Sunday, December 21, 2014

Can a School Survive without a Library (or a Librarian)?

Can a school (such as Calaveras High School) survive without a library (or a librarian)? 

A recent article by Alicia Castro of the Calaveras Enterprise: "Librarian Layoffs Could Have Devastating Impact on Schools" (Dec. 16, 2014) definitely raises the question.

Link to recent article in the Calaveras Enterprise by Alicia Castro:
"Librarian layoffs could have devastating impact on schools" 

Santa, however, (in the cartoon editorial) seems to be heavily in favor of keeping libraries open!

There appears to be a special POWER in having a library card! Power in books! Power in Reading! Power in a School or Community Library!

I'm in full agreement with Santa--Save the Libraries (where else can you acquire the skills and ability to travel through time and space?) ... but at a library!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Time to Reflect ... And to Count

And when counting, don't forget to ...
Remember, also, to count your education as a blessing as well: the ability to read, write, spell, and count are blessings indeed. Remember the sacrifices of your dedicated teachers along the way!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A "Fair and Equitable" Solution? ($1.9 mil on the backs of CUSD bargaining units)

 It is a well known fact that the employee unions of Calaveras Unified (CUEA & CSEA) strongly "distrust" the leadership & management of CUSD.

If the truth be told, it is highly unlikely that the bargaining units will be able to carry the required $1.9 mil on their backs; the reason is clear: the CUSD unions (or bargaining units) simply do not TRUST the district leadership (which includes the Superintendent, the School Board, and the new CCOE-appointed Fiscal Adviser, Terri Ryland). The CUSD administration has clearly shown where its loyalties lie:

1. The 2 Admin raise increases ($16K each or 22% wage increase) 
2. Teachers bargained a benefit package (and it was ratified by the board--May 2014)
3. CSEA bargained a fair and equitable benefit package--May 2014 (however, after it was RATIFIED it was never put in place)

The required faith and trust for a "Fair and Equitable" solution (on the backs of the bargaining units) isn't currently there. The Superintendent and the Trustees have created (in their previous dealings and negotiations with the unions) an unstable and fragile relationship; TRUST will be difficult to regain or even to establish.

A Work in Progress
 "All for one, and one for all," (the slogan of The Three Musketeers), can NOT be applied as the bargaining campaign slogan at this time; only wishful thinking. The distrust between the parties has been festering for quite some time--stirred on by poor leadership decisions and misaligned fiscal priorities.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Calaveras Unified: Closing or Consolidating 2 to 3 Schools ... While (at the Same Time) Building a Performing Arts Center?

Sept. 2, 2014 CUSD School Board Agenda

PHASE II CUTS (estimated savings) need $875,000

Consolidation of Up-Country Schools $346,000 vs. $520,000 
(All to MHE vs. RRF to WPE and MHE to SAE/VSE PE and MHE to SAE/VSE)

Closure of Toyon Middle School $683,000

Elimination of Media Specialists (4.54 fte) $166,000

Reduction/Reconfiguration --Transportation $100,000-$245,000

Reduction of 3 certificated fte---Grades 7-12 $198,000

Closure of Gold Strike High School $$$TBD
**reduction of 1 principal, 2-3 certificated, classified staff and operating costs


Sept. 16, 2014--CUSD School Board Agenda (Business item e.)

Adoption of Resolution 2014/15-05:

Approval of Lease-Leaseback Contract for Carter-Kelly for the Construction of the Performing Arts Building.
It is recommended the Board approve Resolution 2014/15-05 awarding the Lease-Leaseback Contract to Carter-Kelly for the construction of the Performing Arts building.

Site Lease,
Facilities Lease,
Construction Provisions
Motion___ Second___ Vote___

Monday, November 10, 2014

Veterans: Defenders of America (& the Open Pursuit of Education)

As an educator (and Veteran) I take time today to think, honor, and pray for those soldiers and military personnel (past, present, and future) who have given of themselves in order to protect and preserve the American freedoms and values (which, as citizens, we often take for granted … most notably the freedom of education).

