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VVUHSD financial woes causing deeper divisions amongst personnel

Teachers raise concerns over support staff salaries, hefty conference expenses

VVUHSD by the numbers:

• 13,962 — Students in district

• 9,892 — Average daily attendance

• 542 — Teachers

• 531 — Classified employees

• 38 — Administrators

• 26 — Students per teacher

• $63,733 — Average VVUHSD teacher salary

• $71,977 — Average high school teacher salary in California

• $36,584,372 — Total salaries for teachers

• $15,851,551 — Total salaries for support staff

• $24,077,880 — Spent on employee benefits

• $3,176,672 — Spent on books and other supplies

• $404,625 — Spent on travel and conferences

• $90,884,962 — Total expenditures

Source: ed-data.k12.ca.us

Correction: Sunday's A1 article "VVUHSD financial woes causing deeper divisions amongst personnel" incorrectly identified which portion of Victor Valley Union High School District staff members receive higher-than-average salaries. Teachers actually make 86 percent of the state average while support staff members make 108 percent of the state average.

VICTORVILLE • Uncertainty over where the Victor Valley Union High School District is headed is causing tempers and emotions to flare, as teachers and other staff members say morale at the school sites continues to decline.

The district is currently dealing with dire fiscal circumstances caused largely by uncontrollable factors, such as assessed values of homes and choices made by past boards to strap the district with risky bond debt. Those moves are having a ripple-effect that has carried over into almost all aspects of VVUHSD, with the district facing fiscal insolvency and a possible state takeover if dramatic cuts aren’t immediately implemented.

Many of the staff members, however, question if the district is doing enough to save the schools and keep the cuts from affecting the classroom.

The teachers, who have asked to have their names withheld due to threat of retaliation, have expressed concern over the district’s handling of classified employees and the amount of money the board has devoted to travel expenses and conferences.

Classified employees include individuals who are identified as “support” staff. These individuals fill the roles of cooks, instructional aids, custodians and other non-teaching positions. Certain classified employees are referred to as “confidential,” which means that they are privy to private information such as closed-session board meetings.

Teachers, who are certificated employees, must possess a bachelor’s degree and a credential in order to teach in any California public school. According to the Ed-Data website — which offers fiscal, demographic and performance data on California’s K-12 schools — teachers at VVUHSD make about 86 percent of the average state salary for Certificated employees and classified make 108 percent of the state average.

Both the confidential and classified employees are managed by the Classified School Employee Association, which have been accused by teachers of giving their members “over-inflated pay” many believe will be the cause of financial ruin for the district. According to Ed-Data for the 2010-11 school year, salaries of classified employees alone made up 17 percent of the total expenditures. Benefits, which are fully paid, made up 26 percent of total expenditures and 40 percent was comprised of teacher salaries for the 2010-11 school year.

At a recent community forum, Ruben Rojas, assistant superintendent of business services said that 95 percent of the district’s budget goes to payroll.

Because the district is facing insolvency, Kim Taylor, a retired teacher who worked with the district for more than 30 years, believes that these figures represent a skewed perception of what’s at stake. To prevent insolvency, the district has proposed many cuts, one of which is eight furlough days from classified, confidential and certificated staff. Teachers believe that these cuts — which will save the district close to $200,000 for the 2012-13 school year alone — are being taken from the wrong areas, as furlough days result in less time teachers spend with their students.

“Classified people are integral to the function of a great school,” Taylor said. “However, the teacher’s relationship to the students and their acquisition of knowledge has to be the district’s primary focus.”

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