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Board Meeting Summary - 1/17/2024: Cell Phone Ban; A Giant Illegal Net; Changing Community Surveys

Ban Cell Phones in Class? Unanimous Yes! Except...the Superintendent?

In October 2023, Trustee Vurbeff asked the Staff to research the benefits and downsides of a districtwide ban on cellphone. The evidence is piling up that cell phones are a huge problem at schools, and many schools, states and countries are banning them. A decade of research now shows that cell phone use in school is linked to poor academic performance, shorter attention spans, stress, anxiety, bullying, loneliness, isolation, depression and other issues

What happens when schools put tighter restrictions on phones? Behavior improves, anxiety and stress decreases, attention improves, grades improve, and kids end up socializing and even exercising more. Teachers, parents and community members all spoke and wrote in to recommend further restrictions. But the Superintendent "researched" the issue and recommended NO FURTHER RESTRICTIONS on cell phones. Why?

We have no idea. Laziness? He ignored mountains of evidence, never polled teachers and misrepresented research to pretend that no changes are needed.

For the first time in recent memory, the Board rejected the Superintendent's recommendation and asked for more information on a potential cell phone ban, including a survey of teachers, parents and students. It's unfortunate that it will now take another meeting and several more months to discuss stricter rules on cell phones, but it's significant that the Board was willing to reject the Superintendent.

Perhaps 2024 will be an awakening for the Board!

A Giant Illegal $80,000 Lacrosse Net

At the Board Meeting, several community members who live adjacent to the Valley Middle School Upper Field commented that over Winter Break, CUSD began erecting a long set of large 20+ foot steel poles within the field of play for a net to catch errant lacrosse balls. According to district records, the cost of the net is $80,000. The neighbors also noticed that it was so tall it would block the ocean view of several residents living on Valley Street. Oops.

Ready for the kicker? CUSD never got a permit from the Coastal Commission to put up the giant net in the coastal zone, so once the City of Carlsbad found out, they issued an emergency stop work order telling CUSD to stop construction. Facing the risk of a daily fine, the poles were removed and Assistant Superintendent Dill acknowledged that the District would now have to go through the formal permit process to request a permit.

Why does CUSD need an $80,000, 20+ foot net for lacrosse balls? No one knows. The net was being installed to replace a 12 foot chain link fence that was removed when the fencing was upgraded several years ago. Apparently no one thought to simply install a new 12 foot fence?

The proposed net is not only illegal, but unsightly and potentially dangerous to children with the large steel poles being placed inside the field where children will be playing soccer, baseball and lacrosse. It is hard to imagine that whoever designed this net had children in mind, let alone a concern with the visual impact on neighbors. They certainly didn't have any budget limitations. And of course, there was lots of head scratching over who should have known the field was in the coastal zone.

Despite the comedy of errors, the Staff has no plans to consult with neighbors or parents about redesigning the net. Yet another black eye for CUSD on construction issues due to poor management, poor planning and poor community engagement.

Will the Board hold anyone accountable for this blunder? Feel free to ask, but don't hold your breath.

LCAP Community Survey

Every year the District surveys parents, teachers, students and community members about their priorities for the school district, which is then used to develop a strategic plan known as the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) for spending state funding to benefit students. This year, the Staff is recommending a new, open-ended survey system called "Thought Exchange" that will allow participants to create their own comments and suggestions and then rate those to give the District an idea of what the community wants to prioritize.

In the past, these survey questions were always the same, and they didn't always reflect well on CUSD. Will this new updated survey provide more opportunity for feedback? One can hope! Will CUSD listen to that feedback? Again, don't hold your breath!

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