District keeps positive outlook
by Maddy Houk
Dec 27, 2012 | 397 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Audience members listen to speakers during the Patterson Joint Unified School District board of trustees meeting on April 3. The meeting saw a large turnout as board members were faced with the vote of dismissing Superintendent Esther Corral-Carlson upon the demand of dozens of local teachers. The board voted to dismiss her 4-1 that day, but later allowed her to resign instead after she filed a claim against the district for alleged discrimination.--Photo by Lisa James/ Patterson Irrigator .Lisa James / Patterson Irrigator
Audience members listen to speakers during the Patterson Joint Unified School District board of trustees meeting on April 3. The meeting saw a large turnout as board members were faced with the vote of dismissing Superintendent Esther Corral-Carlson upon the demand of dozens of local teachers. The board voted to dismiss her 4-1 that day, but later allowed her to resign instead after she filed a claim against the district for alleged discrimination.--Photo by Lisa James/ Patterson Irrigator .Lisa James / Patterson Irrigator
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The year 2012 brought major leadership changes to the Patterson Joint Unified School District, even as board trustees pondered how to overcome state-imposed budget challenges.

Phil Alfano was named superintendent in May after former Superintendent Esther Corral-Carlson left amid a storm of controversy.

Meanwhile, district officials coped with a potential $2 million budget gap that could have led to major cuts if left unresolved, even as they moved forward with millions of dollars in capital improvement projects funded by a local bond measure.

Changes in leadership

School employees voiced a chorus of displeasure with Superintendent Esther Corral-Carlson early in the year at school board meetings and through letters to school trustees, questioning Corral-Carlson’s leadership and funding priorities.

After firing her in April, the board of trustees reached an agreement with Corral-Carlson in May that allowed her to resign rather than be fired in exchange for dropping a liability claim she filed against the district.

A few weeks later, Phil Alfano, assistant superintendent of human resources and child welfare and development, became superintendent on a unanimous vote by the board.

Alfano set about charting a community-focused course for the district, including an August back-to-school block party in the city parks and on Plaza Circle.

In an extension of the city’s child safety fair in 2011, the school district joined with the city of Patterson to have members of the police and fire departments, school principals and other school employees run game booths at the parks.

More than 2,000 students and parents attended, and 30 agencies participated.

Other changes sought by Alfano include increased communication between school staff members and parents via social networks, such as Facebook, and an updated district website highlighting each school and its activities.

Alfano also hosted two superintendent chats, inviting parents, school employees and community members to hear about happenings at local schools.

While Alfano assumed the superintendent’s seat, Shawn Posey, principal of Creekside Middle School, was chosen to take Alfano’s former position as assistant superintendent of human resources and child welfare and development as of Jan. 1. Creekside Vice Principal Kerry McWilliams will move into the principal’s spot that same day.

Proposition 30 passes

Worries about a possible $2 million budget gap in the 5,800-student district’s $31 million budget were also at the forefront in 2012.

School officials expressed relief following the Nov. 6 voter passage of Proposition 30, a state ballot measure that imposes a sales tax increase of a quarter-cent for the next four years and higher income taxes for the wealthy for the next seven years.

Passage of the measure prevented mid-year budget cuts and payment deferrals to school districts but is unlikely to increase funding to public schools.

However, Patterson Unified got a boost to modernize campuses with $17 million from the state Allocation Board of Public School Construction this year. The money has allowed modernization projects at Patterson High, Del Puerto High, Las Palmas Elementary and Northmead Elementary schools.

The district also used more than $743,000 left over from the $50 million Measure V bond approved by local voters in November 2008 to purchase new phone, heating and air conditioning systems at local schools and create a new parking lot for Del Puerto High School.

The majority of Measure V money had been spent on building Walnut Grove School in east Patterson and modernizing the agriculture and auto shop at Patterson High.

District focuses on academics

Back at the district office, Veronica Miranda, the assistant superintendent of educational services, said the district’s after-school programs support learning, not just playtime, for the 1,078 children in local schools who use the after-school services.

A focus on academics has teachers preparing for the Common Core Standards that will begin in 2014. Common Core assessment tests — which focus on the steps required to reach an answer, as well as the answer itself — will take the place of the federal Adequate Yearly Progress and state Academic Performance Index improvement measures.

Each Patterson Unified school will review all aspects, from academics to building needs, through a program called Total Quality Review that was instituted this year. It will offer commendations and recommendations based on each school’s strategic goals.

New school takes shape

In other education news, construction is under way on a new school in rural Patterson at Hartley and Walnut avenues. That school will house alternative-education and special-education students beginning in the 2013-14 school year.

The school — with six classrooms, a career technical room and a multipurpose room — will replace a small house on F Street that is now used by Patterson Independent Study students.

The Stanislaus County Office of Education will run the school for students who live on the West Side. About 60 students are expected initially, but plans are still in the early stages.

MJC campus at standstill

As for higher education in 2012, Nick Stavrianoudakis, public affairs director for the Yosemite Community College District, said last week that officials do not have a date for the opening of a Modesto Junior College educational site in Patterson.

Stavrianoudakis said he had nothing new to report.

In 2011, MJC purchased four acres of land north of Frontier Communications and east of Patterson Fire Station No. 2 at the Keystone Pacific Business Park.

Funding for junior colleges in the California state budget has been slashed by 30 percent since 2009, however, according to Stavrianoudakis. As a result, YCCD and other community college districts have reduced their spending, cut staffs and tightened schedules, rather than expanding.

Contact Maddy Houk at 892-6187, ext. 22, or maddy@pattersonirrigator.com.

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