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January 17
1994, 4:31 a.m. - Magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake rocks Santa Clarita Valley [video]


[KHTS] – One might notice the grass is growing a little longer at Castaic Union school sites.

And next year, there will probably be fewer hands on deck to help around campus.

Castaic education officials know as well as anyone despite Proposition 30 taxing California residents a little bit more in order to fund schools, some smaller, less impoverished school districts actually are seeing less money.

When you add that to an inexplicable 300-student loss in 18 months, you have the makings of a full-on financial crisis for an otherwise fiscally sound district that just weathered a recent, devastating economic downturn relatively unscathed.

While the Castaic Union School District was able to avoid layoffs during the Great Recession — maintaining its point-of-pride 20-to-1 student-teacher ratio in the process — changes in the state’s funding formula, and more significantly, enrollment, have the 2,500-student K-8 district addressing a $4.1 million funding gap, said Superintendent Jim Gibson.

Michele McClowry, a Los Angeles County Office of Education fiscal adviser, is expected to give a report Tuesday, Feb. 3, on what the district is doing to address recent money woes, such as reducing its landscaping costs by $6,000 a month.

The district is holding three public three meetings in the coming months, in addition to an upcoming Feb. 11 wine-tasting fundraiser, to try to raise awareness about the issues.

“Everything helps and a lot of our people are coming to the forefront and saying, ‘How can we help?’” Gibson said, “and there’s the good side of that.”

But he’s also anticipating a lot of tough conversations.

 

Signs of distress

Gibson has known since before August there were going to be funding concerns, and there was likely little the district could do to prevent them, he said Friday.

The state’s much ballyhooed Local Control Funding Formula, which was meant to increase district disparities statewide in funding and programming, immediately cut about $700,000 from the CUSD budget, Gibson said.

Because the formula is meant to incentivize smaller classroom sizes, providing more money for schools with larger student-teacher ratios, the district immediately saw an out-of-pocket cut of about $480 per student for its roughly 2,500 students for no other reason than it already had small classrooms, Gibson said.

On top of that, there were far fewer pupils in the classrooms. While enrollment has been on the decline for the last 10 years, with the district losing an average of 110 students a year, a good chunk of that has come in the last 18 months, about 300, he added.

The loss of 300 students wasn’t to charter schools, private schools or even out of the county, Gibson said, but reflective of a statewide trend. California is losing residents to the tune of several hundred thousand a year, Gibson said, which he sees evidence of in the form of requests for student transcripts from Texas, Kentucky and beyond.

The loss to schools in the area, regardless of public or private, is negligible, Gibson said.

 

Working on a fiscal solution

In August, when it appeared as though the district’s budget would have a “negative certification,” a Los Angeles County Office of Education fiscal adviser was brought in to help with corrective measures and provide oversight, Gibson said.

The attempts being discussed are numerous and painful, he lamented, but necessary to keep the district viable.

The district announced the intended layoff of 23 classified employees — most of them part-time workers, such as janitors and classroom aides.

Those cuts, which are expected to be finalized in March, includes two custodians, four library tech aides, a reduction of hours for lunch-time duty and, in some cases, changing schedules, represented a significant savings.

However, more cuts were necessary.

There also been the discussion of a 10 percent districtwide salary reduction for staff, Gibson said, which has not yet been agreed upon by union representatives or the district’s governing board.

The plan was discussed in an open board meeting, but the first of several public meetings is planned for Tuesday, Feb. 3, when the negotiations with teacher representatives are expected to begin in earnest in closed session.

Most of the discussion at that meeting would be in closed session, Gibson said, however, the results will be discussed at the other meetings.

 

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32 Comments

  1. So why are they building a high school? Their overall enrollment is down at the elementary and middle school.

  2. The high school is part of William S. Hart district, not Castaic. Castaic is a K-8 district.

  3. STOP COMMON CORE!!!!!!!

  4. We have been promised a high school for over 30 yrs in Castaic it’s about time I was told by a well know castaic realtor when my 10 month old was a baby in 87 he would graduate from a castaic high school well that didn’t happen

    • The public schools in SCV on the majority are awesome. Both my kids went all their schooling years in SAugus . They are both University graduates as so are many of their former classmates . Private schools hire non credential teachers . The problem is teaching isn’t like the past. Many new regulations that have to be followed. Bottom line Parents are children’s first teachers and many parents need to shut their trap and let teachers teach the way they are mandated by. YES I Agree there are many issues . But this is 2015. If your going to complain then homeschool your child. Because teachers are doing what their job description tells them.

  5. Katrina Weiner says:

    Your date of Monday, February 5th as the first meeting is incorrect. February 5th is a Thursday. Can you please let readers know the correct date of the meeting? Thank you.

  6. Cheryl Phillips says:

    Other district have made it through really tough times by preparing for what’s coming. Years ago Districts raised their teacher/student ratios and let go of teachers to make sure budgets didn’t have a negative certification. There were signs in the Castaic 2012-13 budgets. To continue “maintaining its point-of-pride 20-to-1 student-teacher ratio”
    was irresponsible, as was the Superintendent acting as the Director of Business Services. Per the December 9, 2014 Board Minutes, ” School Services of California informed Mr. Gibson that this position had to be filled, as the Superintendent cannot continue to operate in that capacity.” Enrollment had been on a steady decline, and was not isolated to just last August. No one to blame here but a lack of leadership and a Board that hasn’t been paying attention. We haven’t begun to see the cuts that will have to happen in this District.

  7. What ever happened to the master plan of all the homes, golf course etc. that were suppose to be built years ago up in north lake that our well known realtor and friends pushed several years ago. That would of brought in more tax dollars and businesses for the dying lake hughs end of town

  8. 10% pay cut for those who aren’t among the 20+ Teachers who will loose their jobs!

  9. Funny it says it was unscathed by the recent recession and avoided lay offs… um hello I got laid off!!!! I was deeply schathed… lol

  10. Higher ups should take pay cuts! Start lay offs at the D.O.

  11. Castaic is a great district filled with caring teachers and astute administrators. They cannot help that 300 kids moved out of the area with their families to pursue jobs during the economic recession.

  12. CR says:

    When was the last raise administration gave themselves? I heard it was 4% and not that long ago. Does anybody have the answer?
    Did the district really need to burden the taxpayers for 30 years with Measure QS if there aren’t enough pupils to fill the Taj Mahals?
    Seems like bad management from my POV.

  13. Ana Gigi Ana Gigi says:

    Location location location. Not fair for those who pay for location. Only to have those who don’t pay for location be diverted to our high schools…. Annoying!

    • Sarah says:

      Seriously I think some of you need to get off your high horse of where your kid goes to school. You aren’t any better than anyone else because you live some where different.
      Oh and Castaic kids aren’t wanted in your school? Who are you people. So shallow!

  14. Bill says:

    If district enrollment has been on the decline for the last 10 years, why weren’t layoffs done sooner? “A reduction of hours for lunch-time duty” is actually a layoff of one Noon Duty at each school site. Noon Duties provide student supervision before and after school, during morning recess and at lunch. One less means a higher ratio of students to Noon Duty. “Negotiations with teacher representatives,” the district also has to negotiate with the classified union who represents the support staff- Bus Drivers, Office Staff, Technical, Instructional Aides, Campus Supervisors/Noon Duties,and Custodial/Maintenance. These are the people that have already been given layoff notices.

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