Denair to interview superintendent candidates

naustin@modbee.comJanuary 2, 2014 

— A citizens group and school board members will interview six superintendent candidates today, with follow-up interviews by trustees planned Saturday. The district’s new leader will be announced at Thursday’s meeting.

Denair Unified received 26 applications for the superintendent post, despite its desperate financial situation. Planning for a state takeover is going forward alongside ongoing efforts to avoid it as the district muddles through a labor dispute, cash shortages and a budget showing money will run out before the school year’s end.

An advisory panel of 25 community and school leaders will interview the six semifinalists today, giving their top picks and rationale to the board, which will make the final decision today or after second interviews of finalists Saturday.

In the district’s timeline, the new superintendent will be announced Thursday and be on the job by Feb. 3. The contract, to be approved Thursday, was not available. Former Superintendent Ed Parraz was paid $117,500 plus a $4,200 car allowance, according to district documents.

A state takeover, required if the district can’t lower ongoing costs to live within its means by June 30, would oust the superintendent for a state trustee who could overrule the school board. Only a handful of districts in California have gotten to that point.

Interim Superintendent Walt Hanline said the district soon will have the authority to impose salary cuts on its teachers and will be able to pull the budget back into the black.

Negotiations with teachers stalled last spring and at this point await a fact-finding report written by a financial expert agreed to by both sides. That report is expected to be sent to negotiation teams next week, Hanline said.

The board committed to implementing the expert’s recommendations. Non-union management employees agreed to abide by them as well.

Support staff signed off on a contract in the fall, agreeing to a 7.75 percent cut for the year. Teachers, whose salaries reverted to pre-recession highs in July, are being asked to take an 11 percent cut.

Missteps in teacher layoffs have raised legal costs for the district and could end with expensive reinstatements. However, about a dozen teachers have resigned since July, which union leaders cited as dollars saved for the district that should reduce the need for layoffs and the salary cut demanded. Such back and forth debates over real-time numbers have complicated negotiations.

Teachers have packed recent board meetings and in December said they have serious reservations about the coming fact-finding report. After the report is released, the district can unilaterally impose a salary cut and the teachers would have the right to strike.

An audit of 2012-13 finances slated to be adopted Thursday shows the district ran through operating reserves and ended last year $258,388 in the red. The district now reports that it is on track to end 2013-14 with a negative balance of $684,508.

“During our audit of the district for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, we have found that the district’s fiscal condition has deteriorated even further (than 2011-12) and we feel that there is substantial doubt about the district’s ability to continue as a going concern in the 2013-2014 fiscal year,” the audit states.

In other business Thursday, trustees are expected to accept the resignations of Denair High’s head varsity football coach Richard Goodwin and head varsity baseball coach Michael Souza.

The Denair Unified School District board will meet behind closed doors after a brief open session for comments at 8 a.m. today and Saturday at the superintendent’s conference room. A public meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday in the district boardroom, 3460 Lester Road, Denair. See the agenda at http://bit.ly/DenairUnified. 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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