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Sonoma County Board of Education Explained

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Sonoma County Board of Education Explained

By Gina Cuclis, President and Area One Trustee, Sonoma County Board of Education

As we start the new school year, I would like to clarify what we on the County Board of Education do and what our relationship is with school districts.

The County Board of Education is the governing body for the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE). We work in conjunction with County Superintendent Steve Herrington, who is also an elected official, to provide services and support to the county’s 40 school districts. The five board trustees represent areas of the county that align with the boundaries of the county supervisorial districts. As Area One Trustee I represent Sonoma, Bennett and Rincon valleys.

The services SCOE provides school districts take many forms. For example, SCOE’s Educational Support Services Department provides a variety of professional development opportunities for educators including leadership training. Our Career Technical Education Support Department assists school districts with the development and integration of career technical education classes to prepare students for jobs of the future. SCOE’s Special Education Department offers specialized instruction for children ages three to 22 who have physical, emotional, cognitive, or developmental disabilities.

SCOE also operates alternative schools for students who are seriously at-risk of school or societal failure. These include Amarosa Academy in Santa Rosa and Headwaters Academy in Petaluma. These schools provide a more personalized learning environment for students who are experiencing difficulties in a traditional school setting, or who are exhibiting negative behavior patterns in school or the community. Many of the students enrolled in these schools have been expelled from their district school, identified as habitually truant, or placed on probation by the juvenile court. SCOE also provides the educational programs at the county juvenile hall and youth probation camp. 

Occasionally parents unhappy with particular situations in their children’s school district contact me. They assume I have authority over school districts and can intervene. However, this isn’t the case. The county superintendent also has no authority to intervene. This is because school districts are autonomous organizations, each governed by its own board and policies. How school districts, county offices of education, county superintendents, and county boards of education operate and the definition of what our responsibilities are is governed by the state education code.

Another important job the County Board of Education has is our role as the appellate body for inter-district transfer appeals. This role occupies more of our time than any other board responsibility. When a student wants to attend a school in a district other than the one he or she resides, both school districts must agree to the transfer. If one denies, the student has the right to appeal to the County Board of Education. We then conduct a special meeting to hear the appeal. Our determination is based on consideration of each district’s policies. We decide if the policies were applied fairly and executed in the best interest of the student and the school districts. I find this role to be the toughest part of my job, as these situations are very emotional for families.

I enjoy hearing from constituents. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at ginacuclis@gmail.com.