Thank you, Veterans (wherever you may be) for your daily sacrifices; help us (as American citizens) to remember your dedication and sacrifices and to not take lightly those freedoms which you have courageously given your life to defend. You are greatly appreciated. –Allen L.

"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs."
 --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Profile: Navy Corpsman 1979-1983

For the past 10 years I have been a special education teacher for medically fragile students. Many of the skills (and knowledge) that I use in my classroom on a daily basis, I first learned when I went through Hospital Corpsman school while in the Navy.

Balboa Naval Hospital, San Diego, Ca. 1982
"A Hospital Corpsman (HM) is an enlisted medical specialist for the United States Navy who serves with Navy and United States Marine Corps units. They are the only enlisted corps in the United States Navy."

The history and background of the Navy Corpsman is further detailed at:

My roots as a Navy Corpsman 
began on the USS Proteus 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Health Risks & Portable Classrooms: Research & Reports

Do School Facilities Really Impact A Child's Education?

The Crisis - Facilities

Study: Portable Classrooms Noisy, Pose Health Risks to Children | Fox News,2933,575542,00.html#ixzz2OIJ3pPRp

Toxic Schools

Introducti​on to Molds | Mold Remediatio​n in Schools and Commercial Buildings |
US Environmen​tal Protection Agency

"Evaluatin​g Potential Health Risks in Relocatabl​e Classrooms​" by Katchen, Mark; LaPierre, Adrienne; Charlin, Cary; Brucker, Barry; Ferguson, Paul - Journal of School Health, Vol. 71, Issue 4, April 2001 | Questia, Your Online Research Library

In Potomac, Portable Classrooms Are a Persistent Headache

Exploring The Legal Implications of IAQ in Portable Classrooms

CNN Report--Schools Making Kids Sick?

                   Lists, Collections, Handbooks
The Center for School Mold Help

The Green Schools Handbook
How to Protect Children in the Classroom and Create Toxic-Free Environments

NCEF Resource List: Portable Classrooms

Reading, Writing, and Risk

Schools are facing two
epidemics: an epidemic of
deteriorating facilities and an epidemic of asthma among

Air Pollution Inside
California’s Portable Classrooms

An exhaustive review
of the scientific literature finds clear evidence that some
portables can expose children to toxic chemicals at levels that pose an unacceptable risk of cancer or other serious illness.
Reading,Writing and Risk

Indoor environments with potentially high concentrations of airborne toxic chemicals can be particularly hazardous for children. Not only is the dose of a chemical important, but so is the timing of the exposure. Even exposure to extremely small concentrations at a critical period of development can have lifelong effects (Porter 1999).

Excerpts from:
Air Pollution Inside
California’s Portable Classrooms

Sunday, October 5, 2014

CUSD's Deferred Maintenance & Repair Plan: A House of Cards

The remaining bond (or building) money is actually “Matching Funds” and has ...
(1)--No time limit attached to its use. 
(2)--It can also be used for anything designated or approved under the Measure-A guidelines/restrictions—which (as Mr. Campbell stated at the 9/16 meeting) are quite varied (or general) in nature. Basically—bond money cannot be used for payroll; but it can (and should) be used to meet the district’s severe maintenance, repair, and construction needs—which are many. The level and depth of the health and dignity needs--district wide--are staggering: (this is a short list ... a work in progress):

--Roof/Ceiling Repair WPE Multipurpose Room [health and safety]
--Kitchen at TMS (16 years of Health Code violations) [health, safety, dignity]
--Remove and replace aged Portable Classrooms—district wide (at JLE most portables have original 26 y/o carpeting)—[health, safety, dignity]
--Ingress and Egress at JLE (Safety)
--Repair and/or replace leaky ceilings and roofs district-wide (JLE has had ongoing issues in this area) [health and safety]
--HVAC systems on aged classrooms and facilities (district wide) [health and safety]
--Repair and replace Playground/Sports Fields playing surfaces [health and safety]
--Repair and Replace campus fencing (boundaries and perimeters) [health, safety, modernization]
--Repair/upgrade waste-water treatment ponds (JLE and TMS) to modern standard of operation [health and safety]


