2/10 Highlights: STEM Initiative

Parcel Tax Survey, UTR Tentative Agreement

Welcome to Board Watch for WCCUSD’s February 10th Meeting!

At this week’s meeting, the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education heard an overview of the proposed South Richmond STEM Initiative as well as a presentation featuring survey results assessing the level of support for a parcel tax renewal measure, and ratified a tentative agreement with United Teachers of Richmond (UTR).

Click here to explore the full meeting agenda.

1. South Richmond STEM Initiative

Cecilia Mendoza, District Executive Director, presented an overview of the South Richmond STEM (Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering) Initiative to the school board.

The initiative aims to support all students in the South Richmond corridor to become excited and engaged in learning, exploring, and sustaining STEM activities, culminating in a K-14 STEM path that leads to college and career opportunities. Through enriched curriculum and programs of study, the initiative’s goal is to set students up for long-term success; by the time students reach high school graduation, they will have already completed STEM coursework that counts towards an Associate’s Degree or two years of college/university credit.

The initiative focuses on Kennedy High School, Greenwood Academy, De Jean Middle, and all of the elementary schools that feed into Kennedy HS.

Design of Kennedy HS as a “STEM Early College High School”

The proposed initiative designs Kennedy High School as an early college high school, meaning students earn college credit from 9-12th grade that prepares them for post-secondary success.

9th Grade: Freshman House Program

The initiative proposes that for the 2016-17 school year, all incoming 9th graders to Kennedy HS will be placed into one of three cohorts within the Freshman House Program. In addition to the normal academic courses all students will take in 9th grade, the students will also take two specialized courses that encourage college-career readiness and introduce students to STEM engagement:

  • Get Focused, Stay Focused
  • Engineering/Technology 101, an A-G course which features topics like programming, electronic music, and hands-on robotics

“The goal here is not to have our students remediate as juniors and seniors, but for us to capture our students at the lowest level, [and] support them so they’re grade-ready to enter the 10th grade,” said Mendoza.

10th-12th Grades: Pathways to Opportunity through STEM Learning

After completing 9th grade in the Freshman House Program, students will select one of four pathways to explore for their remaining time at Kennedy:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Engineering
  • Health/Bio Study
  • Information Technology/Digital Media/Multimedia

After school and Saturday STEM tutoring, as well as STEM-focused field trips will be available as part of the initiative.

“We’re invoking their interest, really gaining their momentum in terms of what they want to study in fields that are high skill, high-demand, and high wages,” remarked Mendoza.


Pictured Above: Screenshot from South Richmond STEM Initiative presentation.

Click here to view the full presentation. To learn more about the South Richmond STEM Initiative, please contact Cecilia Mendoza at 510-307-4565 or cmendoza@wccusd.net.

2. Survey Results Assessing Level of Support for Parcel Tax Renewal

In November of 2015, the board approved a contract with Godbe Research, authorizing the firm to conduct two surveys — one in January and another in June — to assess the level of support for a parcel tax renewal measure in November of 2016.

Brian Godbe of Godbe Research shared the results of the January survey with the school board. Data was collected via telephone (land line and cell phone) and the internet from January 7th through January 17th. 805 likely November 2016 voters were randomly selected to participate in the survey from a pool of 82,872 likely November 2016 voters in WCCUSD.

The survey research objectives were to:

  • Gauge the public’s perceptions of whether WCCUSD is providing a quality education to students and effectively managing public funds
  • Assess potential voter support for a parcel tax measure in November of 2016 to maintain quality education with local funding
  • Prioritize projects and programs to be funded with the revenue
  • Test the influence of informational and critical statements on potential voter support

The survey revealed a base of voter support for the measure.

  • Initial, uninformed support for the parcel tax increase measure was 57.1% for the November 2016 election.
  • Results show that top-tier features of the measure — such as attaining and retaining quality teachers, protecting core academics (reading, writing, math, science), and supporting science lab materials/activities — increase the likelihood of voter support. Therefore, some of the items in the ballot question could be revised to increase the likelihood of voter support.


Given the survey findings, Godbe Research recommended that WCCUSD continue the process of preparing for a November 2016 election, contingent upon the suggestion that the district lead community engagements and informational programs to solicit more input, and build consensus and awareness.

Board Member Commentary

Board Member Liz Block remarked, “I definitely would like to make our next parcel tax, if we have it, heavier on the academic side — with strong preference if we could get some class size reduction.”

“The most important news here is that we do have positive potential. There is a strong case to be made for continuing [the parcel tax],” said Board Member Madeline Kronenberg.

Board Member Val Cuevas shared, “My sense is that we not only ask [for funding through the parcel tax], but we also match that ask with clear enhancements to our programs and our services, including accountability measures … It’s not just an ask to do the same old thing. It’s an ask for an outcome that we’re going to hold ourselves accountable to reaching.”

Click here to view the full survey results presentation by Godbe Research.

3. Tentative Agreement: United Teachers of Richmond (UTR) & WCCUSD

UTR and WCCUSD reached tentative agreement through the collective bargaining process on contract proposals which were sunshined for 2015-2018.

The board voted unanimously in favor of ratifying the agreement.

Board Member Val Cuevas thanked UTR and the district’s bargaining team for their collaboration on this agreement. She added, “I just wanted to … remind us that part of what we know will continue to drive outcomes is making sure that we have, attract, and retain the highest quality educators, and we support them and figure out the ways we can give them a living wage to keep them here in our community. This is just the beginning, and I hope that we’ll have further conversation about how we partner.”

Click here to view the summary of tentative agreement.


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