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Letter to the Editor: Superintendent responds to my questions

The following are the responses to my questions which I received from our school district superintendent, Mr. Roderick. All should note the error I made in my first question. I am appreciative of his honesty and realize that many of the issues discussed were issues before he came to work in our district. I also want to remind everyone that our superintendent is responsible for implementing curriculum and direction received from the school board members. The school board is responsible for financial decisions and policies.

I am still waiting for responses from our school board members.

Me: According to the California Department of Education, between July of 2021 and January of this year, PUSD has received over $25,000,000 in ARP Act funding. Why has the public not been informed of this funding? How much of this funding has been spent? What, specifically, has this funding been spent on? What, specifically, is the plan for the remainder of these funds?

Mr. Roderick: Mr. Kearns, it is my understanding that you have been provided the answers to this in the past. If I am mistaken, I apologize. I will explain it this way. Your number of $25,000,000 is just incorrect. I see how you came up with this number, but you are looking at an accumulation of numbers we, as a district, have reported as expenditures; it is a number that represents ongoing spending. Our total allocation for ARP Act was $3,712,005 not $25,000,000. The charts that are from CDE illustrate our reporting of expenditures as we approach the $3.7 million dollar number. If you add all the numbers together from all reporting dates, it will arrive at around $25,000,000. I assure you we have not received $25,000,000. As for the $3.7 million, it is about out of time. As for the expenditures, you are welcome to come to sit down and discuss what we have spent the money on, I assure you it was all within the rules attached to the funding source. You will be disappointed to know that not only am I new to the district, so is most of my cabinet-level leadership. We are not privy to the discussions or decision-making process of the previous three years.

Me: The Plumas County Office of Education Foundation has been charged with determining the best way to spend the $2 million received from the PG&E lawsuit.

Mr. Roderick: The PGE settlement check comes with some strings attached. It has been put into a foundation, so there is a series of checks and balances to ensure it is spent properly as determined by the board of the newly established non-profit. To answer the other question, $3.7 million was allocated to the district through the CDE on behalf of the ARP Act. It was part of our budget to keep the district in good standing during the COVID crisis. As part of the budget, it was included in the LCAP and approved by our Board of Trustees.

Me: Your Vision Statement states, “We ensure an exemplary education with diverse opportunities and we accept no limits on the learning potential of any child.” Past experience and historical data show that online learning is far less effective than in-person, synchronous learning. Given these facts, why has the decision been made to force Greenville High School (GHS) students to learn exclusively through online classes for an entire year? Why are our teachers being transferred before you have found their replacements? Do these decisions uphold your Mission Statement, “to collectively inspire every child in every classroom every day”?

Mr. Roderick: Changes to Greenville High School are based on student performance and fiscal accountability. Both were explained in detail at the meeting. The program has declined, and students have migrated elsewhere long before COVID and the Dixie Fire. Academic performance and attendance are low. Cost overruns are high. This can not continue without change. The change is to become more aligned with our vision statement.

Me: The cost per student in Indian Valley schools has always been higher than in the schools of the other communities within the district. This is because we have fewer kids than the other communities. Should the fact that we have fewer kids in our community condemn our children to an inferior educational experience? Is this in alignment with your Mission and Vision Statements or your Core Values and Strategic Goals?

Mr. Roderick: Higher is one thing; two to three times higher is not an acceptable model. We can not continue to spend without recourse. It is a fact that we overspend at Greenville, and that must be addressed. I would like to see Greenville High School in line with Chester High School.

Me: One of your Core Values is fiscal responsibility. A significant percentage of the classrooms at GHS have sat empty due to low attendance for years now. Similarly, the Taylorsville Elementary School (TES) building sits empty and unused. Why are these empty rooms and buildings being heated throughout the winter? Why has the HVAC system of the GHS campus not been updated to enable the isolation of rooms which are not in use? Your Strategic Goals state that “facilities will be 21st Century teaching and learning environments.” Is this lack of updated technology in alignment with your Strategic Goals? Is it fiscally responsible to heat empty classrooms and buildings? Is it fiscally responsible to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new paint when HVAC updates have not been completed? We the people know how much propane costs. Why is this waste of money and resources not being addressed before deciding to take our teachers away and put our kids in front of computers? It is very frustrating to hear you refer to fiscal responsibility as a basis for your decision-making while we observe so much waste.

Mr. Roderick: In terms of facilities being on but unused, we have to maintain them. If we do not they will be in disrepair and become unusable. The heat has to stay on, so does the water, no exception. We only had so many Bond dollars available to do HVAC upgrades. When the community met in Greenville, HVAC upgrades were not high on the list, major renovation to the gym was. The money is now spent. Hindsight is 20/20. Once the other upgrades to the campus were made, now HVAC became a want. This type of investment is not affordable; what you see as frustrating waste is us preserving and maintaining what we own.

Me: Speaking of TES, why is this campus not being used for educating our children? Why is a facility more suitable in size to accommodate the number of students at GHS sitting empty while an oversized campus with empty rooms is being used?

Mr. Roderick: It is currently the home of the Outdoor Education Program. It is being used, just not how you are accustomed to it.

Me: Why are Indian Valley Academy (IVA) students crammed into an undersized building when GHS classrooms sit empty? Does this align with your Core Value of Teamwork? Why have PUSD employees, who have prevented teamwork, cooperation and sharing between these two institutions, not been held accountable for their behavior? What will be done about this in the future?

Mr. Roderick: We do not operate or make any decisions for IVA or PCA. Your questions about their operational status should be directed to Taletha Washburn at PCA.

Me: If Greenville Elementary School (GES) and Plumas Charter School (PCS), GHS and IVA shared facilities and worked together to mutually support each other, could this help to save costs? Before answering this, I ask you to ponder the heated empty rooms on one campus and overcrowded rooms on another. Why are we putting our kids in front of computers all day before requiring adults to act like adults and work together?

Mr. Roderick: It seems like you know the answer. The ability to share space was based on the adults being unable to share a common vision. I am not responsible for those relationships; I am trying to build bridges as we move forward. The management of people is often the biggest challenge when trying to have two entities co-exist.

Me: I understand that many of these issues existed before you took this position. My question in general is: What are YOU going to do about it? I ask this because I believe that you truly care and want to make a difference. I ask this because the things I heard you say at the meeting last week were eerily similar to the words of your predecessors.

Mr. Roderick: I do not work as I, I work as part of a team where I am the leader. The difference might be that we are three years past when we probably should have done something. So now, I am in a position where there is a need to address the issue both programmatically and fiscally. School leaders all work differently; I choose to take things head-on, I do not speak for my predecessors. If you go back three years, if the choice was to manage COVID the best they could or work on reductions and program change at GHS, managing COVID was the correct choice.

Me: I also understand that many of these questions and gripes should go to the PUSD and PCOE board members.

Mr. Roderick: I am forwarding a version of this to them as well. I am currently reviewing their version of your questions.

Me: Lastly, I would like to address the Core Value of Communication and the Strategic Goal of Family/Community engagement. Please do more of this. Please communicate to us what your intentions are and allow us to help you come up with solutions. I know we are not easy to deal with. This is because we are jaded by a system that has always put the good of our kids AFTER “fiscal responsibility” and the personal agendas of administrators, board members and employees. I will encourage more community participation (which I am aware is lacking). Please give us the benefit of the doubt and understand our history. I do the same for you and will encourage others to do the same as well.

Mr. Roderick: My intention is to keep a program for grades 7-12 on the Greenville campus. With that being said, we will make the best decisions we see fit for the students and their academic success; we are currently working on some other options.

Dan Kearns

Taylorsville

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