Thursday’s Vacaville Unified governing board meeting, with updates on the district’s pandemic-related safety plan, sports activities, and mental health on the agenda, drew 24 speakers.
All but one expressed a desire to quickly return to in-person instruction, citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, and some voiced antagonism toward employees unions’ cautious approach.
Parent Kristina Holden alluded to a district survey that she said indicated a majority of parents want schools to reopen. Addressing the seven trustees, she wondered if members of the Vacaville Teachers Union are more important than students’ wishes to return to in-person instruction in the district’s 17 schools that serve 12,500 students.
Updates on a COVID-19 safety plan, school sports activities permissible during the pandemic and mental health services are on the agenda when Vacaville Unified leaders meet Thursday night via a Zoom webinar.
For those interested, members of the public must register to attend in order to view and, if desired, participate in the meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m.
To register, visit https://vacavilleusd.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ZzX7g9LVQm-SPhCY9hRrwA.
After registering, a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar will be sent.
Endorsed by Vacaville Unified teachers and classified employees, Santiago Serrato, a naturalized U.S. citizen and unit supervisor at Napa State Hospital, saying among his goals is to provide the best for every student, was appointed on a unanimous trustee vote tonight to fill a vacant seat on the district governing board.
Taking the oath of office administered by Superintendent Jane Shamieh, Santiago, who lives in the district’s Area 5, admittedly grew “emotional” during the swearing-in for the two-year post, which will complete the at-large term vacated by former trustee Michael Silva, who was elected to the Vacaville City Council in November.
Answering a series of questions during the 2 1/2-hour online special governing board meeting, Santiago, whose children attend Markham Elementary, often repeatedly returned to the issue of equity and underscored the need for all educators to enhance their cultural literacy as the 12,500-student district, like the state, becomes increasingly racially diverse.
School and college boards governed over the end of one school year and the beginning of another in a very, very different world.
The Covid-19 pandemic added the term distance learning to the common educational lexicon.
And some of those boards got a new makeup of members in November.
Judi Honeychurch, for the second election cycle, faced no opposition and therefore did not appear on the ballot for her Trustee Area 3 seat on the Fairfield-Suisun School District. Bethany Smith similarly returns as the Trustee Area 1 representative.
After taking a weekend off, the Solano County Registrar of Voters’ Office resumed its work counting votes Monday.
More provisional and mail-in ballots continue to be tallied, although it has not drastically altered the tallies in many races in Vacaville in Dixon, despite some candidates in second place gaining ground against their opponents.
Based on the latest election results posted Wednesday by the Solano County Registrar of Voters, many area school boards will feature new trustees.
With all 15 precincts reporting in Travis, which oversees two elementary schools in Vacaville, Foxboro and Cambridge, the apparent winner of the trustee Area 1 is Meghan M. Thompson, a district parent, who received 6,059 votes, or 68 percent of 8,968 votes cast. Challenger Renell L. Travis, a U.S. airman stationed at Travis Air Force Base, received 2,909 votes, or 32 percent, of the total.
In early mail-in ballot returns, Kelly Welsh and Michael Kitzes jumped out to significant leads and held them later in the late-evening hours Tuesday in the Vacaville Unified races for areas 6 and 7, respectively, in the school district’s first-ever by-area election.
At 11:32 p.m., the Solano County Registrar of Voters, in a fourth update and posting, with some Election Day ballots counted, reported that Welsh had gained 2,322 votes, or 57 percent of some 4,098 votes cast, and Tracee Stacy, a current governing board member and publisher, trailed with 1,776, or 43 percent, of the total at the time.
“I feel pretty good at this time,” Welsh, an attorney and mother of two, said after the first ballot tabulation and post. “I would say that I’m definitely encouraged by the level of support that I’m receiving.”
Horace Tufts “Whit” Whitman was a former Air Force officer and former commercial airlines pilot who, in retirement, became a fierce advocate for public education.
He served on the Vacaville Unified governing board for nine years, his tenure ending in 2018, and was known for his strong opinions but also his generosity of time, spirit and money related to school district matters.
Whitman, 77 and a native of the Upper Midwest, had battled depression for some time and committed suicide Sunday, said family spokeswoman and sister-in-law Lois Chancellor. District officials on Monday also reported information about his death on the VUSD website.
Trusteee candidates for two seats on the Vacaville Unified governing board, plus two candidates running unopposed for two more, fielded a variety of questions during Thursday night’s virtual Vacaville People’s Forum.
Participating candidates with opponents included Tracee Stacy, an educator and publisher, and attorney Kelly Welsh, each vying for a seat to represent Trustee Area 6. Others were incumbent Michael Kitzes, manager of the Vacaville Children’s Clinic for Solano County Mental Health; and George Burton Jr., a district parent and businessman, each seeking the Area 7 seat. Khala Hastings, also seeking the Area 7 seat, declined to participate in the one-hour, 40-minute forum.
