Modesto school board takes on funding changes, naming field for coach

naustin@modbee.comDecember 9, 2013 

— Modesto City Schools board members got a primer on the state funding overhaul for education and took the first step toward renaming Beyer High’s varsity baseball field for longtime coach Paul Cornwell.

At Monday’s meeting, Chief Business Official Julie Chapin addressed the changing fortunes of the district. Some 86 percent of Modesto’s elementary students are poor, learning English or in foster care, the hard-to-serve populations that will get more money under the state’s new formula.

Modesto’s attendance allotment should grow gradually over eight years from $217 million to $290 million, a 34 percent increase, Chapin said. If the state’s economy falters, however, that amount could drop, she stressed.

Other changes include better cash flow. Last year, the state made districts wait for nearly 40 percent of promised dollars until after the fiscal year ended. This year, the district will have to wait until July for about half that, 21 cents per $1.

Other items of interest:

• The state’s goal for kindergarten through third-grade class sizes will be 24 children per class, not the 20-student limit of the boom years.

• The Affordable Care Act will cost the district a minimum of $5 million starting next year, which would be the penalty for not providing health care, Chapin said. Modesto teachers gave up health coverage for higher salaries years ago, and any change would have to be negotiated.

Coming with the new funding, however, are requirements that the board receive community input before approving next year’s budget. Superintendent Pam Able said the district plans to meet with high school and junior high students, committees representing school parents and English learners, and the Dr. Parker Committee (aimed at bridging the educational gap for minority students). A community group with Latino, business and faith-based groups is being developed, she said.

“We’ve wanted greater freedom (to allocate dollars), and we got it,” said newly installed board President Cindy Marks. “But with greater freedom comes great responsibility.”

Beyer High’s varsity baseball field got one inning closer to being the Paul Cornwell field with a unanimous vote of the board to accept the proposal. A final vote will be taken Jan. 13.

Beyer Principal Dan Park said the school strongly supports the move to name the field in honor of the 38-year teacher and baseball coach.

“The number of individuals who came forward over the last couple of weeks saying he had an impact on their lives is just overwhelming,” Park said.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, Davis and Enochs high school football players apologized to the board for the fight that canceled their final game of the season.

Davis Principal Mike Rich said the schools used the unsportsmanlike incident “as a teachable moment.” The teams joined to do cleanup and beautification work at both campuses on a recent Saturday.

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

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