Denair Unified School District Interim Superintendent Walt Hanline faced the community at a public forum on Monday, and tackled the hard questions about the district's uncertain future.
Recent financial troubles have made cuts in district staffing and programs mandatory to avoid state takeover. Hanline provided straight answers to parents' questions about the level of programs that will be offered at Denair schools, and presented one solution to the district's most pressing problem — dwindling enrollment.
“Will there be Advanced Placement classes next year?” asked a parent at Monday's forum. “How do we stop our kids from leaving Denair schools to Turlock?”
Hanline said that Denair High School will continue to offer the same six AP classes it has in previous years. He also promised to add online courses, giving students the option to supplement the classes that are currently offered.
“Students will not be thrown under the bus,” said Hanline. “I’m not going to continue with the addiction we did in the past. We are coming out of this depression.”
What Hanline had to say at Monday's meeting wasn't all good.
Elementary grade classrooms will get a little more crowded come fall, as Denair is set to increase class sizes to 28 students. Hanline also confirmed the district is asking teachers to take a 10.75 percent cut in pay. The district is still in negotiations with the Denair Unified Teachers Association.
Hanline said that if employees agree to the cuts this year, Denair will get back on its feet and start attracting more students to the district.
“Teachers and staff are going to have to do what everyone else did in the past in order to get back to where we were,” said Hanline. “We’re going to have this problem solved.”
Currently, Denair Unified has not been able to meet its financial obligations. To help put the district on the financial level in the short-term, the district has asked for a $1.25 million loan from the Stanislaus County Office of Education.
Hanline also has an idea to help increase enrollment in the district.
“We are going to make this school competitive so we can increase our enrollment,” said Hanline. “Starting next year we are going to start offering full day kindergarten. This will make us more competitive to other schools.”
More than one attendee at Monday's public forum said they were impressed with Hanline's willingness to stand alone in front of a community that has been vocal in the past with their anger at a district administration and board of trustees that allowed the district to fall into such financial ruin. Hanline assured the DUSD stakeholders that he would not abandon the district once a permanent superintendent was found.
Hanline said that he will remain in the district until January, and will mentor the post- November election board and next superintendent.
“With all my knowledge and years in the educational system, the new superintendent will be an up-and-comer and is going to need mentoring and support. I want to make sure that the new board members and superintendent are prepared for their duties before I leave,” he said.
The district will pay Hanline a flat rate of $10,000 to mentor the new board members and superintendent, in addition to a $600-a-day figure for his service as interim superintendent.
“If I don’t do the job, then fire me,” said Hanline.