Lafayette School District
“Our students are creative thinkers and problem-solvers and are prepared to become responsible, ethical and productive citizens.”
Dear Lafayette Parents, Community Members, and Staff,
I appreciate the emails I received following the previous information that was shared regarding the situation with our school district budget. Your support and understanding during this challenging time is greatly appreciated. As a follow-up to my last communication, I do want to address a number of excellent questions that I received.
1) What can I do to help?
One of the most impactful ways that you can help is through your donations to the Lafayette Partners in Education (LPIE). While LPIE asks every family to contribute $800 per child per year, donations of any amount, given at any time during the year, are needed and appreciated. Your donation to LPIE provides direct support to the district. Currently, on average, only 65% of our families donate to LPIE. If we could raise this percentage substantially, it would make a huge difference and could help provide tremendous support to our budget.
Please know that additional revenue enhancing suggestions along with plans of action are always welcome.
2) As a cost savings measure, why doesn't the district eliminate the Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program?
The State currently mandates that districts continue to offer a transitional kindergarten program for all students born between September 2nd and December 2nd. We realize that students born in this window of time are offered an opportunity to begin school when students born outside of this window are not, but so far, even though kindergarten enrollment dates have now shifted, this mandate remains. We do receive Average Daily Attendance (ADA) dollars for all students who participate in TK which does help to offset the costs of this program.
3) Lafayette teachers are the highest paid in the area.
This is simply not the case. While our salary schedule remains competitive with teacher salaries found in our neighboring districts, our teachers do not receive salaries that are the highest in the area or the State. We also believe that with the growing teacher shortage, our district must remain competitive in order to attract and retain the most highly qualified teachers.
4) Why is the district purchasing playground equipment when there are issues with the budget?
The Measure C bond money that the community generously approved is being used, in part, to purchase playground equipment at each elementary school. While some of our playground equipment still appears to look fine, most of it has aged out. It poses potential safety issues, and it is not ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant. The new equipment meets all current safety codes and is ADA compliant. This new equipment should serve us well for many years to come.
Bond monies cannot be used to support the general fund budget and cannot be used for instructional programs. Monies from the bond must be used to support modernizing and upgrading facilities, and only those that are outlined on the bond project list developed prior to the passage of the bond. In preparation for the bond and the development of a bond project list, an extensive needs assessment was conducted of every school in the district. This analysis included looking at all infrastructures, existing structures, and capacity needs to determine what work needed to be done.
5) Why don’t we use bond monies for teacher salaries and for instructional programs?
Measure C bond monies are restricted with regards to how they can be used. Bond monies can be used to modernize, renovate, and build facilities and infrastructure. These monies cannot be used to support classroom programs, salaries, or staffing. Bond monies are held in a separate account and are monitored by a Citizens’ Oversight Committee.
6) What about economies of scale. Are there ways for our district to partner with the Orinda, Moraga, and Walnut Creek School Districts to share services?
We are currently looking at ways to partner with our neighboring districts, particularly in the area of special education. With rising special education costs and very little funding coming from the State and the federal government to support special education, we are working with our neighboring districts to determine if there are particular types of services that can be shared. Superintendents and Directors of Special Education from these districts have met to engage in a collaborative conversation about ways to better utilize and possibly share services.
7) Would more volunteers in our schools have an impact on the budget?
Our district is grateful for the numbers of volunteers who help to support our schools. While we always want to remain open to the various types of support volunteers can provide, particularly in our community, it is difficult to rely solely on citizen volunteers to solve many of our budget issues.
8) How is the district determining what items in the budget should be reduced?
We are trying to be extremely thoughtful, collaborative, and cautious about proposed reductions. While a strong case can be made for every single service in our district being important and critical to our needs, we are trying to make reductions that are as far away from direct, daily classroom instruction with students. We have also worked in partnership with both our certificated and classified unions to get guidance and input. In addition, we are looking at attrition caused by employees vacating positions. Whenever possible, we are not filling these positions, and we are reconfiguring staffing to provide needed support. Additional information about the district's budget can be found under business services on our district website.
If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Please know that I deeply appreciate your support during these challenging times.
Rachel Zinn, Superintendent