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Faculty object to budget proposal

Del Norte education officials on Thursday presented preliminary 2014–15 budgets and Local Control Accountability Plans for the school district and County Office of Education, proposing additional teachers, a foster youth coordinator and an expanded career technical education program.

But when educators saw that the school district plans to spend less in teacher and classified staff salaries next year, a handful of educators walked out of the School Board meeting.

“I am highly insulted by this,” said Dave Bokor, a Del Norte High School math teacher. “Your employees are your commodity that does most of the teaching. Your business office has determined that they should spend less money on employees next year even though they knew they’re receiving more income. I am highly insulted by this. Publicly, it’s embarrassing to see that.”

Bokor referred to the district’s 2014–15 projected budget, which calls for $14.1 million in certificated staff salaries and $6.4 million in classified staff salaries. This year the district spent $16.3 million in teacher salaries and $7.4 million for classified staff salaries, according to its 2013–14 working budget.

The decrease in certificated salaries corresponds to a cut of $1.8 million in County Office of Education funding that came to the school district and paid for 16 intervention teachers, said Superintendent Don Olson. The district, on the other hand, had been funding programs such as the school nurse, who normally  would be funded through the County Office of Education, he said.

The County Office of Education’s 2014-15 preliminary budget calls for cutting the number of intervention teachers in half, according to Olson.

“If we didn’t do that and then start funding other legitimate things that County Offices fund, the district would be back in the hole about $1 million,” he said. “That got the district back close to being solvent and left money for other salary increases. That was the rationale.”

The district’s LCAP calls for approximately $666,000 in new expenditures while the County Office of Education’s LCAP calls for about $627,000 in new expenditures.

“I really want to thank the stakeholders,” said Steve Godla, the district’s assistant superintendent of instruction and educational services. “We had a plethora of stakeholder meetings (and) focus groups.”

Del Norte County Unified School District is expected to receive a total operating revenue of about $34.2 million for the 2014–15 fiscal year. This includes roughly $25.6 million coming from Local Control Funding Formula revenues, which is up from $22.9 million from this year, according to the district’s working budget.

The Local Control Funding Formula, which was signed into law last year, allocates education funding to districts based on their percentage of low-income students, English language learners and foster children.

With 63.69 percent of its students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals, Del Norte County Unified School District’s revenue will increase from a 2013–14 base revenue of $21.6 million to $31.5 million when the formula is fully implemented in 2020–21.

The Del Norte County Office of Education is not expected to receive a large revenue increase due to the Local Control Funding Formula. The county office is currently at its funding formula target of about $3.15 million, Olson said.

 “We are already at our target, so we will not see another dollar to that for the next six or seven years,” he said. “The good news is we get to start our target much earlier than the district.”

The County Office of Education oversees court and community schools and provides services such as Career Technical Education to support the school district and local independent charter schools.

As a result of the new funding formula, the State Board of Education required school districts and county offices of education to come up with a plan that would show the extra dollars are reaching the students they are intended for. 

The Del Norte County Office of Education and school district is expected to approve finalized LCAPs and budgets at its June 26 meeting. LCAPS and final budgets are due to the California Department of Education by July 1.

Once it’s approved by the state, the district and county office will revisit their LCAPs every year to update its expenditures and goals, Godla said.

The district’s LCAP calls for hiring a new teacher at Smith River School, which would cost about $84,000, Godla said. Officials hope that hiring a new teacher would eliminate combination classes at the upper grades. Godla cited input from the school and the district’s English Learner Parent Advisory Committee, which requested minimizing the number of combination classes for English language learners.

“That one staff member eliminates every combination class at that site,” Olson said.

The district’s LCAP also calls for reinstating a two-week summer school session at Margaret Keating, Joe Hamilton and Smith River in addition to the program at Del Norte High School. That would cost about $32,000, according to Godla. School district staff also propose hiring a new K–8 music teacher, which would cost $84,000. 

The LCAP on the County Office of Education side also calls for hiring more teachers and support staff to decrease the student-teacher ratio. Olson said the office responded by combining the community day school and McCarthy Center into one building to create Del Norte Community School. Olson expects the new facility to house between 36 and 50 students next fall.

The County Office of Education’s LCAP also includes collaborating with the school district to expand the Career Technical Education program. Olson said a $20,000 fire sciences program will be offered at the high school level in addition to the house carpentry program.

Olson said he also wants to start offering Career Technical Education courses to middle school students, which will cost $6,000.

“The County Office has funding that we push out for programs that support students everywhere in the county,” he said. “So any student in a county school can take place in the carpentry house program.”

Other LCAP expenditures on the County Office of Education side include parent education nights, safety improvements to county sites, the hiring of an additional school counselor as well as the creation of a foster youth coordinator position. Olson said the foster youth coordinator would act as a liaison between local social services and teachers.

Neither the LCAP nor the preliminary budgets generated much comment among parents, but they both met with criticism from teachers and classified staff.

Leah Owens, a Del Norte High School English teacher who spoke on behalf of the Del Norte Teachers Association, said the LCAP presents wonderful opportunities for students to reach their academic and social goals, but added that administrators need to budget for teachers.

“Programs don’t teach students, teachers teach students,” she said. “You want a positive school climate, it’s not straight zeroes across the salary schedule. That does not create a positive school climate.”

Patti Rommel, president of the California School Employee Association’s Great Northern Chapter,  which represents classified staff, said the county and district’s LCAPs didn’t have the level of detail that the California Department of Education is looking for.

“A lot of these things are simply goals and objectives. You haven’t actually got the plan part in there,” she said. “Stakeholders need to know who (is going to be) accountable. If something doesn’t get done, who goes back and says it wasn’t accomplished? How can we check this as stakeholders?”

Olson said the district and Del Norte County Office of Education had worked with the Humboldt County Office of Education to create their LCAPs.

The County Office of Education and school district surveyed 1,763 people and held 41 community stakeholder meetings to develop their LCAPs. The information collected was compiled by Humboldt State University’s California Center for Rural Policy.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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