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Citrus Heights council divided over next step for education committee

Citrus Heights Mayor Tim Schaefer speaks during an April 27, 2023, council meeting.

By Sara Beth Williams–
Next steps for the newly formed Citrus Heights Education Committee are up in the air after a stalled 2-2 vote over the committee’s proposed work plan presented to the City council during the April 27 council meeting.

At the March 23 meeting, council members narrowly approved the formation of a limited-term education committee to address the feasibility of creating a Citrus Heights Unified School District and tasked an existing ad hoc committee with developing and presenting a work plan for the education committee to the council.

The proposed work plan was published in an agenda packet posted on the city’s website prior to the April 27 meeting. Proposed activities of the Citrus Heights Education Committee’s included: analyzing Citrus Heights school test scores, student records, athletic and other school activities, and enrollment capacity versus actual enrollment; researching the steps and process of becoming a school district and providing other examples of newly-formed school districts; assessing the budgetary needs and available resources in which to form a new school district, and regularly reporting progress and recommendations to the council.

At the beginning of the council’s last meeting, Mayor Tim Schaefer proposed that discussion on the education committee’s work plan be postponed, but his proposition was voted down by two of the four present council members. Vice Mayor Bret Daniels confirmed to The Sentinel he was absent because of medical reasons.

Schaefer said during the meeting that the city should “absolutely” explore the idea of forming a school district, while Councilmember Jayna Karpinski-Costa argued that forming a committee was unnecessary when the city could hire one person with more experience to look into the viability of forming a separate school district instead.

Schaefer countered, pointing out that the council already voted to establish the committee, and the committee is “in place.” He said the council’s current action item was only to discuss the work plan for the committee.

Karpinski-Costa advocated instead for “work(ing) with our local schools,” echoing an earlier public comment from resident Bill Shirley who suggested forming an advisory committee that would look into how the city could best and most effectively partner with local schools.

Shirley also cited several examples of other attempts across the state to split into smaller districts, noting the expense and time involved, and questioned whether Citrus Heights has the funds to pursue forming its own school district.

Councilmember Porsche Middleton echoed her previous stance in March, stating that she “voted no on this last time” and still stands by her previous vote.

Councilmember MariJane Lopez-Taff, who sits on the “2×2″ ad hoc committee with Daniels, spoke in favor, saying: “I believe this process will give individuals we haven’t heard from the opportunity to speak to this issue.”

Without five councilmembers present, the council stalled out with two in favor and two against continuing with the current proposed work plan. Multiple times, Karpinski-Costa suggested moving the discussion of the proposed work plan to the city’s upcoming strategic planning meeting on May 18, but no one seconded her proposition.

The outcome of the meeting was unclear, but City Clerk Amy Van confirmed in an email to The Sentinel on Monday that the item “did not reach a majority consensus on the proposed work plan and timeline” and “did not receive majority consensus to move forward.”

In a statement given to The Sentinel following the council meeting, Daniels said he plans to move to bring back reconsideration of the committee’s proposed work plan and is “confident” that it will pass. Schaefer also said he is “optimistic that the council will reconsider the CHEC work plan very soon.”

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