It’s official: At its meeting Tuesday, the La Cañada School District Governing Board approved the much-labored-over contract agreement with the La Cañada Teachers Association.
During the spring, at board meetings and with their T-shirts in class, the district’s teachers made a public show of protest over the amount of compensation they received as compared with teachers in similar districts in the region. District officials stated that they sought to close that gap, but that they also wanted to do it responsibly.
After more than 90 hours of negotiating, the two sides reached a deal late last month, which was approved unanimously and without hesitation by board members.
“It’s a nice ending to have board ratification, and it’s nice to move forward,” Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said. “I appreciate all the hard work.”
In the new deal, the district’s top-earning teachers can earn $98,725 after 24 years on the job. The starting salary for a first-year teacher with just a bachelor’s degree is $48,700. The previous rates were $90,720 after 25 years and $47,429 for starters.
The board also voted to approve a 4.25% retroactive pay increase for the 2015-16 school year.
DEALING WITH THE 3%
The board recommended that the district no longer will pass down a 3% surcharge to any financial donations that the district receives going forward, choosing instead, as Chief Business and Operations Officer Mark Evans said, “to take the cash and eat the 3%.”
Routine Restricted Maintenance is a state mandate for any school district having received state bond money for facilities projects, as LCUSD has. Therefore, the state requires that the district set aside 3% of total expenditures to be used for routine restricted maintenance.
That includes donations of funds used to purchase staff, supplies and other programmatic improvements all of which are considered expenditures requiring a 3% contribution to the maintenance fund.
The question, Evans said, is if the district wanted to incur the costs associated with those donations — making the purchasing power of that donation 97% due to the set-aside. The other option was to ask those donating to chip in 3% more.
“When someone is donating, it smarts a little bit when 3% of those dollars are going to reserves when they would like to see all 100% go to what they raised funds for, for our kids,” Sinnette said.
Board member Kaitzer Puglia wondered whether a policy of covering that 3% might stretch the district’s budget: “We have a very generous community, so my concern is as we’re taking on that 3%, it adds up. We have a tight bottom line.”
Still, board member Ellen Multari reasoned that whether the 3% is paid up front or afterward, “doesn’t it in effect end up being the same thing? If we’re not taking it off the available monies to spend up front, then we’re setting it aside on the back.”
LCAP DRAFT PRESENTED
Sinnette introduced a first draft of the state-mandated Local Control Accountability Plan for 2016-17, a document in which the district states its goals and the measure by which progress has been made to achieve them.
Sinnette said the document, in its current form, is 240 pages and available at the district offices. She said it will be updated with input from board members and also recommendations receiving from the L.A. County Office of Education.
She asked the board to keep district budget constraints in mind as members evaluate the document, to look for whether there are “actions or services that the board feels we should potentially omit or evaluate, especially in regard to our supplemental grant dollars” where she said “it’s clear we overspend.”
That could likely include, the report states, ending membership in the San Gabriel Valley Consortium Beginning Teacher Support Administration Induction Program, which allows LCUSD to provide second-year teachers a final year to complete the program.
Sinnette said the price to participate has risen from $15,000 to $40,000.
“We are trying to identify efficiencies in the budget,” Sinnette said. “And [the program] is completely a sort of luxury service we provide. The idea behind sun-setting is to put the onus back on the teachers who are working to clear their credentials.”
NEW CLASSES, TEACHERS
Board President David Sagal enthusiastically introduced Jennifer Munday as the new conductor for the La Cañada High School orchestra and reported that LCHS graduate Jimmie Myers is being brought on to teach classes at both LCHS 7/8 and at the elementary-school level with the goal of creating a district-wide honor band.
The board also gave its approval to a new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, applied art and math) course at LCHS 7/8. Associate LCHS Principal Jim Cartnal said two full classes of students already have signed up for the elective that will have students programing Star Wars-inspired BB-8 robots with their phones.
Board members also approved the new CC Mathematics 8 Advanced course and seemed ready to approve, at the next board meeting, a new LCTV video production course for students in grades 7-12.