Fiscal challenges await school district hopefuls

ktanner@thetribunenews.comSeptember 27, 2012 

  • Coast Unified School District: By the numbers

    How many students? 765, up by about two dozen from 2011-2012.

    How many are classified as English Language Learners? 275, likely the second highest percentage in the county (Shandon may be higher) How many special-education students in the district? 107

    What were the latest Academic Performance Index scores on district campuses? District Superintendent Chris Adams said the most recent scores haven’t been released yet, but “Our latest estimates were 814 for the grammar school, 853 for the middle school, 790 for the high school and 814 district-wide. 800 is considered outstanding.” That’s five consecutive years of increased scores, he said.

    How many teachers? 54

    How much do they make? From $43,634 to $79,994 plus stipends for various certifications.

    How much do trustees make? Nothing. Their only perks are the use of an iPad tablet and an annual appreciation dinner.

    Salary of district superintendent? The same as last year, $159,863. Adams refused an automatic raise offered by the board.

    Estimated district budget, 2012-2013 fiscal year: $9.5 million in income, about $10.4 million in expenditures

    How much has the district lost to state funding cuts in the past 4.5 years? About $2.2 million through the end of this fiscal year, about $1.6 million to date.

    District website and phone number: www.coastusd.org, 927-3880 — Information furnished by district Superintendent Chris Adams and Assistant Superintendent Karl Dearie

The three people voters choose to help lead Coast Unified School District for the next four years will have to cope with slashes in the district’s income from the state, a petition to transfer Cayucos high-school students out of Coast Union High School to campuses in San Luis Coastal School District, integrating iPad technology into the middle and high school curriculum and culture, and having students continue to earn increased scores in state and federal benchmark tests when about a third of the district’s 765 students are Englishlanguage learners and about 14 percent are special-education students.

State funding continues to diminish, and if voters don’t approve the governor’s tax package on Election Day, Nov. 6, school officials say educational budget woes will get even bigger.

In the past four and a half years, the state budget has reduced the district’s funding by about $1.6 million, and district Superintendent Chris Adams estimates that, by the end of this fiscal year, that total could rise to more than $2.2 million.

While the district still is in better shape than most others in the county, he said, it does plan to spend more money that it will take in during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, taking the balance from its dwindling reserves.

“We’re receiving zero money for home-to-school transportation,” Adams said, “and zero money for special education.” Funding the state promised last fiscal year for reducing the size of classes was canceled late in the cycle. “You can plan, and be prepared,” he explained, “but it doesn’t matter. The state’s going to do what it’s going to do.”

The Cayucos issue is in the hands of a county committee of appointees who first must decide, based on a consultant’s recently released report, if the transfer would be fair or would damage one of the districts. The report said the change could cause Coast Unified about $1.2 million a year, or significant financial harm, and also would make Cambria taxpayers totally responsible for repaying bond indebtedness, rather than sharing that responsibility with Cayucos.

A decision by the county committee is expected in

October. If they give it the go-ahead, it still would have to go before the voters, and who ultimately would vote on such a petition is yet to be determined.

Despite stormy fiscal weather, the district has moved forward, including in the area of technology.

“Santa Lucia Middle School is the first public school in the state to provide an iPad to every student,” Adams said. By the end of 2012, he expects Coast Union will be “the third high school in the state to be one-to-one.”

Once wireless connections are complete on all campuses, the district’s digital infrastructure should be set for the next 15 to 20 years, he estimated.

The district’s par tnerships, community members, programs and teaching staff “are absolutely outstanding,” Adams said. “We have some great, dynamic new hires” who have brought “new perspective to the district,” along with some honors.

Who’s running

The district is governed by a five-member Board of Trustees. Terms for current trustees Dianne Brooke and Del Clegg run through 2014. The other three seats are up for election, with four candidates on the ballot.

Incumbent Robert Gong, a Cambria physician, opted not to run again. Incumbent Victoria Dandurand decided to run instead for the Cayucos Elementary School District Board of Trustees.

Board President Cindy Fratto, elected in 2004 and relected in 2008, is running for reelection.

The 2012 challengers are mathematics-education consultant Judith A. Hillen, retired teacher Jack Mettier and Sue Nash, a teacher, artist and guide.

Statements by the candidates appear on Page 5. Answers to questions posed by The Cambrian appear on Page 3.

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