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July 2019

Greeting Families and Community Members,

 
Our District's mission is to provide every student with a safe, equitable, restorative culture and community, the opportunity to realize their full potential, access to an excellent 21st century education, and the skills and knowledge to pursue lifelong learning.  Over the course of this school year, I have devoted these monthly articles to the various issues and initiatives going on within our schools that are designed to help us accomplish this mission. Previous Signal articles include topics such as our instructional initiatives, construction Bond projects, Career Academy, and our Local Control Accountability Plan. Because all of these efforts are driven by money and funding, this month's Signal article is devoted to our District's budget and finances.
 
We have an incredibly hard working staff and professional community that finds every way possible to make our District a success. The John Swett Unified School District has a positive budget certification, a healthy ending fund balance that keeps us positive through the next three years, and the ability to fund our programs and services for students. We have even increased our budget reserve by 1% this year. Unlike many other school districts in our County and the Bay Area, we are not facing the need to make drastic budget reductions by slashing personnel and programs. While it has been challenging at times, our District has made many of the necessary reductions in order to maintain our solvency and continue to increase pay for our teachers and classified staff.  Furthermore, we have made the bulk of these reductions using attrition rather than laying people off. This has helped us to maintain a positive professional culture in our District.
 
Our teachers, staff, and Governing Board members have worked diligently to develop and maintain community partnerships with our various local organizations and industry partners. Phillips 66 has consistently funded our Career Academy and other programs within our District to benefit students and promote academic achievement. This year alone, P66 has donated over $180,000 to help us purchase Chromebooks, fund the Career Academy, purchase supplies and materials, support the band, and our athletic teams. The Rodeo Municipal Advisory Council (RMAC) purchased Trauma Kits for every classroom in the District and has supported many other programs. The same holds true for the John Swett Education Foundation, the Lion's Club, and the Crockett Women's Club. All of these organizations (and some that I may have inadvertently skipped) have created scholarships for students and found ways to better our school community. Thank you and we need you.
 
In a previous Signal article, mention was made of the gentrification and urban displacement going on in Crockett and the surrounding community. We have studied this phenomenon further and have been collecting data to better understand our enrollment patterns. Indeed, Crockett, Rodeo, and other areas in our District have been subject to ongoing gentrification and displacement of low income households. The Urban Displacement Project provides data to substantiate this pattern within our community. One of the things we know about gentrification and urban displacement is that it can lead to enrollment decline for local schools. A red hot housing market does not typically lead to home purchases by families with school-age children. The same holds true for the rental market. Furthermore, whenever a family leaves our school District, they participate in an informal exit interview by our front office staff to determine why they are leaving. Over 72% of families leaving the District report the high cost of housing as the reason for their departure. Specifically, many families indicate a sharp increase in rent as the primary reason for moving. They just can't make ends meet. And while it does happen, very few families report dissatisfaction with our schools as their reason for leaving. While these enrollment patterns are challenging, we have been nimble in our response to the fiscal implications of these changes. We have made reductions where needed, implemented efficiencies and innovation, and expanded areas of responsibility for our employees so they can make sure we get everything done as needed. Finally, our Governing Board has been able to approve much needed salary increases for our teachers and staff (9.75% over the last three years) to ensure that we retain and attract the best possible teachers and classified staff to our District. Plus, we provide all of our employees with uncapped medical, dental, and vision benefits. 
 
We take our fiduciary responsibilities to the public seriously. Because of our financial diligence, JSUSD has a very high Standard and Poor's AA insured rating and an A+ underlying rating. The District successfully sold it’s second series of Measure P bonds and it’s 2019 Refunding General Obligation Bonds (which refinanced the Election of 2008, Series A bonds) via competitive sale on June 4th.  The interest rates for the bonds came in well below the preliminary estimates.  Since January, market rates have moved lower by more than 0.60%.  The 2016 Election, Series B bonds (Measure P issuance), which will be repaid over the next 25 years, were sold with an average interest rate of 2.95%.  The 2019 Refunding General Obligation bonds will provide $609,000 of savings to taxpayers over the next ten years by replacing the old bonds that had an average interest rate of 5.0% with new bonds with an average rate of 1.68%. Our Citizen's Bond Oversight Committee carefully oversees our bond expenditures to ensure that we are spending public monies  in alignment with the Bond Language of the bond passed by the voter's in our community. We work hard to make sure we earn the public's trust!
 
While schools are not businesses, we do engage in many business practices that have significant implications for how well we instruct and support our students. Fortunately, through strategic and quick responsiveness to the economic currents and realities within the Bay Area and California, we are in healthy financial shape. This allows us to better focus on the needs of our students, maintain continuity for instruction within classrooms, and recruit and retain some of the best teachers and staff in the profession. Teachers, Staff, Administrators, and Board Members all work hard to make sure we are a fiscally sound organization that can accomplish our mission! I always invite members of the community to meet with me, attend Board meetings, examine our budget and financial documents available online (www.jsusd.org) or call my personal cell phone at 925-639-7408 to discuss any concerns or issues that may surface. 
 
Parents: Our schools will re-open August 1st. Please be sure to come in and ensure that we have all your paperwork ahead of time. These can be completed online on our website. The first day of school is Wednesday, August 21st. Have a great summer.
 

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Charles Miller, Ed. D.
Superintendent
John Swett Unified School District
Office: 510-245-4300 x2105
Cell: 925-639-7408