School Board Trustee Ken Hurst has volunteered in the schools and founded the Robotics team. As trustee, he has recently come under fire by parents and staff who feel this board is not providing adequate leadership in a crisis.
I wish to address the community about the El Tejon Unified School District budget situation and to explain some of what is going on from my perspective on the board. I have welcomed the public interest in and discussion of the challenges we all face in the coming year.
First, however, I would like to correct an inflammatory statement that has crept into the discussions. It is “…25 people lost their jobs, the high school sports program was cut and money for two more administrators was added” (The Mountain Enterprise, Breaking News online June 10).
We started this school year with a principal, a vice-principal and a counselor at the high school. We expect to start the next year with a principal and a vice-principal/counselor. That is a reduction in the administration by one person. So we are cutting the high school administration by one-third, not adding two new administrative positions.
I disagree with the idea that the high school could function without a principal or a viceprincipal/ counselor. Those are both full time jobs and they are essential. There is no one in the district who can realistically take those jobs on as additional duty.
By law, the board must adopt a budget in June each year. This budget must be presented to the public prior to being adopted, and it must be a balanced budget. Although the state legislature has not yet passed a budget we receive guidance on what our likely income will be from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.
This year’s budget contained some extraordinarily painful cuts, including but not restricted to sports. Those cuts did not completely close our budget gap. We may have to dip into our reserves to cover the rest if we keep this budget in place.
The budget can (and I hope will) be amended should circumstances change.
Amendments can pass quickly, as they can be presented and adopted within the same meeting. The budget we adopted at the last meeting is a prudent budget that could allow us to operate under adverse but realistic conditions.
Bear in mind that our district budget situation could get worse if state legislators adopt an all-cuts state budget and cut education even more deeply [rather than also extending revenue measures—Editor].
We and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools do not expect it to get worse. In fact we have some indications that it is likely to get better: state revenues are up and the state “found” some money it didn’t know it had.
On the other hand, the state legislature voted Friday to allow some taxes to expire.
Each spring the district must engage in the practice of giving layoff notices to people we want to keep. This is because the union contract rules specify that employees must receive notice of layoff a certain time before their termination date.
This allows the affected people time to hunt for another job, and is the right thing to do.
Unfortunately, we must provide this notice before we know what our next year’s budget will be, so we must give notices to more people than we ultimately will need to lay off. Then, when the budget is finally settled, we hire some of them back.
Though I don’t like it, I don’t see another way to operate given all the constraints we must meet. I am amazed and grateful that the employees of the district manage to take this in stride. This year is particularly bad, and many will not return. Some have been my friends for years. In spite of the turmoil and uncertainty, teachers and staff managed to carry on with educating the students. My hat is off to them.
A groundswell of support for the FMHS Booster Club is good for the school. I hope that grows larger and continues. We need it. I hope that we will be able to restore some funding from the district to sports, but I doubt that we will be able to fund them at the same levels as we have in the past.
With enough participation from parents and the community, we can continue to have a viable program. This is one of several areas where we can work together.
I care deeply about the people in the district, the community and both the academic and sports aspects of our schools. That is why I have volunteered and served in several capacities over the last 15 years: as a physics teacher assistant, a robotics mentor, a scoutmaster, an AYSO coach and now as an ETUSD Board member. I believe my fellow board members feel similarly.
You can see an editorial in response to Mr. Hurst’s comments by clicking here.
This is part of the June 17, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.