CVUSD will create a committee to improve the culture and climate of the school

The Coachella Valley Unified School District is creating a new committee to improve academic and social-emotional support for students and staff.

The move comes a month after the CVUSD Board of Education approved a new job description for a positive culture and climate district coordinator. Among other responsibilities, the Coordinator will facilitate educational support programs for students, parents, staff, and the community to build capacity for strong parental involvement and increase student academic achievement.

The Culture and Climate Committee will be comprised of Superintendent Luis Valentino, Council President Blanca Hall and Council Members Silvia Paz and Trinidad Arredondo, two district leadership staff, two principals, two teachers , two classified school employees, a parent and a student representative.

The creation of the committee was approved by a 7-0 vote at Thursday’s school board meeting.

Earlier this school year, several CVUSD teachers spoke anonymously to a local television station about safety issues at some schools.

“It’s not a safe environment for our students,” said one teacher. The report alluded to fights at Coachella Valley High School.

In September, the district had to warn students not to steal school property as part of a viral TikTok challenge.

Improved campus safety, culture of constant council concern

In 2018, the council voted to end the district’s relationship with a controversial Riverside County Probation Department program that some say pushed young people unnecessarily through the criminal justice system. The district removed police officers from campus in favor of a “restorative justice” model. The restorative justice model aims to stimulate a healthy dialogue between school staff, students, and their families about communicating and identifying problem behaviors rather than harshly disciplining students.

Still, 2.9% of CVUSD students were suspended in 2019-20, according to a document attached to Thursday’s agenda. Although this number is slightly lower than the average statewide suspension rate reported the previous school year, CVUSD suspension rates were much higher for certain minority groups: 5.6% black students, 6.3% of homestay youth, 6.6% of students with disabilities, and 13.7% of Native American students were suspended in 2019-20.

In-person learning was suspended for most of 2020-21 due to COVID-19, and the district has not reported suspension data for the current school year.

The district’s goal is to reduce the overall student suspension rate to 1.2 percent by 2023-24.

Jonathan Horwitz covers education for The Desert Sun. Contact him at [email protected] or @Writes_Jonathan.

Martha K. Merrill