School 7-11 committees get more time
After listening to the 7-11 committees’ pleas for additional time, the school board extended its deadlines. The committees now have until April 20 to submit their budgetary recommendations to the school district. The recommendations will then be presented in a board workshop May 2.
During the board’s March 8 meeting, committee representatives said they needed more time because they didn’t have all of the information necessary to make informed recommendations.
School board trustee Bret Cook said, “I’m disappointed that the committees don’t have the information that they requested 30 days ago. Every single community feels like they haven’t gotten the answers.”
There were also complaints that some of the information distributed by the district office seemed contradictory or biased.
Yvonne Casalunovo Braddick cited several questions that are addressed on the school district office website and said, “The answers don’t match.”
Each of the committees requested an independent analysis of the district’s finances, specifically asking that FCMAT, the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, perform the service. Superintendent Glenn Harris said he would try to obtain their services as soon as possible, but worried that it could be a while before they would be available as many districts are seeking help at this time. Harris said that if help is available, it would take about a week of research in the district and then from six to eight weeks for an analysis to be prepared. In this case, the information wouldn’t be available until after the committees’ new extended deadlines.
In the event that FCMAT is not available in a timely manner, the committees requested that School Services of California be asked to do the work. School board member Bob Tuerck said he had “faith in our numbers, but in effort of transparency” he thought it was important to have an independent agency validate them.
Each of the 7-11 committees shared their individual reports to the board, but with the exception of Portola, made it clear that their recommendations would be further refined with more information. Shelley Callahan, representing the Portola 7-11 committee, said, “We are fortunate to have time before us,” and explained that Portola had already been through the school closure process when it closed Feather River Middle School. The Portola 7-11 committee still listed many cost-saving measures and Callahan said that they tried to “think out of the box” as well.
While each of the committees made individual recommendations that have been previously reported, Centella Tucker, of the Greenville 7-11 committee, read a report to the board that focused on the areas of agreement between all four committees.
“We declare that pride in community and pride in quality of education are not opposite choices,” she told the school board and audience members. She went on to say that the children in each of the four communities would be best served with K-12 educational programs in their own towns.
In addition to asking for more time and an independent review of district finances, the committees want the formation of a long-term advisory committee — an austerity committee — to advise the board on “sensible” financial cuts. They also asked that the district’s reserves be used to tide the district over while long-term solutions to the budget problems are found.
Committee representatives also pledged to support each other as they moved forward. Dwight Pierson, chairman of the Quincy 7-11 committee, said, “We are talking; we are mending fences. We are becoming neighbors again.”
The board workshop that will entertain the committees’ final recommendations is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, in the Quincy Elementary School cafeteria. The board plans to take action on those recommendations during its regularly scheduled May 9 meeting at Chester Elementary School.