Denair district, union reach deal; contract will end fears of takeover

naustin@modbee.comJanuary 21, 2014 

DN Denair schools

A Denair student crosses the parking lot in front of Denair Middle School, Jan. 9, 2014 before the start of school.

DEBBIE NODA — The Modesto Bee Buy Photo

— Denair Unified School District and its teachers have reached a deal, ending fears of a state takeover, district and union spokesmen said Tuesday.

“We have a new day and a new beginning,” said interim Superintendent Walt Hanline. “The state takeover will not take place.”

No details were available on the tentative contract, which still must be voted on by Denair Unified Teachers Association members, beginning today, and approved by the Denair Unified board at a special meeting planned for Jan. 30.

Hanline said he would not release specifics until after the teachers meet – “other than to say I think the board’s actions over the last seven months will be vindicated. Finally, we have numbers everybody understands,” he said. The district sought an 11 percent cut after the old contract expired and teachers’ salaries returned to prerecession highs. Support staff settled over the summer for a 7.75 percent cut.

DUTA President Barry Cole said salary concessions would be closer to what teachers offered long ago, but could not say more before meeting with members after school today. “In my opinion, we gave up much more than was required to avoid state receivership, but we wanted to get everything settled before the new superintendent came in. We want him to have the chance to set things right,” Cole said.

Denair’s new superintendent will be in town Thursday for a community reception. Aaron Rosander resigned as elected superintendent of the Mariposa County Unified School District and will take his Denair desk full time by Feb. 10.

Rosander will take the helm of a district on the mend after 18 months of financial uncertainty. Even with the cuts in place, the district will need to take steps in the coming weeks for at least eight teacher layoffs for 2014-15, fiscal experts have said. The district also faces legal action by DUTA over layoffs for this school year, which the contract deal did not address.

But Hanline said the pact puts the district back on financial track. “The agreement clearly restores the fiscal integrity of the district and does the necessary restructuring to provide integrity to the educational program,” he said. “They’re going to grow themselves out of this problem very fast. Lots of lessons were learned.”

Denair drained reserves to avoid layoffs and salary cuts taken by other districts during the recession. Once the town’s largest employer, Denair Unified ran out of money last spring and remained solvent only through a $1.3 million loan from the Stanislaus County Office of Education.

The county office, which oversees district budgets for the state, red-flagged Denair’s financial projections in fall 2012. Rosy enrollment projections did not match the empty seats in classrooms. The district became the first in county history projected to end its fiscal year in the red, by $258,388, final figures show.

The district expected to end this year spending $685,000 more than it could afford. The ongoing overspending would have triggered a 20-year state takeover, and the formal steps for that to happen have moved forward on a parallel track with negotiations to settle with Denair’s teachers.

Tuesday, head of county office business services Don Gatti said that as soon as the t’s are crossed and i’s dotted, he will halt the state process. “Our office has believed all along a local solution was in the best interest of the district and community,” Gatti said, adding that his office is pleased with the tentative settlement.

Denair parent Ray Prock Jr. said he was glad to hear there was a deal in place at last. “Have not seen it yet, but I express optimism that DUSD can move forward and excel as a team,” Prock tweeted.

The Denair Unified School District board will hold the welcome reception for Rosander at 7 p.m. Thursday in the board room, 3460 Lester Road.

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

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service