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Denair teachers seek promised salary restoration
Despite enrollment decline, DUSD projects ability to meet financial obligations
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With over 60 members, the Denair Unified Teachers Association is hoping that relatively brighter financial conditions will soon lead to the restoration of 8 percent salary cuts that were dealt three years ago during a time when the District was threatened with a potential State takeover.

“The teachers in Denair are loyal, they’re not here for the money and I think you guys know that,” DUTA President Linda Richardson told the DUSD Board of Trustees on Thursday. “We love our students, we love our parents, we love our community, but at some point there has to be some reciprocation.

“We’ve been given lots of promises over the past few years that at some point we would be made whole again,” she continued.

To illustrate the salary inequity for DUSD teachers, Richardson presented 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. “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.

Richardson said that in order to restore DUTA only 1 percent from the 8 percent cut they took in 2013, the District would need to spend approximately $30,000 per year. For a full 8 percent, that number would fall anywhere between $240,000 and $250,000 per year.

“The Board promised they would follow the June 2015 agreement between the District and the Association, which said that the 8 percent would be restored no later than July 1, 2016 and we are being told that the money is not there, we’re broke, we don’t have it,” said Richardson, “but at some point we have to start deciding what our priorities are.

“You can have shiny campuses, you can have new bell schedules, you can have all of those things, but unless you have an effective teacher standing in front of those students, learning isn’t going to happen,” said Richardson.

DUSD Superintendent Aaron Rosander addressed Richardson’s concerns by saying that although he wasn’t personally in the District when pay cuts were dealt, he would do everything he could to restore salaries and to see that employees are provided raises “every time we can and every time it’s responsible.”

“You hired me to make sure in part that we restore salaries and we see people are paid fairly, honestly and competitively,” said Rosander. “You have my word that every day and every way we’re working toward that. We can’t always make progress as quickly as we want, but we’re inch by inch getting there. Please be patient. Remember where we were and where we want to be.”

The Board also received a presentation from Chief Business Officer Linda Covello on Thursday regarding DUSD’s Second Interim Report, which provides a picture of the District’s financial condition during the fiscal year. The report includes data from July 1 to Jan. 31 and projects financial activity through June 30.

In the report for 2015-16, 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.

Covello said that a majority of the DUSD’s revenues are funded on its Average Daily Attendance, which is estimated at 1,253 district-wide. ADA at Denair Elementary School, Denair Middle School and Denair High School is estimated at 502, Denair Elementary Charter Academy is estimated at 473, and Denair Charter Academy is estimated at 278.

“These projections get adjusted throughout the year as we know what our enrollment is,” said Covello. “Enrollment is calculated in October. They do a district-wide enrollment and that is our enrollment basically until the end of the fiscal year even though we know students come and go.”

To calculate ADA, Covello said that she took a percentage of attendance, which she said is currently at 96.9 percent average district-wide, and multiplied that by the District’s enrollment as of October. Based on the new ADA figures in the report, there is an estimated decline of approximately 13 ADA from last year district-wide, which is about 1 percent.

“Because we are in declining enrollment, we still are funded on prior year adjusted ADA, so even though DES, DMS and DHS were about 502 ADA, we’re getting funded at the General Fund level at 651,” said Covello.

Based on 2015-2016 enrollment and past enrollment trends, the District anticipates enrollment to decline by approximately 4 percent in 2016-2017 and 8 percent in 2017-2018 at the secondary schools. With increases at both of the charter schools, the total anticipated enrollment decline is approximately 2 percent in each subsequent year.

Overall, Covello reported that DUSD will be able to meet its financial obligations for the current and subsequent years, and that she is confident that the District will be able to maintain a minimum State reserve on a district-wide basis, and have the necessary cash in order to ensure that the District remains fiscally solvent.

“I see great hope for the District,” said Rosander. “The money follows the excellence of the programs and as long as we stay focused on the excellence of our programs—keep our eye on the prize—the money will come. If we stay dedicated, the salaries will come, the money will flow, and the District will prosper.”