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School District Approves a Budget

The school board was split on determining class sizes for next school year.

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District board approved the adoption of the 2011-12 district budget Tuesday. The board voted again based on Gov. Jerry Brown’s May revise “flat funding” for education.

Enrollment in the district is projected at 29,491 with an increase of 531 students from October, with the budget basing enrollment at 28,541.

The board's biggest issue with the budget was class sizes for the next school year. The budget is allocated for 26 students to one teacher in grades K-3, even though class sizes will be at 28 to one in an effort to help fill the district’s deficit of $8.2 million.

Board member Denise Jennison wanted class sizes to remain at 26 students per teacher because that was what was allocated in the budget.

“Say $4 to $5 million comes in, or enough revenue – I don’t see us going back down, which is why I feel this desperate need to hang on to it right now,” Jennison said. “What is best for children right now is to hold steady at 26.”

Other members of the board said they would work to bring class sizes back down if the budget improves, but that the cuts need to be made now to help close the deficit and to prevent an even worse situation for the 2012-13 school year.

Concern was that it would be difficult to reduces class sizes in the Dougherty Valley once they increased, but Assistant Superintendent Jessica Romeo said it was possible to decrease the class sizes again.

“We don’t have the reserves to make the wrong decisions,” board member Greg Marvel said. “If mid-year cuts happen, there is no cushion left for [the 2012-13 school year]. I am not going to throw up our hands and let the state take over.”

Board member Rachel Hurd said she was torn, with her heart telling her to keep class sizes at 26 and her brain telling her to bring the class sizes to 28.

Hurd moved to approve the budget at 26 students to one teacher contingent on the state budget being approved. Jennison seconded the approval, but the rest of the board opposed it.

The budget was approved on Marvel’s motion to approve the budget of 26 students to one teacher with staffing “up to” 28 students to one teacher. Jennison cast the only "no" vote.

The board approved naming the student center at Monte Vista High School the Workday Student Center. The center will have no Workday logo on the outside of the building but will have a plaque inside with the company’s logo.

The plaque also will read: “A gift from Dave and Cheryl Duffield, 2011,” who helped fund the building.

Placement for relocatable buildings at Country Club Elementary School was approved by the board.

School neighbors raised concerns over people hiding behind the portable buildings at the school and using drugs, lighting firecrackers and leaving things such as condom wrappers on the campus when school is not in session.

The gate in that section of the campus will be moved and replaced with a non-scalable fence, motion detector lights will be installed as will security cameras. One relocatable building will be placed in that area.

Gary Black, assistant superintendent for business services and facilities development, said this option would be the best value for the district because it was the most cost effective and would have the least impact to the neighborhood.

During board member comments at the end of the meeting, Marvel brought up the issue of Mayor Abram Wilson not being able to speak at California High School's graduation and an article in the Contra Costa Times that said the district did not notify the City of San Ramon.

Marvel wanted to know if the district failed to notify the city, and how that situation could be prevented in the future.

Paul Gardner, board president, pointed out that the Town of Danville was aware of the change, and that if Danville had been notified, then the city would have been notified too.

“I am sure if we notified Danville, we notified San Ramon,” Gardner said. “What San Ramon does when they get the information, we cannot control.”

Jennison called it a “black eye” on the city.

“I asked the questions and I was told that they were notified and I have complete faith in our staff that they did what they were supposed to, and I think that to politicize an event that celebrates the children of our community is a bad idea,” Jennison said. “I would caution to people to make sure that their information is accurate before they make it public with the purpose of making another entity look bad.”

Seth Cirker June 30, 2011 at 04:49 PM
This might be a good fit - check out a new safety technology called SituCon (www.situcon.com) that schools around the country are deploying which also protects student and teacher privacy. It’s the best of both worlds – safety and privacy. This technology places “eyelids” over the cameras, so that they are only opened when needed. It also gives teachers wireless emergency buttons - If danger arises, with the push of one of these buttons emergency notifications are sent to school administrators and first responders, which detail who pressed the button and where they are in the building. At the same time, as the camera's eyelids open, live video of the situation can be viewed at dispatch centers and on smart phones. An article about it: http://thejournal.com/articles/2011/06/22/new-york-school-district-rolls-out-emergency-devices.aspx

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