Questions and Answers About the Citizens Advisory Committee (Posted July 7, 2016)
1. There is a rumor that there are some “special invitees” in the Citizens Advisory Committee, which is concerning to me. Who are they and why do they receive special invitations to be on the Committee?
There are no special invitees. Here is the composition of the Citizens Advisory Committee:
- There are thirty (30) voting members, consisting of twenty-nine (29) parents and residents within the District’s boundary, and the President of the teachers’ union, who has one vote on behalf of all the teachers in his organization.
- Within the twenty-nine (29) parents and residents, three (3) are current PTSA Presidents and one (1) is President of the PTSA Council. The PTSA President of Lynbrook HS had applied and was selected to serve on the CAC, but due to personal/family priorities, could not accept the invitation. A Lynbrook area applicant was invited to take her seat.
- Five students from three (3) of our high schools will take turns having three (3) seats in the committee. They are not voting members, since our students are not of legal age.
- Two administrators, one from Lynbrook high school and the other from the Enrollment and Residency Office of the District, serve as subject matter experts on issues such as enrollment and scheduling of classes, sections and programs. They are also non-voting members.
- The facilitator is assisted by a communication coordinator, and at times a transcriber to capture meeting minutes. The communication coordinator also handles questions sent by community members to CAC2016@fuhsd.org, and reports them to the committee. These people make up the facilitation team, and are not voting members.
- From time to time, subject area experts from FUHSD are asked to provide information to the CAC, however these FUHSD staff members are only present at a meeting at which they present and they do not vote on any CAC matters.
2. Who is this retired judge that we have been hearing about, and what is his contribution to the process? The facilitator is supposed to maintain his own independence and impartiality regarding the proceedings and outcomes of the committee. Why does he need guidance and “supervision” by a retired judge?
In the early stages of setting up the committee, establishing selection criteria, determining its proper composition, and ensuring proper diversity and balance, the District and the community all looked to the facilitator to make the most neutral and unbiased decisions.
While the facilitator possessed 15 years of experience in the practice of neutrality, the complexity of the issues raised by more than 76 applicants in the one-on-one conversations he was having with applicants convinced the facilitator to request the assistance of a retired judge.
This is a frequently used service by an organization called JAMS (Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services). JAMS provides judicial neutrals who are retired judges using their decades of experience in the legal practice of neutrality to assist individuals, organizations and communities in resolving disputes. In this case, the facilitator requested a service called neutral analysis and was given the names of four judges to select from, none of whom he had never worked with in the past, lived in the District boundary, or had children or grandchildren attending school in the District.
He then connected and met with Judge John Flaherty to go over the facts of the case, review all of the decisions he was planning on making, and make use of the legal and impartial expertise of the judge to ensure that all decisions were arrived at with no bias. After that the judge would remain available for consultation by telephone and email if additional issues showed up.
This was a wise decision by the facilitator to seek additional support from someone with decades of experience in the legal practice of neutrality. Two heads are always better than one, and 50 years of combined experience are much better than 15 years of experience in dealing with complexities. This is a major collective effort by many people who devote much time, energy and passion to achieve their desired outcomes for our community. Shouldn’t we take seriously the decisions required to set it up, establish selection criteria, determine its composition, and ensure proper diversity and balance?
3. We have been told that seven (7) of the twenty-nine (29) parents and residents in the committee (24%) are either teachers or staff employed by the District. How is this a fair inclusion? What actions are taken to ensure that they don’t feel pressured to vote according to the wishes of District administrators?
Initially there were seventy-six (76) applications received by the deadline. Over the next few weeks, six (6) individuals withdrew their applications for a variety of reasons, most of which had to do with lack of time. Of the remaining 70 applicants, 17 of them were parents and residents in the school district, who were also teachers or staff working for the District.
The controversy was conveyed to the facilitator in strong oppositional terms. Some community members from the Lynbrook area believed that no District-employed teachers or staff should serve on the committee, as they would feel pressured to take positions or vote in ways that were consistent with District administrators’ leanings.
Teachers and staff who applied to serve on the committee felt that their knowledge about school culture, student motivations, and the educational code were assets that would benefit the committee. They argued that they too were legal residents in the District, and their children’s quality of education was also at stake. They were acting on their own best interests as members of a free society, and to deprive them of the opportunity to serve on the committee would be unfair. Furthermore, as members of their own collective bargaining units, their independence from District administration was well established.
