Test scores dip, budget picture improves
By Maureen Robertson
Everything from test scores and budget projections to arming teachers and compensation for district managers took a turn at the podium as trustees also heard kudos for parent volunteers and school workers preparing for the start of the 2013-14 school year on Aug. 26.
Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) scores for Ramona students took a dip this year, “very uncharacteristic of our district,” Senior Director of Education Services Theresa Grace told trustees at their Aug. 15 meeting.
“We have enjoyed a long, long upward trajectory of student achievement,” she said, noting the dip was a fraction of a percent and not in all grades and subjects.
Schools throughout the state had similar results, she said. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson attributes it to districts dealing with ongoing budget cuts and making the transition to the Common Core State Standards that will take place in language arts and mathematics next year.
In addition, the Ramona district faced challenging labor relations last year, Grace noted.
Districtwide results are on page 5. STAR results for individual schools are on the California Department of Education website, cde.ca.gov/.
Also in her report, Grace outlined what the district has done and will do to make the transition from existing state standards to the common core academic program. In addition to hiring two teachers on special assignment with instructional, curricular and 21st century learning expertise, the district will increase bandwidth, wireless connectivity and hardware access at each school; develop a common core implementation plan; and provide professional development for all staff members, she said. The state will provide additional money this year to prepare for the change.
At Trustee Rodger Dohm’s suggestion, the school board will hold a workshop on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), Project Lead the Way, and common core. The session will be open to the public and likely will be this fall.
Also at the meeting, trustees heard a budget report from Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services as part of his year-end unaudited actuals for 2012-13. His report showed $45.7 million in revenues and $46 million in expenses and transfers for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
With employee concessions last year and passage of state propositions 30 and 39, this year’s budget picture is better than 2012-13, he said. The district will receive more money as a result of how the state now funds school districts and because of common core implementation money and Prop. 39 money for energy efficiency.
The district does not yet have specifics, but it anticipates another $600,000 with the new funding formula, said Ostermann.
The district’s three-year multi-year projection, required by the state, shows an ending balance of $4.2 million in 2013-14, $871,266 in ‘14-15 and a deficit of $3.5 million in 2015-14. His entire report is on the district’s website, ramonausd.net.
In other business at the meeting:
•Ramona optometrist Dr. Gary Myers repeated a previous request that the board query employees to determine if there is interest in arming some teachers for school security. State law allows it, and any teacher interested would be screened and trained by the sheriff’s department, he said.
“There does seem to be large community support for it,” he said, noting that everyone he has talked to supports the idea.
“Could you have some of the people who are interested email board members?” asked Bob Stoody, board president, saying no one else has approached the board. “It may prompt one of the board members to place it on the agenda as a questionnaire that would then go out.”
Email addresses for trustees are on the district website.
•Jim King, president of the union that represents the district’s support staff, challenged the hiring of two teachers on special assignment at the district office while elementary school classrooms are being cleaned only once a week because of custodial cuts in recent years.
“We need to start getting some of these classified jobs back,” he said.
After the meeting, King said two custodians who had been laid off are back at work, but they replaced people who had retired.
“We’re still down the exact amount (of custodians) we were a year ago,” he said. “Don’t forget the classifieds.”
He also objected to a proposal to give employees on the district’s administrative leadership team (ALT) five days off with pay in exchange for a larger contribution to their health premiums.
“This is a pay raise,” he said. “It’s about a 2 percent pay raise, a little bit more. That more than pays for the benefits, so it’s not costing them a dime.”
Other employees will be taking unpaid furlough days, which is a reduction in salary, he said.
“Be upfront and honest,” he said.
Mary Fulghum, a member of the Ramona Parents Coalition, also questioned the proposal and asked if the ALT employees not receiving health benefits from the district also would receive the five days. They would, Superintendent Bob Graeff said.
“To me you have some individual variances that kind of aren’t fair, and I think, in the name of quality, we should take a look at that,” said Fulghum.
The school board agreed and voted 4-0, with Trustee John Rajcic out of state for a family wedding, to table the discussion.
Since the meeting, the proposal has changed to eliminate the five days, Graeff said in an email on Monday. Trustees plan to review the revised proposal at a special meeting Monday, Aug. 26, at 6:45 p.m. at the Wilson Administrative Center, 720 Ninth St.
ALT employees include the superintendent, assistant superintendents, principals, assistant principals, and other managers and supervisors.
- Ramona teachers schedule strike authorization vote for May 7
- Employee cuts erase red ink from school budget
- District declares impasse in teacher talks
- Teachers protest proposed cuts; support workers review tentative agreement
- Ramona school board approves $45 million budget
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