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Morgan Hill
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August 15, 2022

Two trustees explain ‘no vote’ on Sobrato High

Questions surrounding the building of the new Sobrato High
School continue to plague the district, with two of the School
Board members clearly against moving ahead with the
Questions surrounding the building of the new Sobrato High School continue to plague the district, with two of the School Board members clearly against moving ahead with the construction.

The selection of the construction management firm Monday came on a 5-2 vote, with Trustees Amina Khemici and Shellé Thomas voting no. Their reasons for voting against selecting Turner Construction, they said, were that they didn’t think it was appropriate for the district to build the high school at this time.

Members of the public and district teachers have questioned the district’s ability to build a second high school at many board meetings. A second high school would allow ninth-graders back in the high school, according to district officials; some critics have said the current Live Oak configuration could accommodate all 9-12 students.

Currently, Live Oak has 1,733 students, including 36 ninth graders who come to campus from the middle schools to take at least one class. Live Oak began the 2001-2002 year with 1,889. The first day of the current school year, 1580 students attended class; Co-Principal Rich Knapp said at that time that there would be approximately 200, do to late enrollments and extended vacations.

Live Oak is one of five high schools in California to have a 10-12 configuration. But not all parents and teachers think this is a bad thing.

“I would like to thank the board for being so many years behind schedule that the last of my three children is able to attend ninth grade at Britton,” said parent and Britton Middle teacher Brooke Bailey. “Back when we moved to this area almost nine years ago, one of the main reasons we chose Morgan Hill was the 7-9 configuration at the junior high.”

District officials have given the 10-12 configuration as one reason for declining enrollment.

“Considering that we haven’t had that configuration (9-12) for nearly 30 years, that’s a ludicrous argument,” Bailey said. “If anything, most of the students who go on to private school stay at Britton for ninth grade and then leave.”

To build or not to build Sobrato was discussed by board members as they prepared to select the construction management firm.

Student Board Representative Jenny Moody asked about the intention of the board before the vote.

“Is it set in stone?” she asked. “Has it been 100 percent decided that we are building a second high school?”

When Board President Tom Kinoshita answered, “Yes,” Moody again questioned the status.

“Can we move forward with that, when there are three of us up here who don’t agree with it?”

Again, Kinoshita answered, “Yes,” and said that the board “is moving forward with it, this is the next step.”

Thomas and Khemici have repeatedly questioned the need for the new high school and the district’s ability to staff, operate and maintain a second high school.

Khemici explained her vote against Turner Construction as a vote against the second high school.

“If I have to choose, I would go with Turner, but my big question is, can we afford Turner,” she said. “How can we explain to the teachers, staff and students that we cannot afford the music program? I don’t think it’s a good idea to go forward (with Sobrato High) right now. The decision was made four years ago, but things have changed.”

Bailey addressed the board about the same issue.

“Considering how hard I worked for the bond (for facilities money to pay for the new high school), I could easily be one of those saying that we voted for a second high school, so you better build it,” she said. “But four years later, it’s a whole different story. People who have lost a fortune in the stock market and/or lost their jobs have had to scale way back and reassess their futures. The district has lost and will lose a fortune in state funding, and you’ve lost your income source, ADA, as students are fleeing to private schools and the charter school.”

Bailey offered advice to the board.

“Cut your losses, finish Live Oak and expand Central High,” she said. “That will serve the students much better. Getting your names on a plaque will not be worth all the heartache building Sobrato will cause.”

Thomas said she believes other areas in the district will suffer if Sobrato is built.

“We have to put people before buildings,” she said. “I don’t want to build this high school on the backs of the teachers, on the backs of the staff, of the students … My first priority is to Live Oak. I’d like to see that (renovation work) completed as soon as possible.”

Trustee Del Foster said the issue of building the high school or not was not the issue the board was discussing at that time.

“We are apparently on a different subject tonight,” he said. “I don’t see any reason to sidetrack it (the high school) now. It’s a fact in public education: there will never be enough dollars to build and operate the high school. But I won’t be a part of that excuse-making.”

Kinoshita agreed.

“We had a facilities session, and Bonnie (Branco, Deputy Superintendent) laid out the dollars available to build the facilities,” he said. “We have money to complete both Live Oak and Sobrato. Those dollars are available to do what we need to do. I don’t even have to speak about it; we’re going to go ahead.”

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