At their meeting Thursday night, Denair Unified trustees moved ahead with laying off the equivalent of two full-time teachers for 2015-16, trimming one class in each of 12 subjects.
Because different high school subjects take different credential specialties, the cuts will slice a piece off the day of a number of teachers. The part-day layoffs anticipate lower enrollment for next year at Denair High School.
The school has 312 students this year, down from a high of 374 in 2006-07. By next fall, initial projections anticipate a decline to 270 students.
A full-time instructor, said Superintendent Aaron Rosander, teaches six sections, or classes, a day. It’s likely, he said, that some teachers will have less than six classes next year and see a corresponding reduction in pay.
“Whole teaching positions are not expected to be eliminated, and our comprehensive high school with its college preparatory programs will remain solidly in place,” Rosander said.
Trustee Sandi Dirkse was assured that the high school’s Academic Decathlon class – whose students recently finished third in the county competition – as well as college-prep Advanced Placement courses, will remain on the schedule. “It’s really, really hard to see these positions cut, but I’m grateful to see the work that goes into keeping the programs and classes for the kids because that’s what it’s all about,” Dirkse said, according to a news release from the district.
Trustees also approved Rosander’s proposal to reduce the science requirement for high school graduation from three years to two, matching what the state and most other school districts require. Denair added the higher requirement four years ago, but does not anticipate having enough students to offer physics next year. Higher-level courses in science and other subjects still will be available through the school’s online program.
By state law, teachers must be notified by March 15 if they might be laid off for the coming school year. The board also agreed to pay up to $2,000 to teachers who let the district know by March 12 that they plan to retire or resign at school year’s end. Rosander said the hiring of “less senior teachers” to replace those who might leave would have a “positive” effect on the budget.
In a procedural move that happens each spring, trustees passed a motion Thursday to notify 16 hourly teachers at Denair Charter Academy that their jobs will end in June. Most if not all of those jobs likely will return over summer or the next school year, however. DCA’s enrollment, now at 320 students, has been growing, said Rosander. Enrollment at the charter academy, which principally serves struggling high-schoolers, typically grows through the academic year as students are referred from other schools.
There was better news at Thursday’s meeting, in the form of letters from Terri Ryland, a fiscal adviser assigned to the district by the State Department of Education in the fall of 2012, and the county office of education. Ryland praised the “herculean” effort of district employees and board members, the community and the county office to bring Denair Unified back into “positive” budget status, which the county letter confirmed.
“Denair appears to have come out the other side and is in charge of its own financial destiny,” Ryland wrote while stressing the need “for cautious assumptions to avoid unpleasant surprises.”
“You have much for which you should be proud,” Ryland’s letter says. “Keep up the good work, stay the course, and keep contributing to the students and parents who rely on and place trust in your leadership.”
Regulators blew the whistle on runaway deficit spending by the district in the fall of 2012. Since then, Denair Unified has cut staff and salaries, replaced top administrators and worked with school finance experts to put its fiscal house in order. In December the district announced it would meet fiscal regulatory requirements a year ahead of expectations.
Total district enrollment this year is 1,294 students in kindergarten through high school, down from a peak of 1,600 in 2007-08. The sharpest decline has occurred at the high school, even as Denair Charter Academy and the two elementary campuses have seen increases.