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  • Writer's pictureLily Rusk

Students suffer while SCUSD reserve funds soar

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

By Lily Rusk, Clarion Editor-in-Chief

In 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom, passed bill AB 367 mandating that pads and tampons be stocked in girls’ public school restrooms. Yet, the bathroom dispensers have been empty at Kennedy High School for years according to general consensus.

“My friends usually have to go home early or they just suffer through the day,” said Sanai Carlton, “There are no other resources.”

Tory Coloma, 12th grade, said, “I remember freshman year when they put the dispensers in but they’ve never had anything.” she went on to say, “I know some teachers have some but we don’t know who.”

This is not an issue only women think about.

Talen Hollowell, 12th grade, said “I feel that all women should have access to affordable menstrual products and they should be in school bathrooms.”

James Hernandez, Kennedy’s plant manager, says that when the law was first passed, he and the other custodians stocked the bathrooms with the mandated products. Soon after, however, they found products strewn all over the bathrooms, as well as inside the toilets, clogging the pipes. The situation forced them to stop stocking the dispensers.

Kennedy’s bathrooms are not unfamiliar to vandalism – and are often closed due to delinquent activity – so, this mistreatment of feminine products didn’t surprise Hernandez and the other janitors. To the janitorial staff’s frustration, it became impossible to keep the bathrooms open and stocked with pads and tampons.

According to Hernandez, the girls’ bathroom’s vandalism is a much larger problem than the boys’ facilities. This can be traced back to the fact that there is only one female custodian on the staff of the other four male custodians. And it goes further: there are only five custodians on staff at all. That’s five custodians for the 1,920 students enrolled at Kennedy. In comparison, West Campus High School has a population of 840 students and has five custodians. Along with the disproportionate amount of custodians there is no adequate substitute program, this leaves many days with only two custodians, working hours of overtime and then waiting months to be paid for that overtime.

This relates to a larger issue: a lack of funding allocated to Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) as a whole. According to a 2022 article from ABC News there is not only a staff shortage of custodians but also with teachers. Hiring people to work in the district has become harder due to its perception as becoming a less desirable place to work. District Superintendent Jorge Aguilar, who is in charge of allocating funds, will not even talk to the teachers - the union representatives - directly. How can he hope to solve any problem - present or future - without talking to the people directly affected by it?

According to JFK’s union representative K.C. McCarthy, Aguilar is paid about a half-million dollars a year while the school’s savings account is maxed out -- meaning the district has more money in its spare account than is legal even though SCUSD is in dire need of that funding to be utilized. This shouldn’t happen when we have a shortage of teachers, custodians, and resources for children. Aguilar is supposed to work for us (and with us), but, instead, he is actively working against us.

Despite this, Aguilar is still superintendent even after a vote of no confidence from teachers and administrators. As the previous school board was on the cusp of being voted out, the members renewed Aguilar’s contract for another four years. In order to terminate this contract, one of two things needs to happen. One, he can be fired for misconduct. Two, the board can terminate him without cause; however, if this happened he would be paid the rest of his salary that he would have received over his four year term.

If the school district continues to go downhill the state can take it over. This would mean all employees working for the district – including those with tenure – would have their contracts terminated. Teachers could have to submit their curriculum to the state. Other school districts have gone through state takeovers and after a decade have still not been able to recover. Those this hurts the most are students - students, who should be the priority.

Perhaps the biggest effect we have on SCUSD is when we vote for our school board members. The board decides who the superintendent is, and in turn, are able to fire a superintendent who is not fulfilling their responsibilities. To ensure everyone's voices are heard one can write letters, call, and email the school board on their concerns. For more tangible results, speaking at school board meetings is always an option to make opinions heard. Joining and enforcing unions are ultimately the best way to ensure the people on actual school grounds have a real effect on what is going on because when our voices are heard we can demand we have the things we need, including pads and tampons in restrooms.

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