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home : latest news : local August 27, 2015

7/3/2013 9:45:00 AM
Schools to ask voters for 10 percent override
Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

Sue Tone

Since the 2008-2009 school year, cuts in education funding by state legislators, decreasing student enrollment, and efforts to balance the budget by eliminating programs and personnel have meant Humboldt Unified School District could not give its teachers and staff a raise.

For six years.

The district governing board is now asking voters to support a 10 percent override for $2.8 million that will support four purposes:

• Increase school safety.

• Restore academic programs including music, PE and early childhood.

• Reduce class size.

• Attract and retain high quality staff.

Board members unanimously approved the call for a maintenance and operation budget override election in November at its June 25 special meeting. Member Suzie Roth was not present.

The district hired consultant Paul Ulan to conduct a survey of voters to explore community support for an override. Of the 300 people surveyed, 55.8 percent indicated they would vote for a 10 percent override; a lesser number, 46.8 percent, said they would approve a 15 percent override.

One survey question provided a list of uses for the money. Ulan said answers indicated the most important factors were music, art and PE classes (93.4 percent) and school safety (92 percent). Competitive salaries received 83.7 percent, reduced class sizes 82.1 percent, athletics 86.4 percent, and increase student achievement ranked third at 87.4 percent.

"Originally, we were looking at a 15 percent override. Ten percent is doable," Ulan said, adding that 10 percent is not what is needed, it is what the community is willing to support.

2013-2014 budget

The board also approved the 2013-2014 budget following a presentation by Finance Director Cynthia Windham that set out revenues the district expects from the state and its expenditures.

The state no longer gives districts soft capital money - which would have provided $200,000 this past year - that pays for textbooks, library books, technology, and curricular software. The state no longer provides building renewal funds and has reduced unrestricted capital funds. Because the state legislators took that money away, the district cannot rely on a projected $1.7 million.

By law, the state also was to give a 2 percent increase to the base level amount per pupil each year, but has not done so since 2008-2009, a loss of more than $2 million to the district for the 2013-2014 year.

Windham also covered actions taken by the district to reduce its budget since 2008-2009 that include eliminating: custodial staff, technology staff, free full-day kindergarten, middle school librarians, counselors and assistant principals, English Language Learners teachers and staff, mail delivery driver, district office staff, and administrator performance pay.

The district also has reduced its budget for supplies, maintenance efforts and elementary music staff. It has increased class sizes and pay-to-play athletics fees.

Budget reductions for 2013-2014 include eliminating 11 teachers (accomplished through attrition), increased health insurance deductible, reduced allocation for substitute teachers/staff, and requiring tax credit donations to support middle school sports.

"To not be able to offer cost of living raises for our people for six years is painful," HUSD Board President Rich Adler said.

Teachers seek higher pay

Windham said the impact on teaching staff over the past three years has led to a turnover of about a third of the teachers. A large number of teachers retired or resigned this year, said Dan Streeter, HUSD Human Resources director.

"With frozen salaries entering their sixth year and additional requirements coming from the state and federal levels, more and more retirees are recognizing this as a good time to leave the profession," he said.

He said there was little incentive for teachers nearing retirement to stay working based on the economy, the way the Arizona State Retirement System works, and new mandates for teachers. Teachers' resignations also are based on salary freezes.

"What was once a manageable difference between salary schedules in our area and those in the Phoenix area become increasingly problematic as many districts have been able to maintain raises for their employees through override elections and steady or increased enrollment," Streeter said.

Override efforts

By asking the community to step up and support education, Jeri Kooiman, member of the Superintendent's Steering Committee, said, "We have our work cut out for us."

Board member Gary Hicks said in one community where he was gathering signatures to run for school board, he heard several people say teachers are paid enough already. Many retired people on fixed incomes may not support the override.

"We have to do this. It's our obligation for our students and our community," said board member Carm Staker.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, July 4, 2013
Article comment by: Please reformat your letter

Dear former teacher:
You made some excellent points. Will you please reformat and resubmit your letter using paragraphs and numbered lists? The current format makes it difficult to read. Thank you.

Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Article comment by: Former HUSD Teacher

As a former HUSD teacher I have some beef with the proposed override. Itís true that the state and government has cut funding to the bare bones. But, asking residents to pay more and businesses to pay a lot more is not OK with me. The district is converting most of the schools to charter schools because the state will give more money per pupil. That will be a good chunk of change for the district. If they would then use this money for supplies and reduce class size I think a lot of us teachers would be happier. Yes, a raise would be nice too, but cutting class size would make a bigger difference. That is one of the reasons I left teaching to begin with. Trying to teach up to 30 children in one room without any help is hard and frustrating to say the least. There is also the issue of wasted money. Letís start with Superintendent Stanton. I really peeved us that he gets around 800.00 in car allowance a month. That right there would pay for an instructional aide in a classroom. It may not sound like a lot, but it sure means a lot to a struggling teacher trying to do crowd control all alone. Cell phone reimbursement is also a waste. I think administrators should pay for their own vehicles and cell phones. All the teachers sure have to pay for their own! Needles positions are also a huge waste. What in the heck do we need with a hired consultant to conduct a survey? Really? As far as eliminating staff, what happens is someone leaves or retires and the district simply does not rehire for that position. The duties get shuffled off onto everyone else. Itís not like we are firing people. It does still mean we have to do more with less help. The idea that we had to essentially get rid of staff, including assistant principals is false. What the district did instead is allowed a teacher to step in as a ďteacher on assignmentĒ at teacher pay and act as an assistant principal. So, we took someone out of the classroom for part or for the full day and put them in that position. This increased class size and created animosity. ELL teachers were put into other positions since funding was cut for those classes. This put ELL students back into mainstream classes, again increasing class size. Yes, itís true that supplies are in demand. Most teachers ask parents to pitch in and bring in supplies for their child. I donít know about you, but I spent close to 100.00 bucks in supplies for my childrenís classes last school year. Technically, the parents do not have to send in supplies as they are supposed to be supplied by the district, but that leaves teachers paying for their own classroom supplies. I guess I just donít believe that the district would take the bond money and really put it where it needs to go. I would support some kind of bond for a year (if thatís possible) and see what the district does with the money. I want to hear and see that an extra teacher in most grade levels is added. I want to see that supplies are bought and given to the teachers. No one should receive a letter from their childís teacher asking for supplies. An email did go out to all of us that we can no longer request supplies from parents because itís not legal. I would also ask that aide positions be filled to do extra duties. Taking teachers away from their prep time and before and after school to do bus duty, playground duty, crosswalk duty, cafeteria duty and other various duties should stop. We need specials such as PE, music, computers and Library each day. This is how teachers get a prep period, which in elementary schools is only about 40 minutes long. Itís hardly enough time to go to the bathroom, eat a snack, prepare for the next lesson, clean-up, return phone calls and pick up mail. We sure canít do it before or after school since we have duties. If HUSD wants to retain staff, start doing the things the teachers are begging for. Also, please give the teachers prep time during early release Wednesdays. Instead of getting to work in their classrooms, teachers have to listen to stupid meetings and do data reflection. HmmmmÖmaybe if teachers were happier and classes were smaller we could get a heck of a lot more done. Students would be happier with a not so frazzled teacher, and that would be a bonus! This would lead to better test scores all by itself. Iím sure I peeved the administration here, but itís the truth. We have been told to suck it up and so should they. Thank you.

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