The maintenance and repair outlook (and plan) for CUSD appears very bleak and short-sighted; primarily because there are not adequate funds available to meet the district's long-term needs. Ideally, there was a much more optimistic view prior to the board accepting the Lease-Leaseback agreement with Carter-Kelly (in preparation of the construction of the Performing Arts Center).

As CUSD attempts to navigate forward through a well-documented and severe budget crisis (aka fiscal dire straits), we discover (as of 9/16/2014) there are no longer sufficient funds (or a feasible plan) to adequately repair and/or maintain classrooms and/or facilities in the largest school district in Calaveras County.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

CSEA Endorses School Board Candidates: Kelly Smith & Kyle Krauss

For the record, the CUSD Classified Union--CSEA--will endorse the challenger candidates--Kelly Smith and Kyle Krauss (in the upcoming election) rather than the incumbents--Karan Bowsher and Evan Garamendi.

Why was the Admin Raise so Substantial?


Why was the raise so big? 

A better question might be: what is the cost for loyalty? 

I believe (as CUSD runs into a series of severe financial storms) the Superintendent will need support: allies, officers, and trustworthy comrades to weather the rocky shores of financial disaster. No man is an island.

The two administrators, in my opinion, are receiving substantial wage increases--in advance--for their expected diligence and loyalty during the upcoming and ongoing storms (similar to the band on the Titanic that continued to “play on” while the unsinkable ocean liner slowly slipped beneath the icy water). 

There is, of course, a risk for making such a brash "loyalty" offering in broad daylight. 
There is a risk, also, for accepting such an offering. 

The next board meeting on the 22nd, will shed light on both—the one who offers . . . and the one(s) who stand to gainfully receive.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Do School Facilities Really Impact A Child's Education?

Excerpts from--
By John B. Lyons
"Learning is a complex activity that supremely tests students' motivation and physical condition. Teaching resources, teachers' skill, and curriculum -- these all play a vital role in a child's education. But what about the physical condition and design of the actual school facility itself? How do they shape a child's learning experience?"

"Today's busy parents may never know. With most of them working, parents generally find little time to experience, much less evaluate, the physical condition of their child's school. When they do visit, often during parent-teacher's night, discussions will mostly focus on their child's learning, achievement, and progress, not on school maintenance or design issues. There are few opportunities for parents to observe a classroom or school during the school day. But it is just during this time that a significant number of students and teachers struggle with such things as noise, glare, mildew, lack of fresh air, and hot or cold temperatures. About 40 percent of our schools report unsatisfactory environmental conditions."

"News about these environmental nuisances is beginning to appear more and more in the media. And research is uncovering growing evidence showing that conditions like these and many other aspects of school facilities have a huge and often negative impact on children's educations."

"Temperature and Ventilation Concerns Related to troubling asthma problems in schools are concerns about temperature and ventilation. Faulty classroom temperature and air circulation are one of the worst problems in schools today. They may be caused by poor design, but often tem from subsequent construction changes, inadequate maintenance and the fact that many schools' heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are simply inefficient and outdated."

"School enrollments in some areas of the country are still growing substantially. And with the average new high school costing $26 million to build, it is not surprising to see school districts purchasing record numbers of prefabricated classrooms, commonly called relocatables or portables, to keep classrooms from bursting at the seams. These structures can have a profound impact on a child's education. About a third of our schools use portable classrooms and about one fifth use temporary instructional space such as cafeterias and gyms, etc."

