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‘Status quo is not an option’

Submitted by on 1, January 27, 2010 – 6:00 amNo Comment

The Board of Ed was scheduled to consider the district’s final draft of its master plan for the next five years, but it’s not quite done yet (tough to do your financials without a CFO, though compliance director Robert Shemwell was officially shuffled into the job Tuesday night) and what has been completed went out late and folks haven’t had a lot of time to look at it. So we’ll get the full monty next meeting.

That said, the district has released a working draft that lays out most of the major points the public and the school board will be asked to consider on February 9. The broad brush: The district hopes to expand school choice, maintain neighborhood schools and existing enrichment programs and rev up programs that target its highest and lowest-achieving students. But it’ll need a heck of a lot of money – and in particular, a new parcel tax – to make it all happen.

“Status quo is not an option. Our responsibility is to provide the highest quality of education for each student, and we will relentlessly improve, celebrating our accomplishments along the way,” the plan says.

Without a replacement parcel tax that would give the district $12 million to $16 million year, we’re basically looking at the apocalypse, according to the working draft of the district’s plan, with an anticipated $25.2 million deficit by the 2012-2013 school year that will force school closures, dramatically fuller classrooms and a laundry list of program and staff cuts.

The district’s vision for our not-so-distant future includes a new K-8 magnet school and a series of academies at underenrolled Encinal High School that could focus on science, technology and college prep. It also includes a more robust gifted and talented education program, more targeted efforts to close an achievement gap between student groups and the continuation of art, music and physical education classes at elementary schools, plus child care at each site.

To pay for this, the district would seek passage of a new parcel tax that would replace its existing taxes and generate between $12 million and $16 million a year. The current taxes, which sunset before the 2012-2013 school year, generate $7.3 million for the district each year. The board just got suggestions regarding a new tax and trustees have until March to decide whether to put a new tax on the ballot in June.

The district would also seek partnerships with philanthropic and business organizations, including the Alameda Education Foundation, who the district would ask to raise $1.2 million over three years.

It would also try to work out a deal with the teacher’s union to increase class sizes and would bring in more out-of-district students to fill seats and generate additional cash. The working draft envisions increases of four to five students per K-3 classroom. Each student would generate a little less than $5,000 a year for the district under current state rates.

The district would also work to streamline its front office, which could offer a savings of close to $700,000 if all the recommendations in a just-release consultant’s report are followed.

Without the parcel tax, the district envisions closing a high school, a middle school to be named and three elementary schools, and reconfiguring grade levels and enrollment boundaries to fit the district’s students into its remaining schools. The district would also have to consider boosting class sizes to 32 in each elementary school classroom and 35 in grades 7-12, cutting instructional days and cutting a host of programs and staff that are now paid for by the Measure A and Measure H parcel taxes, which include swim centers, high school athletic coach stipends and transportation, middle and high school counselors and ROTC, the district’s draft plan says.

More to come on this as the blanks get filled in. In the meantime, you can see everything the district’s done on this to date by clicking here.

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