Teacher, Student, Administrator and Employee of the Year Named
Administrator of the Year was awarded to Sierra High School Principal Cynthia Frutos
By Jean McLeod — Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
Nick Johnson, who was not in attendance, was awarded Student of the Year
George Negrete was honored as Classified Employee of the Year.
The Teacher of the Year award went to Esperanza “Hope” Chavez, who teaches kindergarten at San Cayetano Elementary.
The March 4, 2014 Fillmore Unified School District (FUSD) Board once again began the first half of the meeting in the auditorium due to the size of those attending. Over 70 attendees had come to address the Board and/or observe the honors presented to Teacher of the Year, Classified Employee of the Year, Administrator of the Year and Student of the Year. The second half of the meeting was conducted in the Board Room where the Annual Budget was explained along with this year’s new student testing program.
The Teacher of the Year award went to Esperanza "Hope" Chavez, who teaches kindergarten at San Cayetano Elementary. She was nominated by San Cayetano Principal Trisha Gradias. Assistant Superintendent Michael Johnson announced Chavez's name will be submitted for consideration as Ventura County Teacher of the Year by the Ventura County Office of Education.
Administrator of the Year was awarded to Sierra High School Principal Cynthia Frutos. Sierra High has received numerous rewards and honors the past school year which included the Golden Bell Award. Frutos responded to her success by stating, "It wouldn't have happened without the support of the Board and staff."
George Negrete was honored as Classified Employee of the Year and nominated by Mountain Vista Principal John Wilber. Nick Johnson, who was not in attendance, was awarded Student of the Year.
During the Public Comments, just as they did during the last board meeting, many FUSD teachers addressed the Board concerning salary increases. Mountain Vista Elementary Teacher Sandy Butts addressed the Board stating, ".....the negotiating process is not working. At the last board meeting members described dates that the FUSD team had rescheduled, was unprepared to negotiate, or did not provide requested specific information. These delays continue....Are you aware that this is a repeated pattern of what occurred in Morgan Hill under (FUSD Supervisor) Dr. Nishino's leadership?" Butts provided several newspaper articles regarding prior problems at school districts, including Morgan Hill, under Nashino's supervision. Donna Wojciechowski, who has taught for 23 years and is now a 4th grade teacher at Rio Vista Elementary, spoke to the Board adding, "There was a time when teachers were compensated for making the effort to become bilingual, to the tune of $1,500 per year. There was a time when 20, 25, 30-plus years of service were recognized and celebrated, but these things have fallen by the wayside." San Cayetano 3rd Grade Teacher Tammy Ferguson addressed the salary increase stating, "Although we are not at the bottom, we are not at the top."
Rebecca Ruskin, a senior member on the California Teachers Association bargaining team, asked the Board where the money she believes the district has received, has been spent and wanted specifics, not just told "Books and supplies" wanting a clearer explanation.
FUSD Superintendent Dr. Alan Nishino announced during the second half of the meeting that he had told many of the teachers who attended the first half that there would be a budget presentation during the second half and the questions of where the FUSD money is being spent would be addressed and that they should stay to hear the presentation, but none stayed.
The Interim Financial Report that Nishino spoke of, was presented by Michele Reddy FUSD Director of Accounting Budget and Deo Persaud Business Services. It was not exactly a report flush with extra monies that the teachers had expected. Nishino explained that the teachers who addressed the Board and stated the District has now received more money due to Proposition 30 were misinformed. He went on to explain that Prop. 30 restored some positions (seven teachers were rehired, one janitor and the furloughed hours restored) to previous levels before the cuts; it did not give additional money beyond restoring what had been cut. Teachers are now paid for 180 days of teaching and 5 days of Professional Development each year as they were before the cuts.
Last week FUSD borrowed $3.6 million and will receive the monies in increments of 5%. This will cost the district $22,000 in interest over the length of the loan. "We have to borrow to make May and Junes payroll" stated Nishino. The need to borrow is because although the State of California funds schools, they do not send all the monies allocated to each district in a timely manor. The State defers the funds requiring many districts to borrow until the funding arrives. Much of this began when the State's credit rating was lowered, and districts could borrow money at a better rate than the State. The State sends FUSD 80% on the dollar, with a deferment of $2.4 to $2.5 million each year. Schools are required to have money reserves along with a balanced budget and multi-year projections. FUSD's General Budget (money promised by the State) is $31,150,014 but the expenditures today are $33,739,143 which puts FUSD in a deficit.
Nishino explained that Sacramento previously cut some school maintenance funds. FUSD does have $300,000 set aside to pay part of the $1.7 million expenditure to replace Fillmore Middle School's roof, but the district is hoping to pass a bond to cover the remainder.
The State also requires Special Education, transportation and cafeteria, which are unfunded mandates and running a deficit each year. Nishino mentioned the cost of diesel fuel and the impact that has on mandated transportation. Fillmore has the longest school bus hauls of students to and from school in the county. Nishino stated there is very recent legislation in Sacramento to address transportation issue.
FUSD spends $3.6 million on Health & Welfare (medical insurance) and $240,000 on Step and Column each year. Step and Column is an increase in each teacher's salary (depending on their degree and years of education) each year up for to 40 years. The increase starts their first year of teaching for those with a BA plus 30 units or higher. For those with just a Bachelors Degree the increases start the fourth year of teaching. This salary increase is approximately 1/2% to 1% each year. Although the teachers have not had bargaining increase in eight years, they do receive a small increase every year. In terms of what that small increase would mean over an eight year period for example; a teacher with a Masters degree or a BA and 45 units, who had been teaching 10 years in 2006 when the pay raise hiatus had started and a salary of $58,111, their salary increased the 11th year by $1,809 and $620 the 12th year, $595 the 13th year and so on, ending in the 8th year (2014) making $63,515 or $5,404 more than they made eight years ago and increasing every year. Yes, they did receive an increase in pay, just not as much as they want.
Another agenda item was a presentation given by Amber Henery on the upcoming Smarter Balance Accountability Consortium (SBAC) Assessment Process. This is the first year of testing associated with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The tests are completely online for all students throughout the state. FUSD will first do a practice tests on March 16-18th to make sure the district has the bandwidth required, then again on March 31- April 5th. The actual testing of the students will take place April 7-19th. The tests are expected to take 3 to 4 1/2 hours, depending on the grade level, and will be given over a 5 day period. This first year is a pilot so all the tests will be the same for each grade.
Originally many states were eager to join CCSS, because by joining they were then exempt from complying with No Child Left Behind and in addition the Federal Government offered extra funding. There is a great deal of controversy throughout the country today by both teachers and parents, with many states wanting to back out of the program due to the tremendous costs associated with implementing it. Most states that accepted CCSS did not do a cost analyses. The program has not been tested or proven to be successful and some consider it and experiment using students as subjects. CCSS requires both the teachers and students, through all grades, learn a new process of learning and teaching within a very short timeframe. When asked if they felt the students were loosing a year of education during this transition, Henrey responded, "We're starting a different way to teach."