Class sizes to shrink at Frazier Park School–High School changes also planned

  • Pine Mountain Learning Center students decorating tree in Pine Mountain Village December 8, they won first prize. A present of smaller classes was given to Frazier Park School families this month. [Denise Nelson photo]

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    Pine Mountain Learning Center students decorating tree in Pine Mountain Village December 8, they won first prize. A present of smaller classes was given to Frazier Park School families this month. [Denise Nelson photo]

  • The new 2012-13 El Tejon Unified School District Board of Trustees (l-r, back) Lark Shillig, Vickie Mullen, Scott Robinson, John Fleming and (front) Anita Anderson. Fleming and Anderson are in their second terms. Fleming was elected president of the board, and Robinson was elected clerk. [Patric Hedlund photo, December 12, 2012]

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    The new 2012-13 El Tejon Unified School District Board of Trustees (l-r, back) Lark Shillig, Vickie Mullen, Scott Robinson, John Fleming and (front) Anita Anderson. Fleming and Anderson are in their second terms. Fleming was elected president of the board, and Robinson was elected clerk. [Patric Hedlund photo, December 12, 2012]

Update: A special meeting was held by ETUSD trustees on Thursday, Dec. 20 at 10 a.m. to consider converting a half-time English-History teaching position to full-time. The goal is to decrease class sizes at Frazier Mountain High School. Board President John Fleming reported that four trustees were able to attend and all voted ‘aye’ for the change.

Two Teachers Restored to Frazier Park School

By Patric Hedlund

Santa’s elves have been busy even at the El Tejon Unified School District. Just four hours after taking their oaths of office as new ETUSD board members, three brand new trustees and one reelected incumbent gave students and families of Frazier Park School an early Christmas present.

They voted 4-1 on Wednesday, Dec. 12 to rehire two laidoff teachers. The vote came during a marathon five-and-ahalf- hour meeting.

The success of Proposition 30 last month means that $382,823 will not be taken from the ETUSD budget this year. If Prop. 30 had not passed, that much would have been cut by the state from the school’s midyear budget.

In August, Frazier Park School’s new school year opened to classes averaging 34 students for second through fourth grades. Classes for fifth and sixth grades averaged 40 students, according to the presentation by teachers’ union president Chuck Mullen.

Staffing in these classrooms was one teacher with no instructional aides. Classes at the high school have reached 50 students.

Why class sizes increased

Back in February and April 2012 the prior board voted to give pink slips to 11 teachers and 21 support staff. Such deep personnel cuts occurred for two reasons:

  1. There was doubt that voters would pass Prop. 30, so the district wishedto prepare to operate on a smaller budget, and
  2. A ‘positive’ rather than a ‘qualified’ budget was submitted by ETUSD tothe state for the first time in five years.

The state board of education has three labels for school district budgets: positive, qualified and negative.

To avoid expanding the size of classes and cutting teachers during the recession, ETUSD has submitted qualified budgets for five years. Last year 176 other districts in the state made the same choice.

But in February 2012 Superintendent Katherine Kleier asked the prior board to give pink slips to a maximum number of teachers to give her "flexibility" in case the board voted to submit a positive budget. She said some of the teachers would be brought back if a qualified budget was filed.

But after the pink slips went out, it appears the question of the type of budget to submit was never placed on the agenda to be brought before the prior board for discussion and open vote. It appears the superintendent, without vote by the board, decided to go ahead with the deeper cuts. That means teachers and aides were not brought back for the opening of school this year.

The Mountain Enterprise has asked the district for documentation about how this decision was made. The Kern County Superintendent of Schools has verified that ETUSD turned in a self-certified ‘positive’ budget.

New Year’s gift for FMHS?

The new trustees said they also want to reduce class sizes at Frazier Mountain High School. They said they will take that up at their first meeting of the new year, on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. [See update posted above about special meeting held Dec. 20 by the board to accelerate changes at the high school).

Meeting days and place are changed

The new board voted to bring the location of board meetings back closer to the community, and changed the days of the month for meetings.

In 2013 the ETUSD board will meet the second and the fourth Thursdays of the month at the El Tejon Continuation School (that is the white building closest to the road as you enter Frazier Mountain High School’s campus).

Their next meeting will be January 10. Executive sessions will still begin at 6 p.m. and open sessions will be at 7 p.m.

Letter about smaller classes

Frazier Park School Principal Gretchen Skrotzki is sending a letter out to families this week about the smaller class sizes:

Dear Parents,

Recently, the El Tejon Unified School District Board of Trustees approved the hiring of two new teachers at Frazier Park School. To many parents, teachers and staff, this comes as a huge relief.

Adding two additional teachers will reduce the average class size in grades second to sixth to 27 students as opposed to 34. In addition, this allows Frazier Park School to add one new second grade class, and one new sixth grade class to Frazier Park’s roster.

Ms. Skrotzki listed an update to the teachers’ roster:

Kindergarten?Michelle Penner and Sandy Blanchard; First Grade?Mike Forrester and Mary Hon; Second Grade?New teacher and Mrs. Edwards; Third Grade?Mrs. Darling; Third/Fourth Grade Combination Class?Mr. Petty; Fourth Grade?Ms. Spencer; Fifth Grade?Mrs. Harvey and Mrs. Carlson; Sixth Grade? Mrs. Evans and new teacher.

Principal Skrotzki wrote that changes "must be implemented in a short time to effectively benefit from the two additional teachers…."

The letters to parents tell to which class their student will be assigned on January 8, 2013 after return from winter break. She writes that a "robo call" will be made during winter break to remind parents of this change.

Class lists will be posted near the office the morning of January 7. Parents are invited to email the principal with any concerns: gskrotzki@el-tejon.k12.ca.us.

This is part of the December 21, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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