Good faith and a few good punches: Indian Valley fights back
Good faith and a few good punches, that’s what Indian Valley School Closure and Consolidation Committee members hit Plumas Unified School District directors and administration with last week.
Chairwoman Centella Tucker compiled a list of questions and an interim report to the district, a prelude to what they will present next month, when trustees and administrators converge in Greenville for their regular meeting.
First and foremost, they want more time to develop a viable plan to keep K – 12 schools in each community, and they want to be involved in gathering the facts to work with, as spelled out in the California Department of Education Best Practices Guide.
The timeline and procedures called for in the best practices guide have been subverted by the administration, committee members agreed when approving each section of their interim report Monday, Feb. 6.
Some of the facts they wish to have before their next meeting include a complete and detailed line-item budget to work from, not a condensed version with administrative interpretations.
They also want to know the costs of district office operation, administrative travel and conference attendance, a comparison of administrative salaries and benefits going back to the 2008-09 school year and estimates for next year.
“Are we going to get what we want to see or what they want us to see?” asked committee member, charter school teacher and former Superintendent Mike Chelotti.
A Chester committee member agreed, referring to less than two pages of budgeting information they’d received.
One piece of financial information that created perhaps the most discussion was the lifetime benefit packages granted by the district for the superintendent and members of his or her administration staff.
“Since before my time people have been writing their own packages in this office,” Chelotti said. “This district has been fleeced and it infuriates me.”
After his remarks, committee members agreed they’d like to see the historical costs and ongoing obligations of those packages back to 1986, which was about when they were first created, according to fellow committee member Kest Porter, who recently retired as curriculum director for the district.
What consideration has the administration given to closing the district office, cutting administrative staff or using various unoccupied rooms at school sites?
Job descriptions of all district employees with current pay for each position was another item they requested, as well as a list of all district reserves expenditures from 2008 to present, including an estimate for next year.
Litigation expenses have been a big issue of late, so committee members would also like a list of those, as well as the amount of money set aside for settlements or damages.
Title searches on school properties might be needed as well, for one Taylorsville resident thought the school property was donated on the condition it would revert if no longer used for a school.
Similar questions were posed about a portion of Greenville High School.
Committee members also wanted information on other potential costs and grant-payback liabilities for school properties, including the status of several unused district properties.
If a school were closed, what would the re-opening costs be, if needed again?
One committee member wondered if the facility would have to be brought up to current codes.
What about a new mascot, school colors, league and player eligibility for sports, valedictorian and salutatorian?
The list of questions has grown to more than three pages, with an occasional strike back at the adversarial administration.
With none opposed, committee members believe the following to be true:
The administration is pitting communities against each other, specifically trying to kill one by disregarding the economic and social impacts closing its high school would have.
Administrators said that pride in community schools should be replaced by pride in the quality of education students receive.
This is the response from Indian Valley:
“We declare that pride in community and pride in the quality of education are not opposite choices.
“In a rural area such as ours they are so intertwined as to be indistinguishable.
“The superintendent chooses to ignore that when he suggests closing schools just as he chooses to ignore the impact on the students, their families and their towns.”