Denair school trustees scheduled to weigh pending cuts on Thursday

naustin@modbee.comJune 25, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin
    E-mail: naustin@modbee.com

— Denair Unified trustees on Thursday will weigh imposing cuts of up to 11 percent from pre-recession salary levels on all non-union staff, the same amount being sought from the district's teachers.

The board also will put its seal on the financially troubled district's 2013-14 budget, one not likely to meet cost cuts needed to save the district from state receivership. But receivership takes months to put in place, time for the district and its teachers to try to reach a deal and keep Denair schools in Denair hands.

The meeting will be held in the Denair Middle School Coyote Center to accommodate the expected high attendance.

The district has declared impasse again in its negotiations with the Denair Unified Teachers Association, said President Barry Cole. An 11 percent cut would amount to up $14,786 for its highest-paid teachers from 2007-08 salaries. Like many other districts, Denair did not impose permanent salary cuts during the recession.

"We are not trying to bankrupt the district. But we are trying to keep the district from bankrupting us," Cole said last week.

He said the district was trying to squeeze employees to build up its reserves unacceptably fast. "It's a game they're playing that we're not willing to play," Cole said.

The union will wait for a public district proposal before going to the bargaining table, Cole said. Asked if teachers backed that decision, he said: "They're willing to do whatever it takes. We are more unified than we have ever been."

The 2013-14 budget to be voted on Thursday relies on $750,000 in unidentified budget cuts to barely bring the district in the black. It predicts the district will end this fiscal year having spent $243,492 beyond what it has in its general fund.

The salary cuts presented to the board for non-union employees, if accepted districtwide, would save up to $892,300 annually.

The district must pass a budget by June 30. A public hearing will precede the vote.

The board will consider finalizing its proposal to find a new superintendent. Under the submitted superintendent profile, candidates must have a master's degree, experience as a principal, and commit to being "visible and involved" in the community.

The timeline laid out would close the application period Dec. 6, with interviews Jan. 3-4, 2014.

Also on the packed agenda is a vote on a complete makeover of the district Strategic Plan that would:

• Raise class sizes to 24 students in early grades, 30 in high school

• Explore placing a parcel tax before Denair voters

• Restore over several years a 9 percent reserve for economic uncertainty and other set-asides beyond the state-mandated minimum

• Set specific goals for improvements in all testing areas

• Seek higher student attendance

• Seek higher participation by parents with specific goals for classroom volunteering, attending parent nights and conferences

• Decree a return to competitive salaries.

On the last point, the board also will hear results of a review of district salaries that found its teachers are paid 9.14 percent less than average in a comparison done by district business consultants School Services of California. Support staff are being paid fairly in comparison with Escalon, Hughson, Riverbank and Waterford, the report says.

While higher-level managers averaged 11 percent less than comparable salaries, the report found those working the lower rungs of administrative services were paid 20 percent below average.

Trustees will discuss, but not vote on, changes to district policies affecting charges paid by community groups who rent school facilities, advertising on school grounds, the school day and summer school, among others.

The board will hear a presentation on the Common Core standards by Mary Jones, the retiring area administrator whose $39,600 contract with Denair is also up for a vote.

In other business, trustees will vote on:

• A contract for Interim Superintendent Walt Hanline for $36,600 through January 2014, plus a consulting contract to coach new district leadership of $12,300 from February 2014 to June 2015.

• Consider starting their meetings a half-hour sooner, at 7 p.m.

• An application for a $14,436 matching grant to augment the Denair High agricultural program.

• A revised job description for chief business official which requires experience, but no degrees.

The Denair Unified School District Board will meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Denair Middle School Coyote Center, 3701 Lester Road, Denair. Find exhibits and agenda athttp://bit.ly/DenairUnified.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter, @NanAustin, www.modbee.com/education.

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