 relief fund files
Legislative session and bill signings bring mixed bag for LEAs

After an extraordinary 2019–20 legislative session marked by unprecedented closures, delays and a tight focus on the state’s COVID-19 response, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 41 new bills affecting K-12 education into law. While schools received some clarity and support on funding and flexibility during the state of emergency, pressing questions on school liability and the digital divide remain unresolved.

Budget and funding during tough times

In March, the Governor and Legislature provided emergency relief to local educational agencies with Senate Bill 117. The bill provided $100 million to LEAs to purchase personal protective equipment and pay for supplies and labor costs related to cleaning school facilities, ensured that they would continue to receive funding despite school closures, and granted flexibility in providing services to students during this crisis. In June, an education budget trailer bill, SB 98, eliminated the unworkable 10 percent cut to the Local Control Funding Formula proposed in the May Budget Revision, held LEA funding at 2019–20 levels with a new round of apportionment deferrals, and included more than $5 billion in one-time funding from the state’s share of federal CARES Act stimulus funding. The budget also included a reduction in employer pension contribution rates by some 2 percentage points for the 2020–21 fiscal year.

Raging wildfires, smoky skies the latest obstacles for schools in 2020
The barrage of deadly wildfires that burned up and down the state of California in September — and corresponding surreal skies and extremely unhealthy air — destroyed schools and communities; displaced students, staff and their families; and interrupted long-planned-for returns to in-person instruction in many areas, a majority of them rural. Many of the largest blazes were expected to take weeks to contain.

The stark and desolate scenes have become all too familiar over the last several years, and two months remain in an already record-breaking 2020 wildfire season.

Just two years after the catastrophic Camp Fire ripped through Paradise and its surrounding communities, leaving 86 dead and thousands displaced, Butte County this year encountered another deadly blaze not far from the site of 2018’s destruction. As of Sept. 28, the North Complex Fire had burned 306,135 acres and left at least 15 dead.

GovernanceCorner Practical tips from our MIG faculty

Using data to guide board decisions
School district and county office of education board members depend on staff to provide them with data specific to various issues. With a common understanding of data and its uses, boards can work with the superintendent and staff to determine which data is most important in making prudent decisions. The board and superintendent need a common understanding of the use and limitations of data to make these productive data-informed decisions. A board can accomplish this common understanding by engaging in data-focused, ongoing professional development through board workshops, study sessions and/or external professional learning opportunities.

Boards can also establish common agreements about how to discuss data, including how to ask relevant questions. County and district board members can use meeting time to discuss what the data indicates about local educational agency progress and how to respond appropriately. These board protocols include monitoring data to determine progress, using data to discuss program issues as needed, understanding the root causes of problems and for considering the context and meaning of the data.Following are questions boards can ask themselves about how they use data:


Boards can receive updates about the COVID-19 pandemic without violating the Brown Act

District and county office of education board members have worked tirelessly this year to communicate with each other, with staff and with their communities to ensure they are serving all of their students amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Boards have held virtual meetings and created new systems that allow the public to participate and comment. Boards have also created opportunities for others to learn about new health requirements during the pandemic, distance learning options for students, and myriad other important updates and new information relevant to county office and district operations during the state of emergency. In addition, board members have worked to collaborate on best practices with other board members and experts throughout the state. In short, board members have taken on a challenging time while continuing to navigate the requirements of the Brown Act to ensure their deliberative and decision-making processes are open to the public.
2021 CSBA officer candidates
CSBA’s Nominating Committee met on Sept. 19, 2020, to interview the following candidates for President-elect and Vice President of CSBA: For President-elect: Susan Heredia, Natomas Unified School District; for Vice President: Susan Markarian, Pacific Union Elementary School District.
yellow check mark on blue background
Following the interviews and the committee’s deliberations, the committee nominated Susan Heredia as candidate for President-elect and Susan Markarian as candidate for Vice President.

Qualified individuals interested in being nominated from the floor of the Delegate Assembly for either President-elect or Vice President must submit a complete Declaration of Candidacy packet along with their written intention to run on or before Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Intentions to run from the floor and the packet must be submitted to President Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez at, and the Nominating Committee Chair Christina Lucero at

For more information on the nomination process and to review the 2020 candidate criteria used by the Nominating Committee, please visit the CSBA website at
Woman standing on a pride symbol on the ground
LGBTQ History Month: Looking back at the history of the FAIR Education Act
It has been nearly a decade since California passed the FAIR Education Act, requiring that public schools provide Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful representations of the state’s diverse ethnic and cultural population in the grade K–12 history and social studies curriculum. For the first time, students would be learning about the historical contributions of groups including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

While the adoption of the FAIR Education Act was a victory, there is still much work to be done, said Rick Oculto, education director of the Our Family Coalition — an organization that advocates for equity for LGBTQ families and children through support and education. Through the lens of October’s LGBTQ History Month, Oculto said it’s important that local educational agencies do not place the implementation of the curriculum or the necessary teacher training on the backburner.

COVID-19 may have long-term impacts on student mental health
Communities and families have been hit hard by the pandemic, and are likely facing increased stress due to the changes, fear and uncertainty caused by illness, isolation, impending homelessness, job and health care loss, California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris said during an Aug. 20 webinar hosted by CalMatters.
A mother holding a little girl's hands in comfort
Stress in children can manifest in many different ways, Burke-Harris said, from changes in behavior and mood to physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches, difficulty sleeping and changes in appetite. And while some children will be able to tolerate the stress of the pandemic with the help of their caregivers, the impact on others will be traumatic.

“We recognize for those kids that they need extra support and extra care, both from their caregivers and, if necessary, from a health or mental health provider,” Burke-Harris said.

AEC spotlight: Jason Dorsey from the Center for Generational Kinetics
CSBA’s 2020 Annual Education Conference will be presented in a virtual format — giving attendees access to critical expertise and perspective from the comfort of their home or office. The conference takes place on Thursday, Dec. 3 and Friday, Dec. 4, with virtual preconference activities happening from Monday, Nov. 30 to Wednesday, Dec. 2. Visit to register.

One of the highlights of AEC is the always dynamic and inspiring General Session speakers. This year’s speakers are 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.

CCBE virtual conference features inspiring sessions and informative speakers
The California County Boards of Education held its first virtual annual conference Sept. 11–12. The format allowed some sessions to be prerecorded and available at any time, an advantage for those with busy schedules. Individual session topics included strategies for managing alternative school programs, such as juvenile court community programs; teaching and supporting students’ social-emotional health during the COVID-19 crisis; and a focus on providing equity for all students. For the first time, the 2020 conference also carved out specific time for members to connect with their regional directors, and one another, about issues specific to their areas.
state board
A teacher and a student having a conversation in a school hallway
State Board addresses immensely challenging times, approves criteria for Seal of Civic Engagement
State education leaders opened the Sept. 10 State Board of Education meeting by pledging their support for K–12 schools and communities across the state and recognizing the heroic work of local educational agencies in a monumentally challenging school year.

While the scramble continues to close the digital divide, improve distance learning and, in some areas, keep students and staff healthy on campus, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said the annual arrival of widespread destructive wildfires and smoky skies only adds to the collective challenges facing LEAs. “To see, as our schools finally are in a place where they can open — some in-person, most in distance learning — and to add to it fires and issues with air quality on top of that … Our schools are dealing with the most difficult circumstances,” Thurmond said.

UpcomingEvents info: 800-266-3382

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