Public Addresses School Board on Staff Issues

Parents, teachers and staff turned out for the June 9 SHUSD board meeting. (Sandy Feretto)

Parents, teachers and staff turned out for the June 9 SHUSD board meeting. (Sandy Feretto)

The Southern Humboldt Unified School District board of trustees meeting on June 9 was well attended by parents and teachers and there was participation during the public comment session.

Redway teacher Claire Piccinelli read a letter to the board asking for equitable health care for all district employees.

Ann Hammond, a mother of two students in district schools, expressed concern about the staff turnover of the last few years. She commented that she and some parents had formed an organization called Educational and Administrative Support Effort (EASE) to support the district, students, and staff.

“Our first project is a staff satisfaction survey,” Hammond said. “We believe that gathering information is always wise and to that end we would appreciate having the board support our survey, perhaps issuing a statement to district employees that it has your full support.”

Hammond told the board her group had distributed the survey to many teachers and staff at Redway, Whitethorn, and Agnes J. Johnson elementary schools, and at Miranda Junior High and South Fork High schools. 

“I personally have a goal of teachers and staff being highly satisfied with their jobs,” Hammond said. The survey is anonymous.

Karman Willner asked for clarification about the cost of hiring a food service manager position that was passed at the May board meeting. She said she thought the salary for the position was very high. Board members complained about deficit spending on the school food program.

“We’re tired of having a deficit approaching a hundred thousand dollars every year,” O’Sullivan said. “We said one year. If we don’t see anything and we don’t get monthly reports, it isn’t happening again.”

Willner expressed dismay at the elimination of the counselor tech positions at the high school and added that the math Common Core curriculum did not teach the basic formulas needed to do math.

“Formulas are lost in Common Core. You should look at that book,” she pointed out. “I think that it’s important that teachers that are teaching Common Core teach formulas because that is the basis of math. There is no higher learning if you don’t know what the area for a triangle is.”

LCAP

The board had their first reading of the LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) at a previous meeting. Scott said that she had informed the board tat that time that she had added a goal of involving parents in decision-making.

“Most of the LCAP is similar to what we have seen the last three years,” Scott said.

Ann Hammond asked about $87,516 in the LCAP for Miranda Junior High and South Fork High School counselor for 2016-2017 since counseling positions had been cut. District business manager Bambi Henderson and Scott said that was the full cost to the district of one counselor.

The board approved the 2016-2017 LCAP.

Budget

The board had their second reading of the budget that had been presented at the previous meeting by district budget technician Vanessa Fouquette, who read the increases to the district for the next three years for the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) and Public Employees Retirement (PERS).

O’Sullivan said the gradual reduction of the percentages in the district reserves was alarming.

“As of right now we do have a budgeted deficit for ’16-’17 of $61,450,” Fouquette said, “and then through the multi-years with the increases to STRS and PERS over the years, which are very large increases for the current and next two years, we’re going for a budgeted drop in our district reserves of $281,900 for ’17-’18, and then another drop from ’17-’18 and ’18-’19 of $245,984.”

There was discussion about a ballot initiative to replace Proposition 30, which Scott said had given the district about $900,000 the previous year and about $750,000 in the current year. Scott pointed out there was a board resolution on the agenda to support the California Children’s Education and Health Care Protection Act of 2016 (which the board approved later in the meeting).

“Even if it is passed, I don’t think we can anticipate the same amount of money,” Scott said of the ballot initiative. 

Scott pointed out that there was a reduction built into the budget of one Full Time Employment (FTE) in the 2017-2018 year, and in 2018-2019 a reduction of two FTEs.

There was discussion about the minimum reserves and why the district needed to keep it above the state required minimum of four percent. The uncertainty of future funding due to the unknowns of state funding and enrollment projections were discussed.

Textbooks

South Fork teacher Brice Gummersall requested the adoption of “The American Pageant” for use in the Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History class and presented his reasons for the request. The board approved the motion to accept the adoption of the recommended textbooks at a cost to the district of $5,720.

The board also accepted the adoption of “Pearson Interactive Science: Life Science 2016” for the seventh grade, and “Pearson Interactive Science: Physical Science 2016” for the eighth grade for the Miranda Junior High School science department at a cost of approximately $15,000.

Transitional Kindergarten-Kindergarten Policy

Scott reported that after the first reading and discussion at the board meeting in May of the change to the district’s transitional kindergarten-kindergarten (TK-K) policy she had done more research. She found that the TK-K program must have the same number of instructional minutes as the kindergarten program. Since district kindergarten classes are full day, and because the district cannot afford to add a bus run just for the TK-K class, the policy needed to be changed to reflect that TK-K classes would be the same length as kindergarten by adding the words “equal length” to the program. Certain changes that had been made previously to simplify and align the district’s program with state requirements remained the same. Scott said she had notified the teachers of the changes. 

The board voted to approve the changes to the district TK-K policy with board member Scotty McClure opposed.

Support

In addition to voting to support the California Children’s Education and Health Care Protection Act of 2016 (with McClure opposed), the board voted unanimously to support the Kindergarten Through Community College Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2016. Scott said the district is hoping to receive matching funds from that bond to make their district bond fund money go farther. 

Scott recognized retiring employees Bill Eudy, bus driver; Doug McCormick, custodian; Mary Moore, school secretary and Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher; and Roberta Tritchler, cook and CTE teacher.

Scott thanked South Fork High School teacher Brice Gummersall and the custodial staff for all the work they did during the Western Association of Schools accrediting process.

In closing remarks, Scott and the board praised the staff and students for progress throughout the school year. The next regular district board of trustees will be on Thursday, Aug. 18.