"Relocatables have improved greatly since the early "off-the-street" trailers first employed, and they undoubtedly meet a temporary need. Usually acquired through group district purchases at the lowest price, relocatables are often the weakest link in the educational facility chain -- a generally austere solution built to minimal standards -- the quick fix that too often becomes permanent."

"Not all portable classrooms are bad, but most have inherent problems that are difficult to solve. Relocatables often incorporate materials that off-gas formaldehyde, a significant health-risk for some
individuals. They are generally located away from the main school facility and sited on inadequately prepared fields where walking and lighting are poor. Or they are placed on parking lots, which have their own attendant problems. Students and teachers must transfer not within a building but between buildings for restrooms, media centers, gym classes and other specialized classrooms such as art, science, and music. All relocatables, whether they are the most basic structures or something substantially more, require high maintenance."

"While it has been said, "A good teacher can teach anywhere," a growing body of research literature also strongly suggests a direct relation between the condition and utility of the school facility and learning. The classroom is the most important area within a school. It is here that students spend most of their time, hopefully in an environment conducive to learning."

"Learning in the classroom requires a reasonable level of concentration, listening, writing, and reading. Individual classrooms and entire facilities need to be evaluated, not only on how they meet changing educational requirements, but also on how they meet the environmental requirements for health, safety, and security."

Exerpts from--
"Do School Facilities Really Impact A Child's Education?"
By John B. Lyons

Monday, September 15, 2014

CUSD Board Meeting: Tomorrow 9/16 (5:30 pm)

Tuesday, Sept. 16--5:30 PM
9/16 Board Agenda

Correspondence – Letter from Claudia Davis, Assistant Superintendent, County Office

Approval, 2013-14 Unaudited Actuals for Calaveras Unified School District

Report of Education Protection Account (EPA) Final Expense

Adoption of Resolution 2014/15-05: Approval of Lease-Leaseback Contract for Carter-Kelly
for the Construction of the Performing Arts Building

Why was the 1st Art Center "Killed"? ... "bleak economic times ..." (Record, Jan 23, 2013)

By Dana M. Nichols 
Posted Jan. 23, 2013 @ 12:01 am 

"But a board majority and many critics of the 500-seat center said that in bleak economic times amid layoffs and a shrinking school population, it didn't make sense to spend so much money on an arts performance hall."

"Times change," said Jean Gonzalves, a member of the district's bond oversight committee. "Everything changed four years ago," she said, referring to the housing market collapse that ushered in an era of economic recession and high unemployment."

Friday, September 12, 2014

Prioritizing the Remaining Bond Money

Step One: 
Identify and Strive to Resolve Health and Dignity Issues within Calaveras Unified School District

The List: (a work in progress)

-District-wide: Remove and Replace aged portable classrooms (health/dignity issue)

-Kitchen/Cafeteria facility at Toyon Middle School (so students won't have to stand outside in the rain or cold to purchase or eat their lunch)

-Replace aged carpeting at Jenny Lind Elementary (a health hazard): some of the classroom carpets are 24 years old
-Complete ingress/egress at Jenny Lind Elementary (a safety issue)

-Functional Safety fencing around School sites (a safety issue)

-District-wide: Repair leaky classroom roofs (health and safety issue)

-Playground, Sports, & PE areas repair/resurfacing--district wide (health/safety)

A CUSD Performing Arts Center?

                                                           FIRST POSTED MAY 2012

Where Past and Present Collide
What will the remaining bond money be used for: a performing arts center, or …..?
This very question will be raised at the next school board meeting on May 15. (The topic was added to the agenda on May 9th as an addendum).

Clearly some thought must be applied to this difficult decision. What is the right thing to do at this juncture in the road? Who has a say in this important issue? Is it up to the superintendent and the school board? Is this decision going to be made with out the educational communities’ thoughts, ideas, and input?

There really is a lot at stake: take the remaining bond money and build a “shell” for a Performing Arts Center (until more funds become available)… or replace the aged portables at JLE (as was done at Toyon)? That really is the ultimate question: should the last remaining bond money be used for a Performing Arts Center … or applied to facilities (classrooms--that people occupy daily) to assure current occupancy and health standards?

