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Denair school employees to receive pay increase
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Denair Unified School District employees will receive an increase in pay, but the 1 percent approved by district trustees on Thursday is a far below the 8 percent cut employees took in 2013.

 Even as trustees passed the motion 4-0 (board member Ray Prock Jr. was absent), they acknowledged that would like to do more as financial conditions improve.

“I look at this as we’re finally able to give something back,” Trustee Robert Hodges said. “This is a good-faith effort that we’re going to (restore salaries) as soon as possible.”

Salaries for every Denair employee were reduced by 8 percent  in 2013 as one part of an effort to bring the district’s expenses and revenue into alignment. The lingering effects of the recession and declining enrollment combined to push the district into financial crisis, which required a short-term loan from the Stanislaus County Office of Education and intervention by the state.

Those dark days are well in the past now, district officials stressed Thursday, but enrollment remains an issue. Denair Elementary Charter Academy and Denair Charter Academy have consistently added students, but that growth has been offset by continued declines at Denair High School.

Enrollment provides the biggest chunk of income for any district in California, with the state paying about $8,000 per student per year based on what is known as Average Daily Attendance. In Denair, ADA has fallen the past five years from 1,535 students to 1,275.

“Our major goal is to not just restore salaries to where they were, but to go beyond,” Superintendent Aaron Rosander said. “We want our employees to have the salaries that they rightfully deserve.”

In March, the Denair Unified Teachers Association illustrated the salary inequity for DUSD teachers, by presenting the Board with a District Salary Comparison chart that was prepared by the Ceres Teachers Association and included all school districts in Stanislaus County.

“DUTA is second from the bottom,” said Richardson in March. “The only school district below us is Knights Ferry and they only have five teachers in their school district.”

Richardson underlined the need to restore teacher salaries in DUSD by saying that the State’s number one priority when it comes to spending money is attracting and maintaining highly-qualified teachers in the classroom. 

“In order to attract and maintain quality teachers we have to be somewhat competitive because when you look at the salary chart it’s going to be very hard to attract a highly qualified teacher when they can go a mile down the road and make $26,000 more a year,” said Richardson.

The 1 percent pay raises approved Thursday will take effect July 1 for the 2016-17 school year. Collectively, they will add $98,499 to the district’s budget next year.

In March, DUSD’s General Fund projected a total operating surplus of $622,302 with a surplus of $652,483 for unrestricted activity, and a positive ending fund balance of $2,186,713 with $1,773,207 for unrestricted activity. The District anticipates having negative monthly cash balances throughout the fiscal year, but is estimated to have a positive ending cash balance of approximately $1.5 million on June 30, resulting in the need to utilize cash from other funds throughout 2015-2016.

In other decisions Thursday night, trustees unanimously:

n  Approved a new math curriculum for Denair Elementary Charter Academy called My Math. Principal Sara Michelena said students are “excited” about the new five-year program, which was introduced as a pilot project in December.

“It’s more user-friendly and aligned to common core standards. Makes math more meaningful to them,” she said.

It also supports the needs of DECA’s Dual Language Immersion Program.

* Adopted a pilot program for English Language Arts/English Language Development next year at Denair Middle School at a cost not to exceed $50,000. A committee of teachers from each of the district’s campuses worked with officials at the Stanislaus County Office of Education to explore various proposals before selecting a new program, which “provides standards-aligned lessons and activities,” according to a staff report.

*   Agreed to raise lunch prices next year from $2 to $2.10 per student. Billy Reid, the district’s director food services, said the increase was required by the federal government so DUSD can continue to participate in the national free lunch program. More than half of the district’s students qualify based on their families’ incomes.

* Approved an Educator Effectiveness Plan that makes the district eligible for a three-year grant worth $105,738 “to provide beginning teacher and administrator support and mentoring, professional development, coaching and support services … and to promote educator quality and effectiveness.”

*  Appointed Ileah Brantley to be the student board member in 2016-17 and Madison Snyder to be the alternate. Brantley is a junior at Denair High School and Snyder is a sophomore.