KUSD introduces new principal

By Elise Modrovich
Special to the Sun

The Kernville Union School District held their monthly meeting on June 5 to discuss issues ongoing in the current school year.

After reviewing the consistently disappointing ADA numbers, Superintendent Robin Shive noted, “Attendance is up slightly, but we really do need to work on a system to address improving attendance for next year.”

Board Member Alison Bogart stated, “Family engagement will help, but we will probably see this as a chronic issue for a while. If you come up with a strategy, the board will support it.”

Family Resource Center (FRC) Director Sherry Lanza said that she and her staff had recently attended a workshop where great ideas were presented that could help. Principal Brian Polston stated that he wants to ferret out,

“Why is the absence there? What is the cause? Whatever strategy we use will only be effective if we address the needs of the students who are chronically absent.”

Board Member George Stahl echoed Bogart’s statement. “We only have a month off in the summer, so if Brian, FRC, or anyone has ideas, please bring them to the board and let us be a part of it.”

Since there were no site council reports, the meeting moved along to Administrator Reports. Lanza gave an update on FRC programs, stating they had wrapped up their Health and Wellness drive with the Middle School grant. Studies showed that students’ BMI and pulse rates went down after a year participating, drinking more water, and doing more exercise. Thanks to a Nutrition Grant that Lanza also procured, KUSD now has three nutritionists, one in each school, the cafeteria staff are expanding food horizons, introducing new foods like artichokes, and are getting the kids to eat healthier. They have also planted two gardens, one at each school, “so we are now even growing our own produce,” Lanza stated.

FRC has also begun two programs to help provide education and resources for parents. The Great Beginnings program for kids age 0 – 5 provides early childhood education to participants and FRC has two case workers who work directly with the families who choose to be involved.

“It’s great to work with people who want to be better parents,” said Lanza.

She concluded by discussing the Differential Response program. “If parents are referred to DHS, they have option of taking our program. They are given a window of 6 to 9 months to help them out with their goals, parenting classes, etc.” said Lanza, adding, “It’s a kinder, gentler approach to resolving the issues at home.”

Nikolle Evans reported on the MOT summer plans at both campuses. “We are going to be busy. Our goal is to break up the workroom into two offices, remodel the bathroom, re-do the bus area and front parking lot, moving 15 classrooms, redoing some roofs, a kitchen remodel, clean out all classrooms, concrete work and painting at Kernville and completing K Complex erosion grading and spraying.”

Bogart stated, “Kudos to the amazing crew who work so hard over the summer months. Here’s hoping the fire season gives us a break this year and doesn’t force us to stop and backtrack.”

Shive reported that it is time for anyone choosing to run to declare their candidacy for KUSD Board of Trustees. The district wants to know by July 5 who is running or wants to run, and Declaration of Candidacy forms must be returned by August 10.

Stahl gave the announcement that he will not seek re-election. “This has been an amazing opportunity to affect our kids’ lives. I have nothing but good things to say about it. Everyone here has been fantastic. I would strongly encourage anyone who wants to make a difference to apply for school board. I thank you for the privilege to do that. It has been amazing to be here. But it’s time for someone else. Spread the wealth.”

Shive then introduced Dr. Richard Albay, the new Wallace Middle School (WMS) Principal, who comes to WMS with an extremely impressive list of accomplishments and a resume of over 20 years of experience from teaching at the Kindergarten through elementary and middle school levels, as well as an adjunct professor at Bakersfield College.

“In looking at his accomplishments, many of those items were the very things we wanted to implement to move forward in the next year. We are very excited to have him,” said Shive.

Bogart agreed. “He is an excellent standout candidate. I love that you focus on quality instruction.”

“Kids come first in my heart,” said Albay. He understood there is a big focus on attendance and stated he can and wants to help. He noted that his entire family is involved in education and literacy, he believes in the Leader in Me Program and is excited to start. “I will give 110%.”

CBO Lissa Robinson stated that there would be a significant revenue development this year: LCFF will increase to target as the state of California reverts to COLA funding, so instead of dealing with Gap funding, KUSD will receive regular 2 percent funding raises for estimated annual cost increases. There will be flat funding from Federal programs. The major cost impact will come from STRS and PERS, with significant jumps over the next two years. Robinson stated that employee costs are approximately 85 percent of total budget, so when STRS and PERS increase, it has a major impact, even with staff staying constant. Robinson concluded that if things come to fruition, KUSD should have 2.4 million in reserves, which covers State and District reserve percentages, emergencies, operating expenses, lease payments, etc. KUSD is currently running at 22 percent in reserves, but that will go down to 20 percent, then 18.5 percent, due to employee pay increases (PERS and STRS). “Twenty percent is really where we want to be, and we’re right there.”

The meeting concluded with board member comments. Russ stated her recent experience at the Apple Awards, “was really positive and fun.” She also gave kudos to Andrea Forbes for “doing a great job” with the “standing room only” Kernville Awards Ceremony. Bogart gave “a big thank you to whole entire staff and whole entire district. It’s always an accomplishment to finish. I am so excited about new Principal. KUSD only hires rock stars and I think we got one!” Stahl gave “thanks to Sherry and the FRC staff for how much you help this valley. The families you are affecting, it’s tremendous. Makes us all proud.” Whitman “loved the graduation ceremony this year.

Our students called out all our teachers and staff one by one to thank them for their leadership.” Additionally, he thanked the staff for “insightful comments from survey responses and letters. It helps us learn how to serve our students better. Adopting the Leader in Me program, Increasing transparency, all these things help us build our Win-Win-Win for our district.”

With that, the KUSD Board adjourned to closed session for further discussion of Superintendent Evaluation. Due to President Greg Davis’s absence, the Board determined there will be a special closed session on June 12 at 5 p.m. to continue discussion of the evaluation and include contract. A vote on contract is scheduled for next and final board meeting before summer break at 5 p.m. on June 19 in the WMS Cafetorium.