California School Boards Association

2021 Year in Review


Vernon M. Billy

Vernon M. Billy CEO & Executive Director


he defining moment of 2021 was the welcome sight of students across California returning to campuses, many for the first time in more than a year. After much research, planning and anxiety, in-person instruction resumed statewide. What resulted was a year of great triumphs, occasional setbacks and continued challenges for California’s public schools.

As refreshing as it is to have students walking the halls again, the pandemic still casts a long shadow over school activities. Reacclimating students to in-person instruction while taking extraordinary measures to ensure their safety and attend to their physical and mental health was no small task. The role of school boards — never easy, even in the best of times — became even more complicated as trustees grappled with 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, CSBA dedicated the past year to supporting school board members and advocating for the tools needed to serve students during this unprecedented time.

While focusing on the current moment, CSBA also continued to address longstanding issues for public schools and even introduced new services that will benefit members long after the pandemic ends. Most notably, we introduced CSBA District and County Office of Education Legal Services, which allows us to establish attorney–client relationships with our members and offer legal advice — something we receive requests for every day.

CSBA Legal Services is designed to provide local districts and COEs individual legal representation just as our Education Legal Alliance has long provided representation on a statewide level. In 2021, the 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 advocated for public school interests on issues related to internal communications, 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 achieved significant victories for members by eliminating all apportionment deferrals, securing a 5.07 percent cost-of-living adjustment and a 4.05 percent COLA for special education, additional Proposition 98 monies to pay for transitional kindergarten expansion, dedicated funding to reduce employer pension contributions, and $6 billion for broadband at a critical time for California’s public schools.

CSBA also expanded services in recognition of the exceptional demands that local educational agencies are facing. In the past year, we increased the size of our training faculty, revised and enhanced our 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 series of webinars on topics of particular importance in the COVID era.

We know the past two years have been challenging and that LEA 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 a pandemic and resuming in-person instruction have too often gone unnoticed. Determined to reverse that trend, CSBA launched a special multimedia campaign called School Boards in Action to highlight the actions trustees have taken to support students under the most difficult circumstances ever experienced by public schools.

From expanded learning initiatives to wellness centers, mental health services to food distribution, school and county trustees have stepped up to serve students and families in a time of crisis. CSBA values these 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

Susan Heredia
Susan HerediaCSBA President
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.
  • Conducted the iCount Census and Membership Survey, providing CSBA with important data to support the needs of school governance teams and to better inform the public about the critically important role of elected board members.
  • Expanded CSBA membership to include student trustees and 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, granting CSBA members access to sample resolution language, along with a host of resources for local boards at
  • Partnered with five organizations 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.
    • One highlight is R-Zero’s hospital-grade UV-C disinfection device, which uses a germ-killing UV-C light at a fraction of the cost of comparable products sold in hospitals, making this tier of disinfection technology accessible to schools for the first time.
  • 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.
  • Joined with Nicole Anderson and Associates Consulting Company to provide professional development services focused on supporting students and pursuing educational and racial equity for school districts and county offices.
  • Continued to improve 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 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.
  • Expanded the faculty for CSBA trainings to accommodate increased demand and to better reflect the diversity of California LEA board members.
  • Hosted the 90th CSBA Annual Education Conference as both an in-person and a virtual event, with more than 3,000 attendees participating in two-days of General Sessions, individual breakout sessions, trade show exhibitions and networking between CSBA members.
  • Continued expansion of the Online Learning Center with additional courses and resources, including a COVID-19 module.
    • Created channels for the CSBA MIG Alumni Association and the Executive Assistants Certification Program.
  • Graduated more than 300 school and county board members, superintendents and executive assistants from Masters in Governance and other professional development programs, including:
  • 29 county board members from the newly launched MIG for County Offices of Education program, providing content specific to the roles and responsibilities of county board members.
  • 152 executive assistants from the newly launched Executive Assistants Certificate Program to increase the capacity of our district and COE support staff throughout the state.
  • 156 board members and superintendents from the MIG program and recognized them during the 2021 Annual Education Conference.
  • Facilitated 110 Governance Consultant Workshops and 41 Board Self-Evaluations.
  • Hosted a virtual Legislative Action Week in March when a record-breaking 370 school boards members (including a handful of superintendents) met with 99 legislators to advocate on issues including, but not limited to: state budget issues, 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.
  • Convinced the Newsom administration and Legislature to provide 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.
  • Realized several CSBA priorities in the state budget, including:
    • Elimination of all apportionment deferrals
    • Full two-year enhanced compounded COLA (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 lengths trustees have gone to educate students and provide for their mental and physical health during the pandemic. 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