Board Briefs: Board continues solar proposal, ratifies agreement with potential furloughs

Calling for a greater effort to notify neighboring communities, the IUSD Board of Education continued a proposal to add canopies topped with solar panels to the parking lots of 11 Irvine schools.

The proposal under consideration Tuesday night represented the second phase of the district’s ambitious plan to leverage solar power districtwide. The first phase, which added rooftop panels to 13 schools and parking lot canopies to two district sites in 2010 and 2011, has produced $220,000 in annual savings through a unique power-purchasing agreement with SunEdison.

Phase 2 specifically focused on 11 campuses that were unable to accommodate rooftop solar panels. A staff recommendation sought to place vehicle shade structures, outfitted with energy-producing photovoltaic tiles, in the parking lots of Alderwood, Canyon View, Oak Creek, Stonegate and Woodbury elementary schools; Vista Verde School; Sierra Vista Middle School; and Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools. (To access renderings of the proposals, or to weigh in via an online input form, click here.)

IUSD sent out notices, posted renderings on its website and held three community meetings in April. Yet the board pointed to a limited public response in questioning whether more could have been done to notify the community and draw feedback. Board members, acknowledging the financial and environmental benefits of additional solar tiles, directed staff to develop a more comprehensive notification plan to present at the next board meeting on June 5.

Board ratifies agreement with possible furloughs

The board ratified a tentative agreement between the district and the Irvine Teachers Association that includes potential furlough days with corresponding salary reductions for 2012-13.

Eamonn O’Donovan, assistant superintendent of human resources, praised ITA for its efforts to help address ongoing fiscal challenges, saying the negotiated agreement allows for as many as seven furlough days if state lawmakers and the governor impose additional cuts on public education. Should they prove necessary, these days would save the district money by effectively shortening the next school year for employees and students.

Meanwhile, budget news at the state level has gone from bad to worse in recent days. With tax receipts coming in lower than anticipated and some earlier cuts blocked by the federal government, Governor Jerry Brown said California’s deficit has nearly doubled to approximately $16 billion.

More cuts are planned in Sacramento, and to generate additional revenue Brown is advocating on behalf of a ballot initiative that would temporarily raise taxes for high-income earners and increase the sales tax by a half-cent through 2016. If that initiative passes in November, the governor said, schools would be held harmless with flat funding. If voters reject the tax increases, public schools would be cut by about $5.5 billion. That would translate into a loss of approximately $11.5 million for Irvine, according to John Fogarty, IUSD’s assistant superintendent of business services.

IUSD has set aside some funds and implemented a freeze on all non-essential spending to help blunt the impact of any midyear reductions. Still, even with these strategies in place, the district anticipates a shortfall of more than $5 million for 2012-13, prompting the employee negotiations for furlough days.

“It’s a testament to the relationship that we have with ITA that we can come to this kind of agreement when there’s so much uncertainty,” O’Donovan said Tuesday.

Other language changes in the agreement relate to working conditions, evaluations, summer school compensation and shared contracts.

Employees praised for service as retirements near

Also Tuesday, the board recognized the certificated, classified and administrative employees who are set to retire on or before June 30.

In all, 71 IUSD workers are set to retire this year, collectively representing more than 1,800 years of service. O’Donovan introduced those who were able to personally attend the meeting and praised them for their contributions. Each was presented with a small gift as a token of the district’s gratitude.

The retirees in attendance included Anne Caenn, DeAnn DeBey, Linda DeBoer, Renee Dix, Kathy Fredriksen, Darlene Grierson, Cathy Hogan, Vernita Hollman, Jack Houston, Liz Krogsdale, Sandy McHolm, Virginia Meinen, Karen Reaves, Mark Reider, Randy Rossi, Ann Shaw, Joanne Srsic, Debbie Wright and Gail Williams.