Following a closed session to review the superintendent’s evaluation Tuesday, the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District Board of Education reconvened to conduct business as usual, following the swearing in of incumbents Bruce Porter and Christine Burtness, both re-elected on Nov. 6 to serve another four years on the SYVUHS Board of Education.

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One of the agenda items for the unchanged board was selecting a president and clerk for the coming year. Porter was elected to a second term as president, and Marc Owens was re-elected to serve as clerk. Board member Kyle Abello was elected to serve as representative to the County Committee on School District Organization, with Jerry Swanitz to serve as the alternate. Marc Owens will serve as 1st representative for negotiations and Christine Burtness will serve 2nd in the same capacity.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the newly sworn-in board moved quickly approving 15 items on the Consent Agenda, but after Marc Owens raised a question about the necessity of spending $14,343.50 from the Unrestricted General Fund to upgrade the school websites, that item was moved for further discussion to the Action Agenda, whereupon it was voted down 3 to 2.

As part of the Action Agenda, the board unanimously approved a request for permission to add a new course for the Santa Ynez Valley High School curriculum titled Theory of Knowledge-Critical thinking. The class was previously taught under the International Baccalaureate designation and described by superintendent Turnbull as “well received” by students.

According to principal Mark Swanitz, this course will be offered to seniors in the 2013 fall semester as an evening “add-on” class and is not eligible for an off-campus component.

The class will be primarily a discussion course, employing Socratic-style questioning and lively interaction between students and teacher. During the discussion, Abello related how a similar class during his senior year at SYVUHS prepared him for the critical thinking required for a successful college experience.

During the presentation portion of the meeting, instructors Joanna Lara, Krysta Lishman and Agustin Vizcaino, all from the World Languages Department, spoke to the board about the focus of their instruction and presented a PowerPoint demonstration showing program goals and objectives, including addressing Academic Critical Needs and reviewing the progress of the students in the World Language Department to date. The primary objective is to close the learning gap and get more Hispanic students into AP classes.

Although students can enroll in Latin, Spanish and/or French classes, Latin classes are being phased out and the emphasis on the presentation was how to improve the academic performance of students whose primary language is Spanish. Families, including Non-English speaking parents are encouraged to enroll in special computer classes designed to improve communications between the school and families. Mr. Vizcaino said there is “very positive feedback” from the students and their parents and a sense of feeling “more connected to the world.”

Among other items approved by the board was an action to conduct a search and hire a new superintendent prior to June 2013. The board accepted the superintendent Paul Turnbull’s resignation during the November 2012 board meeting.

The cost of using SBCEO to search for a new superintendent is expected to be $4,000 plus expenses. During the public comment portion of the meeting, the board was asked about the necessity of replacing the superintendent and asked if these taxpayer dollars could be better spent in the classroom. Abello asked if the SBCEO could be utilized to make recommendations regarding the organizational structure of the school.

The SBCEO representative said that could be researched and discussed at a future meeting.

Board members then approved Turnbull’s recommendation that the Santa Barbara County Education Office be hired to act as a search consultant. Turnbull will continue his tenure through June 30, 2013, giving the board ample time to make decisions regarding his replacement.

Student representative Chase Hemming gave an update on athletic activities, including the progress of the Toy Drive, candy sales and a successful recent canned-food drive. Hemming also reported the Intermural Dodge Ball championship game would be played during the lunch period on Friday, Dec. 14, and his team (the Dodge Ballers) had reached the finals.

Fielding a question from the board on the newly implemented schedule requiring students to return to school a week earlier than previous years, Hemming reported that while he did not like starting school early, he did prefer taking his final exams before Christmas to “get it over with” and is happy to finish school in May rather than June.

After approval of the proposed Academic Calendar and brief comments made by Burtness regarding the school’s use of data, the meeting was adjourned. The next assembly will be held in the SYVUHS Board Room on Jan. 15.