Mammoth Unified School District’s first “State of the Schools” Town Hall meeting from Superintendent Rich Boccia was a mix of “challenges and celebration.” The Oct. 18 meeting was sparsely attended, likely due to the rescheduled Town Council meeting a block or so away, Boccia nonetheless said the intent for the annual meetings is to take stock, share information and ask questions.
Boccia reviewed the District’s Strategic Aspirations and Priorities, which focused principally on fiscal health. Major concern was placed on passage of at least Prop 30 or Prop 38 (both tax initiatives on the November ballot in part to shore up funding to schools). Boccia read from a recent LA Times story which said in part, “If Props 30 and 38 fail, the situtation will be dire.”
Also mentioned: developing a performance-based culture,” and programs that focus in part on pathway options for graduating students.
Boccia praised resource leveraging, particularly community-generated programs, such as STEM, which fosters Math, Engineering and Science students through hands-on afterschool projects.
“These are tangible things we can accomplish,” he opined. Boccia also reiterated a stated goal of an Olympic-certified training center for cycling, triathlon and biathlon, and snow sports via a partnership with Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. “If we’re going to build the best damn school district west of the Mississippi, we gotta have a world-class facility,” he said.
In terms of School Data, Boccia reviewed the latest Academic Performance Indicator trends, which he said “showed growth across the board, shows we’re moving on the right path.” The scores (perfect is 1,000) showed that both Mammoth Middle and Elementary schools are progressing above 800, and Mammoth High is improving into the upper 700s, but still trailing a bit behind its counterparts.
As Shana Stapp pointed out, academic progress of the hispanic community in should be lauded, with the District having nearly doubled the number of Hispanic students from 33% to 65% during the past 13 years, and still advancing. “We haven’t fallen back 50%, quite the opposite,” she observed.
Survey Results from earlier this year yielded a mixed bag of results.The Parent survey only yielded 73 respondents. While the vast majority (96%) found the school “caring and nuturing,” one-third disagreed that it provided individual instruction that allowed students to be challenged.
The Staff survey only pulled 24 respondents out of the 130 employees. There was disgreement with the statement that MUSD participates in instructional planning with the instructional team. But most agreed that the schools support an environment focused on improved student achievement.
Finally, regarding the Budget, MUSD Business Manager Donnie Salamanca reported that he’s very concerned with the District’s cash reserves dropping so dramatically to 5% by Fiscal Year 2014-2015 if the November tax initiatives fail at the ballot box. Good news: federal special education dollars will escape possible sequestration cuts until at least March. Bad news: the state is looking for new ways to pull from any excess property tax revenue. “It’s chipping away, and basically whittling Basic Aid districts (which get their general purpose funding from property tax revenues) down to Revenue Limit districts,” he advised.
He and Boccia seem to think the state is slowly working toward converting all of the state’s 100 or so Basic Aid districts to Revenue Limit, which would mean, among other things, funding based on enrollment. “Revenue Limit funding is a moving target, but it would mean about a 25% or $3 million hit to the District,” Salamanca estimated.
IPublic schools, Boccia added, continue to take hits, lamenting that California is one of the 10 largest world economies, yet ranks 47th in the nation when it comes to per-student funding. “I really think there’s a conspiracy to dismantle public education, and this country was built on public education,” Boccia stated.