The Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD) board of trustees recently reviewed the financial status for the 2013-2014 school year, and found that there would be a projected deficit of $1,846,000 for the unrestricted general fund.
According to the Feb. 25 board meeting agenda, the components of the deficit include declining enrollment, structural deficit of expenditures exceeding income, and an increase in employee compensation due to step and column increases. The board provided opportunity for suggestions to be made by the staff and public on several occasions, specifically allowing for dialogue and discussion.
“Much of the input has been to validate the value of the positions and personnel in those positions,” according to the agenda. “The District concurs with this input, while recognizing that restructuring/expenditure reductions totaling $1,846,000 still need to be implemented. The District continues to explore options with FUHSTA and SEIU in order to mitigate the impact of personnel reductions. The Certificated Early Retirement Incentive, approved by the Board on Feb. 11, 2013, is an example of this. A Classified Early Retirement Incentive proposal is currently under consideration.”
Several certificated, personnel and non-personnel adjustments had been made throughout the district in order to correct the deficit. For Fallbrook Union High School, a total of 13.20 full time employees (FTE) or 66 sections will likely be reduced due to the combination of declining enrollment and increased class size.
Anticipated subject areas that are proposed for reduction include ROP programs, which have been considered a large element of the high school.
“On Friday, Feb. 15, I learned that $669,000 of ROP funds were at risk,” said district superintendent Dale Mitchell. “Of the $669,000 of ROP funds at risk, we do not know if we will receive any or all of it. We also don’t know if the CTE-funded portion of LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) will become part of employee compensation or available for District discretion for reinstating teaching sections. From my perspective, we will reinstate ROP courses to the extent that funding will allow.”
Susie Johnson and Steve Pinning, part of the San Diego County Office of Education’s ROP program, who possibly could have clarified the funding concerns, did not respond to numerous messages left for them.
Individuals who are involved in the ROP programs are adamant that there must be changes made to the district’s plans regarding the ROP classes.
According to Lita Tabish, ROP and CTE department chair for the district, many of the district’s ROP classes in the past were run and paid for from regular education funds, and she believes that they should be returned to being paid for by the general fund.
“We need to save the career pathways, which are a series of classes that prepare students for careers or further education,” she said. “Just because the state special funding is being cut should not mean the automatic elimination of our award-winning programs.”
The program has positively impacted many students, Tabish said.
“I had a student last year that completed an inter-district contract to attend Fallbrook High just to be able to have the opportunity to take the fashion classes, as her school did not offer this program,” she said. “She is now at Woodbury University in the fashion program.”
Tabish said that many students want to sign petitions and attend a board meeting to share their concerns.
“They are very passionate about keeping these courses at Fallbrook High. I have had many kids tell me that the only reason they come to school is for these classes,” Tabish said. “They tell me they would have dropped out and completed a GED if they had not become involved in the ROP/CTE program.”
Mitchell stated that there is no doubt in his mind that the board, district, and high school know that the courses are invaluable for students.
“The doubt or question has to do with how much funding will be available for CTE classes, including ROP next year. We do not know at this time,” he said.
In addition, Mitchell stated that it might be possible for some ROP-designated courses to become regular general fund offerings for next year.
“However, it is too early to make those decisions,” he clarified. “As a result, we will be issuing preliminary certificated layoff notices to those who teach ROP courses. My expectation is that we will reinstate ROP courses to the extent that funding will allow.”
According to Mitchell, there is no specific strategy in mind at the moment.
“Two factors are at play,” he said. “The amount of funding available for ROP/CTE classes, and the amount of student interest in each of those classes.”