Credit: Karla Scoon Reid/EdSource Today
Armando Gutierrez, an assistant principal at Lowell Elementary School, writes down parents’ concerns and comments during a Local Control and Accountability Plan meeting at King Elementary School in Santa Ana in April 2014.

The Santa Ana Unified School District board unanimously approved its three-year spending and accountability plan to improve student achievement Tuesday.

While the state-mandated plan outlines the district’s goals and expectations, Santa Ana Unified schools will play an integral role in shaping how those objectives will be met at their individual sites. Schools will have a total of $8.5 million in discretionary funds at their disposal to meet their students’ specific needs. The district expects to give schools even more financial flexibility by directing some dollars earmarked for district-wide initiatives to individual sites as well.

California’s new funding law requires all districts to develop a Local Control and Accountability Plan with considerable community input to map out their educational priorities and strategies. Districts also must demonstrate how they will boost services for high-needs students — low-income youth, English learners and foster children. All plans must be adopted by July 1.

Although the public outreach efforts and meetings are officially over, Deidra Powell, the district’s chief communications officer, said the district is committed to continuing the community conversations as the plan moves toward the implementation stage.

“I think that people value that the district is interested in what they have to say,” Powell said. “They do have a voice. They do have a platform and they feel comfortable in continuing that relationship.”

The final version of Santa Ana Unified’s accountability plan includes changes that address concerns raised by community advocates, parents and students regarding the district’s student discipline approach and anti-bullying efforts. The district’s school climate goals mention “restorative justice programs,” a less punitive student discipline method, as an option to help improve student behavior. The plan also calls for the district to conduct anti-bullying awareness and “safe and sensitive” schools campaigns to support creating a welcoming environment for all students.

David Haglund, the district’s deputy superintendent of educational services, said that adding a budget item to fund a specific restorative justice program would have been too limiting. Instead, he said the district and board committed to supporting a “culture shift” regarding student discipline across the school system.

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