California School Boards Association

2021 Year in Review


Vernon M. Billy

Vernon M. Billy CEO & Executive Director


he defining moment of 2021 was the incredible leadership school and county boards demonstrated throughout the year to ensure students had access to educational opportunities during the pandemic. Being a trustee is never easy, even in the best of times, and it became even more complicated as board members navigated the latest phase of the pandemic.

Recognizing the challenges facing school districts and county offices of education, CSBA focused on both the immediate needs of schools returning to in-person instruction as well as the policy framework and resources needed for the long-term success of California public schools. Whether at the Capitol, in the courts, or through virtual trainings, events and webinars, we dedicated the past year to supporting school board trustees and advocating for the tools you need to serve students during this difficult time.

We know the past two years have been challenging and that school and county boards have been presented with an almost impossible task and plenty of unfair criticism. The hard work, resourcefulness and initiative you have demonstrated in navigating the pandemic have too often gone unnoticed. We are determined to reverse that trend, which is why we launched a special multimedia campaign called School Boards in Action to highlight the actions trustees have taken to support students and families under the most challenging circumstances ever experienced by public schools.

While focusing on the current moment, we also continued to address longstanding issues for public schools and to introduce new services that will benefit members long after COVID-19 has faded into memory. Most notably, in 2021, we introduced CSBA District and County Office of Education Legal Services, which allows us to establish an attorney-client relationship with our members and provide you with legal advice — something we receive requests for every day. CSBA Legal Services is designed to provide local districts and COEs with the same kind of vigorous legal representation our Education Legal Alliance (ELA) has long offered on a statewide level.

In 2021, ELA saved millions of dollars for California schools, challenged erroneous decisions by the State Controller’s Office that denied schools $1 billion in funding, and served the interests of public schools on issues related to state mandates, special education, tort liability, First Amendment rights, lease-leaseback agreements, Proposition 39 facility costs, and access to developer fees.

CSBA’s aggressive advocacy in 2021 was not limited to the courts. In the Capitol, we also achieved significant victories for members, eliminating all apportionment deferrals, securing a 5.07 percent cost-of-living adjustment and a 4.05 percent COLA for special education, as well as additional Prop 98 funding to pay for transitional kindergarten expansion, continued funding to reduce employer pension contributions, and $6 billion for broadband at a critical time for California’s public schools.

CSBA also expanded our services in recognition of the exceptional demands that school districts are facing. In the past year, we revised and enhanced our training curriculum and delivery options to make the courses more accessible and more topical, retained new partners and affiliates to provide critical COVID-19 mitigation services, and produced a suite of webinars on topics of particular importance in the COVID-era.

Our School Boards in Action campaign highlighted the dedication and hard work of trustees in supporting students and families during this challenging time. From expanded learning initiatives to food distribution, wellness centers to mental health services, school trustees have stepped up to serve students and families in a time of crisis. CSBA values your efforts and is proud to showcase the hard work of our members through the videos, radio and internet ads, blog posts, and feature articles that comprised the School Boards in Action campaign.

In 2022, we will continue to elevate the essential work that trustees are doing to provide California students with a high-quality education and press onward with the advocacy needed to strengthen schools and create the conditions for student success.

2021 Executive Committee

Suzanne Kitchens
Suzanne KitchensCSBA President, Dec. 2020–April 2021
Pleasant Valley SD
Susan Heredia
Susan HerediaCSBA President, May 2021–Present
Natomas USD
Susan Markarian
Susan MarkarianCSBA Vice President
Pacific Union ESD
Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez
Xilonin Cruz-GonzalezCSBA Immediate Past President
Azusa USD

Board of Directors

Frank Magarino, Region 1
Del Norte County USD

Sherry Crawford, Region 2
Siskiyou COE

Tony Ubalde, Region 3
Vallejo City USD

Renee Nash, Region 4
Eureka Union SD

Alisa MacAvoy, Region 5
Redwood City ESD

Darrel Woo, Region 6
Sacramento City USD

Yolanda Pena Mendrek, Region 7
Liberty Union HSD

Stephen J. Schluer, Region 8
Manteca USD

Tami Gunther, Region 9
Atascadero USD

Kathy Spate, Region 10
Caruthers USD

Sabrena Rodriguez, Region 11
Ventura USD

William Farris, Region 12
Sierra Sands USD

Meg Cutuli, Region 15
Los Alamitos USD

Karen Gray, Region 16
Silver Valley USD

Debra Schade, Region 17
Solana Beach SD

Wendy Jonathan, Region 18
Desert Sands USD

Albert Gonzalez, Region 20
Santa Clara USD

Scott Schmerelson, Region 21
Los Angeles USD

Nancy Smith, Region 22
Palmdale SD

Helen Hall, Region 23
Walnut Valley USD

Leighton Anderson, Region 24
Whittier Union HSD

Bettye Lusk, Director-at Large, African American
Monterey Peninsula USD

Crystal Martinez-Alire, Director-at-Large, American Indian
Elk Grove USD

Amy Koo, Director-at-Large, Asian/Pacific Islander
Belmont-Redwood Shores SD

Bruce Dennis, Director-at-Large, County
Riverside COE

Joaquin Rivera, Director-at-Large, Hispanic
Alameda COE

Rich Shea, CCBE President
San Diego COE

2021 Accomplishments

  • Updated CSBA’s Policy Platform, in accordance with CSBA standing rules, after a yearlong review by the Policy Platform Committee and input from CSBA Delegates.
    • Addressed topics including the need to support every student’s mental, physical and social-emotional health; place a stronger focus on equity and inclusivity; and affirm the urgency of LEA boards maintaining equitable standing with other government agencies.
  • Deployed the iCount Census and Membership Survey to CSBA’s membership, generating critical input and data to help guide the work of the association, support the needs of school governance teams and to better inform the public about the important role of elected board members. 