The argument could easily be made that the current issues concerning deferred maintenance and aged portables at JLE appears to easily override any desire or need of a Performing Arts Center. Personally, it appears criminal to put a “shell” of a Performing Arts Center ahead of the health and safety of students, teachers, and support staff.

If erecting a partial performing arts center is looking with hope to the future, then I stand against the idea. In my eyes the future is brightest that gives hope to the removal (and replacement) of the aged portables at JLE. The collision of past and present is upon us.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In Honor and Memory

Advocacy Eyes

If We Build It . . .

First Posted Jan 2014
In regards to CUSD building a Performing Arts Center . . . some in the community optimistically believe: "If we build it they will come!"

In regards to the bond debt (to fund the building of a Performing Arts Center) . . . some in the community also believe: "If we ignore it (the debt) . . . it will simply go away."  

"Hun­dreds of Cali­for­nia school and com­munity col­lege dis­tricts have fin­anced con­struc­tion pro­jects with cap­it­al ap­pre­ci­ation bonds that push re­pay­ment far in­to the fu­ture and ul­ti­mately cost many times what the dis­trict bor­rowed." --Los Angeles Times Nov. 28, 2012

2007: CUSD financed/borrowed $300,983.00 --a portion (or tranche) of the allotted $13.5 million Measure A bond money. The amount assigned to the taxpayer  to "Payback" for this 2007 loan (Capital Appreciation Bond): $840,00.00 (serviced over 9.8 years)

2008: CUSD financed a 2nd portion of the Measure A bond allotment--$2,003,738.00.
The taxpayer  "Payback" for this 2008 loan (CAB):  $10,996,171.00 (serviced over 25 years)


Capital Appreciation Bonds have been a tremendous source of income for someone (or some group of investors) ... but not for the taxpaying citizen of Calaveras County who voted for the Measure A bond.

The voting citizens and community members voted for and approved a "School Repair and Construction Bond" worth (or valued at) $13.5 million. So far, as taxpayers, we are aware that CUSD has financed (or borrowed) $2,304,721.00 (of the $13.5 million) and the taxpayer payback--with interest accrued over time--for that portion of the Measure A bond is $11,836,171.00 (nearly $12 million)

One can only imagine the actual or full "payback" dollar amount for the Measure A bond. The taxpaying citizen, unfortunately, is not aware that they are responsible for all debt accrued (or acumulated) during the financing of the Measure A bond, not just $13.5 million that was approved or allotted.

Simplified Example: 

CUSD borrows $250.00 from Lender: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $250.00
Lender assesses fees and interest rate over time for $ borrowed:. . . . . . . .$750.00
Lender assigns total value of debt to CUSD for payment: . . . . . . . . . . . . .$1,000.00

CUSD turns and passes bill to Taxpayer for "paypack" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$1,000.00

[The Calaveras taxpaying citizen was fully expecting to pay back $250 dollars ... not $1,000.]

The exact figures (or depth of taxpayer bond debt) have yet to be disclosed. A request, however, has been made of the school district to provide an accurate accounting of the Measure A bond debt.

Do not take my word for granted; please follow up or research this information for yourself. Besides being noted or documented in the Los Angeles Times, the figures and dollar amounts mentioned above can also be obtained or viewed by requesting information from the CUSD Director of Fiscal Finances.

Theses figures appear in the budget years 2007 and 2008. The Measure A bond was passed in 2006.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Simple Humility and Crystal Clear Transparency

When it comes to leadership and integrity, this quote comes close to covering all the bases. During this difficult time for our community and school district it is requested that our educational leaders (administrators, directors, and superintendents) listen closely to the thoughts and words of the community.


