School board welcomes new members, picks a president and certifies financial report

A pair of newly elected school board members officially took the oath of office at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, where second-term trustee Gavin Huntley-Fenner was unanimously selected to serve a one-year term as president. Sharon Wallin was tapped to serve as clerk.

Lauren Brooks and Paul Bokota are the newcomers, having each secured seats in last month’s election along with incumbent Michael Parham. Speaking of Parham, he was honored for his leadership as board president since last December.

In addition to being the final session of 2012, Tuesday marked the annual organizational meeting for the five-member board, which approved school site liaison assignments, appointed representatives to various committees and established meeting dates through December 2013. The next two regular meetings are scheduled for Jan. 15 and Feb. 5.

Dr. Huntley-Fenner, who last served as board president in 2008-09, is a scientist and managing consultant with Huntley-Fenner Advisors, a science and engineering consulting firm. He holds a doctorate in brain and cognitive sciences and has published research regarding language acquisition and the early development of mathematics.

Dr. Huntley-Fenner was a founding member of the Irvine Education Partnership Fund Committee and served on the Irvine Public Schools Foundation’s executive board before joining the IUSD Board of Education.

Board certifies First Interim Report

Also Tuesday, the board voted to certify IUSD’s First Interim Report of 2012-13 as “positive,” meaning the district is expected to meet its financial obligations over the next two years.

Every school district in California is required to examine and certify its financial condition as “positive,” “qualified” or “negative” twice during each fiscal year. Positive is the ideal certification, while qualified indicates a district may not be able to meet its financial obligations for the current year and the two subsequent years. A negative certification indicates that a district will not be able to meet its financial obligations over this period.

John Fogarty, IUSD’s assistant superintendent of Business Services, noted that the passage of Proposition 30 in November has “had a significant positive impact” on Irvine’s projections, negating the need for furlough days in the current school year. At the same time, he said, funding will remain flat as the district continues to grow and costs continue to rise. Moreover, most districts, including IUSD, are operating with a structural deficit as a result of previous cuts.

Fogarty said projections from the Legislative Analyst’s Office indicate that California is on the slow path to recovery from its lengthy economic slump, and budget surpluses are anticipated beginning in 2014-15. Meanwhile, IUSD will continue to monitor developments out of Sacramento, including a potential change to how schools are funded. The “weighted student formula,” which would allocate more dollars to schools that serve low-income students and English learners, is said to be a priority of Governor Jerry Brown, who will release his budget proposal in January.