DUSD's annual report details cost-saving measures

DOWNEY - The 2009-10 DUSD school year was marked by early retirements of many veteran teachers, key staff, and key administrators, a realignment of positions and functions prompted primarily by a shrunken budget, and a strong resolve by the district to further tighten its belt.This is all reflected in the DUSD's 2009-10 annual report, which was released Tuesday and praised by the board members as "particularly good and informative." It will be recalled, for instance, that Stan Hanstad opted for early retirement as asst. superintendent-personnel services, as well as director of secondary education Sara Cairns, director of special education Kent Halbmaier, and personnel commission director Pat Heineke. As one cost-saving measure, the asst. superintendent-personnel services position became senior director of certificated personnel; for another, the director of elementary education and director of secondary education positions have been combined into one position, that of director of curriculum, instruction & assessment; the director of support programs and Career-Technical Education has also taken over supervision of the Downey Adult School as well. And on it goes, as titles have been changed to better reflect administrative/staff roles and functions, while school principals and other personnel have been switched around for greater effectiveness of human and educational resources. The district handed out 1,706 diplomas to graduating seniors, even as staff bore down on its training, curriculum, assessment, and enrichment programs. As technology has sped up various information (including transactions) and other important communication aspects of the education process, the district has increased its emphasis on IT technology training and practice in schools and at the district, without prejudice to its commitment to its other departments and auxiliary activities. But without doubt the major area of concern is the district budget. The unforgivable delay in the passage of the state budget didn't allay the district's fears that, in the words of asst. superintendent-business services Kevin Condon, "the prospects continue to look bleak for the next few years." Recapping the budget developments in the past school year, he says the K-12 education cuts for 2009-10 alone resulted in a 12.1 percent loss of funding for DUSD of $683 per pupil, which translated to a loss of almost $14.9 million in General Fund revenue for the year just ended." Never mind the revenue loss of 2.61 percent in the prior fiscal year (2008-09) and a projected cut of an additional .25 percent for the 2010-11 fiscal year, Condon said, adding: "In the current climate of stagnant growth and high unemployment at the state level, in conjunction with a continuing dysfunctional state budget process, it appears that the district's struggle through austerity will continue for at least three more years, 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13." This means, he said, among other cost-saving measures, continued re-validation of projections in pupil enrollments and state and federal cost-of-living adjustments; continued tight control of staffing at both the site level and in central district support positions, looking for reductions by attrition when feasible; and continuing collaboration with employee groups to develop cost control strategies in health benefits. In short, the district, while healthier than most at present, should nevertheless be prepared to confront both peril and promise in the immediate years ahead.

********** Published: October 21, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 27