Ventura Unified School Board meeting met with substantial student and teacher advocacy


Olivia Mowad

Nathan Buehner ’23 returns to his seat among loud cheering and the waving of posters in support.

Emma Ippolito, Assignment Editor

The outside patio of the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) offices was filled with chatting voices of teachers and students alike as they awaited the 7 p.m. start time of the School Board meeting on Sept. 13, 2022. Red shirts reading Ventura Unified Education Association (VUEA) shined brightly against the night sky and students in BioScience and DTech attire walked around with posters reading “give us our opportunities back” and “Save our Science (SOS)” in large print.

The meeting began with addresses from Board of Education President Sabrina Rodriguez, VUSD Superintendent Dr. Antonio Castro and other board members. Students from Buena, Ventura and Pacifica High Schools also gave updates on school happenings before Dr. Castro gave his first update. 

Dr. Castro went on to address the one percent raise for teachers which caused an uproar from the crowd. “Help us help kids” rang out in the room and even carried to those waiting outside. The room’s tense atmosphere did not diminish. 

It was then time for public comments. Speaking in opposition of the removal of coordinating periods at Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech), Caitlyn O’Neil ‘23, Tessa Shinden ‘24, Nathan Buehner ‘23, Joseph Parcher ‘23 and Natalie LeFevre ‘23 represented their respective special programs.

Shinden explained, “I know for a fact that I am not the only one hurting when the opportunities and experiences that were once offered are now being unjustly taken from students.”

Once again I just simply ask for the administration to recognize the nuances of this problem and more solutions are considered for the betterment of all.

— Joseph Parcher '23

Shinden later commented on the possible consequences of the decision by adding, “Students that have not only been promised enriching pathways for specialty careers, but students who deserve this enrichment.”

Buehner explained, “The amazing opportunities that I have taken advantage of are the result of programs created by teachers and staff who have the time to put their heart and souls into the future of their students, and yet this time is now gone.”

Parcher went on to expand on the issue, mentioning, “Unfortunately the administration did not consult the teachers and hence have wrecked the current direction of the academies as a byproduct.”

Following students’ commentary, it was still not yet time for other public grievances. This included teachers furious over the one percent raise, the crowd waving “we love kids” signage and singing and chanting in the background. Foothill Tech parents also spoke on behalf of the special programs, including James Parcher and Lori Dearman.

BioScience Academy adviser Mika Anderson, took to the podium and began listing alumni who went through the program and now hold medical positions. “It’s not just the class, it’s the community that we build, it is the experiences that they get,” Anderson emphasized.

The students are the ones that are paying. I freely give up my time all the time, but they’re the ones that really deserve the chance to shine.

— Mika Anderson, Bioscience Adviser

Principal Russell Gibbs of Foothill Tech also spoke to the board and audience, explaining that the amount of students at school was not much more than last year and the removal of the coordinating periods was a way to address the issue. “This year I had to use every period given to me to honor my student’s course requests, and again, I know it was frustrating to have these changes later than typical,” Gibbs stated.

Darcy Duffy, a current teacher at Lemon Grove Elementary School who also served as the previous activities director, BioScience Academy director and college career and media center coordinator for Foothill Tech, voiced her disappointment on subject of the removal of the coordinating periods. 

Duffy explained, “ASB, FIRE crew, CAP, BioScience and DTech academies have been an instrumental part of creating a successful school environment for numerous students.”

Duffy further went into the issue by mentioning, “I also know with this seven period schedule and numerous students not taking all seven classes, there is plenty of wiggle room to make these programs happen with the support of coordinator periods during the work day.

“What is more disturbing is the lack of understanding the school mission and school culture by the FTHS [Foothill Tech] principal to even consider cutting the time to run these programs,” Duffy concluded. 

With protests forming into action by students, more coverage will be available soon. 

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