Absences at ETUSD schools cause $71,931 loss in first two months

  • Chart shows school district revenue lost due to absences during only two months. [chart by The Mountain Enterprise]

    Chart shows school district revenue lost due to absences during only two months. [chart by The Mountain Enterprise]

• Special Ed teacher pleas to keep aides
• Questions of bullying at ET raised

By Patric Hedlund

Bud Burrow looked at the chart and shook his head. The interim superintendent was reporting to the public and the El Tejon Unified School District Board of Trustees that student absences at the district’s three schools had already cost the district $71,931 in just two months. [See chart at right.]

“With that additional funding,” Burrow wrote The Mountain Enterprise, “the board could:

1) Reinstate the high school vice principal position;
2) Employ a K-12 fine arts specialist;
3) Employ a remedial reading or math specialist for the elementary school; or
4) Employ a technology assistant and two library clerks.”

Members of the ETUSD Board had been asking for that kind of detailed information from former Superintendent Katherine Kleier for a year, without receiving it. Now, when it was revealed at the October 23 board meeting, there was at first a stunned silence.

In just two months, better attendance by the district’s students could have won major advantages; $71,931 is a lot of money for educators.

You can make the difference

Parents are in control of reversing this loss, Burrow said.

“I know a family with children who were at Disneyland instead of in school during some of those days,” said one parent at the meeting.

Anne Weber of the Family Resource Center suggested that parents remember that if a student has a doctor’s appointment off the hill at 11 a.m., by going to school and checking in at first period before departing, the school receives credit for the student’s presence for the day, avoiding the loss of significant funds.

Burrow said average attendance in California schools is 96%. The chart above shows that goal was attained only one month in just one of the schools, when El Tejon hit the target with 96.33% attendance. This week, students who have perfect attendance (no absences) and excellent attendance (only one absence) are being honored at El Tejon School.

Parents and trustees were surprised that a few percentage points in attendance can make such a dramatic difference in income for the schools. They said they would like to see a campaign to alert parents about their ability to make a major positive impact on this issue.

Special Ed Aides

Special Education teacher Lee Bizzini told the board that students with special learning needs and behavior problems need to have more trained adults available for help with reading, writing, math and, at times, for safety.

Bizzini said she has 20 special ed students “with three more coming.” She said she has “had to leave the room to deal with a behavior problem. If I did not have the aides, I would not be able to deal with the trouble occurring, or the children in the classroom would be left alone.

“This is National Disability Month. These are mandated minimums in [individual education plans for special ed students]. If we can’t service them, as a district, we will be in a lot of trouble, and we risk a lawsuit” if those services are not provided, Bizzini said.

Aides Julia Stempora and Darla Davis also spoke, explaining that students acting out emotionally could make the classroom “an unsafe place” if aide positions were to be cut.

Trustees listened closely and took no action to reduce staff.

Photo caption:

Special Education aides Julia Stempora and Jeannie Gaffron said they are concerned about possible layoffs at Frazier Park School.

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This is part of the November 1, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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