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Denair school trustees reward teachers with payout

The Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees approved a one-time salary increase for teachers Thursday, continuing their efforts to amend salary cuts made during the school’s financial crisis five years ago.

Trustees unanimously approved a one-time 4.31 percent payout to teachers based on their 2017-18 salaries. It is not a raise in their base pay, but “continues to show the board’s commitment to and respect for our teachers,” DUSD Superintendent Rosander said.

Board members Ray Prock, Kathi Dunham-Filson and John Plett supported the proposal. Trustees Crystal Sousa and Regina Gomes were not at Thursday’s meeting.

Teachers took an 8 percent salary cut in 2013 when the district was in financial crisis 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. Some of that money since has been restored, with permanent increases tied to specific gains in enrollment. Thursday’s action will cost the district $207,500.

Earlier this year, trustees agreed to a similar one-time payout to non-teaching staff.

To help provide better pay for teachers and increase enrollment, the Board in February proposed a plan which would call for a new charter covering all grade levels and a parcel tax ballot measure for district voters.

A new charter covering all grade levels would create “a seamless academic progression” from kindergarten through high school, said Prock, and if voters in November pass a proposed parcel tax of up to $100 annually, the money will be used to compensate district employees – teachers, aides, specialists, campus supervisors, maintenance staff and others – at a level that is “fair and competitive in the market.”

Two other decisions also have long-term financial implications.

The board agreed to refinance $6,635,000 in construction bonds issued in 2008 to take advantage of lower interest rates (3.32 percent today vs. 5.02 percent then). It will save taxpayers -- who repay the bonds via their property taxes – an estimated $883,203 in interest charges between this year and 2033, when the bonds will be retired.

Trustees also decided to issue up to $2 million in new bonds to pay off certificates of participation related to the construction of Denair Middle School. That is estimated to save the district $123,000 in interest payments per year through 2024.

In other action Thursday, trustees:

— Said goodbye to Superintendent Aaron Rosander, who is retiring to move to the Bay Area, where he will be closer to his elderly parents.

— Voted unanimously to implement the Share 911 program, a computer-based application that allows school officials to quickly communicate and share information with staff during a critical incident such as a lockdown or active shooter situation. The annual cost of $3,600.

— Held brief public hearings on the proposed 2018-19 budget as well as the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). Both items will be back for formal approval at a special board meeting June 28. Next year’s budget is estimated at $14,069,859, more than $2 million less than the district estimates it will spend this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The difference reflects one-time investments this year in salary payouts to staff, technology upgrades, textbooks, and teacher training and other professional development. LCAP is required by the state. It is a narrative version of the budget and lays out how much will be spent to achieve the various goals, explained Chief Business Officer Linda Covello. It was created after a series of three meetings with stakeholders, including community members and staff.

— Agreed to raise lunch prices from $2.25 to $2.35 for the next school year. It is part of planned 10-cent increases at the beginning of next few years.

— Approved making high school-level Spanish, art and math courses available to middle school students. The classes will count toward high school graduation requirements.