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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

Davis City Council, Davis Joint Unified School District discuss school updates​​ at 2×2 meeting

School board officials discussed challenges facing the district and ways the city can help


By KATELIN PANG — city@theaggie.org


On Jan. 17, the Davis City Council and Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) 2×2 meeting took place at 5 p.m. At the meeting, officials talked about a new safety measure, road work updates, new learning strategies and questions regarding funds.

This monthly meeting invites two city council members to join with two DJUSD board members in order to discuss schedules, projects and progress about plans happening in the city of Davis and DJUSD.

Mayor Josh Chapman was accompanied by Davis City Council Member Donna Neville. The school board presented Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald, from the DJUSD Board of Education, and Superintendent Matt Best. Best brought many items of interest including a proposal for new street transformations, new teaching techniques to be implemented and plans to build more affordable housing in Davis. 

Best also discussed the test teaching strategies, which seek to help individual students grow when provided testing, that have been in the works for a little less than a year. 

“One of our main focuses is universal design for learning. This is a certain learning pedagogy where teachers design a lesson to meet the needs of all students,” Best said. “It makes meeting their needs easier in a classroom and makes the targeted interventions more effective for the students that need them.”

Best talked about the Legislative Analysis Office and the governor’s news that introduces budget deficits for the state of California, spanning over the next three years. This will result in a heavy decrease in overall revenue for the district in the coming year. This loss is caused by a decrease in enrollment after the pandemic and reduced costs related to falling attendance. 

Best reported that the funding they receive from the state government is heavily apportioned through attendance records in each school.

“Pre-pandemic attendance was at 96% and today, we’re sitting at a little less than 93% — and that’s a loss of over three million [in] ongoing revenue,” Best said. “We are encouraging students to attend when they are well and take advantage of short-term independent study.” 

This three percent can be attributed to multiple factors: one being parents deciding to keep their children home longer when having symptoms of illness and with online learning options being readily available, according to Best. The superintendent said that even after the pandemic, parents don’t see a need to send their children to school sick when work can be done at home, preventing them from falling behind.

After Best shared this information, Assistant City Manager Kelly Stachowicz provided updates on major roadway projects.

“We have finished most of our major road work projects for the winter and won’t start anything else until later in the spring,” Stachowicz said.

This will limit the amount of downtown traffic that has been taking hours to clear at the end of the day when commuters are trying to get home.

Regarding the before and after-school traffic around Hamel St. in front of Pioneer Elementary School, the school is hoping to change it into a one-way street westbound in order to minimize road blockage. They have sent out a survey to the neighboring houses and intend to make adjustments with their input. 

Chapman mentioned how they aren’t the only school prioritizing pick-up and drop-off safety and that he is happy to help the movement.

“However I can assist or facilitate through the city side, I am happy to be engaged in that conversation,” Chapman said.

Best brought up the topic of workforce housing projects, which has been a district-wide conversation about building more affordable living for teachers and staff. Escamilla-Greenwald said she was excited to hear about the future project.

“It’s a shame to lose such good teachers because they aren’t able to live here affordably, and they can’t continue to commute an hour or so back and forth,” Escamilla-Greenwald said.

Other challenges during the school year have been multiple bomb threats, violent damage to school property and even racial slurs written on classes with POC teachers, which forced stronger security standards like camera pilot systems being installed in each facility.

“We have had quite a tumultuous year with regards to school safety,” Best said. “Starting the year off with a litany of bomb threats and in Oct. and Nov., we started to experience vandalism particularly focused on our elementary sites. Many broken windows […] one of our Black teachers was targeted with the [N-word] on the back of her classroom. So as a result, we have taken an unprecedented step as a school district and initiated a camera pilot [system].” 


Written by: Katelin Pang — city@theaggie.org


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