Denair school trustees passed a lean budget Thursday night while reassuring community members that the district is committed to sustained academic excellence even as it keeps a watchful eye on expenses.
After hearing an analysis by the district’s financial team, trustees voted 4-0 to pass the $8.15 million budget for 2014-15. The district expects to have a $130,000 deficit, but will not require any financial assistance 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 want to let parents know that we’re not just in survival mode,” Trustee John Plett said after the meeting. “We want the highest quality classes in arts, in math, in science, in English; we’ve not lost sight of that. We’ve hit a speed bump the past couple of years, but students still can get a quality education here.”
Plett joined Trustees Kathi Dunham-Filson, Carolyn Brown and Robert Hodges in passing the budget. Trustee Sandi Dirkse was absent.
“Even though the budget is lean, nothing has been taken away,” said Dunham-Filson. “We still do music. We still do languages. We still do ag. We still do many programs.”
The 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.
“We have a lot of things going for us and we always have,” Brown said. “The smallness of our schools is an advantage. … I want parents to know that we have what it takes to make a successful student. They need to be involved in the schools and see for themselves.”
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. The district will have 54 teaching positions among its 110 employees next year, a reduction of 12 teachers from two years ago.
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.
In addition to the budget, trustees also formally approved the new Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, required of every public school district in California and adopted a Common Core implementation plan.
The three-year LCAP 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.
The plan 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
In other action, trustees accepted two donations worth about $3,000 related to the district’s Wellness Center to install mirrors and pay for equipment maintenance, and approved a request for an overnight field trip to Santa Cruz for the high school yearbook staff and their advisor. The Denair group will join other students and chaperones at a camp on the UC Santa Cruz campus.