With Superintendent Wendy Gudalewicz and the CUSD School Board, community members are often left wondering “what really happened”? They tell us one thing. Yet, the evidence we see is to the contrary. What are we to believe? The issue around teacher housing and the Luther School site is a recent example.
Here are the facts:
October 13, 2015 — CUSD Board held a closed session on Luther School site [10/13/15 agenda & minutes]
November 17, 2015 — CUSD Board held a closed session on Luther School site [11/17/15 agenda & minutes]
December 8, 2015 — CUSD issued a news release titled “Cupertino Union School District Seeks to Build Largest Teacher Housing Project in California.” This news release was the public’s first awareness of any plans for teacher housing or Luther School site. [12/8/15 news release]
The news release included highlights of CUSD’s plan including:
“Today, the Cupertino Union School District unveiled an ambitious plan to build over 200 units allocated specifically for teachers, and non-teaching staff.”
“…the District is currently developing a Request for Proposal (RFP) as they seek to find developer who will be sensitive to the needs, not only of the District, but also the overall community.”
“…the project will not utilize any public dollars.”
“Already, the response from the Cupertino teacher community has been very positive of the proposal.”
“The District anticipates the project being completed by the 2018-19 academic year.”
December 8, 2015 — CUSD hired an outside public relations firm, Voler Strategic Advisors, to conduct a press conference announcing its plans to build teacher housing on Luther School site. In the photo below, the Superintendent and all CUSD Board Members are gathered behind the podium in support of the announcement. This photo was posted on Voler’s Facebook page, but taken down once the public discovered it.
December 15, 2015 — CUSD Board held a closed session on Luther School site [12/15/15 agenda & minutes]
January 2016 — The Luther community obtained nearly 1,000 signatures on a petition opposing the rezoning of the Luther School site. Concerned parents and community members created a Save Luther website.
February 23, 2016 — Concerned community members across CUSD staged a rally before a school board protesting the lack of transparency and closed decision-making by the CUSD District. Save Luther School Site Rally
March 2016 — Concerned parents sent Brown Act violations notices to Board Members and the Deputy District Attorney to prevent the District from holding further closed sessions on Luther School site. CUSD Brown Act Violations Notice and CUSD Cease and Desist Letter
March 22, 2016 — CUSD Board held its first open session with the public to discuss teacher housing and the Luther School site. At the meeting, Chris Jew (CUSD Chief Business Officer) shared a presentation. Board members were able to “for the first time” ask the questions they would like to have answered by Superintendent Wendy Gudalewicz.
Here are some of the questions Board members asked at the meeting. The video of the meeting can be found here.
Anjali Kausar: The biggest question I have is – I would like to hear from the teachers. Aside from the one secretary who spoke about it, I have not heard one employee come tell us to take the steps and spend the resources to find answers. I don’t want surveys. I would like the teachers to come to Board meetings and tell us why we should do it.
Soma McCandless: My first question is how do we understand the feasibility and the need? Could we find comparable districts that have already done this and get some information from them? What was the process they used? What was the land they used? What was the funding? What is their occupancy rate? Is there a wait list for their apartments? What is their current management like – is the District acting as the landlord?
Kristen Lyn : I want to see a teacher survey to hear their ideas. I want to see the enrollment study. We know Cupertino has some current development and the San Jose Urban Village plan. So I would like to know the impact for our District. When we do the demographic study, we only do the analysis for up to 5 years. But if we lose a school site, maybe that’s a 20-year impact. I would like to know the long-term impact of the development on our enrollment.
Phyllis Vogel: I want to hear from staff as well as community. We have not heard that. We’ve had 3 staff members speak to us. That’s not overwhelming when you consider how many staff members we have in our district. My question is — if it were a housing development of 200 units and not a school of however many children there are at the schools on Luther site now, how does that change the dynamic of traffic in the Luther School site area?
Josephine Lucey: I’d like to see a demographer report where we look back and look forward at a moment in time and make a best guess of what enrollment is going to be.
Anjali Kausar: I would really like to know what development is happening around the Luther site. But to reiterate my earlier point, I would not want to put any resources on any of this until we really hear from the staff.
Soma McCandless: I would like to look at our demographer report to know if the growth from Steven’s Creek Urban Village is included in our report.
Kristen Lyn: I think an environment study would be very important. I also want to see if we have other solutions. When those other developments are happening, could those developers provide several units for our teacher housing? Or since CUSD is across 6 cities, maybe city government would have an interest in providing shared housing?
Phyllis Vogel: I think the first step should be to assess the staff and see where we really are before we spend a lot of resources on anything else. It’s important to me that we have a process that’s broad-based that includes staff and community.
Josephine Lucey: I’d like to see a timeline and schedule – a feasibility study. How would you do it? A process that walks you through, if we decided to move forward, when would you break ground? When would it be done? And how does that all fit in with the leases that we currently have there?
Anjali Kausar: We’ve been spending a lot of time thinking of all the questions we want to ask. But I think we really need to get the first question answered which is….What does our staff really think?
WHAT IS THE TRUTH?
If the Board Members truly did not have the answers to their most basic question — is there a need for teacher housing — then why did they stand behind the podium in support of the press announcement on 12/8/15?
If the 3/22/15 Board meeting was truly the Board’s first opportunity to hear about the Superintendent’s teacher housing proposal, then why did they hold three closed sessions on 10/13/15, 11/17/15 and 12/15/15 to discuss the Luther School site?
Where is the Board’s governance over the Superintendent? If Board Members truly believed no action had been taken on teacher housing or the Luther School site, then why did they support the Superintendent issuing a news release and holding the press conference on 12/8/15?
If teacher housing is truly a “concept” as Superintendent Gudalewicz is now saying, then where did all the details come from that were included in the news release on 12/8/15?
So, what is the truth? Are we witnessing incompetency or deception by the Superintendent and Board Members? If the Luther advocates hadn’t rallied the CUSD community, would we be observing the Board ratify the Superintendent’s plan to turn Luther into teacher housing? Would Luther be “West Valley’d”?
Is this the kind of leadership we want in charge of our children’s education? Help save our schools! Sign the No Confidence Petition and attend the CUSD Board meeting on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 6:00 pm, at Nimitz Elementary!