Penn Valley schools host meetings to discuss consolidation |

Penn Valley schools host meetings to discuss consolidation

Pleasant Valley and Ready Springs Union elementary school districts are hosting town hall meetings to discuss the consolidation process, a possibility administrators have bandied about for several years.

There have been two meetings so far, on Tuesday and Thursday; more meetings have been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9 at Williams Ranch School library at 14804 Pleasant Valley Road, Penn Valley.

The purpose of the meetings is to inform the public and answer questions about the process, said Debra Sandoval, superintendent for both districts.

“We had several joint meetings last school year and very few people attended, so we’re trying to be really proactive in helping the community understand what this would mean,” she said. “We don’t want anyone feeling excluded.”

The districts have provided presentations and information about the process during school board meetings, saying the bottom line is that the current model cannot sustain itself in the future.

The district administrators are responsible for fiscal oversight, policies, curriculum, program and staff management, state and federal law compliance and real property management. Both Pleasant Valley and Ready Springs school districts have had the same staff in a shared services agreement for nine years, according to a presentation by the Consolidation Vision Committee at the Aug. 6 Ready Springs board meeting.

During the meeting, Pleasant Valley board member Nicole Van Vacas Gagnon spoke on behalf of the committee and explained the shared agreement improved some of the costs of administration, but the work must be done separately or repeatedly for each district with a substantial duplication of effort.

“The federal government either requires more staff to complete paperwork requirements, or we become more efficient and have less duplication of reports,” said Sandoval.

Possible solutions were described during the presentation to offset the requirements, including consolidating or spending more money on staff through a shared services arrangement or separate hiring. Hiring more administration to complete the work would mean fewer dollars available for students, said Van Vacas Gagnon, adding that both school districts have seen declining enrollment, which has also created a need to change the current model.

According to data of the California Department of Education, Pleasant Valley’s enrollment numbers dropped from 803 in 1996-97 to 724 in 2004-05, continuing to decrease to the 2012-13 numbers of 477.

Ready Springs exhibited similar outcomes, from 705 in 1996-97 down to 254 students in 2012-13.

The consolidation process would not change where students attend school, the staff, the community feel of the school, the voice a school has in district-level considerations, current staff and levels of funding each district receives, Van Vacas Gagnon said. She added that the process could be implemented at the soonest by summer 2014 with savings and efficiency by the 2014-15 school year.

Teachers and principals from the two districts have been very involved in the consolidation process and are becoming increasingly aware of the need for the discussion, Sandoval said.

“I think everyone is nervous when they think about things changing, but the staff are understanding the reason, and they’re not as frightened about it,” she said.

“These are not supposed to be changes with current conditions at this time. We’re not talking about bussing kids to another school. I can’t say what’s going to happen five years down the road, but for now, it’s a good year so far.”

The districts are awaiting a report from the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office on the financial impact of consolidation, Sandoval said.

“I’m hoping the county has information about that by next Tuesday’s regular board meeting,” she said.

Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen said her office has been working with the California Department of Finance to get clarification and guidance.

For information, contact Pleasant Valley/Ready Springs Administrative Assistant Stephanie Ellis at 530-432-7311, ext. 1.

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call 530-477-4230.

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