Local education officials on Thursday presented a plan for the following school year calling for more counselors and continued funding for efforts to reduce class sizes and combination classes and enhance services that help students struggling academically.
But after hearing at an April 26 meeting that Del Norte County Unified School District campuses are in need of repair to the tune of about $200 million to $300 million, school board President Jamie Forkner asked staff to reduce dollars for each item in the proposed 2018-19 Local Control Accountability Plan to increase funding for deferred maintenance.
“We’re only putting $323,000 into deferred maintenance, but none of these things on this LCAP can happen if our buildings fall down and they’re to that point,” Forkner said. “I would like to look at, maybe instead of cutting one thing, maybe cutting each thing by 2 or 3 percent and putting another $150,000 towards (deferred maintenance) to make it $500,000.”
The district’s LCAP is a plan for how it will spend extra state dollars it receives to provide services for English language learners, homeless, foster and low-income students, according to Superintendent Jeff Harris.
Steve Godla, the district’s assistant superintendent of instruction and educational services and the LCAP facilitator, said the plan was drafted with input from students, teachers, classified staff, administrators and parents. The district also received 854 responses to an online survey focusing on the LCAP.
At its all-county band concert last month, district music teachers collected between 360 and 370 signatures from parents calling for $100,000 to fund more musical instruments for students.
Based on the input the district received, parents, students, teachers and classified staff groups called for more social and emotional support for students, Godla said, as well as intervention for students struggling in math, language arts and other academic areas. People wanted their students to have more access to physical education, art and music, he said.
There was a call for more training for preschool teachers and instructional assistants, Godla said. He said those who responded to the district’s request for input on the LCAP wanted to make sure that classified staff were included in training opportunities for teachers.
Support for long-term English language learners and an increased focus on early literacy were also priorities among those offering input, Godla said.
When it comes to counseling, the current LCAP draft calls for adding two more counselors at the district’s elementary schools, Godla said. The proposed funding for that would increase from $344,000 to $640,000, according to a staff report.
“One of the positives I heard is that counselors are able to do more if they’re at one site,” Godla said. “They’re not torn between two sites (and) they can bond more with the staff and the kids.”
As for intervention services, class size and combination class reduction, the district’s LCAP proposes allocating the same level of funding as the previous year, $1,702,800, according to the staff report. Godla said this includes the creation of a two-week long summer school program in August for long-term English language learners.
Long-term English language learners are students that have been educated in English in the U.S. for at least seven years, but haven’t scored early advanced or higher in reading, writing, listening and speaking English, according to Cheryl Bradley, chair of the Del Norte High School English department.
When it came to music, instead of funding $100,000 for musical instruments, including tympanies, tubas and other large instruments, next year’s LCAP calls for ongoing funding if $13,000 a year for “music instruments sustainability,” according to the staff report. According to the staff report, that’s an increase of about $8,000 from the 2017-18 LCAP budget request.
Godla noted one group, the DELTA, which includes representation from classified staff and teachers, discussed recommending $20,000-25,000 for new instruments. He noted that $13,000 will fund 13 instruments.
“There’s always going to be an equity issue and if we get money on an ongoing basis, we can say OK, we’re going to get instruments for a certain age level,” Godla said.
Marshall Jones, music teacher for Smith River School, said a sustainability fund would allow the district to retire instruments that can’t be fixed, however the proposed $13,000 wouldn’t sustain.
“It’s just more instruments going to the trash heap than are being replaced,” he said, adding that the request for musical instruments applies to all grade levels in the district, including Del Norte High School.
Jones took issue with Forkner’s request to try reducing the amount of dollars proposed for non-personnel requests on the LCAP to increase funding for deferred maintenance. He pointed out that the board of trustees recently approved a $700,000 a year for five years, totaling $3.5 million for updated technology.
Jeff Napier, assistant superintendent of business, said that $3.5 million came to the district in the form of a loan. However, Jones questioned the transparency around the board’s decision.
“It just happened so fast,” Jones said. “The transparency, with that much money, I think, was personally reckless when we’re talking about going after programs now to nickel and dime to piece together our buildings when $3.5 million is a lot of money.”
Godla noted he was shocked when the district’s director of facilities, Steve Morgan, said six schools have roofs, heating and ventilation systems and, in some cases, fire alarm systems that are ready to fail. However, students are also in need of more intervention and other programs, he said.
Speaking for a new True North Organizing Network group of students, parents and community members, Brayden Hatch read a letter that called for reducing class sizes, hiring more mental health counselors in schools as well as a family liaison for each campus.
The group, Whose Schools? Our Schools, called for adding a classified position for the family liaison at each school site, according to the letter.
“Family liaisons are key in helping to identify students who are struggling to meet their basic needs (whether those be physical, emotional or mental),” Hatch said. “These individuals are able to work closely with individuals and families to identify needs as well as the resources available to meet these needs and can be especially effective in coordinating services for homeless students.”
There will be another presentation of the draft LCAP before the board votes on it and the district’s 2018-19 budget in June.