Photo screenshotted by Ayyadevara.
The UPA Board of Trustees met on Feb. 25 to discuss reopening plans, renew the budget, approve a one-time teacher stipend and share new ways staff are supporting students academically.
As of Feb. 23, Santa Clara’s adjusted case rate, which is measured in the amount of cases per 100,000 people, was a 6.7 and the health equity quartile, which measures rates of COVID-19 in under-resourced communities, was a 5.5%; both numbers fall within the red tier (substantial cases). Additionally, the positivity rate, a seven-day average of all positive COVID-19 tests in the entire county, was 2.4%, which falls below the red tier. Since the Santa Clara County Board of Education moved the county from the purple tier (widespread) to the red tier, UPA was cleared to reopen on March 15.
Although UPA reopened for hybrid learning on March 15, Porter reported that 54% of UPA students indicated a preference for full distance learning through the rest of the semester. Because more than half of the student body will not be returning to in-person learning this semester, Porter estimated that by May 3, there will be around 150 students on campus at any given day, which is about 21.4% of the total student population.
Seventh grade students were brought back March 15 followed by eighth grade students on March 22. Next, the freshmen class is scheduled to return to campus on April 12, followed by seniors April 19 and, lastly, sophomores and juniors on April 26.
Instead of asking the standard health questions, the administrators will use digital versions of the questions and the usual temperature checks. Porter and other administrators are exploring options of a standardized student drop-off system, but have started implementing the use of ID cards called “fast passes” in the Horton Connect program. These fast passes will include questions such as “Do you have any cold- or flu-like symptoms?”, “Has anyone you live with tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days?” and “Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days?” The pass will also include a digital barcode which will be scanned for attendance and contact-tracing purposes before admitting a student on campus grounds.
Porter answered questions from the Board about the reopening process, with an exception of Board of Trustee Faatemeh Lubinsky’s question about distance learning surveys.
“Is the hybrid option open to people who chose full distance learning in the last survey sent out?” Lubinsky asked.
In other words, will another survey be sent out to the UPA community now that vaccines are available? Porter said he would discuss it with other administrators and answer the question in the next meeting on March 25; Daugherty sent out an email on March 2 requesting that parents email him if there is a change in student preference for distance or hybrid.
Director of Curriculum and Instruction Matt Daugherty shared the measures staff are taking to ensure students receive academic support. He explained that Tier 1 supports are available to 100 percent of the student population and included measures such as extended office hours from teachers, instructional shifts (partner work, Nearpod), calls to students’ families about attendance and an increased effort toward equitable grading practices (flexible assignment deadlines, minimum score policy).
For students who needed more assistance, Yau explained Tier 2 support systems that cater to 15 to 20 percent of UPA students. Tier 2 consists of the Horton Connect program, personalized Student Success Teams, Learn It Tutoring and a Winter/Spring Break make-up session for students who failed IM1 or IM2.
Meanwhile, in addition to these programs, Tier 3 support systems help around 5% to 10% of the student body. As Director of Special Programs Jean Mastrogiacomo explained, students with special needs receive support through their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. Students who are English learners receive support by working with ELL Coordinator Nico Mendoza. Finally, students who failed a core class in a previous semester can make it up through the program Edgenuity.
Following the administrators’ reports about academic resources for students and a financial report presentation by EdTec representative Sabrina Silver, the Board unanimously voted to approve the multi-year projection budget regarding school supplies and services. Three proposals for a semester two teacher stipend were introduced and explained by Porter. The first proposal was a stipend of $1,500, the second a stipend of $1,000 and the third proposal was $500.
The proposals were introduced to thank UPA staff for their dedication and commitment to helping students during distance learning. The stipend will extend to 54 full-time employees, with no impact to UPA’s 54% reserve, which is a fund used to save for future expenses.
Board secretary Patrick Dunkley clarified that the stipend was a one-time occurrence, and would not set a precedent for increases in staff salary every semester. Advisor Darnella Aulani asked Porter if each staff member would get a different amount of money in their stipend based on how much extra work they put in, but Porter maintained that each staff member would be compensated equally because he has noticed teachers being reluctant to report how many hours they’ve worked overtime. Board members voted on the stipend once Porter made a case for Proposal 1.
After the motion by Board President James Romero, seconded by Robert Hernandez, the first proposal for a $1,500 stipend was passed unanimously.
The vote was followed by a review of the School Accountability Report Card (SARC) and comments by trustees and Porter on future agenda items.
Director of Student Services Andrew Yau publicly thanked a donor who wished to stay anonymous so as to “not take away any spotlight from the hardworking teachers and staff at UPA” for their donation, which will be used to fund UPA senior scholarships.
“This [donation] could touch 20 families or more,” Yau said. “I know [those students’ families] will be grateful.”
Speech and Debate
The Board recognized the Speech and Debate Club, with the club’s secretary, freshman Nishchay Jasuja, giving a presentation. The report stated members of the club qualified to become members of the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA), California High School Speech Association (CHSAA) and the California Forensic League (CFL). Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, members of the club have competed in five tournaments, both local and statewide, and have four upcoming tournaments scheduled.
During public comment, a UPA parent voiced concern about health safety codes and cited pages 9-10 of the “California Department of Public Health Covid-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School Based Programs,” questioning why UPA policy would require students to wipe down their desks after every class. Trustees were unable to address this concern in the moment because of board protocols, but said they would discuss it among themselves.