Members of the public played a prominent role Thursday as the Governing Board met to discuss growing class sizes, honor former board member Charles Gardner and question its decision to not retain a district swim coach.
Several parents stepped forward to express concern regarding the increasing class sizes of joint grade classrooms.
“I feel like you’re hurting the kids that need your help the most,” said parent Jill Iacopi.
Iacopi is the parent of an El Granada student currently in a third and fourth grade mixed class.
With a class of 35 students to one teacher and a mixture of grade levels, Iacopi said, students are not receiving the highest quality education possible.
Parent Jodi Miller said parents have worked hard to find solutions and present successes but they now are asking the Governing Board for help.
“We have disgruntled parents,” she said. “We have students falling behind.”
Director of Pupil/Personnel Services John Corry said the administration is actively working with Cabrillo Unified Teachers Association in order to come to a solution.
“We need to put pressure on the community, we need to put pressure on the state,” said CUTA President Tom Cox. “We need to step it up.”
Cox said the money the district currently spent on state testing should go toward having the appropriate amount of teachers per student.
“We need to make changes or things will keep getting worse and worse,” he said.
Mike Alifano, member of the Measure E Oversight Committee, said the public should recognize what power they have.
“The only way we’re going to take care of this is to take care of this ourselves,” Alifano said.
Measure E, a voter-approved parcel tax, has generated $1.7 million for the district after it’s approval in June 2010.
“We’ve proven what we can do with the money ourselves,” Alifano said.
In the first agenda item brought to the board by a community member since John Moseley has held a position, locals spoke out against the possibility of replacing Half Moon Bay High School swim coach Bill Saxsenmier.
Saxsenmier formed the in 1998 and restarted the Half Moon Bay High School swim team in 1999 after 17 years of the inactivity.
“Bill is truly the heart and soul of swimming on the Coastside,” said Susan Royer, one of the community members who brought forth the agenda item.
Speakers stepped forward to express concern along with personalized stories as to how Saxsenmier has touched their lives.
“Bill was not just your swim coach,” said HMBHS alum Katherine Riemer. “He was your life coach.”
Each individual expressed that losing Saxsenmier would be a disservice to the swim program and the community.
“He inspires loyalty and there’s this great connection with people,” said Alice Cottrell, who began swimming at the high school pool eight years ago. “I was really heartbroken when I read he might not be the coach anymore.”
Board member Freya McCamant said the narratives touched her and the council referred the item to the staff so that they may look for possible solutions.
“Bill teaches that every, every person really, is a value and a winner in their own way,” Royer said.
After battling serious health issues, Charles Gardner greeted his former colleagues with gratitude as the board honored his years of service to Cabrillo Unified School District.
“It’s great to see this man walking,” said John Moseley.
According to Gardner, his brother issued a from his seat as vice president of the board when Gardner was in a coma in August. The former vice president also revealed that during his struggle he had flatlined on a couple of occasions.
But despite his health, Gardener stood before the board with pride for their accomplishments and always with an edge of humor.
“I can’t even begin to express the gratitude I have for being able to serve on the CUSD board,” he said.
He reminisced of his first days on the board, when talks of building were beginning to stir eight years ago.
“That was just enough to tip me over,” Gardner said.
Now, he said, his children have had the ability to benefit from the school.
HMBHS Principal Mary Streshy presented Gardner with a jacket stitched with the Cougar logo.
“Friday night football would not have been the same without you keeping watch,” Streshly said.
In his honor, Moseley presented Gardner with a commemorative brick to be placed at Cunha.
Gardner was also instrumental in appointing Superintendent Robert Gaskill in 2007.
With applause and a standing ovation Gardner ended his speech.
“Right here and in this room, we get to celebrate the successes that we have as a school district,” Gardner said. “Our successes are real, and we can put our hands on them.”