Superintendent Dubost states that guidance to return kids to school is not based on science; studies show that kids being back at school does not create a bigger problem

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) met for their regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9. The board moved agenda item J.3. Resolution #21-18 Approving Board’s Response to the Grand Jury Report to the front of the agenda.

Trustees Chris Bausch and Dorian Baker both raised concern that there are errors within the report, both grammatical and other.

For over an hour, trustees discussed their final response to the Grand Jury Report: Paso Robles Schools: A Cautionary Tale. There was apparent tension in the air during the discussion.

When trustees came to the fifth finding, there was much discussion on why SLOCOE (San Luis Obispo County Office of Education) didn’t intervene with severance negotiations for Chris Williams.

F5: The superintendent was not eligible for a severance package when he resigned. However, the board extended a negotiated settlement without obligation to do so.

Trustee Bausch repeatedly asked, “Why didn’t SLOCOE stop it?”

The first negotiation came during a special meeting, back in December 2018, which was intended to be a routine evaluation of then-Superintendent Chris Williams. Williams announced his resignation during that meeting, and trustees went directly into negotiating his severance package at $226,000.

San Luis Obispo County Office of Education (SLOCOEDU) Superintendent James Brescia attended the Feb. 9 board meeting in person and spoke up.

Brescia gave his input on the departure and negotiations of William’s severance package, which after a second negotiation with SLOCOEDU involved, ended up being $113,409.

“The agenda for that hastily called meeting was titled ‘Superintendent Evaluation.’ It was not about a contract. It was not about anything else. The fiscal advisor was excluded from that because we were told there were no fiscal matters being discussed. It was the evaluation of the superintendent. Once that came to my attention, you are correct, I started proceedings which, both Mr. Bausch and Mr. Gearhart know, with the state, to overturn the district’s decision that had never been done in this county before,” Brescia stated.

Trustee Bausch responded by saying the board knew a resignation and negotiation of severance pay would be in the meeting Brescia refers to. Bausch commented that then-board president Joan Summers had a contract made and ready for the meeting, insinuating she knew what was about to happen.

Brescia responded with, “All seven of you erred in not picking up the telephone and phoning us that we should be involved in that meeting.”

In the end, the motion to approve Resolution #21-18 with its corrections passed with a 5-2 vote, with Bausch and Baker voting no.

When Bausch cast his vote, he said, “Due to incorrect interpretations of the amended response, I cannot approve this resolution. There are too many errors in this document.”

For the rest of the meeting, the board tabled consent agenda item H.5. Approve 2020-2021 School Accountability Report Cards (SARCs).

Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Gaviola gave an update on reopening secondary school and athletics.

Purple Tier sports can return, including swimming and dive, cross country, golf, tennis, track, and field.

Gaviola addressed rumors of canceling the yet to happen football season.

“We have not canceled football,” said Gaviola.

Gaviola explains that football is currently paused, and there is no drop date as of yet.

“The likelihood of football, we don’t know yet. I wish we did, but it’s not starting yet, and we want kids to be able not to be tied to a cohort for football, miss out on football and miss out on sports we know are going to happen,” Gaviola said.

Gaviola explained there will be small cohorts for students who want to continue football skills development.

At the end of the meeting, Superintendent Curt Dubost commented on what is stopping districts from bringing secondary students back to in-person learning.

“More than anything, what is keeping us from opening schools is guidance that’s not based on science–you read anything around the world, the studies have shown that kids being back at school does not create a bigger problem. It doesn’t. That simple. We do know for a fact the damage that is being done,” said Dubost.

Gaviola brought up that once the county is in the Red Tier for more than 14 days, secondary students can come to in-person learning, but until then, the district cannot risk losing their liability insurance or funds.

Board President Chris Arend said, “Thank goodness they had their informal homecoming this last Saturday. Good event.”

With two more informational items and three more action items left on the board’s agenda, the board motioned to adjourn at 10:45 p.m.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 23 at 6:00 p.m.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles