Board member John Fleming watched trustee Lark Shillig leap from her seat June 13 to do a quick boogie-woogie of joy at the news that El Tejon Unified School District’s economic woes are giving way to brighter days and smaller classes as state budget improves. [photo by Patric Hedlund, The Mountain Enterprise]
‘We’re back on track’ board is told
By Patric Hedlund
In an unusual move, Sacramento sent good news to the El Tejon Unified School District (ETUSD) this month.
Governor Brown and state legislators will be sending about $447,000 more to ETUSD than projected in March, when layoff notices had to be given to local teachers. Those layoffs will not take place now, said financial manager Fernando Nieto. A maintenance worker brought back after first semester this year will be retained. The only loss to current staffing, Nieto said, may be a science teacher from Frazier Mountain High School.
President of the teachers union, Chuck Mullen, confirmed that class sizes for next year will drop. Superintendent Katherine Kleier told the board the average would be about 30 students, but Mullen said the elementary and middle school classes will be down to about 20 students per teacher.
“The combo classes are gone too,” Mullen said with obvious glee. “Combos” are classes in which two grade levels are combined. There were several of those in the district during the past two years of budget crisis. Such classes are said to be extra difficult for teachers, who must prepare parallel teaching plans for students of different grade levels. Mullen was happy to report that the new budget does not require those kinds of measures.
In an interview, Superintendent Katherine Kleier said she believes the new budget will provide confidence to the public.
“We have a ‘positive’ budget, which means we clearly demonstrate that the district is fiscally sound and can cover its expenses this year, and for three years going forward,” she said.
A part of the windfall to the district was $147,000 to pay for new textbooks and materials. The state of California is switching—as part of a national movement—toward what is known as the new “Common Core State Standards” (CCSS) curriculum.
California Board of Education spokeswoman Tina Woo Jung explained: “The old standards often caused students to rely on rote memorization of the facts. The new CCSS teach students how to think critically and more deeply, with a step-by-step process in how to get there. This also gives teachers more time to teach the CCSS well.
“CCSS covers English-language arts and mathematics. The new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) will cover science.”
Trustees at the meeting said they also want to explore how best to secure a separate administrator for each of the district’s schools.
They agreed that El Tejon School needs its own full time site administrator.
Trustee Lark Shillig said she would like it known in the district that there is a desire to “hire from within.”
Trustee John Fleming agreed, saying that experience has shown that people who are already part of the community are likely to be longterm employees, rather than using the district as a “stepping stone.”
This is part of the June 21, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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