April 12, 2019
Dear Folsom Cordova families and community members,
It is hard to believe that when we return from Spring Break, we will soon be closing out another successful school year! Sometimes it feels as though we are moving at lightning speed, but I want to pause and acknowledge each of you and your partnership in supporting student success.
Throughout the year you have heard me and other District team members refer to our focus on the ABCs of Attendance, Budget, and Culture. Today, I want to spend some time digging deeper into the “B” and “C” as we reflect on the weeks ahead.
All of us in public education are grappling with what many are calling the “silent recession” in California schools. The economy is strong, so why are school districts facing serious budget deficits? In short, rising employee costs - primarily driven by pension costs that are out of our control - are outpacing any revenue growth we experience through enrollment and other sources.
While state lawmakers are exploring solutions to some of those bigger issues, we have a responsibility to our taxpayers to budget within our means. If not, our district could be facing significant shortfalls in future years: in 2020-21, our deficit is projected to be almost $1 million, and the following year it could balloon to nearly $5.5 million.
During yesterday’s Board of Education budget study session - our fourth public forum this school year - our elected leaders, bargaining team members, employees, and community members continued to explore potential long-term solutions, including redesigning programs and school schedules, eliminating some vacant positions, reducing travel and conference expenses, and more. You can see more details in the link to yesterday’s study session presentation.
Finding solutions will require sacrifice, and we are fortunate to have positive working relationships with our employee leadership groups. Earlier this year the Board of Education approved an early retirement incentive for teaching staff that will result in considerable financial savings over the next five years. To realize those savings, we also had to eliminate 15 vacant teaching positions. Without this measure - identified in partnership with our teachers union - our projected deficit would be far worse.
In the meantime, we recently concluded another round of Education Town Halls and are digging into the rich feedback from students, families, teachers, staff, and community members about our evolving needs and priorities. If you didn’t get a chance to attend, we invite you to take our survey at www.fcusd.org/LCAP, which is open until 11:59 p.m. on April 23.
We will continue to keep our school communities updated and provide opportunities for input. Together, I am confident we can find creative solutions while protecting resources for students.
As I visit schools across the District, I am proud to see how many teachers, support staff, and administrators are practicing a growth mindset focused on culture, climate, and connectedness. This hard work gives every child a chance to learn, while helping students build the social and emotional skills needed to succeed in the classroom, on the playground, and in their careers and lives after school.
Much of this work has included trying new strategies for handling discipline. These are just a few of the many examples throughout our schools:
- Sutter Middle School has implemented a program called “iLoss” - it stands for “In Lieu of Suspension Service” - that is making a positive impact. This program uses multiple strategies to reduce suspensions through alternatives, such as student meetings with counselors or mental health specialists.
- Our elementary school leaders are working in cohorts this year to explore and share effective practices. “Cool-off” periods, buddy classrooms, written reflections, and recess alternative assignments are just some of the many common, successful strategies underway.
- Four of our schools have volunteered to pilot a mindfulness curriculum designed to help students manage their emotions and practice controlling their reactions. Watch for yourself in this video.
I recognize that as we are asking our administrators, teachers and support staff to change how we respond to behaviors, it is imperative the District provide consistent and ongoing training and support. Just last month, an estimated 340 teachers and dozens more administrative assistants participated in such trainings, and we look forward to rolling out more in the months ahead so that all educators and support staff can strengthen our leadership in equity, diversity, and discipline.
Time to rest and recharge
While I am hopeful that we can reflect together on these challenges and opportunities, I also encourage our families and students to enjoy and savor your time with loved ones, and indulge in some hard-earned self-care. I can’t wait to return with all of you, energized and ready to finish the school year on a strong note!
Superintendent Sarah Koligian, Ed.D.