March 19: The “SOS” School on Saturday event will take place this upcoming Saturday, March 21 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Bus service will be provided. According to new Superintendent Rod Wallace, if all students come for these four hours, the district could make up $24,000 in revenues lost to student absences this year.
•Activities will include technology training, a basketball clinic for kindergarten through 8th grade (with the Falcon basketball team helping to coach young players), chess instruction, knitting and art classes. The event will be held at Frazier Mountain High School.
•Families who participate in the SOS Saturday School will also be helping to raise the ADA (Average Daily Attendance) figure used by the state to calculate payments made for the coming year’s district revenues. So, while money lost to absences this year are reclaimed to help pay this year’s bills, at the same time the amount allocated for next year’s school programs will also be increased. “That’s a pretty efficient use of four hours!” the father of one fourth grader said.
UPDATE on Friday, Mar. 14 at 5 p.m.: It was confirmed today that the El Tejon Unified School District will hold a ‘Saturday School” for students of all ages at the high school. A variety of activities, including a basketball clinic for all ages, a chess camp and special arts projects are planned for the 8 a.m. to 12 noon day. See below.
By Patric Hedlund
Tackling bad news with cheerful teamwork is the ‘new harmony’ on display this week as the new chief of El Tejon Unified School District joined with the president of the El Tejon Teachers Association (ETTA) and the ETUSD Board of Trustees to ask students and their families to join in a plan for “Saturday School” for three weeks to bring critical revenue to the district.
In a special meeting March 10, Supt. Rodney Wallace said a shortfall of $200,000 for the coming year’s budget has been discovered. The average daily attendance (ADA) level to be used by the state for calculating district revenues for the next school year may slip from 765 to 723. “Multiply that by [about $7,500] per student and you can see the loss,” Wallace said. The calculation shows a $315,000 drop in revenue. “But enrollment has been going back up since I have been here,” the new superintendent added.
About $118,000 in expenses will be gone when ETUSD finishes paying off former superintendent Katherine Kleier. Her contract was bought out last summer by the board. She left in exchange for one year’s salary. Her buy-out came from the general education fund.
Wallace asked the board on March 10 to authorize sending letters to teachers who would be affected if 5.5 jobs are cut “to show the county and state we can operate in a fiscally sound manner.” But issuing layoff notices, he told the board, is just a tactic to buy time while other measures to regain lost revenues are put into effect.
“My hope is we will be able to notify the teachers by the end of this school year that we are bringing them back,” the superintendent said. Teachers’ union President Chuck Mullen agreed: “I am confident that the new ideas we’ve discussed will make that possible.” The board agreed in a 4-0 vote. Trustee Scott Robinson was absent.
One of the new ideas is to hold three district-wide “Saturday School” days between now and April 15 to boost the district’s ADA base for next year. The minimum day Saturday Schools would adjourn about noon, but would gain the district $31 per student per day—enough to save a full teacher’s position.
Mullen said he believes teachers will agree to donate their time for these three special days, to put the district on the road to saving the 5.5 teaching jobs for next year.
Mullen explained: “We lost over $1 million…when people took their kids out of the district because they thought she [Kleier] was coming back….”
Kleier’s policies and style alienated many. ETTA was lead architect of Kleier’s ouster. The strategy included election of new trustees dedicated to ending the turmoil in the district associated with the embattled Kleier. Mullen said many parents had already made other arrangements last summer before the board bit the bullet and bought out Kleier.
Mullen said, “At the end of the 2012-2013 school year there were 905 students, but when school resumed, just 760 students enrolled…. Parents didn’t know [Kleier] wasn’t coming back, so they had left.” Included in his number are about 90 students lost when Pine Mountain Learning Center Charter School left ETUSD to change to Maricopa Unified School District.
Vickie Mullen, the ETTA president’s wife who often co-coaches basketball with him, is now president of the ETUSD Board of Trustees. The couple have two children at Frazier Mountain High School. In an email Monday night, Chuck Mullen applauded the new ETUSD board’s success in bringing down class sizes and hiring seasoned principals for all three schools.
By January, enrollment had rebounded to 791 students, “a 6.8% annual growth if you extrapolate over the full school year…,” Mullen wrote in his email. The number of students now returning “equals a recovery of about a quarter of the million dollars we lost in the summer dip,” he said.
Watch for details about the upcoming ETUSD “Saturday School” action.
This is part of the March 14, 2014 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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