While the state Legislature debates Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed
budget cuts in education spending, local teachers have expressed
concerns about a lack of communication about what cuts will be
instituted at the school district level.
While the state Legislature debates Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed budget cuts in education spending, local teachers have expressed concerns about a lack of communication about what cuts will be instituted at the school district level.
Their concerns dominated the public comment period at Tuesday night’s Hollister School District Board of Trustees meeting.
Hollister Elementary School Teachers Association President Amy Holland discussed how a lack of communication has led to rumors among teachers.
“Communication is the most important tool anybody can have,” Holland said. “We don’t know about the status of our jobs. There have been rumors because of a lack of communication or direction.”
Holland said the association advises the board not to start making cuts before it knows for sure what and how much needs to be cut.
Jeff Holland, a teacher at Rancho San Justo Middle School and head negotiator for HESTA, and Howard Madden, a teacher at Marguerite Maze Middle School, also expressed concerns about communication and trust with the board.
“I’ve been a teacher for over 30 years and I’m upset about the lack of communication,” Madden said. “The teachers are worried about what’s happening. Right now, I don’t have much faith in the board.”
Another issue brought up by teachers at the meeting was the circulation of a seniority list. Many teachers see this as a step toward cutting teaching positions.
Joe Navarro, a teacher at Sunnyslope School, spoke about decreasing school resources while the expectation of improved test scores remains. He also thinks teachers wait too long for test results.
“We need to look at an alternative assessment that’s meaningful, that’s immediate, so we can help our kids,” Navarro said.
Students are tested in the spring but results aren’t released until August, he said. Schools in Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles have publicly opposed the test, and Navarro urged the district to do the same.
Board members and district staff are not required to respond to issues brought up during public comment because they are not on the agenda, nor can action can be taken on those issues.
Cochrane said Wednesday that it was illegal for the board to comment on what is said during the public comment period. But she did acknowledge that the district is required to keep a seniority list and that teachers have asked for it in the past to see where they are on the list. She said she did not know the list was being posted or circulated at schools.
HSD Superintendent Judith Barranti updated the board with new information about proposed budget cuts in education spending.
“Friday, we got news from the state Legislature. Their cuts are very different. They’re not quite as deep,” she said.
Amy Holland asked the board to protect class-size reduction, under-performing schools and special education when making budget cuts within the district.
Assistant Superintendent Peter Gutierrez advised the board, teachers and parents to get to know their legislators.
Board member Margie Barrios asked if the district’s budget committee should start meeting again.
“Let’s revive that baby,” Board President Carol Cochrane said.
The board set a budget committee meeting for Feb. 24 at 4 p.m. Board members Cochrane, Barrios and Eugenia Sanchez will sit on the committee along with educators and parents.
In other business:
The board adopted next year’s school calendar with a 3-2 vote. The calendar will allow for minimum days at elementary schools while middle schools will decide between having minimum days or one full day for parent conferences.
The board approved the annual audit report for the 2001-02 fiscal year in a 5-0 vote. Cochrane and Dee Brown met Tuesday with the auditor, who reported the district was in “pretty good shape,” according to Cochrane.
There will be between 18 and 33 districts in California that will not make their payroll this month, Cochrane and Brown said.
There are two board work sessions scheduled – Feb. 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. and Feb. 12 from noon to 4 p.m., both at the County Office of Education, 460 Fifth St.
The next HSD Board meeting will be Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. at the district office, 2690 Cienega Road.