If it's bad news, tell us now

Would you want your doctor to give you the test results for a rare disease now or have you wait a few months while a cure is being discovered? Of course not. Yet our administration has been meeting since September to discuss cuts to next year’s school budget and won’t give us an answer on teacher staffing.

Should you look for other jobs? CEA says: Do what is best for you and your family.

A recent memo from Supt. Gene Harris outlined the problem: The school board has delayed a request for a tax increase until the fall, and with no additional revenue, cuts of $25 million or more will be necessary to balance the budget.

We are hoping that attrition due to retiring baby boomers will spare us. But this may not be possible. We have heard that the governor’s budget includes education increases, but now we learn that they are minimal. Harris writes, “CCS Treasurer (Penelope) Rucker advises that we have budget reductions in place beginning July 1, 2013.”

We appreciate that administrators and board members have been deliberating carefully. They have gotten feedback from teachers, classified staff and administrators. But it certainly seems that layoffs are imminent. Harris adds, “We are again looking at nearly every aspect of the district, including school and department budgets, curricular and extra-curricular programs, staffing, school schedules, facilities and maintenance, materials, supplies, services, etc…. We have no choice…failure to act now would potentially result in devastating consequences for our staff, our students and the district the following year.”

Administrators are set to decide by May 15. But we say, just give us the bad news now. Should I look for another job? Should I work this summer? Should I buy a house? Will I be able to pay for day care? Do what is in the best interest for yourself and for your family. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.

We will keep you informed of developments as they occur.

Board begins to consider cuts

“Dollar” by Flickr user Images_of_Money.

CCS Supt. Gene Harris broached the subject of budget cuts in a presentation to the Board of Education at the Tuesday, Feb. 19, meeting. Despite projections that say the district will stay in the black until the end of next school year, the board is responding to the treasurer’s October 2012 call to cut $25 million from next year’s budget to pad the district’s bottom line. Uncertainties surrounding how much CCS will actually receive from a new education funding formula over the next two years further complicate the district’s finances.

Dr. Harris’ brief presentation included a general overview of what she termed “Reduction Considerations.” The areas, initiatives or departments that could be affected include: mothballing closed schools, departmental reductions in custodial services, human resources and information technology staff, removing a period in the day at the MS and HS levels, transportation, reducing financial services in the treasurer’s office, VCAP, library media, credit flex, unified arts, ROTC, TOSAs, student support services, athletics and non-school based administrators.

When asked by a board member what was being considered for reductions, Dr. Harris responded, “Everything is on the table.” She did indicate her desire to shield the classroom from as much of the reductions as possible. The superintendent also stated that focusing on learning and efficiency during the budget process could result in expansion of district-provided Pre-K, adding reading specialists in elementary schools and eliminating splits at the elementary level.

In May, the board will receive the proposed budget. A vote is expected on Tuesday, June 18. Keep reading The CEA Voice for important budget-related updates.

The survey says …

CEA recently surveyed members about the state of district-provided technology. More than 800 members responded, representing every CEA building/unit. CEA and the administration reviewed the results of the survey at their Nov. 12 Joint Labor-Management Committee meeting. Some of the findings are given below:

Infinite Campus: Nearly 90 percent of members surveyed use Infinite Campus. They overwhelmingly responded that the training was ineffective and that this new information system has made their jobs harder.

iPods: Of the elementary members who responded that they used iPods to test their students, two-thirds indicated the training they received was ineffective. Nearly 90 percent responded that testing took longer than the CCS-estimated time of ten minutes per student. More than 50 percent indicated they were a week or more behind on the reading pacing guide. More than 98 percent experienced technical difficulties. Half of the users lost student testing data, and more than two-thirds were unable to recover what was lost.

Hardware: Nearly 90 percent said CCS computers are slower to boot, login and launch an application than their own personal computers. More than two-thirds said it took six minutes or more to start a CCS-provided computer. Of the 2,640 student classroom workstations identified, a total of 505 were reported as non-functional. Twelve percent said they had no student workstations in their classrooms. One-third of those who contacted the district to replace or repair their hardware were still waiting for a response.

Software: Respondents identified more than 40 improperly functioning software titles. Nearly half of the members experienced problems using CCS-provided software. Less than half of those members contacted CCS for help. Forty-three percent of those who contacted CCS for help said that their software issue was fixed.

At the Joint Labor-Management Committee meeting, CEA also presented members’ responses to the survey’s open-ended questions, which filled more than 140 pages. Superintendent Harris directed Interim Chief Information Officer Michelle Van Dyke to investigate the survey’s findings. John Stanford, along with Van Dyke, will report back to the team at our next meeting, hopefully, with a response that fixes these long-standing problems.

To download a PDF version of the report presented at the Joint Labor-Management Meeting, enter the members-only download area of the CEA website at http://bit.ly/cealogin.