Karen Kingsley listens as Board President Steve Sonder thanks her for her service to Gorman Elementary School District. She leaves as GESD faces large challenges.
By Gary Meyer
After 13 years with Gorman Elementary School District (GESD), Business Manager Karen Kingsley announced that her final day of work with the district will be February 27.
In a brief letter to the GESD Board of Trustees dated January 13, she stated that her decision was due to family obligations. Kingsley had stepped down in May of 2008 as a salaried employee, but continued as a consultant filling a similar role for the district.
At the February 10 meeting of the board, President Steve Sonder told Kingsley, “Through all the trials and tribulations, you’ve always made us shine. With all sincerity, thank you very much.”
Sue Page, superintendent of GESD and principal of Gorman Elementary School, tendered her resignation last month. A $6,000 budget was approved by the trustees to hire a recruitment firm to find a replacement.
In other business, the trustees were told that GESD received approval on January 15 from Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) for its First Interim [financial] Report for fiscal year 2008-2009.
Donald Kenneth Shelton, LACOE’s assistant superintendent for business services, wrote, “Our analysis of the data provided indicates that the District should be able to meet its financial obligations for the current and two subsequent years. We therefore concur with the District’s positive certification…”
But Storm Clouds Noted
Shelton then provided a lengthy list of concerns over the district’s financial situation, ranging from $382,000 in deficit spending this year to the expiration of Gorman’s District of Choice status due to take place July 1, 2009. If the state legislature does not extend the status, “…the District’s enrollment could be negatively impacted starting in 2009-10,” Shelton wrote.
He was referring to the fact that fewer than five of the 50 or so students currently attending school at the Gorman site actually live in the district. Most live within the boundaries of the El Tejon Unified School District or in Neenach, which is part of the Westside Unified School District. Without the District of Choice waiver status, families must petition trustees of the home district for permission to transfer. The trustees are enabled to say “no.” Because such transfers represent lost funds to the home district, it is conceivable in such tight budgetary times that ETUSD Trustees could refuse to grant transfers to about 40 students, leaving Gorman School District with the possibility of having to close. That is a rare process called “nullification.”
Another significant concern is a possible $1.4 million dollar liability in possible overcharges to a charter school, which GESD may have to repay. This is part of a larger possible reimbursement to the State of California’s education fund that may be required from GESD’s Gorman Learning Center charter school. A comprehensive audit identified $7.6 million in alleged overbilling to the state. That issue is currently in an appeals process.
Kingsley and the charter school both said they are hopeful that the sum to be repaid will be much less.
Other cautions raised by Shelton included future salary increases, debt issuance and cash flow projections.
The district also received a January 9 letter from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, congratulating them for successfully completing the 2008 Annual Statewide Student Identifier (SSID) program. According to O’Connell, the “submission and certification of the individual-level data is extremely important, as it represents your LEA’s [local educational agency’s] official enrollment count.”
–P. Hedlund contributed to this story.
This is part of the February 20, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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