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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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March 14, 2012     Feather River Bulletin
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March 14, 2012
 

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6A Wednesday, March 14, 2012 Feather River Bulletin Deadline for school closure reports extended Debra Moore Staff Writer dmoore@plumasnews.com After listening to the 7-11 committees' pleas for addition- al time, the school board ex- tended its deadlines. The com- mittees now have until April 20 to submit their budgetary reco/'nmendations to the school district. The recommen- dations will then be presented in a board workshop May 2. During the board's March 8 meeting, committee represen- tatives said they needed more time because they didn't have all of the information neces- sary to make informed recom- mendations. School board trustee Bret Cook said, "I'm disappointed that the committees don't have the information that they re- quested 30 days ago. Every sin- gle community feels like they haven't gotten the answers." There were also complaints that some of the information distributed by the district of- rice seemed contradictory or biased. Yvonne Casalunovo Brad- dick cited several questions that are addressed on the school district office website and said, "The answers don't match." Each of the committees re- quested an independent analy- sis of the district's finances, specifically asking that FC- MAT, the state's Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, perform the service. Superintendent Glenn Harris said he would try. to obtain their services as soon as possi- ble, but worried that it could be a while before they would be available as many districts are seeking help at this time. Harris said that if help is available, it would take about a week of research in the dis- trict and then from six to eight weeks for an analysis to be prepared. In this case, the information wouldn't be avail- able until after the commit- tees' new extended deadlines. In the event that FCMAT is not available in a timely man- ner, the committees requested that School Services of Califor- nia be asked to do the work. School board member Bob Tuerck said he had "faith in our numbers, but in effort of trans- parency" he thought it was im- portant to have an independent agency validate them. Each of the 7-11 committees shared their individual reports to the board, but with the ex- ception of Portola, made it clear that their recommenda- tions would be further refined with more information. Shel- ley Callahan, representing the Portola 7-11 committee, said, "We are fortunate to have time before Us," and explained that Portola had already been throughthe school closure process when it closed Feather River Middle School. The Por- tola 7-11 committee still listed many cost-saving measures and Callahan said that they tried to "think out of the box" as well. While each of the commit- tees made individual recom- mendations that have been previously reported, Centella Tucker, of the Greenville 7-11 committee, read a report to the board that focused on the areas of agreement between all four committees. "We declare that pride in community and pride in quali- ty of education are not opposite choices," she told the school board and audience members. She went on to say that the children in each of the four communities would be best served with K-12 educational programs in their own towns. In addition to asking for more time and an independent review of district f'mances, the committees want the forma- tion of a long-term advisory committee -- an austerity committee -- to advise the board on "sensible" financial cuts. They also asked that the district's reserves be used to tide the district over while long-term solutions to the budget problems are found. Committee representatives also pledged to support each otfier as they moved forward. Dwight Pierson, chairman of the Quincy 7-11 committee, said, "We are talking; we are mending fences. We are be- coming neighbors again." The board workshop that will entertain the committees' final recommendations is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, in the Quincy Elementary School cafeteria. The board plans to take action on those recom- mendations during its regu- larly scheduled May 9 meeting at Chester Elementary School. District to offer teachers retirement incentive Debra Moore Staff Writer dmoore@plumasnews.com The Plumas Unified School District governing board ap- proved an early retirement package for its teachers March 8, but it was met with mixed reviews. "We thought we were doing a good thing here," said trustee Bob Tuerck, "but it hasn't