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School Board Bracing for Continued Budget Woes

Parents speak out against proposed school closures as the district considers layoffs and salary reductions in an effort to weather the economic storm.

Tough economic times were a recurring theme Thursday night as the board of trustees of the Fountain Valley School District met in front of a packed house at the district office.

Steve McMahon, assistant superintendent of business operations, provided an overview of financial issues that affect the schools. In these tough economic times, difficult measures must sometimes be taken, and the district is preparing for any eventuality, but remaining “warily optimistic,” according to McMahon. He pointed to changes in the state budgetary items that show improvement in budgetary forecasts, such as improved employment statistics but countered that the housing market has not shown improvement. The economic climate affects the tax base, and therefore, the funding available for schools.

Latest estimates indicate that state funding for schools will drop from $6,192 per student per year to $4,928 per student per year, creating a deficit of more than $1,000 per student funding in the next year. Temporary tax increases may ease the burden, and Fund 40 (reserves from previous sale of closed schools in the district) is being used to meet budgetary demands. McMahon will present a review of revenue and expenses at the next board meeting on June 23.

District personnel, including certificated and classified, have been advised of the dire situations created by the state budgetary crisis, and tentative agreements have been reached with California School Employees Association FV Chapter 358 as of May 13. The district has reserved the right to negotiate salary and reductions under the collective bargain laws for the 2011-12 fiscal year. Board members and Superintendent Marc Ecker voiced appreciation of negotiators’ understanding of the current situation and their willingness to work on finding solutions.

Layoff notices will be given to five bilingual aides, and board  Chairperson Judy Edwards expressed hope that “we will not have to act on this measure.”

Open mic opportunities produced two speakers, one speaking regarding an erroneous flyer that is circulating through the district addressing salaries and financial data. The other speaker was Moiola School parent Christine Smith, who voiced support of Moiola as a valued school, in light of rumors that it is the leading school in closure consideration.

The board also announced new district and principal assignments and changes, with the following placements planned for the 2011-12 school year: Abby Bickford, director of support services; Jennifer Perkins, principal, Fulton Middle School; Joyce Bueller, principal, Gisler Elementary; Chris Christenson, principal, Courreges Elementary; Patrick Ham, principal, Cox Elementary; and Eric Miller, principal, Oka Elementary. The remaining schools in the district are unchanged.

Recognition of individuals who provide excellent contributions to the district’s special education was provided by Cathy Abdel, outgoing director of support services, who recognized teachers, aides, parents, transporters and students who received the Excellence in Special Education Award.

The Fountain Valley Education Foundation, chaired by Carla Neeld, awarded more than $14,000 in grants to teachers who applied for funding throughout the year, and a total of $61, 290 total funding, including support of such programs as $16,290 to support science instruction enhancement, $10,000 to the middle school marching band, and $5,000 to the middle school vocal music program.

Three retiring administrators were acknowledged for their exemplary service. Deputy Superintendent Rosemary Eadie, Director of Technology/Instruction Pat Minnesang and Coordinator of Science Works Susie Crandall have retired, and friends and colleagues presented well wishes and mementos to commemorate almost 100 years of combined service.

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