This community has a wide variety of individuals and families with great ideas and solutions to assist in navigating the turbulent and risky waters that are currently threatening to destroy (or bankrupt) our current educational system. There is no better time than present for leaders to step forward; leaders who operate and live with simple humility and crystal clear transparency.

Direction Needed for CUSD

First Posted Jan 2013

Our neighbors are having a hard time. They are looking to decrease teachers and even consolidate their local districts**. We are also having a hard time. However, we are approaching hard times a little differently. We are attempting to finance a performing arts center during this current economic down turn. That's correct: while we try to survive the hard times, we are complicating our troubles a little more by refinancing or borrowing money (from some of our previous loans or debts) in order to finance a performing arts center.

**Economic Troubles Close to Home:
“We have been spending down our reserves to ride out this recession and downturn in our local and state economy,” Chimente said. “That has lasted longer than our reserve dollars.”
"The study would examine the financial impacts of unifying. Advocates believe it could cut down dramatically on administrative costs and put more money in classrooms."


Cadillacs and Clunkers

When speaking about the proposed $5.4 million performing arts center, Assistant Superintendent Mike Merrill was right: “We have significant difficulty maintaining the facilities we already have.” May 22, 2012— "To Be or Not to Be"

 For this very reason (difficulty maintaining facilities) CAL/OSHA showed up at Jenny Lind Elementary on Weds. May 30, 2012. It’s a reoccurring theme: aged portables, deferred maintenance, moisture, mold … and a lack of adequate funding (unless you're pulling enough money together to construct a $5.4 million dollar performing arts center) ... Watching the local school district handle money is sometimes difficult; its hard to tell if times are "good" or if times are "bad."  [Psssst ... Just thought you should know ... times are bad ... predicted to get worse.] CUSD administrators have noted this in their 2011-2012 Second Interim Budget Overview. (March 2012). If you read the report it uses words like: reduction, streamline, eliminate, consolidate, and deficit. The report is basically letting the community know how depressed the current economy is, and how this depression is impacting the school district's budget. It makes sense and seems accurate.

With that report and those words (eliminate, consolidate, and deficit) in mind, the recent decisions concerning facilities and funding seem to be blindly and recklessly made. The administration doesn't appear to be reading it's own report. Scraping the money together to fund the performing arts center is like buying a brand new Cadillac (Escalade) even when you openly admit (and know) that you can't afford the monthly payments, the insurance, or even the gas to drive it around town. And, since you can't afford to drive it (the Escalade), you park it out in the driveway (or somewhere on your property) with all your other cars [aged portables] that are slowly deteriorating in the California weather.
     "Why did you buy it," the neighbor will ask? "I mean it looks nice, but its going to quickly fade and deteriorate sitting here in the driveway; just like all these other cars."
     The proud Escalade owner will say "It seemed like a good idea at the time. We couldn't let the financial opportunity pass us by. Unfortunately, we can't afford to put gas in it right now; but we are hoping it will keep its luster (and value) until we can afford to actually use it. In the meantime, we just hope our plans to make the monthly payments can be upheld."
    The neighbor will just scratch his head and smile. "Seems like you could have used that money to haul off some of these older clunkers you have around here. This neighborhood would be a lot nicer (healthier and safer) if you just got rid of these clunkers--they're not functional anymore. And, just so you know, that Escalade really seems out of place. What were you thinking?"
     "We just wanted to be like our friends (in Angels Camp); they have a really nice car ... "
     "But you don't have the money to insure this one or even to put gas in it!" The wise neighbor will say, "Listen: start by regaining the respect of your friends and neighbors: they would think highly of you if you returned the Escalade and started getting rid of the clunkers. Your neighbors know you can't afford to keep the Escalade. Everyone is having hard times."
    "But its so beautiful!" says the Escalade owner. "Even if I can't drive it, I like looking out my living-room window and admiring its sleek body and shiny paint job."
     "Start with the clunkers," the neighbor says. "Start with the clunkers."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An Empty Performing Arts Center?

