In what Bruce Porter, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School board member, teased was the shortest meeting in history Tuesday, several important matters were covered.

The only presentation and report was made by Superintendent Paul Turnbull, who said that the school’s efforts to close the achievement gap were beginning to meet with success and would continue. The results of the California Standardized Tests (CST) were received and present three areas of note.

The school has been focusing extra efforts in algebra 1 classes, as studies show there is a high correlation between success in that class and a student’s moving on to be successful in college. The outcome of the high school’s increased efforts is correspondingly higher test scores. The extra focus will continue, and Turnbull hopes to broaden the policy to other math classes.

The CSTs in each academic area showed gains, a feat which is hard to accomplish, Turnbull noted, as the school already is considered high achieving. Noting that the achievement gap still exits, Turnbull was pleased to report that the gap between white and Hispanic students’ achievement had narrowed. The same was true for students from lower-income families as compared to the general population. Their work in these areas continues, said Turnbull.

He also reported that the school has not yet received word on whether it will be categorized program improvement, which is a delineation governed by the No Child Left Behind Act. Board member Jerry Swanitz asked Turnbull to report on the status of the Act. The answer to both Swanitz’s question and that of board President Christine Burtness’ regarding the Academic Performance Index was that both programs remained under review.

Turnbull believes that the new Federal program, when it is finally put in place, will look more like California’s growth model for education rather than the punitive model embedded in the current version of the No Child Left Behind Act. Turnbull also reported that Troxell Communications had been to the school to inspect the classrooms and found that installation of the Hitachi projectors in any of them is possible. All that is left to do now, said Turnbull of the 20 high-end projectors the school won, is to decide in which rooms they can be best utilized. (See “Taking Home the Hitachi,” July 28 Valley Journal.)

Harold Litwiler, the new Food Service Manager, was introduced to the board. Litwiler hales from the Monterey Peninsula USD, where he turned a large program deficit into a surplus. “He has already made great progress and has met with all of our vendors,” said Turnbull.

Litwiler hopes to improve product quality and will be working to establish new policies to govern the program. And while Turnbull said the board was looking forward to receiving a report from Litwiler in the next few months, Litwier encouraged board members to join his new Wellness Committee and to suggest names of other possible candidates.

Porter noted that the cafeteria’s largest competitor is El Rancho Market, directly across the street from the school. Burtness, noting how dangerous crossing the highway is, hoped that changes in the food service the school offers will keep more students on campus at lunch.

Work is progressing on the campus facilities, Turnbull said, noting the stellar job he witnessed the maintenance department making. He also advised the board that arrangements had been made for the Tri-County Education Coalition to meet on the School’s campus several times this year. “This is just one more way for us to be the hub,” Turnbull said before the board moved on to the consent agenda.

As part of the agenda, the board accepted the resignation letter from Brett Piersma. “I am proud to have been a part of this school for this past decade,” he wrote, “and I wish the faculty, the staff and all the best.” Piersma and his family moved east, where he will be attending law school.

Also on consent, the board approved the negotiations between the district and both the classified and management employees. “Given the general economy, the board cannot offer an increase in salary for the 2011-12 school year,” the agreement reads with reference to the teachers. But “the board agrees to provide the classified employees the higher rate of compensation and/or health benefits contribution.” With a total fiscal impact of $42,666.67, the increase amounts to a maximum of $1,333.33 per employee depending on which insurance plan is chosen.

The same insurance provisions apply to the management employees, who also received neither an increase in pay nor a sought-after request for additional vacation time. There were no modifications made in the longevity stipend schedule. Porter asked that in the future the board be advised on the extracurricular programs, other than sports, that are available at the school and on how athletic financing works.

struax@syvjournal.com