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Mt. Diablo district school closure and budget update

By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, December 18th, 2010 at 3:35 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

By Theresa Harrington

Mt. Diablo school district Superintendent Steven Lawrence released a “news update” Friday, providing the community with information about the school closure process, along with a budget overview.

Since the update hasn’t yet been posted on the district’s Website, I’m posting it below so you can get his take on these issues:

“Thank You
As we approach winter break, I would like to thank parents for supporting our schools. Thank you for:
– Volunteering your time;
– Fundraising for equipment, programs and extracurricular activities;
– Ensuring your children come to school ready to learn on a daily basis; and
– Creating a quiet place at home for your child to complete homework.
Without your support and partnership, we would never be able to meet our students’ social and academic needs. Again, thank you!

School Closure Update
The School Closure Committee has worked extremely hard over the past three months reviewing district demographic data as well as facilities data about the individual school sites. Through this process, they developed and considered several school closure options. The committee will share its work and findings with the board at a study session in January. The date has not been decided, but will be posted on the district website as soon as it’s finalized. The board study session agenda will include:
– Information about the committee’s process and the data analyzed;
– How the committee developed and refined the school closure options;
– Time for board member questions about the process and options development;
– Time for board members’ discussion of options; and
– Direction from the board to staff about next steps.
At the study session, the Board will not take any formal action. Rather, the study session is an opportunity for the board to work with the committee to understand the committee’s work and contemplate next steps.

Budget Update
At the December 14, 2010 Board meeting, the board adopted a qualified budget. There are three types of budgets: positive, qualified, and negative.
A positive budget means that a district can make its projected payments over the next three years.
A qualified budget means that under current budget assumptions, a district may not meet its financial obligations at some point in the three years of the budget projection.
A negative budget means that under current budget assumptions, a district cannot meet its financial obligations in the current or second year of the three year budget cycle.
Under the currently adopted State budget, our district is able to pay all projected costs through the 2011-12 school year. Because of the continuing escalation of health benefits, we are not able to meet the budget assumptions for the next three years. However, we continue to negotiate options with our various associations that will allow the district to create a balanced budget.
After Governor elect (Jerry) Brown is sworn into office and provides his proposed budget on January 10, 2011, we will send home an analysis of our budget based on the Governor elect’s recommendation.

Have a Great Winter Break
I hope everyone has a great two-week break and finds plenty of time to enjoy family and friends.”

The School Closure Committee originally identified Jan. 12-13 as possible study session dates. However, trustee Sherry Whitmarsh said during Tuesday’s meeting that she’s not available on Jan. 13.

It is unclear whether the board study session will include the school ratings by criteria, which the committee has thus far withheld from the public. Since these ratings were critical in the process for determining which schools to close, the district should include them as part of its presentation about how the options were developed.

The district’s budget is still on shaky ground. It’s upgrade from “negative” to “qualified” certification is mainly due to increases promised in the state’s adopted budget that may end up getting cut when Brown releases his budget. In the meantime, the district continues to push for salary and benefits concessions from unions to make ends meet in the next three years.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Eberhart asked Lawrence to draw up a list of potential cuts so the board will be ready to act next month, if the new state budget is as bleak as many fear it will be.

What would you recommend cutting to balance the district’s budget?

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