Board Brief
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BOARD BRIEF: Top things to know from the San Marcos Unified Board of Education Meeting

November 18, 2021

The commitment from our Board of Education is to provide our staff, families and community with clear, open and transparent communication. This Board Brief has been created to share key decisions and outcomes from the Board after each Meeting. The Board Brief will be distributed by the end of the week after each Regular Meeting.

The following Board Brief highlights important items from the November 16, 2021 San Marcos Unified School District Governing Board meeting:

1. Superintendent, Dr. Andy Johnsen, provided an update to the Board and community. 

Dr. Johnsen began his presentation by expressing thanks to staff, students and families for giving 100 percent in all aspects of both academics and activities this school year. Dr. Johnsen also specifically thanked the Governing Board for continuing to meet in-person instead of conducting meetings virtually. “It speaks volumes to have our Board engage with the community in-person and continue meeting in this setting, and we also thank our community for their respectful comments during tonight’s meeting.”

In a brief COVID update, Dr. Johnsen highlighted that the district’s COVID numbers remain low, allowing the district to meet our primary goals for this year which are to keep students in class, keep schools open, and keep students and staff safe. Dr. Johnsen also shared that expanded testing launched this week, with mobile testing teams deployed to nearly all school locations throughout the week. This is in addition to continuing with four stationary testing locations at school sites and the district office. This will allow for unvaccinated staff to quickly and more conveniently access weekly testing. Dr. Johnsen also provided a brief update regarding Governor Newsom’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, reiterating this is not an SMUSD mandate. Dr. Johnsen further explained that while emergency use has been given to allow for 5- to 11-year-olds to receive the vaccine, full FDA approval has not been reached. San Diego county has advised parents interested in the vaccination for their children to work through their family physician. SMUSD also continues to work with community partners to conduct vaccination events for both COVID and the flu. 

Dr. Johnsen also reiterated from the last Board meeting, the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for education, contributing to a statewide enrollment decline. This statewide decline is particularly felt  here, as San Diego county is one of the top ten declining enrollment counties in the state. Dr. Johnsen further explained the district has lost 1,200 students since the 2019-2020 school year, which will have budgetary impacts. 

Dr. Johnsen also provided a brief update from last month’s approved direction to embark upon the creation of a Graduate Profile and Strategic Plan. Dr. Johnsen further explained that district staff will begin this work by identifying key stakeholders in a variety of sectors to participate in this process as the Graduate Profile Design Team. Kick-off meetings for this team are scheduled to begin in January 2022, with the goal of having a Graduate Profile and Strategic Plan finalized in late summer of 2022.  

2. Principal Update: La Costa Meadows Elementary School. The Board welcomed the addition of a regularly occurring presentation from school principals in the district as a monthly agenda item. Principal Mandy Bedard, and Assistant Principal Julie Morgan, provided an update on La Costa Meadows Elementary School. The presentation highlighted an overview of the school including demographics on the TK-5 student body, strengthening the professional learning community, whole child learning, and building community. “Each day we emphasize doing the right things, even when no one is looking, because we recognize we are shaping the future citizens of the world at large,” said Principal Bedard. 


3. Student Board Representative Update. In an effort to encourage student participation and cultivate student leadership skills, the Board has three student representatives that participate in Regular Board Meetings throughout the year. The November 16th meeting featured student representatives, Addai Vazquez from Mission Hills High School and Ren Casillas from Twin Oaks High School.

Vazquez’s presentation included an overview of activities including Homecoming Spirit Week “A Night in Hollywood”, a Socktober Sock & Canned Food Drive to benefit Interfaith Community Services, and a proclamation from the San Marcos City Council for Red Ribbon Week. Vazquez also shared about student involvement in the San Marcos Promise “Connect to Careers” event which connected high school students with local real-world professionals over a networking lunch. Additionally, Mission Hills High School students catered the event through the Career Technical Education culinary pathway. 

Casillas’s presentation described a robust electives schedule at Twin Oaks High School designed for the student body that include Veterinary Sciences in partnership with Pima Medical Institute, Graphic Design and Woodshop. Casillas also highlighted an Asset Schedule which allows students to make up credits after school. Casillas also highlighted a month-long schedule of activities in celebration of Native American Heritage Month and a Red Ribbon spirit week of activities.  

4. Enrollment Report. The Enrollment Report, shared by Assistant Superintendent Erin Garcia, is a regular report that will be brought to the board on a monthly basis as staff monitors the ongoing enrollment decline situation. The report highlighted that while SMUSD is seeing a consistent enrollment decline, in the last month, six schools slightly increased in enrollment numbers. Assistant Superintendent Garcia emphasized that SMUSD is not alone regarding experiencing declining enrollment. Garcia further explained over the next decade the K-12 enrollment across California is projected to decline significantly, with San Diego county currently the 10th largest declining county in the state. As a result, SMUSD is engaging with a firm to help conduct a demographic study, looking at state projections, growth trends in the area, Transitional Kindergarten trends, and more.

“We are not alone, and some are experiencing it far worse than we are,” said Governing Board Vice President Sydney Kerr. “Not only is enrollment declining, but we are seeing a declining attendance rate due to quarantines, but have yet to hear of funding to aid us”.

5. Educators Block Grant. Deputy Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Campbell presented an update sharing recent one-time funding SMUSD recently received through a state grant for professional development to promote educator equity, quality, and effectiveness. Over the next five years the district has been allocated $4.5 million dollars of restricted funds, with several requirements. SMUSD has identified five areas of focus for utilizing the professional development funding which include: diversity, equity & inclusion, literacy across disciplines, standards-based instruction, school culture, and leadership capacity, which all align with the upcoming work on the Graduate Profile and Strategic Plan.

6. Gifts to San Marcos Unified School District. The Board also approved multiple gifts donated to the district from generous parents, business and community partners. Gifts include donations from California Coast Credit Union to support instructional materials and supplies, The San Marcos Promise for the Music Program, several donations from school PTO’s to benefit a variety of programs including afterschool enrichment, fine arts, bike club, culinary arts, and more.  

For a complete and detailed overview of any of the items above, please see the full Board Meeting Agenda by clicking here.

For a link to the Board Briefs on the SMUSD website, please click here.