The facilitator and the judge discussed the issue at length, and made the decision in favor of the teachers and staff who were also parents and staff in the District. However, two additional actions were recommended by the judge, and implemented by the facilitator, to prevent any possibility of bias, no matter how slight:
- All seven (7) teachers and staff who were selected were contacted personally and advised that they were selected as parents and residents, not as teachers or staff, and the school district and its administration would have no authority over how they chose to participate in the committee. They also acknowledged in writing that if they ever felt any inappropriate pressure for them to take a certain position or vote a certain way in the committee, they would contact the facilitator immediately, who would take action to address this problem.
- The facilitator will provide anonymous voting in committee activities requiring voting, as long as any member of the committee requests it.
4. What is the percentage of teachers and staff who were selected vs. the number that applied? How does this compare with the percentage of other applicants who were selected vs. applied?
As mentioned previously, seven (7) teachers and staff were selected out of seventeen (17) who applied. This works out to roughly 41%. In comparison, of the 53 others who applied, 22 were selected, or 42%. Be aware that the percentages just worked out that way, as it was not the intention of the facilitator to select proportionately more or less teachers and staff than those who were not teachers or staff. They were all treated as parents and residents in the District, and the percentages were not a goal or target he was aiming for.
5. Why not publish a list of all applicants, what attendance area they come from, what their profession is, and whether they were selected for the CAC or not?
On the FUHSD Citizens Advisory Committee web page you can see a list of all the selected members of the CAC. When they applied, they were aware that if selected, their names would be published on the web site. However, many of them specifically requested not to have their contact information published for fear of being targeted for attacks by individuals within some social media groups in the community. We have complied with this request to date.
The applicants who were not selected have not given their permission for their names to be published. The facilitator has emphasized that because there were only half the number of seats as there were applicants, many excellent candidates were disappointed. A few were extremely upset by this news and communicated their feelings to the facilitator. To ask them for permission to publish their names as “not selected” would seem to be adding insult to injury. Furthermore, no one was asked to list their professions on the application form, other than teachers and staff who had to identify their school and position. In that case, posting applicants’ professions publicly may seem to be an unfair action with a bias against those who are teachers and staff.
6. I have been hearing from one of the residents in the Lynbrook area that the CAC is more representative of teachers and residents who are current or former employees of the District and a very minor number of folks unrelated to FUHSD. This resident concluded that the CAC is not shaped up to be true representation of the community as it was announced in the Board meeting on January 12, 2016, and is looking more like teachers, FUHSD staff committee deciding on their future, and a career planning activity.
The facts are explained clearly in the Qs and As on the web site, as are the names of all members of the committee who are investing time and energy to study and discover collaborative solutions to the enrollment challenges facing the District. You are welcome to talk with any of them to hear how they really feel about the composition of committee and the caliber of their fellow committee members.
Here is the current composition of the 29 parents and residents who are voting members of the committee:
12 out of 29 from Lynbrook HS area (41%)
6 out of 29 from Cupertino HS area (21%)
6 out of 29 from Fremont HS area (21%)
3 out of 29 from Homestead HS area (10%)
2 out of 29 from the Monta Vista HS area (7%)
Please make up your own mind about the CAC activities and progress reports based on facts, and insist on evidence whenever someone sends you rumors and innuendos. Continue to send your questions/comments to us at CAC2016@fuhsd.org, and we will share them with the members of the CAC, and provide you with a prompt, truthful and accurate responses.
7. One of the residents in the Lynbrook area told us that their application to the CAC was rejected. The resident felt that the rejection was due to prior opposition to cell towers at FUHSD and that was the real reason for the rejection. Is this true?
The CAC facilitator alone made the selections using the criteria that he developed with community input and approved by the retired judge. He said, “I asked no one, and no one told me who was involved in the cell tower situation." He offered his regrets to those applicants who were not selected, and asked them to continue to stay informed about what can be done to sustain the highest quality of education to all the students in the school district.
8. One resident in the Lynbrook attendance area was told that the enrollment issue was only related to Lynbrook, and assumed that the Citizens Advisory Committee should consist of mostly Lynbrook parents and residents. The resident was surprised and upset that parents and residents from other attendance areas were now also involved in the CAC. When did this committee become a District-wide effort?
On January 12, 2016, when the Board of Trustees made the decision, it was documented as follows in the Board meeting minutes:
To form a District-wide citizens’ advisory committee to study the enrollment needs of the District and all its aspects to provide a report and findings in order for the Board to make decisions for implementation in the 2017-2018 school year.
