After hearing numerous concerns from constituents, the Sulphur Springs Union School District governing board approved a resolution asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to rescind the future COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which would affect children ages 5-11 in grades K-6.
Also on Wednesday night, the governing board also conducted its annual reorganization, approved a 4% salary raise for members of the California School Employees Association Chapter No. 298, and also received an update about ongoing construction at the schools from Projects and Facilities Director Dean Matthews.
The board reorganizes for 2022
The Sulphur Springs district’s governing board thanked former president Ken Chase, trustee area No. 4, for his year of service. Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, sent Patsy Ayala, a representative of her office, to honor Chase with a framed certificate.
“I want to present to you on behalf of the state of California with a resolution,” Ayala said. “Let me tell you, these resolutions are not just given to everybody in the state.”
The governing board members gave Chase an award as well. The members then appointed Denis DeFigueiredo, trustee area No. 2, as the president of the board for 2022, and Paola Jellings, trustee area No. 3, as the clerk.
Shelley Weinstein, trustee area No. 1, Lori MacDonald, trustee area No. 5, and Chase will continue as board members. Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi will serve as secretary to the governing board.
Lastly, the board selected Weinstein as delegate and Chase as an alternate to represent them for the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association. The board selected Chase as delegate and Jennings as alternate to the Santa Clarita Valley Special Education Local Planning Area Board Liaison Committee.
They also selected Weinstein and DeFigueiredo as delegates for Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization and the CLASS Education Foundation-Creativity Innovation Wellness Organization, respectively.
Board members back resolution against vaccine mandate
In October, Newsom announced that K-12 students must vaccinate against COVID-19 as a requirement for in-person instruction for the term following full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of a vaccine for their age groups.
The announcement prompted concern and frustration among parents, grandparents and guardians. The Sulphur Springs governing board and district staff received emails, calls and heard parents speak at board meetings asking them to pass a resolution advocating for parent choice on whether to vaccinate their children.
According to the governing board, many parents feel that the risks of getting vaccinated do not outweigh the benefits.
“(If the vaccine) mandate passes, many children will be taken out of school,” said Betsy Schubert, a parent and member of the Freedom Action Network of Santa Clarita Valley, a grassroots organization advocating for parents. “Thank you for hearing parents and considering this resolution.”
The governing board members approved their resolution unanimously.
“As teachers…most will indicate the difference from previous years to this year in person due to in-person learning,” Weinstein said. “At the secondary level, we are seeing more behavior and social issue problems that we are going to have if we continue online learning. It’s nice and works for some, but it doesn’t work anymore.”
The governing board agreed they don’t want to return to online learning, and they would advocate on behalf of parents’ choice on vaccination.
Sulphur Springs approves salary raises for classified staff
The governing board also voted to approve the tentative agreement with CSEA, which included a 4% ongoing and 1% off-schedule raise for all classified positions, according to the agenda.
“This has just been a joy to collaborate with CSEA Chapter 298,” said Ardrella Hamilton, assistant superintendent of personnel services. “We were able to agree with our tentative agreement.”
Hamilton encouraged the board to approve the agreement. The Sulphur Springs district ratified its classified salary schedule by increasing the minimum wage, adhering to state law.
They also changed the confidential staff, unrepresented certificated staff, supervisory staff, management staff and transportation staff salary schedules to reflect the 4% ongoing and 1% off-schedule salary raises.
The agreement between the Sulphur Springs district and CSEA resulted in a $600,686 expense for the 4% salary raise, and $128,394 for the 1% off-schedule salary increase, charged to the district’s general fund.