State special schools receive attention

A bill to better inform families of students with disabilities of the services provided through the California School for the Blind and the California School for the Deaf passed through the state Assembly today on a 63-0 vote.

The bill, by Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico (D-Newark), now heads to the governor for approval. For more information, click here.


New Haven names new CBO

As reported last week, the New Haven school board ended up holding a special meeting last night to appoint a new chief business officer to manage the district’s $104.4 million budget.

The new guy is Ted Hood, who comes to the Tri-City from the West Contra Costa Unified School District, where he was senior director for bond finance and, at one point, had served as an interim CBO and interim director of information technology.

I’m still trying to score an interview with Hood, who will start his new post July 23.


New Haven close to naming CBO

It looks like New Haven Unified is close to naming a new chief business officer to manage the district’s $104.4 million budget — and the headaches that come with dealing with budget cuts. Its last CBO, Carol Gregorich, retired as of Monday, and the district interviewed candidates for her position last week.

New Haven’s spokesman confirmed this afternoon that the district has a person in mind to fill Gregorich’s shoes, but he wouldn’t divulge any more details. He said the district hopes to call a special meeting on Tuesday so that the board can appoint this person.

The district also is in the process of looking for a new director of operations. The last guy, Enrique Palacios, has taken a job with the Gilroy school district as the assistant superintendent of administrative services.

With the current state budget crisis, it may come as no shocker that there seems to be more CBOs leaving this year than usual, as one HR person at a local school district told me.


Extra! Extra!

There was a photo in today’s paper of New Haven classified employees protesting budget cuts before Tuesday’s school board meeting. Below are more photos from the event that didn’t make our print edition:




(Top) Searles Elementary resource assistant Frances Ogle, a bilingual paraeducator, received a layoff notice last month. (Center) James Logan High special ed resource assistant Barbara Ramirez protests budget cuts outside the district office. (Bottom) Cabello Elementary kindergartners Jasmine and Maya Leon, both 5, join Tuesday’s rally.

Recently, the school board approved laying off 76 classified workers, such as classroom aides, secretaries and groundskeepers. And in two weeks, trustees will be asked to eliminate high school busing, which would mean laying off some drivers.

This was the second board meeting in a row where classified employees rallied outside the district office. I suspect they’ll be back at the May 20 meeting to protest further cuts.


A budding photojournalist

china-flag.jpgSome students from James Logan High School traveled to SF last week to witness the Olympic Torch Relay. I don’t think they ever got to see the torch, but sophomore Rosalie Evans did snap a few photos of what the students encountered.

tibet-sign.jpgTwo of her photos (pictured here) have landed on the BBC Web site, prompting social science teacher Stephanie Papas to call Evans a “budding photojournalist.”

Click here for the BBC page so you can view Evans’ photos (No. 5 and 6) in greater detail or to see pictures submitted by other people at last week’s relay.


The Year of Education?

2008-baby.jpgWhen it comes to the Governator’s plan to gut public ed funding by $4.4 billion statewide, very few school districts would go unscathed.

According to the California Budget Project, a nonprofit organization that pushes for budget reforms that benefit lower-income residents, if Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget goes through, Fremont Unified would be stripped of $17.4 million next fiscal year, while New Haven Unified would lose $7.1 million and Newark Unified would say so long to $3.9 million. That would be a loss of $561 to $569 per student in these districts.

Furthermore, LA Unified, the biggest loser, could kiss goodbye to $420.8 million ($664/student).

Miraculously, two local agencies – Desert Center Unified and Silver Fork Elementary – would get through next year with zero cuts, although something tells me these are really small districts.

To view the CBP’s data, which compares each district’s projected losses, click here.

So does anyone still think this is the Year of Education, as the governor once referred to 2008?

Image from Nazza3a’s site at flickr.com/photos/special_one/2152162942/


We all fall down

Here are photos representing the Feb. 9 domino-toppling event, an international affair involving five Bay Area school districts and three Chinese cities. (You can read more about the event here.) 

The photos are coming to you a bit late, but I was waiting for one district to send me photos, which it never did.


The above photo of Fremont students setting up a domino design at Washington High was shot Feb. 8, the afternoon before the real event. Incidentally, FUSD won for best design. Also, Washington High student Pritika Kumar, who was voted “steadiest hands,” got to knock down the first domino of the event.

These next two photos show designs by New Haven students at James Logan High School. According to NHUSD spokesman Rick La Plante, about 272,000 dominoes were used between the two participating countries.




To leave or not to leave


Image from The Rocketeer’s site at flickr.com/photos/kt/56580816/

It’s not uncommon for people nearing retirement to ponder when exactly to step down. Carol Gregorich, the New Haven school district’s chief business officer, thought this school year might be her last.

Then Gov. Schwarzenegger declared a state fiscal emergency. Should the gov’s proposal to slash K-12 funding fly, New Haven would have to cut up to $755,084 from its budget this school year and at least $7 million next year. We’re talking the possibility of an earlier-than-expected elementary school closure, layoffs, increased class sizes and myriad other unpopular actions.

So rather than make vacation plans, Gregorich is burning the midnight oil looking for areas of the budget to cut.

“I know it’s time I start spending time with my family,” Gregorich, 61, said. “(But) I feel I have a moral responsibility to stay with this crisis until we get a plan in place … and are able to move forward.”

“We’re going to play with the grandchildren another day,” she said.

Was that a hint she may stay past the summer?

Gregorich’s contract doesn’t expire until December, but she had been toying with the idea of stepping down in July, after the board adopts its 2008-09 budget.

However, she told me that if the board decides to place a bond measure on the November ballot, she would stick around for the campaigning. And even if there is no bond, she may stay awhile to help her successor transition into the role, she said.

So it’s unclear when Gregorich will call it quits, but one thing is certain: she will not be renewing her contract after December.


And the talks begin

union3.jpgOkay, so the icon on this pin isn’t the symbol for the teachers union, but I think educators would agree with the message.

On Tuesday night, the New Haven Teachers Association and school district “sunshined” their proposals for a new contract. That’s jargon for presenting a list of issues each side would like to address during bargaining. Often, sunshine proposals don’t reveal the specifics of what either parties are demanding, but at least they trigger the start of negotiations.

Interestingly, one of the members of the teachers bargaining team, Jennifer Nemecek, is a former student of Derek McNamara’s. McNamara is the district’s head HR guy who taught history and English at Cesar Chavez Middle School in the mid-90s.

McNamara joked this week about Nemecek’s new role as a union rep: “I’ll be watching out for her spelling,” he said.

Nemecek, who teaches science at Alvarado Middle School today, said she doesn’t foresee any awkwardness in sitting across from her former teacher at the bargaining table. “We’re both professionals,” she said.

Image from Rich pix’s Web site at flickr.com/photos/rwhitehead/449383358/