Yesterday I received an email from the district regarding a waiver request to address last year's overcrowded kindergarten and third grade classes. This email was sent to all members of the Budget Review Committee (BRC). We are being asked to approve a request to retroactively increase the maximum average of kindergarten classes from 31 to 33 for last year. This may reduce or eliminate the penalty of $140,518 the district would have to pay if the waiver is not approved by the California Department of Education.
Last year in the first week of the school year, I asked the board and the assistant superintendent of business, Mays Kakish, about the large class sizes. Mrs. Kakish explained they only had to maintain the class size average of 33 students. I asked Kakish , as well as the board, if there was a maximum class size they would allow. Kakish and current board president, David Sanchez, both responded that they only needed to be concerned with average class size.
Last month Kakish told us she had been monitoring both average and maximum class size limits but due to a spreadsheet error, they had violated the average class size restrictions. Now we are being asked to retroactively authorize a larger average in order to reduce the penalty.
Click here to see a copy of the district's "Specific Waiver Request" . You will note that there is no mention of a spreadsheet error or any other type of mistake. It is my understanding that very few of these waiver requests are ever approved. Kakish told the board the problem resulted from a spreadsheet error but failing to include that fact on the request makes this even harder for me to accept.
I've watched this district spend $20,000,000 of our tax money on projects that have no cost controls in place. Last month this district committed money they don't have to new programs while using budget shortfalls as an excuse for cutting other services. This latest stunt (I wanted to use "scandal" but my wife suggested stunt) is the last straw.
I have no interest in being any part of this budget review process any more. I don't believe the administration is interested in any real oversight or advice from the BRC. I believe that Mrs. Kakish fully understood the ramifications of stuffing too many students into the kindergarten and third grade classes and I believe she planned on requesting a waiver and gambled with our money knowing full well we would probably end up paying the fine. I am sure the administration believes they are justified if this tactic saves the district some money. What kind of example is this setting for our kids?
I won't go along with this by voting to approve the waiver. I also can't reject something that may result in more services being taken away from our kids. I want no part of this. I will officially resign from the Budget Review Committee at Tuesday's board meeting but I will also ask the board and Mrs. Kakish to answer the following questions:
- It is my understanding that very few of these waiver requests are approved by the state, is this true?
- When did you start monitoring maximum class sizes last year? Before or after you told me there were no limits on maximum class size?
- Mrs. Kakish, When were you aware of the spreadsheet error? Was this before or after the board reviewed your performance and extended your contract?
- How much did we actually cut costs for 09-10 by eliminating class size reduction after the penalty?
- What are the maximum class sizes you are willing to accept this year for each and every grade?
I will ask the district to respond to these questions in writing.