DENAIR -- At a crowded but largely quiet meeting, Denair Unified School District trustees moved methodically through cuts and a steady trickle of audience criticism, passing every budget item as a unified block.
Denair must cut roughly $1.4 million in ongoing spending over the next 18 months, showing it will end 2013-14 with at least minimal reserves, to avoid a state takeover.
Superintendent Ed Parraz said the district is moving forward on its financial recovery plan. "We have a little more to go, but we'll get there," he said.
The district's initial budget miscalculated the attendance, revenue and carryover it would have for this year. When the real numbers came in far lower this fall, county overseers warned the district it might not have enough money to finish the school year.
But outside budget expert Terri Ryland told the board members after they took action Thursday night that they were two-thirds of the way to what is needed to close the budget gap. "Kudos to the board," she said. "These are tough decisions and I know how hard this work is."
The district's two charter schools will remain open, but with administrative changes.
Denair Academic Avenues, an arts-enriched elementary school, will become a district magnet school. The charter is losing money, Ryland said, but as a district school, it would be eligible for more money per student. Her estimate is that the change would bring a net gain of $15,000.
About 50 of the school's 205 students live outside the Denair boundaries and will need to get transfers from their home districts to continue next year. Some of those parents were on the school committee that recommended the switch, said Ray Prock of the D2A Governance Committee. "It was a tough decision," he said.
Denair Charter Academy's 18 teachers work by the hour, tutoring the home-schooled and students at risk of not graduating. The board voted unanimously to cut their pay 3.5 percent, effective Feb. 1.
Trustees previously voted to change the alternative charter into a district school for 2013-14, but reversed the action Thursday with a unanimous vote. The charter, because it serves mainly high school students, will do better financially if it remains a charter, Ryland said. Accounting changes will better reflect its cost to the district.
In December, the board voted to lay off all but three or four of the charter's teachers for the 2013-14 school year. The school has 380 students, kindergarten through high school, about 80 percent from outside the district, said Principal Karla Paul.
The board voted unanimously Thursday to lay off two more teachers from the Denair elementary or middle schools and a part-time teacher for English learners. The district has until March 15 to give district teachers notice of possible layoff for next year.
Denair Unified Teachers Association President Barry Cole said he expects to see more layoffs in the coming months, including some precautionary notices. "There'll be a lot more pink slips just so they can work everything out," he said.
Teachers facing cuts
The teachers have yet to come to the table. Cole said the first negotiating sessions will be Jan. 18 and 23. While teachers have left their contract unchanged for five years, Cole said, "This year, I expect it will be quite tense."
Denair's teachers are being asked to take a 3.5 percent pay cut, about what they have taken for the past five years by cutting four school days and one training day, he said. Cole said they are not true furlough days because other school employees remain on campus those days, even without students present.
Support staff will begin negotiations next week, said Kyle Harvey of the California School Employees Association Denair chapter.
In December, the board cut management salaries and its own stipends 3.5 percent as of Jan. 1. Board members Julian Wren and Louisa Allen gave up their $4,000 stipends altogether.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339, and on Twitter, @NanAustin.