Schools restore furlough days
The remaining five furlough days at the Sonoma Valley Unified School District have been restored to student instruction days.
The five furlough days were part of the eight days that the school board eliminated last January as part of a $2.6 million budget cut.
The district was able to restore the five remaining furlough days because it received more than $2.3 million in funds that would have gone to the now-dissolved redevelopment agencies in the city and the Springs.
Of the $2.3 million, more than $1.1 million should be an ongoing amount that the district receives annually. The district also received more than $1.2 million in one-time money.
Most of the $1.1 million – $960,000 to be precise – will be used to buy back the five furlough days. The remaining $185,000 will be used to reduce this year’s fiscal deficit.
At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Justin Frese, the district’s deputy superintendent, told the board the focus is on restoring the furlough days and said that with future money from the redevelopment agencies, the district will be able to restore all eight days, five student instruction and three staff development days.
Frese told the board the one-time money would be used for a variety of programs that were cut last year.
Frese said the district will use $120,000 to hire two additional custodians for the rest of this year and all of next year.
“The cuts to the custodial staff have been difficult,” he said. “We’re going to add one custodian at the high school and one at the elementary schools as a floater. This way, we can get the elementary classrooms cleaned twice a week instead of once.”
The district will also be looking at some sort of class-size reduction in grades K-5 next year, at a cost of $320,000. Frese said the district would like to reduce K-3 to 24 students and 4-5 to 28 students.
The Freshmen Teams at Sonoma Valley High School would continue for two more years, 2013-14 and 2014-15, at a cost of $160,000, although half that would be paid by the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.
The district would also put $30,000 into the elementary school libraries over the next two fiscal years.
“It’s an important goal to figure out a way to increase access at the elementary schools,” Frese said.
And the district is proposing to use $640,000 in the next two years for educator professional learning.
School Superintendent Louann Carlomagno said that some of the proposed items still need to be “finessed” with both the Valley of the Moon Teachers Association, VMTA, and the California School Employees Association, CSEA.
Boardmember Helen Marsh said she was glad to see the restoration of the furlough days. “And I’m glad we’re putting money toward our deficit,” she said.
But she wanted to know why preschool for all was on the list, but no funding.
Frese said the district doesn’t want to use one-time money for something that may only last two years. “We’re pursuing some large grants,” he said. “Preschool is a large-dollar systemic change that can’t start and stop.”
He said if the money became available even in May or June, the district could implement preschool, although the one problem might be getting staff at that late a date.
But Bob Gossett, the VMTA president, wasn’t pleased to see the restoration items on the agenda.
“When I see an informational item come to the board, I think ‘action item’ the next meeting, and many of these ‘proposals’ I feel should have been and should be open to both broad discussion as well as negotiations,” he said. “The fact that the district, whether guided by the broad-based Strategic Plan or not, brought specific ideas and costs to the board prior to discussions with our bargaining unit is troubling to me.”
Gossett said he is troubled by using one-time money to possibly hire teachers for one year. And he said the idea of adding professional development days should be done at the bargaining table and not in public.
“We hope to see a salary increase in our future. To begin with, one that restores the 2 percent that was bargained away at a time when the money was there,” he said. “We also hope to see future increases and ones not levied on the backs of a loss in health benefit coverage, as we believe that the upturn in property taxes, the passage of Prop. 30, a new funding plan for districts with populations like ours coming from the state soon, and redevelopment money will generate a comfortable margin in budget planning.”
In other business, the board approved the renewal of the Woodland Star Charter School. The renewal is good for another five years.
The board also honored Ava Burk and Andres Cabrera as students of the year from El Verano Elementary School.