The majority of recent articles (as of February 2022) are about the impact of the Omicron surge on teacher and student absences and instruction. In general, I think it’s hard to tell how a school district is perceived through news coverage–I don’t think they reflect community opinion very well.
Article about the district missing paychecks at the beginning of this school year: https://abc7.com/santa-ana-missing-paychecks-sausd-stalled/11036323/
Potential changes to governance structure, including term limits:
Various unions, including but not limited to:
The annual operating budget for the district is about $710 million, plus $177 million in "other funds." This needs to be double-checked by someone who has a better understanding of budgets than I do--the 2021-22 budget also has a table that says that total expenditures are just over $1 billion.
California state funding makes up 79% of the budget and likely comes with less strings attached than in a more conservative state. California has a complicated Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that makes it harder to separate state/local funding than in many other states--this is another thing I need to do more research on, I currently don't fully understand it. 85% of the district is low-income, so most (if not all) of the schools receive Title 1 funding from the federal government.
Enrollment has declined for the past 18 years and is projected to continue to decline, so funding is declining. COVID-19 has exacerbated the enrollment decline--the district has lost more than 5,000 students in two years. However, this was compensated for by increased federal funding. The last of that funding must be spent by 2024.
The school board is elected, so they are at least somewhat accountable to residents of Santa Ana (although the boundaries of SAUSD are not coterminous with the boundaries of the city of Santa Ana--need to look into how ballots are organized). School board meetings are televised and minutes are posted online, but only in English (45% of students are English language learners and far more than that do not speak English at home).
There are two resolutions posted on the district website stating that they do not assist immigration officials or allow them on SAUSD campuses.
The district emphasizes Family and Community Engagement as a practice, not a program. Part of this is the provision of Wellness Centers, which provide family events, classes on physical/mental health and academic support, and connections to other resources. There are also supposed to be FACE staff at every school, but many of the positions are empty. The website also has a resource newsletter, list of food resources, and a "resource support line" that seems to be available in both English and Spanish.
From the website:
Who is invited to engage with the Wellness Centers?
All families are invited to participate in the Wellness Centers. If you have a child in SAUSD, you are invited. And, if you do not have a child and are a community member, you are invited to participate, too! Remember, it takes a village.
This was representative of a general trend of making school facilities and resources available to all community members, not just students and families.
SAUSD has 5,000 total employees, including but not limited to: teachers, school administrators (principals), school staff (counselors, librarians, nurses, paraprofessionals, janitors, lunch attendants, etc.), and central administrative employees.
The district is led by a superintendent, an executive cabinet made up of deputy/assistant superintendents, and the school board. The district is also subject to some control by the Orange County Board of Education.
There is an assistant superintendent for Facilities and Governmental Relations who is likely one of the most relevant officials for environmental governance. The Facilities and Governmental Relations division is "responsible for the planning, construction, and maintenance of all schools and ancillary facilities within the Santa Ana Unified School District." They're responsible for the condition of school buildings and school grounds, but it's unclear if they have any control over environmental hazards outside of school grounds that affect the school. It's also unclear what the "governmental relations" part of the division does.
Schools are a key organization for environmental justice because they (can/should) provide students with the skills necessary to recognize and challenge environmental injustice when they see it. They can also serve as community hubs, contributing indirectly to environmental justice through the development of community social capital and political capacity.
“SAUSD is committed to providing each of its students with a high-quality education, rigorous and advanced programs, and a nurturing, safe environment with state-of-the-art facilities, 21st century learning and technology, and a direct pathway to college upon graduation. Our district proudly boasts one of the highest graduation rates in the state of California.”
We will work collaboratively and comprehensively with staff, parents, and the community to strengthen a learning environment focused on raising the achievement of all students and preparing them for success in college and career.
We assure well-rounded learning experiences, which prepare our students for success in college and career. We engage, inspire, and challenge all of our students to become productive citizens, ethical leaders, and positive contributors to our community, country and a global society.