August 27, 2013
Members of the Ojai Unified School District Community,
I offer each of you a most enthusiastic welcome to the 2013-14 school year. Whether you have ever been a parent or grandparent of an OUSD student, the school district, especially in a small town, is a treasure of the community. As many of you are aware, the past four years have been a difficult test for the professional efforts of our staff members, with class sizes increasing and compensation decreasing due to dwindling resources from Sacramento. I am proud to tell you that I can imagine no group of certificated and classified staff members who could have served the students of any school district in a more exemplary fashion than our faculty and support staffs have exhibited.
The revenue picture for the 2013-14 school year has improved somewhat compared with recent years. In the late spring and early summer, several important changes for the 2013-14 school year were implemented and the planning of others began. The paragraphs below describe three of these initiatives.
Due to some increases in enrollment since the June projections, all three grade-configuration components of the District (K-6, 7-8 and 9-12) now have more faculty positions allocated than were projected for the 2013-14 school year. In the next few weeks, I will be increasing by at least 50% the present $100,000 line item for classified and certificated hourly staff, designed to support our elementary school teachers, predominantly in grades K-3. When these additional staffing costs have been infused into the 2013-14 District Budget, Ms. Danni Pusatere, our District financial administrator, and I will analyze whether we can afford the expenditure required to reduce the number of furlough days for staff by a third day. On June 4, 2013, the Board of Education approved the reduction of two furlough days in the 2013-14 school year, thus returning one student instructional day and one staff development day to the school year calendar. The third day would be scheduled as another student attendance day.
In the academic arena, the 2013-14 school year represents the transition period away from the California Standards Tests to the enactment of significant changes in teaching and learning represented by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). While it is unclear at this juncture what portion of the longstanding testing program will be retained in the spring of 2014, it is clear that during this school year our District will focus heavily on preparing for the full implementation of CCSS in the fall of 2014. In my opinion, CCSS is a very significant and positive step forward for the education of our students. I am excited to work with the staff on the complex challenges ahead.
In recent years, the devastating impacts of all types of bullying have challenged certificated and classified staffs around the nation. The Ojai Unified School District has not been spared from these events. While I am proud of the forthright and sensitive manner in which our staff members have handled the great majority of these cases, more formal and intensive training for all of us is needed. To that end, Jeanine Murphy, our District expert on issues involving students under the greatest emotional distress, will meet with the faculty at each school, all classified staff, students in many of our grades, and parents throughout the community to explain our more rigorous expectations and reporting protocols relating to bullying.
As always, I welcome your e-mails and/or phone calls. My relevant contact information is listed next to my photograph above.
May 30, 2013
Members of the Ojai Unified School District Community,
The month of June in Sacramento will be characterized by intense negotiations between the governor and the legislature regarding the amount of additional revenue each school district will receive next school year. My communication to you today is designed to keep you informed about the status of the 2013-14 state budget and our district’s financial condition at this juncture.
The State Budget
I am certain that you have been reading about the improved revenue stream coming into Sacramento from various tax sources (i.e., income tax, higher sales tax after Prop. 30). The governor is committed to paying down the state debt quickly and providing a disproportionate amount of any increased revenue for schools to those districts with high percentages of low-income and/or ELL populations. Our district has lower percentages of both populations than the state average.
On June 7, several other Ventura County superintendents and I will meet with Assemblymember Das Williams. My goal is to seek his support to help the legislature slow down the governor’s repayment of the debt and infuse the K-12 education arena with more funds next year. In my opinion, and in the opinion of our Board of Education, the state should place its highest priority on restoring the funding levels of the 2007-08 school year.
Our District Budget
We will certainly receive greater overall funding next year than this year. Unfortunately, we have a significant budget gap (lower projected revenues than expenditures) created by continuing declining enrollment and our use of all available one-time sources of revenue in recent school years to retain as many staff members as possible. In that domain, I am very pleased to inform you that every teacher and almost every classified staff member who worked with us this year and who wanted to return next year will, in fact, be offered a contract for next year.
Unfortunately, we still needed to include in our projected 2013-14 school year budget the ongoing furlough days program that has been in place since the 2009-10 school year. Nothing has been finalized in that area yet. I can tell you that there is absolute agreement among the Board of Education, leaders of both unions, Danni and me that our highest priority is to reduce the number of furlough days in the 2013-14 school year, even if we can afford only one less day.
I will communicate with you about these state and local subjects before and after our school year ends on June 12.