School district reduces deficit spending
Business Director Yvonne Bales presented the first interim financial report to the school board Dec. 12. Superintendent Micheline Miglis shared some of the highlights after analyzing it.
She said that while Plumas County Office of Education remains in deficit spending, it has decreased its deficit spending by $129,690, or roughly one-third of the budget. (The county office of education runs alternative education and opportunity schools.) Plumas Unified School District also remains in deficit spending. Miglis said the district has decreased its deficit spending by $600,000, almost a 50 percent reduction from last year.
She said that any county or district office with these kinds of reductions would be envious, and credits the entire staff for contributing to this success.
“Reductions in staff (combining job duties) and each and every vacancy has been critically analyzed and reviewed to the extent possible and even not refilled,” Miglis wrote in an email.
“I provide this simply as one example of ‘how’ this has happened, even despite the increased legal expenses ($425,000) largely associated with the (J.C. Eaglesmith lawsuit) settlement agreement,” her email continued. She said this has contributed to the reduction in spending, and acknowledged that it also has its side effects.
Common Core State Standards
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are being implemented in select groups of students throughout Plumas County, reported Ed Thompson, Plumas County Office of Education’s director of student performance, assessment and instructional services.
This much-talked-about framework for math and English language arts (ELA) has been adopted by nearly every state in the nation. The exceptions are Texas, Hawaii, Nebraska, Minnesota and Virginia.
According to Common Core State Standards Initiative, “The mission of the Common Core State Standards is to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.
“The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”
What it means locally
At the Dec. 12 Plumas County Office of Education board meeting, Thompson gave a PowerPoint presentation on CCSS in the district.
Thompson said that an article in the New York Times reported that most job openings are occurring in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and that 90 percent of today’s high school students are not interested in these jobs.
One of the goals of Common Core is to increase interest and aptitude in the STEM jobs, through “embracing the four C’s of the 21st century: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.”
Thompson presented some of shifts that the district is implementing in ELA and math:
ELA shifts include a “staircase of complexity,” an emphasis on academic vocabulary, integration of social science and science content knowledge, reading more informational texts, and three types of writing taught in grades K – 12: informative/explanatory, narrative and opinion/persuasive.
Some shifts in math include narrowing the focus and deepening the scope, coherence across grade levels, fluency with speed and accuracy, deep understanding, application of concepts and dual intensity of practice and understanding.
Thompson said that 79 percent of PUSD teachers completed a survey regarding CCSS. The results show a high level of awareness; a low level of implementation; and a need for targeted, sustained, professional development, instructional coaching and timely feedback regarding teaching practices.
Thompson said the district is devoting money toward these purposes and will continue to do so throughout the transition to CCSS, which is scheduled to be completed by the 2014-15 year.
“It’s a constantly evolving process,” Thompson said Dec. 19. “It’s not crystal clear.”
Thompson said the big picture is that Common Core is definitely important for American education and our students, in terms of how we’re preparing them for the 21st century.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 5 p.m. at the district offices in Quincy.