CUSD’s Public NON-Disclosure

Nov 17, 2014 by

CUSD’s Public NON-Disclosure

At Saturday’s CUSD meeting, Board Members voted 4-0 to remove school closures from the list of possible cuts for the 2015/16 school year. This vote provides relief for the time being, however, in a district wide email to CUSD parents it was made clear that the reprieve might only be temporary as our schools “are off the list for at least one year”. This means that the District could still consider school closures the following year. The Board was faced with two options for Phase II cuts, both of which included an increase in class sizes district wide to a 30:1 student-to-teacher ratio and similar numbers in terms of staff reductions. The main differences between the two options was that Superintendent Campbell was recommending that the Board vote to also close two schools and save less money (please see chart below for a breakdown of figures). Those who have been working hard to advocate for our children and schools have stated that Saturday’s vote is a step in the right direction and that this vote is a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Many are thankful that the Board made this decision.

Saturday’s decision was preceded by a Wednesday night meeting at Mokelumne Hill Elementary School that included parents, staff and Superintendent Campbell. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the realities of what the school would look like at 30:1 ratios. The overwhelming consensus from the parents was to keep the school open and work together as a community to help students to be successful within multi-grade combination classrooms. Participants felt that with a mixture of dedicated and talented parents, teachers and community members, the school could not only survive, but would thrive with volunteers and added enrichment programs. The idea of creating magnet schools at the Upcountry campuses (and effectively increasing enrollment) was also discussed. Moving forward, the plan is to hold additional meetings to continue the conversation regarding what will work best for the school and children, to formalize a plan and to secure commitments from volunteers.

In terms of the bigger picture, we must take the time to have a complete understanding of CUSD’s past. The administration has talked about community members belonging to one of two groups: those who want to be a part of the solution versus those who want to talk about how we got here. With all due respect, it seems as if we are to be a part of the real solution, it is imperative that we understand exactly how we got here. It has been said that those who do not know or understand history are doomed to repeat it. We need to truly have a grasp on what led CUSD to this state of financial crisis so that we can break free from the systemic dysfunction that got us here.

A timeline has been previously presented that demonstrates a two year pattern of ignoring Calaveras County Office of Education’s (CCOE) warnings of impending financial doom and making decisions to exacerbate a financially tenuous situation by voting to increase voluntary, ongoing spending in the form of salary/benefit increases. Each year, these salary and benefit increases were to be partially funded with reductions in expenses that included staff lay offs and school closures. When delving deeper into what transpired at the May 13, 2014 board meeting, it becomes clear that there was a failure to disclose crucial elements of the spending plan, along with the multiple warnings received from CCOE. What follows is an explanation of what happened. The information is gathered from audio recordings of the meeting, AB1200 disclosure documents, accompanying letters from CCOE, and email correspondence from Superintendent Campbell.

CUSD’s Public NON-Disclosure

On May 13, 2014 at the CUSD Board Meeting, a public disclosure hearing was held. The purpose of this hearing was to certify an AB1200, a document that requires the District to demonstrate fiscal solvency and the funding plan for any salary or benefit increases.

During the Public Hearing, it was announced that the ongoing, voluntary salary and benefit increases (totaling approximately $938,000) would be funded with “LCFF increased revenues that we will be receiving and a portion of the ending fund balance”.

In fact, the document that was held in hand stated that the increases would be funded with “LCFF base funding plus reduction of $436,650 in expenses”. During the public disclosure hearing, there was no mention that the raises were to be funded with staff layoffs, increased class sizes and school closures.

Not one person in the room spoke up to tell the truth.
Not one board member, union representative or Superintendent Campbell.

At this same meeting, it was announced by a Board Member and staff that a letter had been received from the County (CCOE) and that CCOE had “accepted” CUSD’s spending plan. Staff announced “If the County truly believes that we cannot afford this, um then they will let us know if they, they do not believe that we are acting in our best interest” [sic].

In fact, the referenced letter was the 5th known letter from CCOE expressing concern with CUSD’s fiscal stability and the letter specifically stated, “While the District has identified the reductions it will implement, it is evident that many of those reductions will be difficult to achieve both politically and programmatically. Our office believes that this agreement exacerbates what is already a financially tenuous situation for the District, and strongly recommends that the District does not make any further increases to on-going costs”.

CCOE had sent almost the exact same letters in 2013, when CUSD also decided to ignore the warnings and voted to add approximately $360,000 in ongoing, voluntary salary and benefit increases.

According to Superintendent Campbell:

  • All Board Members and the negotiating team knew of the letters from CCOE; and
  • All parties had been told verbally and in writing of CCOE’s concerns about the District’s tenuous fiscal position multiple times throughout the negotiating process.

During the Public Hearing a Board Member asked staff about CCOE’s “acceptance” of the spending plan and asked, “… if they said no, does that mean everything goes back to the negotiating table, is that how all that happens?” The district’s answer was simply: YES.

Not one person in the room spoke up to tell the truth.
Not one board member, union representative or Superintendent Campbell.

CUSD employees, students, parents and community members were robbed of their chance to speak out against this spending plan when the Board, Superintendent and Union representatives blatantly withheld critical information and deceived everyone else in the room.

Current staffing levels, along with all of our schools and programs, can remain intact by reducing salaries and benefits, bringing them back towards the figures that existed prior to the ill-advised, voluntary increases. These reductions can be temporary in nature and can be reinstated when district revenues increase. The fiscal mismanagement and deceit inherent to this administration must stop. It is time for this charade to end; time for the District and CUEA union representatives to return to the negotiating table.

The next scheduled CUSD Board meeting is Tuesday, November 18 at 5:30 at the District Office. Jonathan Kuesel, an expert in school consolidation, is scheduled to make a presentation.

Phase II Options Projections

5:13:14 CUSD Board Meeting Transcript

CUSD’s Public NON-Disclosure

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