Safety among top concerns at recent school board meeting

By: Brody Fernandez
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The Western Placer Unified School District board of trustees adjourned its March 20 meeting with an overall positive outlook toward students’ academic progress and an urgent sense of school safety as a priority.

Discussion on school safety and gun violence took up nearly a third of the meeting.

The March 20 meeting was held at Creekside Oaks Elementary School and the school’s Principal Reno Penders spoke briefly before introducing staff members to highlight growth in academic-achievement programs.

"We have always been and will continue to be a 'Community of Empowered Students,’" Penders said. The acronym, C.O.E.S., is the school’s motto. "These programs are a reflection of our commitment to our kids."

First-grade teachers Lana Parr and Caryn Carreiro emphasized one of these programs, Kindergarten Boot Camp, which provides additional supplemental instruction for kindergarteners and first-graders who need it.

“Every student can get these interventions, not just the lower-performing students," Carreiro said.

This program teams with the Push-In program supported by I-Ready, an online diagnostic software platform. I-Ready tracks students’ progression at the beginning of the year, mid point and end of the year for instructional feedback on areas where students are struggling.

"These kids are now able to get a double dose of help with areas they need to improve on," Parr said. 

A concurrent topic in the country was also discussed: gun violence and the safety of children in schools.

Western Placer Unified School District Superintendent Scott Leaman discussed the current climate of school safety.

“I concur with the sentiment and voices of those students at Lincoln High School," Leaman said.

Leaman was referring to the nationwide student walkout on March 21, which protested gun violence in schools a month after the Parkland Florida school shooting that killed 17 students and staff. Lincoln High School participated in the walkout and hasn't been immune to the violence, as a threat was recently made to the school.

"We have got to do something about school safety," Leaman added.

The superintendent also expressed his concern for gun violence in a district-wide email he sent out to all faculty members and every parent.

“I’m concerned some students don’t understand the potential consequences for making threats or saying they are going to shoot something,” Leaman said. “Threats will be taken seriously and their words matter.”

Tara Jeane, the Western Placer Teachers Association representative, responded to Leaman’s comments.

“We absolutely appreciate the continued stance and effort regarding our school’s safety," Jeane said.

Lincoln High School senior and student representative for the board Rebecca Luy, spoke about the students’ core message as a student body during the walkout.

“Even though it was pouring rain that day, a lot of students and parents alike showed up in support," Luy said. "Our message that day was clear. We stand with Parkland."


In other news:

Action items passed included allowing certified instructors to teach yearbook, AVID, computer technology and other electives at Twelve Bridges Middle School. One certificated teacher will teach broadcast and other electives at Glen Edwards Middle School. and one certificated teacher will teach computer science at Lincoln High School.

"We just love what you guys are doing here," school board vice-president Paul Long said. "These electives will go a long way in helping these students succeed in more ways than you know." 

Another highlighted program during the meeting was Parent Empowerment Night. Second-grade teacher April Rennie at Creekside Oaks Elementary School said it is one of the most vital programs the school offers.

“This program helps to create relationships with parents and maintain those relationships," Rennie told the board. “Parents who are more informed are ultimately more involved.” 

Board members shared their thoughts on how Principal Penders and his staff presented the material. Board member Kris Wyatt spoke directly to Penders,

“This is the friendliest campus I've seen. You are such a great leader,” Wyatt said.

School board President Paul Carras also praised the school.

“The cohesiveness that is so readily apparent among the staff here at Creekside is astounding,” Carras said. “Thank you for all that you do.”

Before adjourning the March 20 school board meeting, all board members unanimously decided to add one agenda item to the next meeting: school safety.

The next district board meeting is at 7 p.m. April 3 at Lincoln City Hall's third-floor conference room, 600 6th St.