Dunsmuir High superintendent optimistic about funding

Richard DuPertuis
Len Foreman

The name Dunsmuir has become more well known throughout the state, the high school superintendent reported during the May 8 board of trustees meeting.

Len Foreman said that as a result of actions taken by the school and the community in recent weeks, he and CBO Kim Vardanega have been contacted by educators and legislators for the latest news on a crisis facing small schools all over the state.

Foreman told trustees that he believes a letter writing campaign has helped, and he is optimistic about the chances of defeating proposed legislation that could have led to the closure of some small schools.

"I'm 99.9999% certain it will not pass," Foreman said during the meeting.

At issue is language in a trailer bill accompanying proposed changes in the way the state pays for education. If this legislation is passed as written, schools with small enrollment numbers could lose the "necessary small schools" funding status that entitles them to extra money.

An audience filling the Dunsmuir High auditorium learned last month that 11 schools in Siskiyou County alone were threatened by the trailer bill. Organizers distributed names and contact information for the California Department of Education, and for Assembly members serving on a subcommittee for education finance, delivered with a plea to write letters in opposition to the governor's Local Control Funding Formula.

"Senator Gaines' office called us directly, as did Brian Dahle's," Foreman told DHS trustees, referring to Dunsmuir's representatives in Sacramento. "They wanted information. They weren't very happy about this."

He said he received an unsolicited phone call from the California Department of Finance telling him, "This will be fixed."

Later, DHS administrators provided similar information on State Senate members and their education subcommittee.

During management's report at the May 8 meeting, Vardanega said the audience for a full Assembly Education Committee hearing in Sacramento April 24 was "twice as big as the prior two." She and Foreman attended a hearing by Assembly Subcommittee No. 2 on Education Finance April 9 and one by the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee April 18.

"This has become a huge issue," Vardanega reported. "Others are just now finding out about this."

Vardanega said during a three-day conference in Long Beach last month she attended several training classes with education administrators from all over California. "Every chance I got, I would raise my hand and ask about necessary small schools," she said. "And they would come to me after the sessions to talk to me. They know where Dunsmuir is."

Foreman credited education lobbyists Kevin Gordon of Capital Advisors Group and Dave Walrath of Small Schools Districts' Association for contributing to the response against the LCFF. "They know these people in Sacramento," he said. "I'd also like to commend our dynamite board, staff, alumni and community."

Foreman finished his report by reflecting on the impact his rural high school has had on the LCFF debate. "We're getting a lot of traction," he said. "It's interesting being the smallest high school district in the State of California and having traction in Sacramento."