WATSONVILLE—During a busy night with a loaded agenda, the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved plans to boost internet access throughout the city, hire a nurse to coordinate the district’s Covid-19 response and use grant money to purchase an electric bus.
The Trustees also approved a plan to increase access to athletic fields for both students and the community, and to purchase an app that allows students and staff to report concerns such as bullying.
In addition, the board renewed the four-year contract of Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez.
To better serve the families without an internet connection—or those with spotty service—PVUSD will allow Santa Cruz-based Cruzio to install infrastructure on the Pajaro Valley High School gym, the Henry J. Mello Center, E.A. Hall Middle School’s old gym and the district office, also known as the Towers.
The company already has equipment on top of the Watsonville Civic Center, Watsonville Community Hospital and at Watsonville Municipal Airport.
District officials say the plan will allow the company to increase coverage to families who need service so their kids can engage in distance learning. The agreement will allow low-income families to receive free or reduced-price internet service.
There is no cost to the district for the installation.
“This is basically a win for the community, it’s a win to the district and it also will help Cruzio’s ability to provide our families with internet connectivity,” said PVUSD Technology Director Dan Weiser.
District gets a charge from grant
The district will use a $281,945 grant from Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District to purchase an electric bus and install the infrastructure necessary to charge it. The purchase is fully funded by the grant.
The zero-emission bus has a 150-mile range and seats 26 passengers.
The charging station will be installed at the PVUSD Transportation yard at 196 Grimmer Rd.
It is not clear when construction will begin. PVUSD is waiting for the county to approve an easement allowing PG&E to make improvements that would allow for the charging station.
The Trustees approved a plan to purchase a fleet of eight electric busses in October 2019.
Cracking down on bullying
A new smartphone app will give students an easy way to anonymously report safety issues such as bullying, harassment and drug use in their schools, in addition to suicide ideation and self-harm.
Called Stopit!, the app will cost $11,293 for a three-year contract.
When students make reports, administrators receive instant alerts and can follow up appropriately.
The district has hammered out an agreement with the City of Watsonville to let the Parks and Community Services Department use the athletic fields at Ann Soldo and Radcliff elementary schools, and at E.A. Hall Middle School when school is not in session.
As part of the joint-use agreement, the district will also have access to city facilities, as well as the community room on the top floor of the Civic Plaza, Rodriguez said.
“This has been a long time coming,” Rodriguez said.
The Trustees also approved a plan to create a position for a Covid-19 nurse, who will coordinate the district’s response to the pandemic.
The designated Covid-19 school nurse—a part-time position—will assess and educate students and personnel about public health, and develop and implement protocol. The position includes clinical care, public health, leadership, quality improvement and care coordination.
The job description requires five years as a registered nurse, a current nursing credential and experience as a school nurse.
If a current employee takes the job, they can go back to their previous job when the pandemic ends.
At the end of the long meeting, the Trustees approved Rodriguez’s new contract, which did not come with a salary increase.
The approval came after a board evaluation of Rodriguez’s performance held on Aug. 12. It passed 6-1, with Trustee Georgia Acosta dissenting. Acosta did not make a comment about her decision.
Before the vote, 17 people made comments about Rodriguez’s work with the district since she started in 2016, all of them praising her performance. This included Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust CEO Deandre James, Digital Nest founder Jacob Martinez and Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance Director Erica Padilla-Chavez. Former school board members also wrote in with their support.
“In my 20 years with the district, I have never witnessed student performance improve as much as it did during her leadership,” said Alicia Jimenez, who served as executive assistant to three superintendents before becoming the district’s public information officer. “And this to me is what speaks volumes.”
Rodriguez’s salary is $222,832. Her current contract lasts through June 30, 2024.