All five high school attendance areas are inter-dependent, and an action taken to increase enrollment at Lynbrook might draw students from other high schools, resulting in an enrollment decline at those schools. Understanding these inter-dependencies will allow the CAC to be more knowledgeable, and their recommendations to the Superintendent and the Board much more effective.
9. How was it decided how many parents and residents from each high school attendance area would be selected for the CAC? Who made this decision?
This was the most challenging decision that the facilitator and the retired judge made together, having taken on the role of being objective neutrals in the situation. They deliberated the two main arguments that had been submitted:
Option A: This is mainly a discussion about what to do with the declining enrollment at Lynbrook HS, 50% of the residents and parents should come from this attendance area.
Option B: This is an advisory committee on District-wide enrollment, and all five high schools are inter-dependent with regards to enrollment stabilizing actions, therefore 20% of the parents and residents should come from each attendance area.
They concluded during their deliberations that Option A was too Lynbrook-centric, and Option B did not give enough weight to the impact of any actions taken to stabilize enrollment at Lynbrook which may primarily impact enrollment at Cupertino High School and Fremont High School. The CAC facilitator and the judge considered different percentages and eventually settled on the following:
Lynbrook HS 40%
Cupertino HS 20%
Fremont HS 20%
Homestead HS 10%
Monta Vista HS 10%
As a reasonableness test, they looked at the percentages of applicants from each of the attendance areas, and saw that they were very close to the above proportions:
Lynbrook HS 42%
Cupertino HS 20%
Fremont HS 19%
Homestead HS 10%
Monta Vista HS 9%
Questions and Answers About the Citizens Advisory Committee (Originally posted April 2016)
1. What is the makeup of the committee, and how will balanced representation be ensured?
Assuming the current enrollment projections are accurate, which the committee will verify, Lynbrook High School is the only school in the District with an enrollment decline, and therefore Lynbrook will have the largest number of participants in the committee compared to other high school attendance areas. Each of the options that may be used to stabilize enrollment for Lynbrook may have an impact of varying degrees on the other high school attendance areas, so representatives from other FUHSD high schools are required. Community members and current and future parents of our high school students will be included, as well as teachers and students who will need to understand and respond to how the options will impact them. A small number of school and District staff will be needed to serve on the CAC as subject matter experts to the committee because their knowledge and information regarding scheduling and enrollment will be essential to deepen the understanding of the CAC members.
2. In selecting CAC members, shouldn’t we give higher priority to property owners rather than renters in the attendance areas? Owners have a lot more at stake, whereas renters can just move away whenever their children are finished with school.
The sentiment is understandable, but for the committee selection process to favor owners over renters could be considered an illegal discrimination. If a parent or legal guardian resides in a school district, their child’s attendance area is designated by the publicly elected school board for that district. The law regarding public education makes no distinction between owners and renters, and the only valid consideration is their legal place of residence.
3. Of the teachers who are in the CAC, how many teach STEM subjects rather than liberal arts subjects? This ratio should be balanced because both perspectives are important to the excellent education quality in all of our high schools.
This was not used as a criterion for committee member selection. However, it turned out that three members of the committee have taught Math and Chemistry, and three others have taught liberal arts subjects. In addition, committee members have served on the FUHSD Math Advisory Council and volunteered for Science Fair, Book Fair, Music Booster and Athletic Booster programs. There is excellent diversity of interests in the committee.
4. What is the procedure for assembling the committee? What is the process for the committee to do its work?
On April 1, 2016 the CAC webpage on the FUHSD website was launched and included information about the CAC facilitator, the schedule of meetings, and an application form that interested parties can download from the FUHSD website. Applications can be submitted by mail, by email or fax and must be received by the deadline of April 22, 2016. Selections will be completed and invitations issued to committee members by the middle of May, as the first committee meeting is on May 25, 2016. Final committee selection will be made by the CAC facilitator and determined in adherence to the goal of forming a committee that is representative of a variety of stakeholders throughout FUHSD. The main criteria for selection include:
A passion to contribute to the highest quality of education for ALL students in the District.
A willingness to be open-minded in examining facts and verifying information
A commitment to seek win-win or compromise solutions with other committee members, since the goal of stabilizing enrollment involves complex issues and multiple alternative solutions
Leadership and affiliations with PTA/PTSA or community groups which yields the ability to assist in the dissemination of information to the larger community
Ability to be present at all meetings of the committee
The committee will hold ten meetings, typically on a Wednesday evening from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the District office. A hot meal will be served at 6:00 pm before each meeting.
The first meeting will be organizational in nature, going over goals, tasks, process, priorities, agreements, and expectations between committee members. A communication process will also be determined so that the larger community can monitor and communicate to the committee regarding its progress.
