Letter to Staff Regarding Countywide Interdistrict Agreement
- Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2017
As I am sure many of you are aware, the current countywide interdistrict agreement is set to expire at the end of June. Under the current agreement, our county has an open enrollment policy with very few exceptions for denying a request. Even before the countywide agreement, Eureka City Schools, to my knowledge, has never limited interdistrict agreements. A significant problem with the current agreement is some school Districts have chosen not to honor it. For example, just before winter break, Cutten Elementary brought in 170 interdistrict requests for students already attending their schools, 130 of which we had no idea existed.
The practice of open enrollement has created an issue where nearly one in five, or approximately 800 of the students who should attend a Eureka City School, attend another school. This number assumes we have the correct information, which Cutten Elementary has proven is unlikely to be true. This number does not include charter or private schools, so in reality, this number could be much higher. For a variety of reasons, these parents have chosen another District to educate their children.
When I was hired into the District almost five years ago, the Board of Trustees placed a high priority on lowering the number of parents sending their students to different Districts. This has been reflected in all versions of their strategic plan since 2012. We have employed numerous strategies to achieve this, including our active teacher led Interdistrict Committee. We have been effective at stopping the growing number, but not in reducing the number. Up until four years ago, we had an average decline of 160 students per year in enrollment. Over the last four years, our enrollment has increased slightly, which is a major improvement over the previous average loss.
This improvement has not been enough to offset the increasing costs of STRS, PERS (certificated and classified retirement costs) and Special Education. As a District, we continue to deficit spend (spend more money each year than we are paid by the state) by approximately $1,500,000. This is a rate we cannot sustain. As such, the Board has provided the direction to focus on building a fiscal stability plan. This plan contains revenue enhancements and cost saving measures. After much discussion with the Board, they have chosen to pursue placing caps on the number of interdistricts leaving Eureka City Schools as a revenue enhancement measure.
This decision will not be without controversy, but there are a few things I want to make sure are clear.
- We have no intention to revoke any existing interdistrict agreements (i.e. if a child currently attends Freshwater Elementary in the 3rd grade, the child may finish all the way through 6th grade)
- We have no intention to break up families. We will honor interdistrict requests for siblings to attend a school outside of the District.
- Interdistrict caps will not impact parents who establish residency in another District by virtue of their place of employment. To establish residency, a parent/guardian must work at least 10 hours per week in the attending district.
- This will not affect charter or private school enrollment.
- We have no intention to bankrupt any fellow Districts.
- This will not impact homeless or foster youth.
This topic has also created much interest on social media. A tremendous amount of misinformation is out there including letters sent by Freshwater, Cutten, Jacoby Creek and South Bay Districts and likely more (all were nearly identical to the Freshwater letter). We need your help in spreading the truth. Much of the misinformation is a personal attack on you as teachers, administrators and classified employees. Please stand up for what is right! Help remind our community 3800 students and their parents have put their trust in Eureka City Schools. We are a great District providing excellent educational opportunities and we have great people working for us!
Tomorrow morning, I will be attending the countywide meeting where superintendents will be discussing the interdistrict agreement. I have attached our proposal with three options I will present. It is unknown what the final outcome will be, but I will be presenting these proposals based on my confidence that you provide the best education for students.
Finally, tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. interdistrict agreements will be on the Board agenda. The Board will be discussing their position on the subject.
Thank you for defending the quality education you provide!
Fred Van Vleck, Ed.D.
Eureka City Schools