  • Held trainings for more than 40 student board members covering the Brown Act, communication strategies, the role of student trustees as part of the governance team and more.
  • Completed the work of CSBA’s Climate Change Task Force, providing CSBA members with sample resolution language, along with a host of resources for local boards at
  • Partnered with five companies to provide critical COVID-19 mitigation products to schools, such as COVID-tracking tools, HVAC and air purification services, personal protective equipment (PPE) and document management technology, and facilities assessment services.
  • Retained the Donovan Group, the nation’s leading school public relations firm, to assist members with communications, marketing and crisis response during the pandemic and beyond.
  • Provided professional development services focused on supporting students and pursuing educational and racial equity for school districts and county offices.

  • Upgraded the delivery of all CSBA trainings — including the Masters in Governance (MIG) program, Brown Act training, Orientation for New Trustees, Institute for New and First-Term Board Members, Governance Consulting Services, Board Presidents Workshop, Executive Assistants Certification Program and Student Board Members Training — via a virtual platform that included the addition of new engagement exercises, more time in virtual breakout rooms, and expanded opportunities for critical feedback.
  • Hosted the 90th CSBA Annual Education Conference as both an in-person and a virtual event, with a record-breaking 3,500 attendees between the two events. General sessions emphasized equity in education, the importance of incorporating student voice, and featured a student board member panel for the first time.
  • Enhanced the Online Learning Center with new, helpful courses and resources, including a COVID-19 module.

    • Created dedicated group channels for the CSBA MIG Alumni Association and the Executive Assistants Certification Program to extend participant’s learning through discussions of pressing issues, networking and sharing promising practices.

  • Graduated more than 300 district and county board members, superintendents and executive assistants from Masters in Governance and other professional development programs.

  • Facilitated 110 Governance Consultant Workshops and 41 Board Self-Evaluations.
  • Held a virtual Legislative Action Week in March with a record-breaking 370 LEA board members. Members met with nearly 100 legislators to advocate on issues including, but not limited to: the state budget, broadband connectivity and limited liability from COVID-19 claims.
  • Helped secure $6 billion in state funding for increased broadband access in unserved and underserved areas of the state — an issue CSBA had been at the vanguard of advocating for since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
  • Secured the support of the Newsom Administration and Legislature in providing COVID-relief funding from Assembly Bill 86 to all school districts and county offices, including those that had already opened for in-person instruction prior to the bill’s introduction and adoption.
  • Successfully advocated for CSBA priorities in the state budget, including:
    • Elimination of all apportionment deferrals
    • Full two-year enhanced compounded cost-of-living adjustment (5.07 percent) for the Local Control Funding Formula
    • Two-year COLA (4.05 percent) for special education
    • Protected funding for an additional year of reduction in school employer pension contribution rates
  • Protected the integrity of Proposition 98 by securing an increase in the guarantee to reflect additional students being added into the public school system through the expansion of transitional kindergarten.
  • Lobbied successfully in Washington, D.C. for the inclusion of schools in federal stimulus bills and for the expansion of the school nutrition program to cover students at home during school shutdowns.
  • Developed the multimedia School Boards in Action campaign to document the extraordinary measures trustees have taken to allow for high-quality education during the pandemic and to provide for students’ physical and mental health. Campaign components included:

  • Produced more than 20 webinars on topics including:
    • State budget
    • School reopening
    • Extended learning
    • Broadband access
    • COVID-19 mitigation practices
    • Board meeting management and community engagement
    • Summer programs
    • Crisis communication strategies
  • Informed membership of major developments affecting public schools
    through four issues of California Schools magazine; 11 newsletters; 49 weekly update eblasts; 245 Daily News Roundup eblasts; and more than 200 blog posts.

CSBA’s Education Legal Alliance took direct action to support members on a range of important issues, including:

State funding

District & County Office of Education Legal Services

      • Launched a new service to provide CSBA members direct access to cost-effective legal advice from CSBA attorneys
        • CSBA attorneys began offering research assistance on local legal issues, responding to questions that require the preparation of memoranda or legal opinion, conducting discreet investigations, providing direct representation to LEAs, and evaluating discrimination, sexual harassment and conflict-of-interest claims.
      • Developed a searchable online Legal Resource Library with self-help legal updates; guidance documents and templates; and a database containing more than 5,000 collective bargaining agreements, salary schedules and MOUs to aid subscribers in their negotiations.

CSBA Financial Data

CSBA Revenues 2020-21

CSBA Expenses 2020-21