Local News

School board hears brief AIM update, approves budget

By From page A4 | June 22, 2014

On Thursday night, the Davis school board heard a comparatively brief update on the district’s Alternative Instructional Model program, and also approved the school district’s 2014-15 adoption budget.

In the past, board discussions of the AIM program — formerly known as GATE, or Gifted And Talented Education — sometimes have been lengthy and tense. But Thursday’s item — an update on draft proposals that will be presented to the board for a vote at some future date — generated very little angst and only two brief comments from the audience.

Associate Superintendent Matt Best and AIM coordinator Deanne Quinn gave the update, which covered draft language relating to math instruction in grades 4-6 and professional development opportunities for teachers, which Best said “represents work toward consensus” on a committee that has seen some sharp disagreements in the past.

Best noted that the AIM advisory committee is composed of some members who support self-contained classrooms for AIM instruction, others who would like to see that model curtailed and a third group who are primarily interested in considering instructional methods for AIM-identified students who do not go into the self-contained program.

Best acknowledged there have been “frequent disagreements” during committee meetings, but added that there has been “an increase in civility… there is disagreement, but in a civil way.”

He noted that the draft language shared with the school board on Thursday had been developed over a series of meetings during the just-concluded school year, but added that the committee had not had time to review it yet.

“I don’t think anyone would say (these documents) are the be-all and end-all, but they do represent work toward consensus,” Best said.

Quinn agreed that this year’s AIM advisory committees have been more “civil and productive.” She also reported that the AIM program is nearly “at capacity” in terms of enrollment, with space for  just two more students.

The school board also approved the district’s 2014-15 adoption budget, which soon will be revised in the wake of Gov. Brown’s signing of the state budget on Friday. The state budget includes a provision that will, under certain circumstances, put limits on the amount of money that a school district can carry forward in the form of fiscal reserves.

These budget reserve limits — which were added to a trailer bill at the last minute, and approved by California legislators with virtually no debate — drew strenuous protests from statewide stakeholder groups like the California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators.

Davis Superintendent Winfred Roberson was among the many superintendents around the state who messaged local legislators urging them to opposed the cap on local budget reserves.

But on Thursday night, Associate Superintendent Bruce Colby told the board that the new restrictions are not a major concern.

“I’m not losing sleep over it,” Colby said, explaining that the provisions would restrict local reserves to about 6 percent of the overall district budget, “and we have a plan to be in the 6 percent range already.”

Colby also reminded trustees that voter-approved school parcel taxes provide about 10 percent of the school district’s funding, which keeps Davis at the state average in terms of funding per pupil. Without the parcel tax revenue, he added, Davis would be at about 90 percent of the state average for funding.

The school board also heard from Blair Howard, president of the Davis Teachers Association, who urged trustees to improve the salary structure to attract and retain young teachers.

“Young teachers are coming out of (the universities) … (many) with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, a housing market that makes it hard to rent, let alone buy affordable housing in Davis, and other districts (are) offering better compensation and benefits,” he said. “We will not be able to retain these educators as they look around, realize they cannot afford to raise a family in Davis, and move on to a place where they can.”

Howard continued, “I point this out because waiting until the district is losing teachers year after year, not just to retirement but to other districts, it will be harder to reverse than doing something now.”

He expressed disappointment that increasing teacher salaries is not addressed more specifically in Davis’ Local Control Accountability Plan, which the board is expected to vote on at its June 26 meeting.

Elsewhere on the agenda, the board:

* Heard a brief update from Roberson on developing changes in the school district’s complaint procedure process.

* Approved the issuance of Certificates of Participation (a form of borrowing against future revenues from the district’s Community Facilities Districts) to finance backlogged facilities and maintenance projects, including long-delayed roofing work at several campuses. The Certificates of Participation will finance up $28 million in maintenance and repair work.

* Approved contract addenda for Associate Superintendents Colby, Clark Bryant and Matt Best, who are now under contract through June 2016.

The school board will next meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at the school district office, 526 B St., rather than the usual location at City Hall. The agenda has not yet been posted.

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

Jeff Hudson

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