Budget Picture Brighter for Denair Unified School District

DUSD_logo-SmallThe Denair Unified School District’s financial situation continues to improve, with a major reduction in deficit spending in 2014-15 and the anticipation of a small surplus the following school year.

Trustees listened to a presentation and heard public comment about the proposed $8.15 million budget for 2014-15 at their meeting Thursday night. Though the district expects to spend about $130,000 more than it receives in revenue, there is no financial assistance required from the Stanislaus County Office of Education. The past two years, the county office loaned the district $2.4 million to prevent state takeover.

By 2015-16, Denair officials expect to have about $370,000 more in revenue than expenses.

“We remain on a fiscal recovery plan. We’re exactly on the trajectory we had projected,” said Superintendent Aaron Rosander, who took over in February. “This puts us right on our target so that 24 months from now the ink is black.”

Trustees will take a final vote June 26 on the 2014-15 budget.

The proposed spending plan reflects the staffing cuts and 8% salary reductions agreed upon earlier this year by the district and its employees. In February, the board eliminated the equivalent of 19 full-time teaching jobs and one administrative position to reflect declining enrollment. All but eight of those positions already were vacant or will not be filled after employees retired at the end of the recently completed school year.

Denair expects to have 54 teaching positions among its 110 employees next year, a reduction of 12 teachers from two years ago. Future budgets anticipate up to three additional layoffs per year unless the district can increase its enrollment.

Denair Unified has about 1,400 students spread across six campuses – a high school, middle school, elementary school, two charter schools and a state-sponsored preschool. Projections for the next three budget cycles anticipate a 7% enrollment decline each year, but Rosander said the district will work hard to retain students within its boundaries and attract others to its charter programs.

“It’s our intent to eventually grow enrollment and add staff,” he said, adding that the improved budget situation “validates the hard work and direction of Denair schools in recent months.”

The county office of education’s top business officer said Denair has done well to dig its way out of its budget hole.

“They went through a really tough period. It was tough on the district and tough on the community. Because it’s a small community, it was very painful,” said Don Gatti, the deputy county superintendent. “From our perspective, it’s gratifying to see that they’ve taken the necessary steps. They’ve got a wonderful plan in place that puts them into the black in the near future.”

Denair High School has one of the highest graduation rates in Stanislaus County — 99% of its students graduate on time, compared to the county average of 82%. The Denair Academic Avenues charter school is known for its innovative programming at the elementary level, including Spanish classes for all students. And the high school charter program offers quality independent study options to non-traditional students.

Thursday’s meeting also included a staff report and presentation about the new Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, required of every public school district in California. The three-year plan was created with input from staff, parents and the broader community. It ties funding to specific student needs and measureable outcomes at various grade levels. Trustees will vote June 26 on the LCAP.

The LCAP lists five goals that apply to all campuses:

•  All students, including all subgroups, will make continued academic progress with the intent of meeting or exceeding a year’s growth toward Common Core proficiency in math, English, science and social science

•  All students and all subgroups will engage their individual learning styles and unique interests to acquire 21st-century skills and the passion for continuous learning as they pursue higher education or career technical pathways

•  All students, including all subgroups, will have equal access to a broad course of study including but not limited to modern language, visual and performing arts, and physical education

•  All students, including all subgroups, have the right to a safe and healthy environment to achieve social, emotional and academic success

•  All teachers in the Denair Unified School District will meet the federal standards for highly qualified teachers

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