The Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees continued to address one of its highest priorities Thursday night – salary restoration.
Trustees voted unanimously to grant one-time raises of 3.5% to classified, non-teaching staff and one-time pay hikes of 1.75% to teachers and administrators. The increases effectively provide more money in paychecks without boosting base salaries.
The district will use $252,363 in state money it has collected and saved over the past few years to pay for the increases.
Salary restoration has been a pivotal issue for employees as well as the board since pay was slashed six years ago when the district faced a financial crisis.
Classified employees absorbed cuts of 12.75%; teachers and administrators took 8% decreases as the district moved to balance its spending in the face of declining enrollment and state reimbursements.
Since 2013, classified workers have seen their salary restored by 9.25% and all other employees by 6.25%. Thursday’s action essentially means everyone still with the district who had their salary cut six years ago will have it fully restored this school year.
“We feel very strongly that restoration is the right thing to do,” said board President Regina Gomes, who along with Trustee Crystal Sousa made salaries their biggest issue when they won election in November 2017.
“It is one of our highest priorities,” Sousa emphasized.
Salary restoration will be among the chief objectives in next year’s budget, said Superintendent Terry Metzger. She said continuing to increase overall enrollment as well as attendance are key to making that happen.
Enrollment currently sits at 1,270 students. Initial projections are that it will rise to about 1,300 students next year as another Dual Language Immersion kindergarten class is added at Denair Elementary Charter Academy.
The district also has focused this year on increasing Average Daily Attendance (ADA), which directly impacts how much money it receives from the state. Though well more than 90% of students attend class each day, that number has fallen slightly in the past two years. Each 1% rise in attendance over the course of a school year means about $100,000 more for the district, Metzger said.
In January, the district launched an attendance campaign on social media and across its four campuses called “It’s Not the Same Without You … You Matter.” There have been incentives and recognition of students to promote attendance, and campuses fly special flags when at least 95% of students are in class.
“It appears that our efforts have made a difference, as attendance is month-for-month higher than last year,” Metzger said. “Because we are a small district, any increases or decreases in enrollment or ADA can significantly affect funding.”
In other action, trustees:
- Congratulated Denair Charter Academy Principal Breanne Aguiar and her staff for hosting officials from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) for four days earlier this week. DCA staff has been through an intensive self-study process to identify strengths as well as respond to areas for improvement. They will learn in June how long they will be accredited before the next WASC visit. The maximum length is six years.
- Heard about the Read 180 and Math 180 intervention programs at Denair Middle School. Students who struggle in those two key core areas are provided intensive extra instruction that includes working closely with teachers, studying independently and in groups, and reviewing lessons online. “Initial analysis shows strong growth from both programs in student test scores and ability,” said Principal Amanda Silva.
- Listened to a summer school update from Linda Neely, one of two principals this year. Classes will be June 3-28 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the DCA campus for students in grades eight through 12. About 130 students are expected, Neely said. Students can sign up for up to two classes – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.
- Received an update on the English Learner program from coordinator Maria Olivas. Currently, there are 217 students across all grade levels who are in the program for children whose first language is not English, Olivas said. Every year, each child must take the ELPAC (English Language Proficiency Assessment for California) test. Those who pass can leave the EL program, a process known as reclassification; those who don’t continue to receive extra help on English. Olivas hopes to reclassify as many as 30 students this year based on their language proficiency.
Heard a report from three Denair High School FFA students about their communications outreach program, which now includes a monthly newsletter. The group also helped to honor six prominent local women in agriculture at a banquet last month.