Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ojai Schools Safe But Jobs In Jeopardy

Board faces ‘lousy choices’ on budget

By Sondra Murphy
Schools have been saved until next year in the Ojai Unified School District, but at a cost to staff and programs. While the school board got to enjoy some good news at Tuesday’s meeting, they still were required to make what member Rikki Horne called “lousy choices.”
After honoring Teachers of the Year by school site and recognizing four retiring classified employees and the student representative, the board voted to officially eliminate five classified jobs and reduce the hours of another five due to lack of funds or lack of work. Food services took the bulk of the hits with three job eliminations and four positions in which hours were reduced. A nutrition services presentation will be given at the next board meeting to unveil a new plan for the district’s fiscally strapped student meal program. Included in that plan is a 25-cent price increase per meal as approved by the board Tuesday.
Of the remaining three jobs, a Matilija Junior High technology resource coordinator position has been reduced from 6.5 to 3 hours, one full-time plant manager position was eliminated at Nordhoff High, and one five-hour school support secretary was eliminated, also from the high school.
It was such decisions that allowed the board to keep one large and one small elementary school open for the 2008-2009 school year and work to keep class sizes low. The May budget revision combined with collective efforts of the Ojai Education Foundation and Save Ojai Schools campaign has also helped in keeping all OUSD school sites open — at least through next year.
“Are we reducing our work force down to where it’s going to be difficult to accomplish our services?” asked Linda Taylor, vice president.
“We have to recognize that when we cut like this, it is not all from declining enrollment and there will be gaps,” said clerk Kathi Smith.
“But making the cuts also allowed us to keep reduced class sizes,” said Horne.
“I believe we can provide all our services around these cuts but it will be difficult,” said superintendent Tim Baird. The usual end-of-the-year transfers within district funds and taking out of temporary loans were approved to get the district through until the state budget is agreed upon and voted in by legislators. Traditionally, this is a long summer process.
The board gratefully accepted a giant check for $62,445 from OEF’s Kimi Romming and thanked the community for its dedication to local public schools. “That does not include money sent directly to school sites, which is probably in the area of another $50,000, or the $30,000 from Summit’s PTO,” said Baird. He added that just a day or so before, $13,000 was donated to Nordhoff’s Career Center to expand its services to six hours a day and that the Nordhoff Parents Association gave $10,000 to continue the high school’s computer repair class. “I credit all this to the SOS campaign for getting the word out.”
Laura Meisch submitted a second draft of the 2008-2009 preliminary budget, which showed a projected ending balance of more than $40,000. “We are showing a positive ending balance, however, it is based on a number of things going right, first of all, the state budget,” said Baird. “Another is our staffing. We are continuing to get enrollment, but we are not out of the woods yet … We will not know the official ending balance until the start of the school year.” He said districtwide kindergarten registrations are strong for next year, as are those for Matilija.
The finalized budget will be presented for approval at the next OUSD board meeting June 24.
Classified retirees include Harry Delatre, 28 years; Janet Cull, 25 years; Bob Cannaday, 15 years; and Lowell Orcutt, 10 years.
Student representative to the OUSD board, Jordan Garst, was also recognized.
Teachers of the Year are: Margie Logan, Chaparral Adult Education; Nancy Welter, Matilija Junior High; Karen Courington, Meiners Oaks Elementary; Lori Ponce, Mira Monte Elementary; René Nakao-Mauch, Nordhoff High School; Sandra Hansen, San Antonio Elementary; Isabelle Turpin, Summit Elementary; and Tracey Anderson, Topa Topa Elementary.

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