The Moraga school district governing board meeting ended on a somber note Tuesday night. Superintendent Bruce Burns updated the board on the potential for the most severe funding outcomes coming to fruition. With a June ballot measure for tax extensions no longer viable, state funding cuts may be severe and Proposition 98 may be suspended. While the state budget is still under debate, the worst outcome – a loss of $650 per student – is looking more and more likely.
In addition, Burns noted that the holding pattern for potential pursuit of a parcel tax is ending. The consultant hired by the district will move forward with polling in May to gauge the community feeling about supporting a parcel tax. Should community support prove positive, Burns noted that the parcel tax would be on target for a November ballot.
Enrollment for the district is up this year. However, the process of projecting next year’s enrollment is, as Burns stated, “an educated guess.” Enrollment may decrease with the eighth-grade class graduating and incoming kindergartners being a relatively small group. In addition, Burns noted a “bubble” in incoming third graders, forcing the district over its small class size goal of 20. Currently, that grade will have 23 to 24 children in each classroom. However, enrollment may change as more students move into the district, creating the need for another teacher at that grade level.
The board engaged in lively discussion of the technology plan, which lays out the basic parameters for technology in the district over the next five years. Courtney Guinn, director of educational services and director of instructional technology for the district, outlined the five parts of the plan: integration with curriculum, professional development, infrastructure, budget, and evaluation and monitoring.
Two of the district’s three computer lab teachers, Lisa Hillhouse from and Dana Ludwig from , discussed the use of computers in the kindergarten through fifth-grade curriculum. They noted that the Microsoft Office suite is the standard tool, providing word processing for all grades. In addition, upper grade students are taught Excel, Publisher and PowerPoint, starting as early as third grade.
For the middle school, curriculum for technology includes the use of analysis tools for science and creating multimedia social studies projects such as travelogues. However, advanced computer programming is no longer offered at because of low enrollment and few dollars to fund electives. This lack caused board member to note the value of early exposure to what students are interested in, especially in light of the need to increase focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Board member said that she’d like to see the district “start taking next steps. Our kids are way past much of this already. Much of what we have is so old tech to these kids.”
While acknowledging the need to embrace technology, Guy Seltzer, the district’s network administrator, said that the district “would like to provide an environment where we control what we provide based on their educational value. Security and cost are major concerns.”
However, the district is moving forward. It upgraded its infrastructure from T1 to fiber lines last summer. And, while the budget remains tight, Kathy Bell, chief business officer for the district, noted that “we scrape the funds together.”
Guinn chimed in, noting that “community groups have done a great job of taking large purchases and dividing up the costs so the PTA pays for part and the district pays for a part.”
Board member Charles MacNulty asked Guinn how teachers have embraced technology. Guinn said that while some classes function without interactive white boards or LCD projectors, “at least 70 percent of teachers actively use technology.”
MacNulty also asked the computer specialists about how consistent the curriculum offerings were across the three elementary schools. Guinn replied that the curriculum is “very, very similar. Computer lab teachers meet at the beginning of the year.” Hillhouse added, “throughout the year, they collaborate and share.”
In more sober activity, the board approved cutting the equivalent of funding for 1.2 full-time librarians, a one-third time textbook coordinator and a two-thirds time equivalent student support worker. The district will hold off on sending pink slips to the affected personnel until April 28 or the passage of the 2011-12 budget, whichever comes first.
Carol Scott, a teacher with 37 years of experience, was named the Teacher of the Year for the Moraga schools. She teaches fourth grade at Camino Pablo Elementary school.
The board approved next year’s school calendar and warrants, after discussing payment to McDonald’s for a second-grade field trip. Burns noted that the trip focuses on curriculum for suppliers and producers. The board also approved the Supplemental Instruction Resource Fund budget for the next school year.
Acknowledging the critical role educators play in the lives of our children, the board resolved that May 11 would be proclaimed the Day of the Educator. It also approved support of SCA 6 (resolution 11-23) to reduce the two-thirds majority requirement for parcel tax passage to 55 percent of the vote. The board also approved the Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) plan, which may provide reapportionment. The current plan is 15 years old.
Burns closed with an update on seismic retrofitting. He noted that all non-structural seismic issues, such as bookshelf bracing, are complete. The contractor hired by the district will come to the May board meeting with costs estimates on structural seismic upgrades.