been received the way we thought it would." By offering early retire- ment incentives, the district hopes to save money by re- ducing its payroll through the attrition of its highest paid teachers. The board was con- sidering a proposal by Keenan ancl Associates to pro- vide the package. The board hoped to know as soon as possible how many teachers would opt for an ear- ly retirement, so that district budgets could be adjusted ac- cordingly. Cheryl Chedester, of Keenan and Associates, said that the district is not alone in terms of fiscal challenges and that her firm is working with many districts at this time. She said the programs are designed to "incent senior staff who are close to retire- ment to leave, but reward them for their service," while at the same time allowing for new teachers to come in. Chedester said that the sav- ings realized by the district depended on the number of teachers who opted for the early retirement, but that ap- proximately $926,000 would be the best:case scenario. The firm will provide an overview of the plans for in- terested teachers and other employees as well as one-on- one counseling sessions as there are various Options for employees to choose from. Quincy teacher Rob Gimbel said that he had analyzed the situation and concluded that "the district could do it bettcr on its own." Chedester said that the ad- vantage of her program was that it relieved the district of fis- cal responsibility and the funds were guaranteed and insured. "That's the critical reason why districts let this be done by an insurance company," she said. Gimbel reiterated that us- ing an insurance company, which collected a 1 percent fee, wasted the district's mon- ey. However, school board member Bret Cook thought 1 percent was a reasonable fee, though he admitted he wasn't too familiar with annuities. The board decided to pro- ceed with the Keenan op- tion, but also entertain oth- er suggestions presented by March 28. Is threat of central hi gh school a red herring? Jason Theobald Staff Writer jtheobald@plumasnews.com The tone of the recent town- hall meeting hosted by Plumas County District 3 Supervisor Sherrie Thrall was one of con- cern and, at times, outrage. The meeting was held Sunday, March 4, at the Chester Memo- rial Hall in response to a re- quest voiced at one of the prior Chester 7-11 Committee meet- ings. The request was simple: for Thrall to host a townhall meeting in order for the com- munity to come together and discuss the matter (possible school closures and/or consol- idations). Thrall obliged. Befoi'e the meeting com- menced Thrall took a moment to remind the public in atten- dance that county government, meaning the Board of Supervi- sors, does not control the schools. The school system in many ways is autonomous, and is not beholden to the county government. She also related to the audience that all of the 7-11 committee members are volunteers, charged with making a difficult recommen- dation without any form of compensation. With that said, the meeting commenced, and the frustra- tion from both the audience, 7-11 members present and from Thrall became apparent. One recurring frustration, discussed not only at the joint 7-11 meeting Saturday, March 3, but again at Sunday's town- hall, is the lack of information. More specifically, the Chester 7-11 Committee has requested from Plumas Unified School District (PUSD) the answers to 22 specific questions. As of the time of the townhall meeting, the chairwoman of the Chester 7-11 Committee, Tracy Holt, said that she had received the answer to one of the questions. That question, however, was not given directly to her, but rather posted, with no no- tification, On the PUSD web- site in a document. This method of answering ques- tions has also tr6ubled Thrall. In her opinion, questions should be answered directly to the questioner, not posted almost anonymously on a website. Thrall added that when the Plumas County Board of Su- pervisors (BOS) learned of the possible school closures and/or consolidations they sent a letter to the PUSD board of trustees requesting to be kept in the loop. According to Thrall, not only have the supervisors not been kept in the loop, they havelreceived no response to their query. To further the discussion of the lack of information, Chester 7-11 Committee mem- ber Gina Pixler informed the audience of PUSD's insistence that it would take 30 days to provide the information re- quested in the committee's 22 questions. That timeline runs out Thursday, March 15. A member of the audi- ence, who identified himself as a former administrator from the University of Cali- fornia system, said that fi- nancial information re- quested in the questions should be readily available, and in no way should take 