1st Posted Jan. 2014
On Friday, Dec. 27th (2013) the Superintendent of Calaveras Unified commented on the state of the district's budget. Mr. Campbell stated the “athletic and music programs are the biggest-ticket items that might be trimmed.”
--Calaveras Enterprise: “No relief in sight for CUSD budget”

As we--parents and citizens of CUSD--look to the near future and to the education of our children, it may very well be that our children will be spending hour upon hour in aged and unhealthy classrooms while a $4 million dollar Performing Arts Center sits empty at Calaveras High School.

For the Record

Unhealthy wall removed--Jenny Lind Elementary: Room #53 
--Some of the classrooms have been noted (or identified) as unhealthy and have a history of causing teachers (and support staff) to become mildly to severely ill.

--In the district, there are a large number of aged portable classrooms (and permenant structured buildings with ongoing roof leaks); most of the aged portables have original carpeting (at JLE a number of the aged portables have carpeting that is 26 years old).

--We have bond money that could have replaced these aged (and/or unhealthy) classrooms.

--Currently the remaining bond money--$4 million--has been obligated by the CUSD board of Trustees to build a Performing Arts Center on the Calaveras High School campus.

--To date, the public has yet to see an EIR (Environmental Impact Report) that verifies the absolute feasability for a PAC (Performing Arts Center) to be built at the Calaveras High School location: Unforeseen Costs for CUSD Performing Arts Center?

"No relief in sight for CUSD budget"
by Mike Taylor
Calaveras Enterprise

Monday, September 8, 2014

Classroom History Questionnaire

                 FIRST POSTED AUG. 2012
Due to the unfortunate condition of some of our local schools, there is something else to consider (besides new shoes and a backpack) at the beginning of a school year. It is always important to get to know the new teacher, however, it is just as important to become very familiar with your child's school environment--particularly the classroom(s).  

One way to get information on the "healthiness" of your child's classroom is to ask for it (in writing). This basic information (which should be provided to you by the school site administrator or school district office) is vital to the overall success and healthiness of the learning environment that your child spends hours in ...on a daily basis. Make sure it is an environment that is healthy for learning and growing.

Here are a few important classroom history/maintenance questions that you (as a parent or guardian) would benefit from knowing . . . you are your child's best and foremost advocate.

Classroom History Questionnaire
(permission to copy, print, or reproduce)

Name of School: ____________________________________               Date: _________

Room #_______    Teacher: ___________________________              Grade: ________

Students last name (optional): ____________________________________

Type of classroom building:      Portable_____             Stucco____

If a portable classroom:  Age of portable______   Built/Manufactured: __________________

Date HVAC System last maintained/checked: ______/______/_____    By: ______________

Age of Carpet: _______             Last replaced: _____

Classroom closed due to mold or moisture?     Mold /  Moisture / Mold & Moisture

Date classroom was closed: __________            Date cleared for re-entry: ________

Illness(es) related to classroom environment: __________________________      Date: _________

Major ceiling/roof leaks: ___________              Date repaired: ___________

Complaint(s) of Odor/Poor Air Quality: ____________________________________

Date Resolved: ______________ 

School Administrator: ___________________________              Date: _________

Maintenance & Operations: _______________________             Date: _________

Mailing Address where information can be mailed/returned:

Name: _______________________________________________________________

Address: ______________________________________________________________

Phone #s: (H) ____________________     (C) ________________________________

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Measure-A "Bond Money" (aka Building Fund) Will Be Tapped Into (Oct. 2014) as CUSD's Last Remaining Source of "Cash"

The Measure A Bond Money (aka Building Fund) will be tapped into (Oct. 2014) as the district's last remaining source of "cash" to pay its bills and to avoid insolvency. 
However, citizens, parents, taxpayers, Measure-A voters, and those supporting a Performing Arts Center, please note that the Bond Money--building fund--has already been used (as "cash" to cover district operating costs) during the 2013-2014 fiscal year. 

