School Upgrades Continue
Virginia de la Piedra was named the new Fillmore Unified School Board President at Tuesday’s meeting.
Virginia de la Piedra was named the new Fillmore Unified School Board President at Tuesday’s meeting.

Two Fillmore elementary schools, San Cayetano and Piru, are continuing to receive improvements and upgrades. The playground, asphalt and concrete repairs are completed and both schools will soon start the upgrades to the fire alarm and PA systems. During the Fillmore Unified School District (FUSD) Board Meeting on Tuesday the Board approved bids by Scoll and Sons Electric for $341,000 and $265,000 to upgrade both schools' systems.

The money comes from a grant of $3,091,742 by the State Allocation Board. The bidding process for the upgrades was very tight due to the length of time between the application for the Emergency Repair Funding grant, submitted back in 2008, and the time received. The State's fiscal problems at that time meant the funds could not be awarded for years and prices and costs for the projects have increased. The grant was finally received in October 2014 and is 3.3% of the total funding that was distributed State-wide with FUSD was the only Ventura County school district to receive the funding; San Cayetano - $1,764,393 and Piru - $1,327, 349.

An agenda item the Board discussed during closed session was taking the first step in contract labor/salary negotiations with Fillmore Unified Teachers Association (FUTA). During public comments when the Board reconvened to open session, Brian Ricards, a Fillmore High School science teacher, spoke of the faculty concerns regarding the negotiations, stating "Thousands of teachers in neighboring school districts have received well deserved raises to their salaries and improvements to their benefits. Ricards then gave a list of salary percentage increases for 2015-2016 in other Ventura County school districts: Santa Paula- 5% raise and a 5% raise for 2014-2015 school year, Hueneme 6.5% and a 5% raise for 2014-2015, Simi Valley 6.5%, Pleasant Valley 6% and a 3% raise for 2014-2015, Oak Park 6% and a 5% raise for 2014-2015, Ocean View 7.5% and a 5.5% raise for 2014-2015.

According to the California Department of Education's Department of Fiscal Service (DFS) FUSD reported a 3% increase in teacher salary over the 2014-2015 schedule. Teaching salary depends on various things such as a teacher education level and experience.

The lowest salary FUSD offered during the 2014-2015 school year is $40,582. This is a beginning teacher’s salary that may or may not hold a full teaching credential. The highest salary FUSD offered is $86,404 which would include a Bachelors Degree with special units, and an average FUSD salary is $67,526. Those amounts do not include salaries for extended year, bonuses for special accomplishments such as a masters or doctorate degree or payment for extra-curricular services such as coaching, drama or music.

Besides the negotiated increase in salary each year, FUSD teachers receive an automatic Step and Column increase of approximately 1/2%-1% in salary (depending on their degree and years of education) each year up to 40 years. The automatic increase starts the first year of teaching for those with a Bachelors Degree plus 30 units or higher. For those with just a Bachelors Degree the increases start their fourth year of teaching.

Ricards ended his address to the Board by stating that FUTA are eager to begin contract negotiations and that having competitive teacher salaries with other county school districts will attract and keep quality teachers in the FUSD.

During the Superintendent’s Report and responding to the days lockdown of Los Angeles Schools, Dr. Adrian E. Palazuelos addressed the issue of school safety. "Security and safety is a top no way should we be cavalier with our students (safety)." Adding that the new PA and alarm system will give the district schools an advantage is safety preparation.

Palazuelos then commented that the districts "Master Plan" which he stated continues moving forward. He emphasized the improvements to the district stating, "....there are still things we can improve on" and that it is important to get staff involved and knowing how to use the resources available. Inspections of every area of every school will be done and reports given as to how those resources can be used the best way possible. "The State has put education on the front burner" and providing more resources to education Palazuelos stated and ended with "It warms my heart that more and more students are getting access to the arts."

It was also announced and approved that Fillmore High School will offer two new courses for the 2016-2017 School Year: Advanced Placement Statistics and Advanced Placement Psychology.