Several meetings will be devoted to examining and confirming information, such as the enrollment projection information, funding and bond programs, physical and educational capacity, boundary differences vs. Cupertino Union School District, enrollment and relationship to classes, sections, programs, student performance, diversity, property values, and college admission implications.
Several meetings will be devoted to clearly understanding the options available to stabilize enrollment, such as boundary change, area of choice, open enrollment, or existing program relocation, the pros and cons of each one, and especially their multi-faceted and District-wide consequences.
The rest of the meetings will be focused on developing solutions, building partial or full consensus, and preparing the report and presentation to the Superintendent and the Board of Trustees.
As this is a Superintendent committee and not a Board committee, its working meetings are not going to be open to the public. To ensure transparency a detailed report will be published after each meeting. All questions and comments should be addressed to CAC2016@fuhsd.org.
5. How was the facilitator selected, and how can we be sure that he will do a satisfactory job with this committee?
Pursuing a comprehensive and measured process, FUHSD consulted with a number of community members and FUHSD staff in order to obtain the name of an individual who has a proven track record of successful facilitation for organizations, large groups, and communities. FUHSD feels fortunate to have retained the services of Minh Le, President of the Wilfred Jarvis Institute in Cupertino, to facilitate the Citizens Advisory Committee because of his qualifications, thoughtful leadership, and strong desire to serve the community. Click here to learn more about Mr. Le and his background.
6. How can we make sure that the facilitator will not be biased in favor of the Superintendent who made the decision to hire him?
Mr. Le is clear that as a facilitator his commitment is to listen to and care about every person who has a stake in the quality of the education received by every FUHSD student. However, in order to be effective in his role, he will maintain neutrality and impartiality with regards to the proceedings and final recommendations of the committee. His independence is an asset to the committee, and a benefit to the committee’s work.
7. Please publish the names and email addresses of all committee members so that we can contact them with questions or concerns related to the work of the committee.
Once the CAC members have been selected, their names will be published on this website. However, rather than including the email addresses of members of the CAC, members of the community who want to send questions or comments to the CAC are invited to use the CAC2016@fuhsd.org email address and this information will be provided to CAC members.
8. How can I find out about what happens at the CAC meetings? How will the process and eventual CAC recommendation be transparent to the community?
The communication process from the CAC to the community will be prompt and frequent. Following each meeting a summary of what transpired at the meeting will be posted on this website. We anticipate that in the Fall the CAC will submit a recommendation to the FUHSD Board of Trustees and this recommendation will be shared in full on this website before it is presented at a FUHSD Board meeting.
9. Is there a minimum of meetings that I am required to attend in order to serve on the Citizens Advisory Committee?
Selection will be based on the five criteria listed under question two above. On the application there is a space where an applicant can indicate how many meetings will have to missed due to a schedule conflict. That information will be taken into account in evaluating the applicant’s qualifications compared to other candidates.
10. Why does the application ask for information about volunteer activities and leadership roles in schools?
This is one of the criteria for selection. The rationale is that volunteer experiences in local schools and leadership roles in school-related organizations are correlated with knowledge about education, experience in working with parents, teachers and students, and the ability to connect to or influence a larger network of people in the community.
11. Why is it that the application wants to know if I have any children and where they go to school?
We want to make sure that each of the following groups of participants is represented in the committee in appropriate proportions: students, teachers, current and future parents and community members. If an applicant’s student’s attendance area is one of our high schools, the applicant will be considered as a current parent. If the attendance area is a Cupertino Union School District or Sunnyvale School District school, the applicant will be considered as a future parent. In addition, see the answer to question one above regarding the makeup of the committee, and why some of our high school areas may have more representatives in the CAC than others.
12. I understand that the CAC meetings will not be open to the public. Isn’t this a Board committee subject to the requirements of the Brown Act?
Once the Superintendent considered the timeline for decisions and the need to have the group consider a large amount of information, the Superintendent chose to create an ad-hoc Superintendent’s committee. Although this committee is not subject to Brown Act requirements, FUHSD is focused on transparency for the public including having the committee members act as liaisons to the community so that they can receive community input and bring that input to the meetings. The committee members can freely discuss issues with the community outside of the confines of an agendized meeting.
The facilitator's criteria for committee members will allow the selection of people with passionate voices, as well as those who have leadership and affiliations with community groups to maximize two-way communication. We will share as much in terms of minutes and topics on the website as we can in an effort to make the process highly transparent.