At the end of a lengthy Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting that spanned over the course of five hours Thursday evening, the district accepted the resignation of two certificated employees and informed two more who were on probation that their contracts would not be renewed for the 2017-18 school year.
More than 100 students, teachers and members of the community spent over an hour on Thursday voicing their support for the affected employees during the public comment portion on the agenda. However, at the conclusion of a closed session that ended after midnight, the district announced that all four certificated employees, which could include teachers or administrators, would not be back come next school year.
According to the DUSD, the vote was 4-1 in closed session. Board president Kathi Dunham-Filson and trustees Ray Prock Jr., John Plett, and Sandi Dirkse voted to support the motion. Trustee Robert Hodges voted against it.
While the reasoning behind the resignations is unknown, there was miscommunication between teachers and the district earlier this school year regarding promised salary restorations. When the district was on the verge of a State takeover in 2013, salaries for every DUSD employee were reduced by at least 8 percent and up to 12 percent as part of an effort to bring 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.
While trustees approved a 4 percent salary restoration for certificated, administrative, management and confidential groups in November, Denair Unified Teachers Association president Linda Richardson said that teachers were still hoping for full salary restoration this year. She said that during negotiations for this year’s DUTA contract, DUSD promised to full restore salaries by the first interim report in December 2017 if the district could meet reserves, had no interagency debts, and we able to successfully project the restoration out three years. With an increase in enrollment this year and $4.1 million “in the bank,” Richardson said the district should have been able to pay the approximate $250,000 needed per year to restore salaries by the full 8 percent.
“When you think about it, the teachers and classified staff who took pay cuts saved the district. At some point that needs to be recognized,” said Richardson in October. ““Our budget is very healthy so the Association’s stance at this point is the money is there—we should be able to fully restore salaries.”
DUSD Superintendent Aaron Rosander said that while DUTA was expecting full restoration this year, trustees made it clear that they intended to restore teacher salaries based on DUSD’s enrollment growth, meaning that they were only in line for a salary restoration of about 4 percent.
“We have consistently informed staff that fiscal recovery and salary restoration are dependent on developing and maintaining high quality educational programs and increasing enrollment,” said Rosander in October. “A restoration schedule was shared with all in the audience and provided to the teachers' union that lays out how the district can responsibly raise salaries as enrollment increases.
“The district values and appreciates all its employees and the sacrifices they made when Denair faced financial crisis. We are grateful for their loyalty and their support. Fortunately, the worst is behind us and DUSD is once again on a positive trajectory,” continued Rosander.