Board selects new president, certifies financial health and OKs advisory committee

The IUSD Board of Education voted unanimously to elect Lauren Brooks to a one-year term as president and Paul Bokota to a one-year term as clerk before turning its attention to the budget and other matters on Tuesday.

LaurenBrooks2The school board’s annual organizational meeting — and the final session of 2014 — began with Superintendent Terry Walker administering the oath of office to incumbent members Sharon Wallin and Ira Glasky, who were the top two vote-getters in the November election. Moments later, Brooks (pictured to the right) was announced as president, and her first act was to commend the leadership of her predecessor, Wallin.

The five-member board also approved school site liaison assignments, appointed representatives to various committees and established meeting dates through next December. The first two regular meetings of 2015 are scheduled for Jan. 13 and Feb. 3.

Latest budget update includes ‘positive’ news

Later in the evening, Assistant Superintendent John Fogarty presented a brief budget update, and the board voted unanimously to certify IUSD’s First Interim Report of 2014-15 as “positive,” meaning the district is expected to meet all of its financial obligations over the next few 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 is rare and would indicate a district was unable to meet its financial obligations.)

Recognizing the volatility of the state economy and Sacramento’s heavy reliance on income taxes, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has outlined three possible scenarios for California’s economy, ranging from a slowdown to a temporary surge. Fogarty, who oversees business services for the district, told the board that the LAO’s most likely scenario projects moderate growth through 2019-20, which may lead to steady increases for K-12 schools.

“It was very unusual for (the LAO) to have three scenarios,” Fogarty told the NewsFlash afterward. “They’ve never done that before. While things look good right now, we know they could change very quickly.”

California’s new Local Control Funding Formula, meanwhile, has increased the amount of base funding for school districts and allocated more dollars to serve English-language learners, low-income students and foster youth. Projected increases have also enabled IUSD to strategically invest the reserves it built up to weather the state’s fiscal crisis, Fogarty said.

That said, there are a number of potential challenges and uncertainties for school districts, which must take a multi-year approach to budgeting. The state’s plan to address the unfunded liability in the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS, requires districts to contribute significant dollars to help close the gap, and temporary tax increases that went into effect under Proposition 30 will begin to expire in 2016, eliminating a dependable source of state revenue.

As we’ve mentioned here before, the state’s new funding model mandates that school districts develop comprehensive accountability plans with stakeholder input that show how local resources are being directed toward measurable objectives for student achievement and school climate, and because these are three-year plans, funding is often earmarked in advance. IUSD crafted its first Local Control and Accountability Plan last year and will soon be reaching out to the community to update priorities for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years while considering options for 2017-18.

Board approves new education advisory committee

Lastly, the board voted to establish a new education advisory committee that will review and discuss critical educational issues and district initiatives.

The committee, requested by board members in November, will comprise two appointees from each board member along with the superintendent, the assistant superintendent of education services, a PTA representative, three teachers, a student representative and a representative of the California School Employees Association.