New fundraising policy angers Soquel Union parents

By Kara Guzman, Santa Cruz Sentinel

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CAPITOLA >> Soquel Union Elementary school district parents are upset about a policy change that gives principals and the board control over parent fundraising, and the district is responding with a public discussion during Wednesday’s board meeting.

On Nov. 19, the board rewrote its policy on parent-driven fundraising, requiring board authorization for fundraising efforts. The update to the 2006 policy brings the district into alignment with California School Boards Association practices.

Wendy Young, president of Soquel Elementary’s Home and School club, said she fears clubs like hers will lose independence because the new policy requires parent nonprofits to consult with principals on funding needs. Currently, her principal is one of five voting members on the nonprofit board, and how that will change next year is unclear.

A statement from her nonprofit read, “It is clear to our organization that the current SUESD board sees us as nothing other than a source of revenue and that we, as parents and constituents, have no idea what is good for our children.”

Chris Hadland, co-chair of Main Street Elementary’s Home and School club, said he was upset by statements from Superintendent Henry Castaniada at the Nov. 19 meeting, which suggested inequities in how clubs allocate funds. Hadland said after hearing the accusations, he emailed other district club leaders, kicking off a public outcry.

The next board meeting on Dec. 3 was filled with more than 100 parents, many who were upset about the policy change, Hadland said.

Castaniada said the update to this board policy is routine and does not represent a power grab. How exactly the policy will be administered will be decided in January, but he does not expect many differences next year, he said.

Since 2013, parent clubs have had more leeway to fund extracurriculars, since the district began funding $135,000 of library and technology aides — a cost formerly assumed by parents.

“There’s not going to be very much change, but the principal will have more information, a larger overview,” said Castaniada, who encouraged parents to come to Wednesday’s board meeting.

Kerry LeRoux, Santa Cruz Gardens principal, said not much will change for her school’s nonprofit, which, unlike the other schools, consults the principal on funding decisions.

“There is still a vote involved, and there is still discussion, and the principal doesn’t get to just grab the purse and walk off and decide what to spend it on,” LeRoux said. “It’s very much a back-and-forth conversation.”

LeRoux said she’s grateful for a positive partnership, and said only twice in the past two years has her funding request been denied by her Home and School club. As principal, she acts as keeper of the school’s vision, she said.

“As long as that message is very clear and all of us know the direction that we’re going in, there’s not a whole lot of room for conflict,” LeRoux said.

Soquel UNION school board meeting

What: Public discussion on school board policy change on the relationship between principals and Home and School clubs.

When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: New Brighton Middle School performing arts center, 250 Washburn Ave., Capitola.

Details: Visit or call 831-464-5630.

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