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Will the Mt. Diablo school district really save $1.5 million?

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, February 24th, 2011 at 7:37 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Mt. Diablo schools Superintendent Steven Lawrence persuaded the school board to unanimously approve his recommendation not to close any additional schools Tuesday, without giving trustees a cost savings analysis to back up his claim that the district would save $1.5 million.

His PowerPoint presentation — which included answers to many questions — was missing one very important question and answer: How do the recommendations add up to $1.5 million?

Here are cost savings estimates I was able to dig up from previous PowerPoints:

(From Feb. 8 meeting):

Closing Holbrook Elementary would save $350,995 in salaries/benefits and $72,543 in utilities for a total of $423,538.

Closing Glenbrook Middle School would save $519,285 in salaries and benefits and $100,070 in utilities for a total of $619,356.

Together, closing both schools would save $1,042,894 or about $1 million.

However, Lawrence pointed out that closing Glenbrook would increase El Dorado MS to 1,115 students, Valley View MS to 787 students and Oak Grove MS to 761 students.

“We would need to add one or two vice principal positions at a cost of approximately $102,000 per position,” he wrote in his PowerPoint.

Two vice principals would cost $204,000.

Trustees on Tuesday agreed with Lawrence’s plan to create a nonpublic school special education program on the Glenbrook site, but were not given any cost estimates for this.

On Feb. 8, Lawrence told the board: “The program would grow over time and we project after the third year we would save $400,000 annually.”

There was no estimate for the first and second years. However, if this program uses a majority of the site, the district could lose the $100,070 in utilities savings estimated above.

This means the $619,356 estimated savings for closing Glenbrook would be reduced by $204,000 for the two vice principals and by $100,070 for utilities, leaving $315,286 in savings for Glenbrook, and $738,824 for Holbrook and Glenbrook combined.

On Feb. 8, Lawrence estimated the district could save $130,000 by combining two necessary small high schools. However, he didn’t give the total costs for salaries, benefits and utilities at each of the sites.

This means trustees don’t know how he’s arriving at his $130,000 small necessary schools estimate. On Tuesday, trustees went along with Lawrence’s suggestion to study high schools further, meaning they currently haven’t agreed to close or consolidate any small necessary high schools and can’t count the $130,000 estimate in their savings.

Also on Feb. 8, Lawrence told trustees they could save $91,000 by redrawing boundaries around Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord and $51,000 by redrawing boundaries around Delta View Elementary in Pittsburg to arrive at $140,000 in savings from discontinued “overflow” busing. Trustees agreed to this on Tuesday.

Finally, Lawrence brought up the new idea Tuesday of providing online “learning opportunities” to independent and home study students. He gave no cost savings estimate for this idea and didn’t explain how it would save money.

So, here’s a rundown of the savings the board can count on:

Closing Holbrook: $423,538
Closing Glenbrook: $315,286 (with 2 vice principals and utilities added back)
Redrawing boundaries: $140,000

TOTAL SAVINGS: $878,824 — or $621,176 less than the board’s goal of $1.5 million.

Here are Lawrence’s other recommendations, for which he did not give solid cost savings estimates:

Create a nonpublic school program at Glenbrook: $400,000 after third year

Investigate ways to meet student needs in necessary small high schools more efficiently: possibly $130,000

Offer online learning opportunities to independent and home study students: unknown savings

The amounts the district will lose as a result of closing Holbrook and Glenbrook are a bit firmer:

School Improvement Grant: $584,000 per year for two years or $1,168,000 (plus the district could be required to give back funding this year for summer school or other programs not implemented)

ASES (after-school program): District would lose $114,225 of its Glenbrook grant and $122,828 of its Holbrook grant, or a total of $237,053.

TOTAL LOST: $1,405,053

This means the district could be giving up $526,229 more than it is saving under the board-approved plan. (Unless the nonpublic school, small necessary high school consolidation and online learning equal or exceed $526,229).

Do you think Lawrence should have demonstrated the district could reach its $1.5 million savings goal instead of asking trustees to rely on staff’s belief that this target would be met?

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