About this site

I was a Governing Board Member of the San Carlos School District, elected November 2007 and again in November 2011. This site was originally used for the purpose of communicating with school district constituents, however now it is used for surfacing ideas and expressing opinions on various subjects in education, politics, business, or otherwise.

Please note that any opinion express here is purely personal and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of anyone else or any organization with which I am, or have been, associated.

I will not accept anonymous comments, and all persons who post comments must have a valid e-mail address. Note that I reserve the right to edit, reject, or delete posts based on spelling, grammar, readability, or my judgment of what is appropriate discourse.


February 2012
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Can We Make Some Investments?

Last night’s school board meeting was a single topic meeting — a study session on budget. As I wrote last month, the budget roller coaster may be very interesting this year. This is, once again, due to the uncertainty in the state budget. The Governor is proposing a budget that is based on the successful passing of a tax measure in November. Even if the measure passes, his budget still proposes a small cut to education — if it fails, it would be a giant cut. In our case, to the tune of roughly $1 million.

Most San Carlans know we have had our share of cuts over the last four years, including increases in class sizes, reductions in librarians, counselors, maintenance, GATE, and administrative personnel. We have also not given raises to our staff in a number of years, although teachers have retained their normal “step and column” increases.

The discussion last night centered around trying to figure out what areas for investment (or restoration) would be priorities if we had the money (Even though the current projection shows us deficit spending, there is some potential upside in the budget, including from grants, SCEF, and the money owed to the district by the San Carlos RDA). This is also driven by the fact that there is a legal deadline to give preliminary layoff notices to teachers by March 15th.

The Superintendent presented a list of potential investments — knowing that we don’t have resources to do all of this, but it presents a potential road map for the next few years. We called this “Craig’s List” and it included:

  • Salary increases for staff
  • Expanding middle school electives — both the opportunity to have more than one elective and increasing the number of choices (including foreign language)
  • Expanding the role of the librarians to include being a resource for 21st Century Learning
  • Teacher professional development (including differentiated instruction, new “grading” systems, and the Common Core Standards)
  • New ways of measuring student performance and employee performance
  • Facilities and equipment enhancements to improve infrastructure for 21st Century Learning
  • Additional secretarial support for school offices
  • Increase counseling, particularly at elementary schools
  • Additional staffing/support for special education
  • Additional resources for children not meeting standards

The entire board agreed that we would like to give staff a raise if possible. Also, there was a consensus to put a stake in the ground and say that we’re not going to do any layoffs for next year (meaning, class sizes could not increase). There was then lots of discussion about all of the other items — each of which was appreciated and deemed valuable. There were some interesting ideas generated, such as potentially introducing foreign language instruction in a new way (perhaps leveraging technology), as well as pushing sustainability initiatives which could save energy costs.

There will obviously be many more discussions on this topic, and of course our ability to implement any of these ideas will be highly dependent upon the final budget. My general view was that we should focus our first investments on those areas of infrastructure that are needed to keep the school district operating well and provide the foundation for the eventual curriculum work/expansion we will do. Therefore, I continue to think that areas such as secretarial support, counseling, and librarians are good targets for our first set of investments, and they will set us up to be more successful as we fundamentally shift our schools.

In any case, it was a great conversation that will be the foundation for the district long-term Strategic Plan as well as our specific initiatives around 21st Century Learning. Stay tuned.

2 comments to Can We Make Some Investments?

  • Arn


    How is a “step and column” increase different from a salary raise?
    In private industry, if you make $70,000 one year and make $75,000 the next year; isn’t that a salary raise no matter what you attribute the increase to?
    If the private employee attributed his salary increase to another year of seniority at his company does that in any way change the reality that he is being paid more money this year than last?

    Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

    Please correct me if I am wrong but it is my understanding the number of teaching days in San Carlos has been reduced a few days over the past 3 or 4 years as part of the negotiations with teachers in exchange for a “freeze” to the salary schedule. Is this understanding correct?

    I do appreciate your post making clear that SC teachers have continued to receive their step increases during this recession. As best as I can tell, these increases are typically in the range of 2% to 3% a year.

    I know the SCSD Board members are in the middle of many different segments of the San Carlos community – each with their own needs, wants, and desire. Trying to keep everyone happy while CA sends less money to SCSD is a challenge no doubt.

    I appreciated your efforts to provide the San Carlos community with as much straight “spin free” information as possible. As an educator, I imagine you would agree people make the best decisions when their knowledge about the issues is as full, complete, and accurate as possible.

    Keep up the good work.

    While folks may disagree about the best way to provide the highest level of education to our kids given financial realities, we all support education.

  • Seth

    Arn – thanks for the comment. You are right that both salary schedule increases and step and column increases are both raises, just through different mechanisms. Generally when one hears about salaries that are negotiated, it’s referring to the the salary schedule, meaning a standard across-the-board increase (or decrease) to every salary at each “step” (years of service). In addition, raises are already built in to the salary schedule by increasing employees’ salaries as they become more senior. Not every “step” has an increases – in some years it’s flat – but in general it averages to about a 2% increase each year.

    In the last four years, we once froze step and column, but then have since restored it. Also, the decreases to the work calendar you mention were actually associated with decreases in the salary schedule, but again this decrease was since reversed. I certainly agree that we have an antiquated system for how we pay employees even while I have also argued that we don’t have enough resources to pay most of them what they really deserve. I have also written a number of times about how wacky the custom is of giving furlough days in exchange for salary reductions. Unfortunately we have inherited a system with lots of inertia, so it will take a fair bit of effort and a number of years to reform how we look at compensation. I’m hopeful that through our discussions on 21st Century Learning, we’ll make measurable progress toward making change here.

    Thanks for your support of education in San Carlos!