Its current five-year calendar still has two years left on it, but Mammoth Unified School District’s Board of Education is already thinking ahead to the next five years. Last Thursday evening, the Board discussed not only the calendar, but also organizing the committee that sets the schedule possibly as early as next fall to get a jump on the long, time-consuming process.
The 11-person committee is typically made up of representatives from the Parent Teacher Organization, MUSD and school administration, including the Superintendent, the Boosters, union representatives and students.
Originally brought forward by parent Connie Moyer, the agenda item — the calendar, especially its start date each year — is a sensitive topic to parents and teachers alike. Both might not agree on when that start date should be, however; some parents have indicated they would like to see more time during the summer for vacations. Teachers, particularly at the high school, seem to favor an earlier start, citing the time needed to gear up for important pre-college testing.
As a “unified” school system, start dates for all three schools are the same. Board member Gloria Vasquez noted concerns from parents about more lead time to make vacation and travel plans, and requests for “better continuity between the three schools.” Vasquez said the Board would reach out to stakeholders when getting close to forming a new calendar committee. Fellow BOE member Jack Farrell suggested not waiting until the current five years runs out, and put forth the idea of forming the committee perhaps a year from now.
Farrell cautioned, however, that, “If the intent is to change the existing calendar, there should be a compelling reason to do so.” Returning BOE member Shana Stapp, who was sworn in earlier in the evening, said she favored the idea of being done with the entire first semester by winter break, adding that lots of schools statewide are starting their school years earlier.
Moyer, who has kids in all three MUSD schools, called the school year a source of community frustration. “Even though we’ve adopted a five-year calendar, it’s important to be flexible,” she remarked. “[Mammoth] is special and unique, and some calendars don’t work for us here.” She went on to point out what she perceived as inflexibility when it comes to Mammoth’s workforce, one in which parents can’t afford Husky Club or daycare. Staff and teachers get time off and benefit from the calendar, but parents don’t.”[Parents], she indicated, are hesitant to take kids out of school for family vacations due to fears of unexcused absences.
Board President Betty Kittle said she recognizes it’s hard to have one calendar for all three schools. Teachers, however, point to increasing frequency and importance of testing, as students progress through the school system, especially high school. Mammoth Education Association teachers union President Cheryl Hart, a veteran of several calendar committees, said, “Mammoth High School teachers would like to finish the current, adopted five-year cycle. College applications have set deadlines and we need to pursue those before those deadlines happen. We’re not in favor of starting later. We understand parents not getting that, that’s why it’s important to inform and educate the public.”
Watch for the BOE to take up the school calendar by fall 2013.
MUSD’s own fiscal cliff
Also during the meeting, MUSD Business Manager reported on the district’s First Interim Budget Revision, with new projections based on the passage by state voters of Prop 30 in November. Governor Jerry Brown’s tax initiative package raises the state sales tax and taxes on higher income earners for five years, and staves off drastic cuts to education funding. Salamanca advised the room that Prop 30 essentially means no new money. “We’re just not going to get more cuts,” he explained. That translates to the district not being broke in years 3-4 from now, but pushes that out until years 5-6.
Previous scenarios showed the district’s reserves shrinking to 0% or -3% by fiscal year 2014-2015, but the reserve projections now sit at 17% by FY ’14-’15. MUSD started with an $800,000 deficit this fiscal year. With personnel layoffs, attrition, contract renegotiations and other cutbacks already made, and some found money (including an additional $90,000 in accessible federal money found during the recent accounting overhaul), that deficit has been reduced to $295,000.
By FY 2013-2014, however, the projected deficit goes back to $800,000, and rises to $1.4 million by FY 2014-2015, meaning the district needs to continue its pursuit of austerity measures.
While MUSD has set a 17% reserve mandate for itself, well above the state’s requirement of 3%, Superintendent Rich Boccia estimated the Board needs 22% on hand to avoid borrowing. He also once and for all dismissed any notion of recovering state deferrals.