30 days to provide. In his opinion, the need for PUSD to have 30 days to provide such information is stonewalling. "One of the most astound- ing things is the fact that the very information that the committees need in order to make their recommendations have either never been put to- gether, which is unbelievable, or are being made unavail- able to the committees for whatever reasons," Thrall added. The 7-11 committees were originally charged with ad- vising PUSD on school clo- sures and/or consolidations, specifically those recommen- dations present in the Facili- ties-Budget Study presented by the PUSD administrative cabinet. Many of the commit- tees, Chester included, have TIME TO CHECK YOUR SMOKE ALARM BATTERIES! BE PREPARED! The majority of fires occur at night when the occupants of a home are sleeping. Smoke will not wake up a sleeping household. Smoke and gas will numb the senses and cause unconsciousness. Half of all home fire deaths occur in the 6 percent of homes with no smoke alarms. m Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home and near every sleeping area. Check your smoke alarm batteries frequently. A dead battery will not help save your life. Safeguard your home and family with quality protection. This message is brought to you by these community-minded businesses: Plumas Motor Supply .e 00Radm Shack 283-2350 dramaworks 14 Crescent St, Quincy 283-1956 KEN 5ARNARD, EA 'JOHN BREAUX. CMA. EA Enrolled Agents Bus: (530) 283-3965 Res: (530) 836-0349 Fax: (530) 283-4369 Iv00den tq,,ultlsINo Imlt& CA. LIC #405176 283-1605 , Gregory Sawyer, DDS Family Dentistry & Orthodontics No more "Metal Mouth" asallun Certified Invisalign provider 283-2811 PLUMAS BANK "Local People Serving lx)cal Needs" 283-6800 I[---,,,-. [*0000sTA HEAD STAR* ] [" '''8 . '  Preschool OLO 169 Lawrence St., Quincy [  Programs I t mumt ServingPlumas, Lassen, ',, I QUINCY MINI STORAGE I  Sierra & Modoc counties -83"9200  /I 1972 Lee Rd.. (behind293.35. 15_._SavMr) Quincy [ (800) 404-1242 Quincy,101 TrilogycA Lane95971 CLINICAL DENTISTRY Boarding e Michael Hernd0n, DDS Emily Herndon, DDS Kennels ,, 43] w Moin Sl., Quincy 283-]] 19 283-2833 60 Est Ma s,.. 283.2no WE DELIVER!  PROPERTIES r 283-3386 1695 E. Main St., East Quincy I 83-2820 SIERRA PACIFIC INDUSTRIES GI F Fr Our F:,r'* .spi-fnd.com  Cal-Sierra  Ti2,!eSmpany Quincy (530) 283-0700 Blairsden (530) 836-0700 Chester (530) 258-0700 [ KNIqu IN c Y 493 W. Main : instead transitioned into think tanks trying to solve the district's financial problems to avoid closing schools. This does not mean that the committees are not looking at closures or consolidations, but in the case of Chester's 7-11 committee, they are looking at the consolidation of their schools to a single site as a move of last resort. Before such a move is made, in the committee's opinion, all feasi- ble cost-cutting measures would have to be implemented. To the committee's knowl- edge, there have been no cost- qutting measures implement- ed by PUSD. Rather, the com- mittee, and many in atten- dance, felt as if the district jumped to school closures and consolidations as a first step. The audience felt the same for the possible loss of 32.5 full-time staff members from PUSD due to proposed layoffs. Again, neither the crowd nor the committee felt as if the district looked at other cost- saving measures before jump- ing to cutting staff. Phase three a red herring? When asked about her opin- ion regarding the reasons be- hind the possible school clo- sures, consolidations and staff layoffs, Thrall responded that she believes that the PUSD ad- ministration has an agenda. She added fhat she did not have a clue what the details of that agenda might be. Thrall said that she be- lieves phase three of the ad- ministration's recommenda- tion, the closure of all outly- ing high schools and busing of Students to acentral school in Quincy, is unrealistic in the extreme. Because of the logis- tics in moving students such distances, she cannot ever see a situation where that phase would occur. That begged the question from the audience: Why would that phase even be part of the recommendation? Thrall answered that the third phase of the administra- tion's recommendation might very well be a red herring. Put differently, the third phase is a situation that is so detested by the county that it makes the other two phases (closing Greenville High School, consolidating the ele- mentary schools in Indian Valley and Quincy, and then the consolidation of Chester schools) look reasonable. In explaining, Thrall said that when everyone gets worked up over something that is really a non-option, 'and then defeat it, it might in fact hasten the other op- tions on the table, or, in the very least, make them look acceptable.