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October 1, 2020

PVUSD Trustees approve Virtual Academy positions

WATSONVILLE—The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday unanimously approved new job descriptions for several teachers, administrative workers and a principal that will staff the new Virtual Academy, an all-online school approved July 23.

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The trustees also heard a budget report that has markedly improved since they passed the first budget of the year, thanks to a cost of living adjustment from the state and funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

PVUSD created the new positions for the Virtual Academy because the current job descriptions are 15 years old and do not reflect the complexity of working all online, Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez said.

The in-house counselor, she said, will be tasked with providing services to all the school’s students, a number that currently stands at 199.

“They are going to be taking on a unique role, because this will be providing academic counseling support to all students K-12,” Rodriguez said.

The district is providing stipends to Virtual Academy employees because they must use extra software, and are required to hold weekly phone calls with their students, Rodriguez said.

Jennifer Ponzio was named as the school’s new principal. The district has also hired 19 new teachers, an onsite counselor and an administrative assistant.

Ponzio has been working with students in Gilroy and Campbell since 2007. She taught social science and AVID for 11 years, and served as a high school assistant principal for two years.

Ponzio earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Oregon University, a masters of education from Oregon State University and a credential in educational administration from the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

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According to Chief Business Officer Joe Dominguez, recent negotiations between lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom resulted in a $14.6 million COLA for the district.

That was good news in a time when government and school officials nationwide are girding for financial losses caused by Covid-19, Dominguez said.

“What this allows us to do as a district is maintain our required reserves,” he said. “It really helped minimize reductions in layoffs.”

In addition, the district received $20.5 million from the CARES Act, Dominguez said.

Under federal rules, those funds must be spent by the end of the year, and must be used to mitigate learning loss due to coronavirus. It can also be used to pay for technology and nutrition services.

Dominguez was giving his final report after announcing he is leaving for a different job. PVUSD is recruiting for the position through Sept. 1.

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