This Oct. (2014) will not be the 1st time the Bond Money has been used. And, furthermore, I believe it was done--previously--without board approval, Bond Committee approval, or citizen awareness. The past transaction(s) were done with limited awareness because there would have been a public outcry against the use of "Bond Money" for something other than its intended "categorical" use (especially from those who have been waiting for the construction of a PAC--Performing Arts Center). CUSD/CCOE Fiscal Adviser, Terri Ryland, in her presentation to the board on Sept. 2nd noted that CUSD borrowed $2 million from the bond/building fund to meet LAST YEARS obligations. 

This fact was removed from the updated version of Ms. Ryland's report/presentation that is now posted on the CUSD website. However, the handout from the Sept. 2 presentation clearly shows/states CUSD's access to (and reliance upon) voter-approved Bond Money.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Inadequate Fiscal Oversight: County Office of Ed Using Outdated Accounting/Budgeting Software

–According to Terri Ryland (Newly assigned CUSD Fiscal Adviser) Calaveras County Office of Education is currently using outdated (or antiquated) tracking or accounting/budgeting software-- 

All other County Offices of Education in the State of California (except for CCOE) have upgraded to more modern budgeting or accounting software; software such as: Position control.

In her recent presentation to the Calaveras School Board, Ryland noted that CCOE (who monitors, tracks, and performs oversight of CUSD’s fiscal practices) has “no integrated position control driving the budget or payroll.”



Position control refers to a system of tracking information based on positions rather than employees. It allows you to create a framework of positions for all the jobs within your company without regard to whether you currently have an incumbent in a specific job or not.  

Position control is an essential process for the vitality of school district operations, as nearly 85 to 90 percent of school district costs reside in personnel-related expenses. A common theme generally found among school districts in fiscal distress, and those who suffer with weaker fiscal oversight and management, is a lack of a robust and strong position control system.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Possibility of Fiscal Crisis

Possibility of fiscal crisis looms in election year

“This may be the year that Calaveras County tries to unseat Stockton as the reigning champ of local government financial drama.”

By Dana M. Nichols
Record Staff Writer
January 04, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

Thank You, Trustee Gustafson

For not being a ...


and ...
For being a man of conviction 
For your dedication to the students, families, and teachers of Calaveras Unified
For not being afraid to ask the hard questions (concerning Calaveras Unified) 

You are greatly Appreciated!

A Short List of the "Hard Questions" 
asked by Trustee Gustafson
(of the CUSD Administration 
and Veteran Board Members):


District Budget Concerns

Why is the CUSD Budget not presented to the Trustees on time? (the budget is ALWAYS late; leaving no time for the board to study, review, or make adjustments prior to submitting to CCOE)

Why is there a constant transferring of funds?

Why are the "Fund Categories" not labeled? (the funds being used and depleted need to be labeled to identify the source and identity ... so we (the non-accountants) can tell what is actually being done with the CUSD funds.

Why has there not been major cuts to Admin? (rather than an increase in the number of admin)

Why has the bidding and contracting process been so narrow and selective in promoting and assigning contracts to the general public? 

How much does the the district payout in lawsuits and settlements? (how much this current year and over the last 5 years in particular?)

Why has no money been paid down on the original Jenny Lind Elementary loan ... only interest?

Professional Standards

Why does the district continue to hire and/or promote individuals (teachers, administrators, and managers) that are not fully Credentialed?

Why does the district accept experience over education when hiring and/or promoting administrators, directors, and counselors?

Why does the CUSD not look outside the district when hiring for a position? (most often the district will hire from within--someone who is unqualified--before searching outside the district for a fully-qualified individual)

Health and Safety Concerns

Why does the district not have accessible and traceable maintenance records?

Why has a kitchen not been built at Toyon Middle School even after 16 years of documented health code violations?

Why has there never been an adequate (and legally mandated) ingress and egress at Jenny Lind Elementary?