OUSD prepares for cuts
by Bret Bradigan
Before launching into their agenda, Ojai Unified School District
board members bid adieu to 227 years of accumulated experience.
School principals and associates of seven retiring staff members
sang their praises and wished them well, before Kathi Smith,
school board president, handed out plaques.
The retirees honored were Bonnie Brown, with 11 years as library
technician at Matilija Junior High School; Claire Hill, Meiners
Oaks Elementary School kindergarten teacher with 37 years in
the district; Judy Dickens, technology coordinator at Topa Topa
Elementary, with 25 years in the district; Carol Griffith, office
manager at Mira Monte School, with 32 years; Bonnie Olson, a
Meiners Oaks Elementary School teacher with 25 years in the district;
Alfonso Ruiz, a custodian at Topa Topa Elementary with 29 years
in the district; Janyce Shippy, a Mira Monte Elementary School
teacher with 35 years in the district; and Les Stookey, a teacher
at Nordhoff High School with 33 years of district experience.
Another departure speech was made for Morgan Johnsen, the board's
student representative, who was praised for her diligence in
visiting campuses around the district and bringing back student
issues for the board. She also mentioned that plans were proceeding
for the Safe and Sober post-graduation party next week, which
features a bay cruise with mock casino and karaoke bar.
Assistant Superintendent Jim Berube told the board the Professional
Growth Credit for classified employees was "growing every
year. Quite a few of our employees take advantage of it every
year." Qualifying employees can earn extra points toward
pay hikes by taking professional development courses, he said.
The board unanimously approved extending the program for another
Tim Pompey, educational coordinator for Ojai Festivals, Inc.,
sought and received a resolution in support of the Bravo! program.
The resolution backs up a grant application the festival makes
to the California Arts Council for enhancing and expanded music
education in the district. At present, the Bravo! program focuses
on studying the effects of music education on test scores and
achievement at Summit and San Antonio elementary schools. This
school year, Bravo! programs included field trips to a Santa
Barbara Symphony performance, six on-site teacher workshops,
free family concerts, and school-wide assemblies.
"We want to expand services throughout the district,"
Pompey said, "for all grade levels, K through 12."
Danielle Pusatere, the district's budget officer, presented an
update on the district's proposed budget - acknowledging the
uncertainty due to fluctuations in the state budget. As it stood
Tuesday night, the Governor's May Revision will cost the district
about $232,000. For the 2002-03 school year, the district is
holding fast to a 3 percent reserve, 2 percent for salary adjustments
and has about $300,000 to carry forward from the this year.
Pusatere said, "Everything you see here has been implemented,"
to a question about the state of present budget.
Anne McCarthy, president of the Oxnard Education Association,
and the wife of a district classified employee, commented on
the district's $1.8 million in budget cuts, saying they were
unfair in their impacts. "You're taking 5 percent back from
Heidi Whitman, a member of Topa Topa Elementary's school site
council, questioned how the district could slash its supplies
budget by more than half, and still meet its needs. Pusatere
explained that they were able to reduce the supply budget because
of the significant amount of money left over from the past year's
budget. "We're making the assumption we are going to spend
every single penny," she said.
Whitman also asked if it was typical that a school district spend
86 percent of its budget on salary and wages. Superintendent
Van Riley said "That's very typical. It's hard to reduce
(the budget) without getting into personnel."
Smith said the budget cut process has been comprehensive, citing
several examples where cuts were planned but then restored. She
called the process "finding inefficiencies in the system
and eliminating them. The last thing I want to do is balance
the budget on the backs of people who can afford it the least."
The board praised Pusatere's fiscal diligence, as Riley noted
that she manages 5,843 separate accounts. "That's more than
one account for every student and employee in the district,"
In other business, the board approved the policy for the Gifted
and Talented Student program, and Riley said that the charter
school application for the Homeschooling Resource Center would
return for board consideration at the next meeting on June 25.
Another budget plan for next year would also be presented at
the June 25 meeting, he said.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
Back to the news