Walnut Valley Unified School District has received a significant amount of press lately regarding its financial condition. Much of this information has portrayed teachers as the major source of this financial shortfall. It is important, at this time, to clarify some of the issues in this matter.
Teachers are not in control of spending in a school district. Any funds spent by teachers are approved by the District office or School board. This district has been deficit spending for the past 3 years or so. The budget is drawn up by the administration and approved by the board.
Suggestions to the district office and board to cut expenses have not been implemented. For instance, in 2010, league sports were eliminated at the middle school level. Just to give an idea of the cost of this program, figures for league sports at Suzanne Middle School alone were:
$15,130 stipends for coaches
3,400 bus cost
1,000 league fees
Students donate to these programs. If each of these students donates the suggested donation amount, the school receives $6,060. This leaves a deficit of $14,950. When you consider that two more middle schools in the district are involved, that works out to be a considerable sum.
As mentioned above, this sports program was eliminated in 2010 because it was not deemed cost effective based onthe number of students served. An alternative intramural program was initiated in which a number of teachers formed sports groups after school. These teachers were paid a nominal amount (much less than the stipends paid to league coaches). The number of students served by this program was much higher than by the league program. This worked well at Suzanne.
Eventually however, the board and interim superintendent pressured the middle schools to return to the league sports program. So, we went from serving more students, at veritably no cost, back to fewer students, at a much greater cost.
As another clarification of costs at WVUSD, one need only visit the California Dept. of Education. According to the dollar figures posted, the total teacher payroll for Walnut Valley decreased by 2.3% from 2009-2012. At the same time, superintendent pay increased by 13.9%.
An editorial on page A10 in the "Inland Valley Daily Bulletin" (dated Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013) included Walnut Valley Unified as one of the districts where they saw “bigger paychecks going to superintendents of many of the state’s struggling school districts.” Walnut Valley Unified was one of four districts singled out in the article that paid their superintendent more than Gov. Jerry Brown or the state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and, at the same time, was on the Calif. Dept. of Ed. list of schools in financial peril.
Add to all of this, the extra expense this district has experienced because the board let the previous superintendent go, after renewing her contract six months prior to that. A result of that move required the board to buy out her contract, while paying for an interim superintendent, and then a new superintendent.
Recent contract negotiations have requested concessions from the teachers.
Currently, teachers have agreed to a 2 day, 4 day, 4 day furlough arrangement for the next three years. While no one likes to take a pay deduction, the teachers have agreed in the hope that issues will be resolved. Language has been inserted into the agreement that will require the district office and the board to evaluate all existing programs for validity and cost. Programs that can not be justified will be eliminated. This is a measure that makes financial and practical sense.
This is the responsibility of the board and district leaders, most of whom have been in place for several years. The question on peoples’ minds now is, in view of the fact that we have been deficit spending for that past several years, why are we just now starting to look at things like this in order to be financially sound?
Hopefully, the correct decisions will now be made so that we can all get back to doing what we are supposed to do without the distractions.
(Suzanne Middle School teachers)