With no definitive answer from the state about the future of McCloud High School’s funding, the Siskiyou Union High School District is preparing for the worst.
If McCloud continues to be funded as a Necessary Small School under California’s new Local Control Funding Formula, the district will keep it open, superintendent Mike Matheson told board members at their meeting last week.
If it isn’t, “we cannot keep it open,” Matheson said, because it would mean a $350,000 loss to the district’s budget.
Matheson suggested the district go through the layoff process on March 15, but be prepared to bring the positions back if funding comes through.
The closure of the school would be “a tragedy” for the McCloud community, Matheson said, especially if the school is closed prematurely and later funded.
Also at the Jan. 8 meeting, held at Mount Shasta High School, trustees Lori Harch, Jana Blevins, Gregg Gunkel, John Hines, Sue Tavalero and Jay Clark heard about an effort to create a manufacturing business career pathway at MSHS and agreed to conduct a survey asking staff how the new administrative structure – with three superintendents sharing responsibility – is working.
Trustee Margaret DeBortoli wasn’t at the meeting.
This year, McCloud is being kept open under the “hold harmless” clause of the LCFF at last year’s funding level. However, next year, it is unclear if the school will qualify as a Necessary Small School, since it has less than 100 students and is within a certain distance from Mount Shasta High.
The power to declare a school as necessary used to lie with the county superintendent. However, language in the LCFF transfers that power to the state.
Harch asked how long the state could drag the process out and not provide firm answers to the district’s burning questions. “Until September?” she asked.
“They could,” Matheson said, though they are aware of the timeline for districts so he hopes a decision is made before then.
Clark asked how many Siskiyou schools are in the same boat. Matheson said Dunsmuir High School, Little Shasta and Scott Valley School are also awaiting the state’s decision.
Siskiyou County Superintendent of Schools Kermith Walters is working with the Small School Districts Association to let the governor know what’s at stake for the county’s small rural districts, he said.
Teachers Bright Stock and Thad Wallace told the board they are exploring the concept of a manufacturing business career pathway program at MSHS.
They plan to apply for a portion of a $250 million grant for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) career programs. Applications will be accepted starting in February, so they are working to get the program together as quickly as possible.
Page 2 of 3 - Measure Q bond money reserved for a Career Technical Education project could be used to match the state’s grant funding, Stock said.
Wallace said they recently introduced the concept to representatives from Crystal Geyser, Wholesale Solar, Norcal Manufacturing, Ray Mac Mechanical and Max Web Solutions and received “positive feedback.”
“I love it,” said Gunkel. “This is cool stuff.”
Stock said the next steps will be to meet with Mount Shasta Elementary and Sisson to determine ways to articulate the program, and also to connect the program with nearby community colleges.
“I vote yes,” said Blevins, who pointed out that her grandchildren are enrolled in a similar program in Chico and have had great success. Sometimes, she said, hands-on experience is all a student needs to know if a certain career is something they’d like to pursue.
Blevins said she believes there should be a survey conducted to ask staff, and perhaps parents and students, how the new administrative structure is working.
In the summer of 2012, when former Weed High School principal Mike Ristuccia decided he’d rather be in the classroom, Matheson took on the principal role at WHS. Principals Jennifer McKinnon and Ed Stokes became co-superintendents, taking on some of those administrative responsibilities. With the money saved, teachers moved into new leadership roles and were rewarded with stipends. Left over savings was used to fill in funding gaps.
At that time, Blevins said, she understood that a survey would be conducted to study the effectiveness of the new structure once everything settled into place.
At last week’s meeting, Matheson said he would rather spend his time measuring student success as an indicator of how the structure is succeeding. This will be partially accomplished by the LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) which will soon be developed as a requirement of the LCFF.
Blevins argued that the LCAP and a survey would measure two different things. She also said that staff may feel intimidated to air their true feelings about the structure and a survey would give them an appropriate time to discuss what’s working and what’s not.
“I’m open to it if that’s the direction you’d like to go,” Matheson told the board.
“I don’t want you spending your time conducting surveys,” said Hines. “That’s my take.”
Hines praised Matheson for his willingness to take on the principal role and pointed out that teachers have now earned stipends for their leadership roles and even if the system wasn’t working according to plan, hiring another principal would be an expenditure of about $100,000 that the district doesn’t have.
“I don’t think we should fool with it,” he said.
Page 3 of 3 - California Teacher’s Association representative Randy Greenspan and MSHS teacher Sue Villarreal both told the board that a survey could be beneficial to identify places where improvements might be made with the current structure.
After hearing their interest, Matheson said he would work with the CTA to formulate a survey for the board to review at a future meeting.
Matheson said administrators are “starting to see the strings” of LCFF, which was believed to have been formulated so schools could use funds to target their needs.
Schools now receive funding in two blocks. The first is per student, and the second is according to the number of students who may need extra help, including low income, English language learners and foster youth.
Matheson said the district recently learned that second block of money must be tracked toward those students and must be used to provide benefits “over and above” what they already receive.
“We will have to demonstrate how we are improving their educational experience,” Matheson said.
District wide, attendance is now at 595 students, up 11 from last year, Matheson said.
In the first four months of the year, 38 students left the district, a decline Matheson referred to as “pretty dramatic.”
In other business, the board:
• Heard from Villarreal and her students about a recently completed project under the Common Core model which they felt was interesting and educational. The students said they learned a lot about how to think and didn’t concentrate on memorization, but rather researching an interesting topic;
• Approved and accepted the 2012/13 financial audit;
• Approved School Accountability Reports Cards;
• Approved appointments and stipends: Mary Jo Coffman as WHS’s CAHSEE Intensive Intervention coordinator; Cristin Harryman as the district CELDT coordinator; and Rob Harryman as MSHS’s Career Fair Coordinator.
Trustees will meet next on February 12 beginning at 4 p.m. at Weed High School.