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Mt. Diablo district holds onto federal jobs money

By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, October 23rd, 2010 at 1:18 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

By Theresa Harrington

Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence revealed in his most recent memo to parents that he won’t use $6.5 million in federal jobs money approved by Congress to help prevent layoffs until next year.

Although the district indicated earlier this month that trustees would vote on layoffs and reduced hours for secretaries and other employees on Tuesday, those items don’t appear on the Oct. 26 agenda. Instead, trustees expect to approve a $65.6 milllion contract with SunPower for what may be the largest K-12 project in the nation. They will also appoint some administrators.

Here is Lawrence’s complete memo, with details about the district’s decision to hang onto the money from Congress without allocating it for anything until January, when the new governor will release a revised budget. This memo will likely be posted on the district’s website sometime next week.

“October 22, 2010
Mt. Diablo USD News Update
Where Kids Come First

Fifth Annual Day at the Races for Literacy
Raising Funds to Raise Readers — On Saturday, October 30, 2010 the Central Contra Costa Literacy Coalition and The Rotary Club of Concord are working together to benefit the literacy programs in Central Contra Costa County. The event, scheduled from 8:30 a.m to 2:00 p.m., is being hosted by the Hilton Concord and 100 percent of the $20 entry fee will be donated to fund literacy projects. The entry fee provides an opportunity to participate in a 1K, 5K or 10K race, and enjoy a spaghetti and meatballs lunch and free concert. School teams are encouraged to enter to raise funds for their school’s literacy program. For information about the event call 925-349-2654 or register online at www.theschedule.com.

Budget Update
Although the State budget restored the $275 per-student reduction from the Governor’s May budget proposal, and we will receive $6 million in new one-time Federal dollars, we are being very cautious about the District’s budget. In a Los Angeles Times article dated October 10, 2010, by Evan Halper, Mr. Halper asserts that come January, a new governor and a new crop of lawmakers will have to confront the $19 billion deficit that the current governor and legislature failed to address. Quoting the Los Angeles Times:
‘The most optimistic projections show that the spending plan Schwarzenegger signed will produce a shortfall of at least $10 billion – more than 11% of state spending – in the next fiscal year. Many experts predict it will be billions more. The leaders mostly papered over this year’s gap, punting many tough decisions forward.’
We have read many analyses of the State budget that reach similar conclusions. A commensurate 11% reduction to California’s education budget would be approximately $5.5 billion. This would translate into an additional $20 million reduction to our District budget! Consequently, there is a high probability of mid-year cuts. Therefore, it is imprudent to allocate or spend the $6 million in one-time Federal dollars until the new governor’s January budget is released. We want to ensure that the District has adequate funding in place to prevent mid-year reductions in programs and personnel.

Shining the Light on Solar
Solar Update — This Tuesday, October 26, 2010 the Board of Education will consider approving the contract with SunPower. Once the contract is approved, the design and State approval process begins. Our goal is to break ground in early spring 2011 and have the solar project completed by mid spring 2012. Once the installation of solar shade projects begins, we will post updates and pictures on the District webpage.”

On the consent calendar, trustees plan to approve two Measure C assistant program project managers, but there’s no mention of how much they’ll be paid. The staff report shows no fiscal impact, but indicates funds will come from Measure C.

Also on the consent calendar, the district is trying to disclose how much it spent selling its $110 million in Measure C bonds. The staff report states that the cost was $1,781,5811.06. Obviously, this doesn’t make sense. Either it’s $1.8 million (rounded up) and they put too many numbers before the decimal point, or it’s really $17.8 million and the commas are in the wrong place. Unfortunately, I can’t view the attachment from my home computer (it says it’s damaged and can’t be retrieved), so I’m not sure.

The board also expects to appoint a new personnel director, but doesn’t say how much the new person will earn in the staff report. However, a district job posting shows the person will earn $90,722 – $110,262 if he or she works 248 days, or $87,429 – $106,259 for working 239 days, with furloughs. In addition, the district will pay a stipend of $1,000 for a master’s degree or $2,000 for a doctorate degree. The posting also states: “District paid medical, dental & vision benefits,” with no mention of a cap.

Trustees also plan to appoint an elementary school principal and a program specialist for categorical programs. The specialist will earn $66,916, but the staff report doesn’t say how much the principal will earn. However, the district’s 2009-10 certificated salary schedule shows elementary principals make $75,752-$92,072.

The board also plans to approve a $70,000 post-retirement contract with retired administrator Carol Snow, who will provide “coaching and mentoring support for teachers” at Oak Grove Middle School in Concord.

In other business, trustees expect to proclaim November “Native American Heritage Month”  and to discuss the idea of naming the Olympic High School softball field “The Ron Redding Softball Field,” in honor of a much-beloved retired teacher.

Do you agree with the district’s decision to hold off on deciding how to spend the federal jobs money until next year?

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