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Valley Forum: A message from SVUSD Superintendent Charles Young


I am writing this column to assure you that the Sonoma Valley Unified School District’s plan for modernizing and improving its facilities has been a ground-up, grassroots, transparent and well-publicized process since it began in 2010. There have been at least 100 meetings with staff, faculty, administration, community members and students. This has been a very deliberate and thoughtful process with open access to all members of our community.

The Facilities Planning Team developed the Implementation Plan by meeting numerous times with each of the school site administrators to carefully review the Master Plan for accuracy and applicability. Projects identified as critical to meeting the full educational needs of students were ranked in order of need for each site. Meeting the “full educational needs of students” means adhering to the “whole child” approach to education, ensuring that students are educated in all academic areas as well as the arts and physical education.

Contrary to the paid ad that appears in today’s and two previous issues of the Sonoma Index-Tribune, athletic expenditures (26 percent of all Measure E projects) are meeting the needs of our students and our community, even though some nearby homeowners, and their spokespeople are angry at this outcome. Keep in mind that Measure E is the follow up to Measure H which provided zero funding to athletic facilities. Our fields, locker rooms, and lack of a swimming pool continue to impact our students on a daily basis and in a negative way.

Currently:

• We must bus kids to use pools in other communities.

• Our track is unfit and unsafe for competition.

• Despite the ongoing excellence and popularity of youth soccer in Sonoma Valley, we have extremely poor quality fields, especially for winter competition.

• There is no location for water safety classes in our school district.

Our physical education, athletic and recreational facilities must now be brought up to the standards the students and community deserve. Rest assured, upgrading and improving these facilities after years or even decades of neglect does not diminish the importance of all the other positive improvements and upgrades we have made and are making to our academic environments for students at each site and in each grade.

Including the following:

• Replacing decades old portables at the Sonoma Charter School and Woodland Star Charter School (other schools already received funding for portable upgrades).

• Improvement to science facilities district-wide, plus planning is in place for a new science wing at the high school.

• The El Verano kindergarten is also scheduled for funding, with extra planning needed to integrate the new statewide emphasis on transitional kindergarten.

Some very large projects such as a new two-story student center and classroom structure and a new performing arts center at the high school were placed on the back-burner for now, but special provisions have been made for multi-purpose rooms which are critical to the daily functions of an elementary school campus. These are spaces where students learn through performing arts, gather for school assemblies, work on STEM projects and other presentations, engage with guest speakers, have physical education classes and eat lunch on rainy days. They are the heart of our elementary campuses. Across the district, many of the multi-purpose rooms lack the space and facilities needed for all these activities so they must be modernized and expanded, or replaced utilizing the bond-measure funding.

In conclusion, the facilities planning process by the Sonoma Valley Unified School District has been a positive and beneficial endeavor for the future of our schools and our students. Many engaged community members, educators and students have taken part. The School Board has included the Master Plan and the Implementation Plan on its agendas at numerous meetings. At each there has been substantial community comment. The progress of planning has been well reported by the Sonoma Index-Tribune.

Disagreement with the district’s direction on facilities by some local homeowners does not mean the process is flawed or poorly thought out. Many community residents have given generously of their time, opinions, suggestions and creative solutions. Moreover, that process has produced a plan well designed to meet the future needs of the students of this great Valley. To suggest otherwise would gravely diminish the contributions of so many dedicated members of the Sonoma Valley community.

Charles Young is the superintendent of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.