The 800-member Vacaville Teachers Association on Thursday announced its endorsements for four seats on the Vacaville Unified governing board, two for the Solano County Office of Education board and a City Council candidate who currently serves as a district trustee.
By occupation, the seven candidates range from an incumbent and an administrator at Travis Federal Credit Union to an attorney and a physician, among others.
In a press release, union president Todd Blanset, an English teacher at Will C. Wood High, said the ratification vote was held Tuesday, with final selections coming after “a long and exhaustive process.”
Members of the Vacaville School District governing board will meet in special closed session Tuesday to consider two items related to personnel.
People may comment on those items at the start of the meeting, but will be limited to three minutes each, with a 20-minute time limit for each item. The board is required by law to report any action that may be taken in the closed session.
The first item under consideration falls under the heading of Public Employee Employment/Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Re-Assignment/Resignation.
Judi Honeychurch did not face a challenger in her last election and will have no need to campaign this fall, either.
Judi Honeychurch“I look forward to the challenges of the future and working with the superintendent and the teachers and staff,” said Honeychurch, who will enter her third term on the Fairfield-Suisun School District board of trustees.
She is the only incumbent who does not have a challenger.
Clifford Gordon, owner of Gordon’s Music & Sound in downtown Fairfield, pulled and filed candidacy papers Thursday for the Trustee Area 1 seat held by Bethany Smith. Trustee Area 2 incumbent Joan Gaut will run against Leslie Unverferth, and Area 6 incumbent John Silva faces Ana Petero.
The four incumbents and two challengers for seats on the Fairfield-Suisun School District board of trustees have filed candidacy papers, the county Elections Office reported Monday evening.
This is the last week to file for anyone interested in running for a position on 10 school or two college district boards.
Fairfield-Suisun school incumbents Joan Gaut, in Trustee Area 2, and John Silva, in Trustee Area 6, each faces a challenger. Leslie Unverferth, a real estate agent, looks to unseat Gaut, while Ana Petero, a teacher, wants to replace Silva.
Incumbents Bethany Smith, in Trustee Area 1, and Judi Honeychurch, in Trustee Area 3, are thus far unchallenged.
When Vacaville Unified leaders meet Thursday night, Superintendent Jane Shamieh will present her COVID-19 update, and trustees will consider several salary-related matters for district employees, including employment contracts for two senior managers.
Because the district adheres to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 12 executive order, the 6:30 p.m. open session will be livestreamed on Zoom, the virtual meeting platform that has come under increased scrutiny for its data security, encryption policies, and a phenomenon known as “Zoom-bombing,” when individuals and pranksters “crash” and hijack meetings.
Responding to the development, the San Jose-based company, headed by CEO Eric S. Yuan, recently indicated that all Zoom meetings now require a password to join.
Vacaville Unified School District has decided not to move forward with a plan to create two smaller credit recovery campuses at the Will C. Wood and Vacaville high school campuses.
Instead, the school board will be considering a new proposal to move Country High School to the Buckingham Charter Magnet High School campus, move Buckingham to the current Country High campus and merge Country High with the Ernest Kimme Charter Academy for Independent Learning, which will move into the building across the way, the district announced in a Facebook post.
The goal is for both programs to work together to bring more resources to students.
In September, the district announced that it was considering establishing smaller continuation campuses on the general education high school campuses for Country High students to take classes in self-contained classrooms. However, Country High students, parents and staff expressed concerns about this proposal — namely that Country High students benefited from being in a smaller campus away from the larger comprehensive campuses — at the Sept. 28 school board meeting and on social media.
A discussion on a proposal to move Country High School’s operations to the comprehensive high school campuses may not have been on the agenda for Thursday’s school board meeting, as it was previously scheduled, but parents, teachers and students still took time to express their concerns.
On Sept. 16, Vacaville Unified School District Superintendent Jane Shamieh issued a letter to families announcing that the district was considering establishing two smaller continuation school campuses on the Vacaville and Will C. Wood high school campuses. Country High students would be assigned to a campus based on their area of residence and take classes in self-contained classrooms.
The district’s goals were to provide easier access to Career Technical Education courses for Country High students, allow CHS students to participate in lunch and extracurricular activities with their comprehensive high school peers and make it easier for them to transition back to their home campus if they finish up their credits.
A discussion and action regarding the relocation of Country High School operations that was scheduled to be heard at Thursday’s school board meeting has been postponed, Vacaville Unified School District Superintendent Jane Shamieh announced in a letter Friday.
Earlier this week, VUSD announced it had agendized a discussion regarding a proposal to establish two smaller continuation campuses for Country High students on the grounds of Vacaville and Will C. Wood high schools. Shamieh wrote in the earlier letter that the goal was to give Country High students easier access to Career Technical Education courses and allow Country High students who were caught up on their credits to transition back to their home campuses to finish up their remaining credits for graduation.