Support Class Size Reduction at the Next WCCUSD Board Meeting

Wednesday, June 26, 2012
6:30pm | DeJean Middle School

Happy Summer Madera Community!

Well – the conversation continues….. The Board of Ed. will be meeting this Wednesday evening, June 26th, at LaVonya DeJean Middle School in Richmond.  The last agenda item is the budget approval for 2013-2014 – where there is an opportunity to support Class Size Reduction.

I got an email (along with many school district-active parents) from Charles Ramsey (Board Trustee), urging us to continue to show support for for class size reduction. In reviewing the 2013-14 budget, there is surplus in funds available now that will be voted on – read more details in his email below & please go to the meeting this Wednesday night!

– Jen Loughrey

This morning I had the chance to sit down with the West Contra Costa Unified School District proposed 2013-2014 Budget. I would recommend that each of you also ask for a copy from the School District Administration Office at 1108 Bissell Street in Richmond.  I would also direct you to review and then read the executive summary.
What you will see is a fascinating discussion from staff about the previous years and what we had to overcome to reach this point. Now with our Special Reserves not likely being needed for the future, remember the Local Control Funding Formula was approved by the California State Legislature, we have a chance to have targeted funding placed on critical programs.
Section One is the executive summary and read page 6 of that document.  It will indicate that the 1.9 Million needed in deficit spending from the general fund will not be needed. Further, we have another 6.9 Million in  special reserve that will be projected in 2016, that discussion is on page 7 of the executive summary.  Finally and back to Page 2, I have learned that the Unrestricted ending fund balance is  $23, 189,129 ( Wow!).  Then on Page 8 a discussion is shared about Class Size Reduction.  Staff points out  that to add teachers to fully implement 24:1 it would cost 5.4 Million by 2020.  Please note that with the Local Control Funding Formula we receive larger increases for funding each subsequent year.
I feel that we do not have to wait that long to reduce class size reduction at the elementary school and we can begin the implementation phase at a faster pace.  My recommendation is that we phase in 26:1 this year for CSR at Grades Kindergarten through third grade  and then reduce it by one student in the next two years.  This way we reach 24:1 in 2015, five years before it is mandated.  Although, people would love to see it go down to 24:1 right away, it probably is not feasible, but it would signal that we are serious about dealing with this state mandated directive.  It would also allow us to focus a targeted campaign for class size reduction at the secondary level for our kids with an increase in the parcel tax that would make those changes promptly.
Doing this would allow us to hire one additional FTE at the elementary school sites immediately. Yes it will likely cost us 2.5 Million Dollars but we have it and we need to show the community that we are moving back in the right direction. No we are not quite at 20:1 but we are making good faith efforts to get there.  Further, our local money can then be better targeted to help those at the secondary level.  I just need all of you to signal to me if this makes you feel better about our future direction with our district.
My gut tells me that we have a small window to get this done and I would strongly encourage you to attend the school board meeting on Wednesday where I plan to advocate for this adoption. I want to make sure that I reason with staff and I will meet with the Superintendent and our Chief Financial Officer to share my point of view. I just know that my instincts are right on this issue and we need to make a stand at this point in time.  However, this is a new board and many may “fall in line” with the recommendation that is coming out of the Superintendent’s Office.
We have also retired the lion share of our long term debt and paid off the IBM and State Loan early.  This now means that we only have the Certificate of Participation Loan to pay off and that costs the district roughly a million dollars on that loan. However, we have had that budgeted for some time and this does not impact our budget.
Our meeting where we will adopt our budget is at LaVonya DeJean Middle School in Richmond on Wednesday, June 26th , 2013. The time of the meeting is 6:30 PM. This meeting has one of the shortest agenda’s that I have seen in my twenty years on the school board.  Action on this item will take place around 7:00 PM.  I cannot in good conscious not advocate for implementing the state requirement on elementary class size reduction at this point in time.  I just want to make this gradual reduction now.  I don’t see the downside and now is our time.
Many will want us to look at the secondary school reductions, and I will, but now is the time to focus on elementary school reductions and get ourselves better positioned to go back to the voter in June 2014 with a more robust parcel tax campaign. Now is the time to hear back from each of you and let me know your thoughts.
Please get the word out to your friends and if you have time in your busy schedule, show up!  Your voice counts with the duly elected board of education. No longer do you have to worry about a state trustee, the district is yours!
Enjoy your Sunday.
Charles T. Ramsey, Esq.
School Board Clerk
West Contra Costa
Unified School District