Although the district is guaranteed that school buses will be funded at the current level for one more year, the future of bus service after that is in doubt. The district will have to contribute to the buses from its general fund next year and expects that the cost of home to school transportation will increase, especially if the same routes are kept. Board president Dennis O'Sullivan indicated that staff will be revisiting the bus schedules and routes.
The future of educational spending hangs on the outcome of tax proposals on the June ballot. If the governor's tax proposal fails, then teaching staff and class offerings will shrink even further. The district is required to plan for that possibility and layoff notices for the equivalent of five and a half teaching positions were issued.
At the high school, 15 periods of classes will be eliminated. The classes being dropped are landscape art, art, ceramics, multimedia, applied math, business algebra, career technical education, accounting, Madd Jazz, band, choir, drama, and broadcast journalism. Some classes may continue if the Regional Occupation Program can fund them, but on the whole, the number of periods being dropped means that it will be harder for students to get into the classes they want.
At the elementary level, the school nurse position is being eliminated. Redway and Agnes Johnson School will lose one teacher each. Ettersburg School will be closed, eliminating another teacher position. A layoff notice was also issued to the half-time teacher at Casterlin, but that position will probably be funded by the Casterlin community.
Next year Agnes Johnson will have two teachers, Whitethorn will have three, Redway will have nine, Casterlin two and South Fork will have a staff of 10 full time teachers.
Trustee Michael Hoffman said he had serious reservations about eliminating the school nurse and questioned if it would open the district to issues of liability. He was particularly concerned about children with diabetes. He suggested eliminating a PE coach and keeping the nurse.
Trustee Barbara Lindsay said she is a registered nurse and that now children as young as five years old can administer their own medicine. She said also that the district could contract for nurse services.
Teachers present at the meeting spoke to the difficulty of providing a good education in a crowded classroom without an aide. Dena Rovai from Agnes Johnson School said that the loss of a teacher meant that they would have four grade levels in one class with as many as 39 students.
Teacher Laura Lameris, who taught a class of 39 seventh graders, said that they can manage large classes but there will be more bullying.
”You say you understand,” she said to the board members, “but not one of you has been in my classroom.”
She said also that associate superintendent Julie Johansen “has been a breath of fresh air” for Redway School and that morale had never been higher than under her leadership.
Teacher Jillian Brown talked about teaching two eighth grade classes, one with 38 students and one with 36. She said it is a “challenge” to control that number of students and that seniors at the high school are being used as classroom aids in lieu of an elective class. Staff reductions mean there is nowhere to send unruly students when they disrupt the classroom and teachers are forced to deal with them instead of teach. Detention is not effective because there is no one to supervise students on detention in the library. Brown said that morale has never been lower at the high school level.
Parent Cinnamon Paula spoke to the board about the ongoing issue of bullying. She said that she had heard stories from parents about bullying going on throughout the school. She said that parents are waiting to hear what will be done about it. Associate superintendent Julie Johansen had met with a dozen parents. She said parents are waiting to hear what will be done about bullying.
Several teachers present said that the school is using a program already, but the parents are not aware of it. It was suggested that it would be a good idea to bring the high school and the elementary students together on the issue of bullying. In the past the district has dealt with bullying through a program called “Challenge Day” but that funding is no longer available. It was suggested that some classrooms are “out of control” as teachers try to deal with disruptive students.
Paula urged the trustees to take a position on the three tax measures that will appear on the June primary ballot. Besides Governor Brown's proposal, there is a measure that would raise money specifically for education and that is supported by the state PTA (Parents and Teachers Association) and the third measure is the “Millionaire's Tax” which would raise taxes on those who have high incomes.
”Pick one and back it,” she said. She said she favored the one supported by the PTA. More information is available on that measure at the Educate Our State website. The backers of that proposal are planning a statewide action on March 15.
Trustee Hoffman said that wealthy districts in the state are passing parcel taxes and “have everything they need.” He said he thought the state was saying “pay for your own education.”
Hoffman favors asking the voters to pass a parcel tax. Board president Dennis O'Sullivan said that a parcel tax would be a discussion item on the June board agenda.
Cinnamon Paula said she thought the community was tapped out. Trustee Scotty McClure said he didn't think it would pass. The district has tried and failed four times to pass a parcel tax.
In other business, the district received the auditors' report on their bond sales. No irregularities were found.
The high school will be visited by a WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) team this month. Superintendent Jim Stewart was confident that the school would do well.
Superintendent Stewart said also that the district has received applications from nine contractors for the work on the South Fork and Redway campuses. An interview team that includes the Department of State Architects inspector will be interviewing and will select a contractor for each of the priority projects, the student services building at Redway and the school-within-a-school (a junior high) at South Fork.
The electrical upgrade work at the Redway campus has not been completed due to PG&E postponing the work. It now appears that it will be done during the summer to avoid shutting off power to the school during session. It also appears that the County Public Works will be building sidewalks on Empire as part of the Safe Routes to School program. The board hired a law firm to help them with the contracts for the work.
The board also opened negotiations with the Southern Humboldt Teachers Association. The teachers are seeking a three percent raise and new language for “extraordinary class size.”