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Appointee process clarified; staffing decisions postponed

By From page A1 | April 18, 2014

At its meeting Thursday evening, the Davis school board spelled out the process by which an interim trustee will be appointed and heard a proposal from Superintendent Winfred Roberson covering proposed staffing increases, now that the school district’s financial picture is recovering from seven years of budget cuts.

The district is proposing to hire 12 teachers, a groundskeeper, a night custodian and three district office administrators, plus fund small increases in secretarial time at multiple campuses. However, action on Roberson’s proposal was postponed until May 1.

The board also formally adopted a calendar for the 2014-15 academic year, with the first day of school on Aug. 27.

Eight applicants have filed candidacy papers, asking to be considered for appointment to the school board seat vacated with the March resignation of trustee Nancy Peterson. After reviewing the process used in 2002 — the last time a board appointment was made — trustees outlined this year’s process.

On May 1, they will hear a short presentation from each candidate, listen to any comments offered by the public and then narrow the field to three. During a special meeting May 8, there will be another brief presentation by the finalists before a question-and-answer session. Finally, the board will vote to select one candidate to serve through November, when a special election will be held to fill out the remaining two years of Peterson’s term.

All of the proceedings will take place in open session. Three votes will be needed to make the appointment. (There are currently four trustees.)

Trustee Tim Taylor said he hopes this process will avoid the multiple rounds of balloting that occurred in 2002, when the board considered a field of four applicants and split 2-2 again and again.

Trustee Susan Lovenburg noted that “eight candidates is a lot, and I don’t think anyone wants to be here for six or seven hours” as the field is winnowed down.

Mindful of what happened in 2002, Lovenburg noted that “the potential exists that there could be an impasse” on May 8, and proposed a coin toss — with the superintendent calling heads or tails — in the event that several rounds of voting do not produce a three-vote majority for one of the candidates. Her suggestion was adopted by the board.

Roberson outlined the proposed staffing increases, a process that also would entail the changing of some administrators’ titles along with the redistribution of some duties. The position currently held by Associate Superintendent Clark Bryant would be retitled associate superintendent for instructional services, and the position of director of curriculum, assessment and learning would be added. This move would, in large part, restore a position eliminated in 2006 by budget cuts.

Roberson said that the associate superintendent for instructional services would concentrate on “macro” issues involving evaluating the district’s academic program, advancing innovation and developing a professional development system for the district’s teachers — tasks mandated under the school district’s recently adopted strategic plan. The director of curriculum, assessment and learning would be in charge of testing and recommending new classroom materials as the Common Core academic standards are phased in.

The position currently held by Assistant Superintendent Matt Best would be retitled associate superintendent of administrative services, and a director of human resources would be added. Roberson said the associate superintendent’s job would include advancing a more integrated leadership model — “we are moving away from ‘silo’ departments,” Roberson said — and creating the professional growth system for the district’s administrative team and classified employees. These tasks also were mandated in the strategic plan.

The director of human resources would focus on administrative tasks, like checking references and other background details for prospective hires.

“We have over 1,000 employees,” Roberson noted, and there will be quite a few transitions in the coming year as several dozen teachers retire and are replaced, and the district moves to hire several school principals.

Roberson also proposed a part-time public information officer (0.6 of full time, or the equivalent of three days a week), noting that “most districts our size, with the kind of community involvement we have, have a full-time PIO.”

Lovenburg expressed some interest in Roberson’s proposal, saying, “There is no point in having a shiny new strategic plan if we don’t have the people to do it.”

Board president Gina Daleiden and Taylor agreed, but Taylor noted that “nobody questions or complains about the adding of teachers (in the wake of teacher layoffs in the last few years). … All the comments about the negative aspect of (staff) additions always falls on administration.”

Taylor asked Roberson to further flesh out the need for the proposed administrative hires so the community could understand why these hires are needed.

Lovenburg, Taylor, Daleiden and trustee Sheila Allen all felt it was too soon to vote on the proposed staffing increases, noting that several documents relating to the proposal had been revised as late as midday Thursday. Some of the documents also had not yet been posted on the district website for the public to review.

Kelly Wilkerson, a teacher at Davis High, said she supports adding 12 teachers and increasing the hours for secretarial staff, but said she is “much less enthusiastic about adding three administrative positions” at the district office.

“I just believe we have other priorities and problems to rectify,” Wilkerson said. “You are considering a proposal to spend more than $220,000 (a year) on (new) district office positions — is that really more important than lowering class size at the junior high and high school level?”

The proposal for staffing increases will come back before the school board at its May 1 meeting.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.

Jeff Hudson

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