Dunsmuir High sees light at end of funding tunnel

Richard DuPertuis
Dunsmuir Joint Union High School District Superintendent Len Foreman advises trustees to “keep on going as if we are still going to be here” during last Wednesday’s board meeting, June 12, 2013. Photo by Richard DuPertuis

The decision Dunsmuir High School has anticipated for weeks came Friday, when the California legislature approved the 2013-2014 state budget.

Included in the package is the governor’s Local Control Funding Formula, with a trailer bill containing language that administrators feared could jeopardize the necessary small school status for DHS and other rural schools, according to Dunsmuir Superintendent/Principal Len Foreman.

After an unsuccessful letter-writing campaign to defeat the LCFF, Foreman remains optimistic about Dunsmuir High’s survival. He said the new education funding legislation comes with a provision to increase payment to schools so DHS will be able operate without necessary small school status.

“What's going to happen is every year for the next seven years the funding for every student is going to go up,” Foreman said Saturday. By the 2014-2015 school year, “we’ll have to decide if we want to continue to be a necessary small school or go to ADA funding,” Foreman said.

Necessary small school status makes California schools with low enrollment eligible for extra state funding. Normally, a school is paid per Average Daily Attendance, or ADA, but for schools with fewer students that alone isn’t enough.

Last April, Dunsmuir High launched a letter-writing campaign for fear of losing its small school status, along with the extra state funding. Today, Foreman says the school will be able to fully fund operations under the seven-year ADA payment increase.

“Our funding is guaranteed by the state,” he said. “We will not need to borrow as long as the state honors its commitments. We have adequate reserve funds.”

Mood different

during board meeting

Foreman’s optimism stands in contrast to the mood seen at the Dunsmuir Joint Union High School District board meeting last Wednesday evening, before the state budget was approved. The fear of decreased funding influenced two board decisions.

The first was a 3-0 vote to table a decision on a bid for changing locks at the school, to enable a lockdown in case of an intruder. “There’s a bill pending that would require us to replace 10 locks that lock inside as well as outside,” Foreman told board members. “We don’t want to have to step out into the hall to lock the door.”

Noting the cost of about $4,000 on the bid, board member Bill Townsend moved to table the item, suggesting board members wait to see what the legislature does. Asked if he made the motion in regard to the pending bill or the budget decision, he said, “A little bit of both.”

Townsend also balked at the idea of approving a revised 5-year plan for school maintenance, but after some input from Foreman, voted along with the two other board members in favor. Board members Norma Clemons and Jan Garrigus were absent.

“I know what you’re saying,” Foreman said to Townsend. “If the news is horrendous and there’s no way we can survive, why do this?” Foreman said he didn’t want to get behind on maintenance in case the school did continue, stating, “We have to keep on going as if we are still going to be here.”

Later, Foreman addressed the differences in mood between the meeting and now. “Sometimes pessimism carries the day,” he said. “You don’t know what you don’t know until someone tells you what you don’t know. People in Sacramento made promises that they did not carry through. I think back to a committee chair telling me, ‘We will take care of that.’ Well, they did not take care of that as we hoped.”

He said that with state-assured funding through the seven-year ADA increase, “Dunsmuir High School is going to exist for a long time to come.”

Other actions taken

A quorum of board members comprised of Bill Townsend, Chris Langston and acting president Jimmy Palmer voted unanimously to approve:

• After a second public hearing, transfer of monies received from the state to the DHS General Fund, as allowed by California law.

• After a third public hearing, submitting an application for adding Nevada to the school’s existing out-of-state waiver for field trips to Oregon. “The state says you cannot spend state funds out of state without a waiver,” Foreman told the board. He said staff accompanying students on field trips needed to be paid “so Dunsmuir High School can play football in Nevada.”

• Transfer of money from the General Fund to Fund 17, for the Culinary Arts Program.

• Certifying that Dunsmuir Joint Union High School District has no policies to prevent prayer on campus. “Personally, I encourage it,” said Foreman. “It sometimes helps on test scores.”

The next regular meeting of the DHS board is scheduled to convene July 10 at 6 p.m.