School officials allocate new state funds
October 15, 2013
The Nevada County Board of Education decided the fate of about half of the new money from Gov. Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula in a meeting Oct. 9.
The board designated $300,000 of the $750,000 sum to hire a director of curriculum, instruction and accountability for a salary of $83,000 and benefits of $27,000; a coordinator of school safety and climate for a salary of $67,000 and benefits of $20,000; and a full-time behavioral specialist for a salary of $55,000 and benefits of about $15,000. The board also approved stipends for eight volunteer Common Core teaching experts for $5,000 each.
The decision of how to allocate the money came from conversations with district superintendents during last summer, Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen said. It was found that using the money in those ways would benefit all districts, rather than allocating pieces of funding to individual districts.
“I talked to them about what their needs were and what they saw as programs that would be beneficial, and of course, Common Core is a big one,” Hermansen said. “Providing better, more intensive, specific staff development was pretty high on the list, so that’s why we focused our efforts in that area.”
Peter Sagebiel, director of Forest Charter School, cited the efficiency of a Joint Operating Agreement that Forest Charter is involved in with other charter schools, where specialized services are shared. Such a shared agreement would be similar to how the new hired positions would be shared across Nevada County districts.
One of the specialized positions for which Sagebiel often seeks assistance is the director of special education, without whom Sagebiel said he could probably not do his job.
“To have a point person, to have someone to say, ‘We want to put our safety plan together. How are we going to do this so that it relates to other schools in the county?’ that kind of unification and centralization is really valuable, and I can’t afford to do it (alone),” Sagebiel said.
“Our business services person is doing the best he can and he would love some support. … The county’s already provided some trainings, which has been a good foothold for us, but I think we need the next step and the next boost.”
Aside from the implementation of new Common Core curriculum and testing, the funding formula also includes a new component of accountability. By May, schools will have to develop and submit a Local Control and Accountability Plan that outlines ways in which they will use funds to address the needs of socio-economically disadvantaged students, and that must show improvement of those students. Those plans will be reviewed by the county office and ensure alignment of projected spending, services and goals according to the California Department of Education. State intervention will be involved if a school district or charter school fails to show improvement across multiple subgroups in three out of four consecutive years.
“Before, the budgets weren’t directly aligned to student outcome,” Hermansen said. “Now they have to say, ‘OK, we’re going to provide these interventions for students. We have to monitor they are doing that and that students met the outcomes, and if not, we put a fiscal expert out into the districts. Now we have to provide an academic expert in the school if they’re not meeting student outcomes identified by their plan.”
President of the board Marianne Slade-Troutman said money could be used in a manner more specific to school districts that could individually supply a plan for what they would like the money to be spent on, in light of prior program cuts.
“These are some high-priced things,” Slade-Troutman said. “I’m thinking if we offered some of this money to in-house people who could get expert training and provide the services in their own school, we would see what their plan was, and we could fund their need as we feel is appropriate.”
Board member John “Jack” Meeks also thought funds from the $750,000 could be used for student programs.
“We should delegate rather than concentrate the entire funds and rather than add redundant bureaucratic management,” Meeks said. “We don’t need this. Schools need programs to reduce after-school delinquency and other useful things for the students. Each district should handle safety and take a share of the $750,000.”
Hermansen replied that she believes the role of the county office is to ask districts their needs and try to support that need, and that schools are ill-equipped to meet the requirements of the new funding formula and accountability plan without assistance.
“Not one school district, including the high school, has a full-time curriculum person,” Hermansen said.
“When you think about the internal capability of our school districts to provide their own staff development and curriculum, they don’t have it.
“We have a huge accountability responsibility with the new funding formula, and we are not prepared to take this on with our current staffing,” she said. “That’s what this money is intended for.”
Donna Fitting, county associate superintendent of business services, said districts would not be able to meet their required needs if they were just given a chunk of the new money.
“If we ask districts to go and replicate 10 times the curriculum expert, I think that’s a misuse (of funds),” she said. “They’re so tiny, they can’t buy a tenth of a person. I believe the most economical way is through the county office, which is our charge. It is our charge to, wherever possible, consolidate resources to provide the most efficient services to our districts.”
The part of the resolution that includes the hire of a behavioral specialist was in response to a rise in behaviorally challenging students, as reported by district superintendents, Hermansen said.
“Students are not coming into schools ready to learn and don’t have the ability to behave enough to learn, and the teachers don’t have the skills to address their behavior, nor can they teach the rest of their class when they’re dealing with behavior issues,” Hermansen said.
“It’s a whole lot of bang for our buck to have somebody highly trained rather than school districts contracting somebody out. This is somebody who would provide trainings for teachers, so they’re better prepared to handle students, and help teachers write behavior plans to address their needs. So now a teacher has a classroom better prepared to learn.”
The final roll call vote for the funding resolution included ayes from board vice president Trevor Michael and board members Tracy Lapierre and Robert Altieri, and nos from Slade-Troutman and Meeks.
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.