A small light has been found in the darkness of the Eastern Sierra Unified School District financial crisis. Last Friday, the Mono County Office of Education informed ESUSD that the State Department of Education would be contacting them Monday about reversing the decision to discontinue their class size reduction grant for four years. The grant had been cut off when the application filing deadline was missed in the 2008/09 school year.
According to MCOE Superintendent of Schools Catherine Hiatt, MCOE has been contacting the State Department of Education regarding this matter, trying to convince them of the dire straits the District is in.
Hiatt had to give approval to the State to reinstate the funds, which she did. On Monday, ESUSD was told to download the grant form and place the completed version directly into the hands of MCOE, which Hiatt said they did. The form has been mailed and ESUSD also scanned a copy of the form and e-mailed it to the State, according to ESUSD Fiscal Director Jessica Denison.
The grant is expected to be restored retroactively to the 2008/09 school year, which means that ESUSD will receive approximately $300,000 for 2008/09 and 2009/10 ($150,00 for each year), plus the looming budget deficit will now be approximately $150,000 closer to being resolved because ESUSD should receive their allotment for 2010/11. According to Denison, the exact amount could vary if any classes in the District are over 20 students, which triggers the State to penalize the District.
“But it’s cheaper to take the penalty than to hire a new teacher,” she said.
Hiatt spoke to the original missed deadline snafu to clarify MCOE’s role in what happened.
According to Hiatt, Denison was asked to sign up on a list serve if she had not already in 2008/09. The list serve is the online portal of information regarding these class size reduction grants. Hiatt added that MCOE sent over a reminder letter to ESUSD about the Dec. 22 deadline for the applications. Hiatt also stated that in her talks with the State Department of Education, they claimed they had sent Denison a notice about the deadline and then, when they did not see ESUSD on the list after the deadline they called and left a message for Denison about the need for her to turn in the form.
Denison claimed that the District had an old phone system in 2008/09 and that she was not receiving voicemail at that time. The phones have since been updated and Denison has recently signed up for the list serve.
“I just want to be correct about these things,” Hiatt concluded. “When people are coming at you, you tend to blame others, but the Mono County Office of Education has been taking care of business the way they always do and has nothing to be embarrassed about.”