Time for local control of our local schools

By: Jack Day, Guest Columnist
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After orientation for incoming freshman at Del Oro High School, a Loomis Union School District trustee was asked why he was not introduced with the other trustees. The confusion was simple to clear up. The Placer Union High School District provides oversight for Del Oro, while the elementary school district is comprised of the Del Oro feeder schools. Placer Union, with headquarters in Auburn, includes high schools in Colfax, Auburn and Foresthill, in addition to Del Oro. This summer the high school district prematurely announced its intent to unilaterally create a K-12 “super district” covering the area from the Loomis Basin to Colfax and other outlying districts. The data supporting this media announcement was sketchy. After 12 years as a Loomis Union trustee, my longstanding campaign promise was to assess the potential unification of Del Oro and the feeder K-8 schools. Based on my requests, Loomis Union had developed a more exhaustive analysis long prior to the Placer Union announcement, but concluded more information was needed to develop a proper assessment before public consumption. Risking oversimplification, below are comments reinforcing the case for unification prior to absorption into a “super district.” Financial: The Placer Union “super district” ostensibly generates “new” critically needed revenues, but in reality primarily transfers existing funding from absorbed districts. Loomis Union has been prudent in management of financial resources. Transferring Loomis Union funds would only penalize this financially stable district. Planning: Loomis Union has been implementing a comprehensive strategic plan being replicated in other districts statewide. This creates a clear “road map” that a “super district” merger would eliminate. Curriculum: Loomis Union has initiated an IB charter school program. Placer Union is not inclined to establish a Del Oro charter program to accommodate future K-8 IB graduates. The Del Oro faculty commitment is legendary. Even so, the test score drop-off after the K-8 articulation to Del Oro is serious enough to be actively addressed, particularly, after simple differential comparisons to surrounding districts. Technology: As an epicenter for hi-tech, that should be reflected at our schools. Without direct state funding, the Loomis Union technology/strategic plan drives carefully planned funding for staging in new technology tools. Facilities: With lack of modernization funding provided by the state, Loomis Union has been struggling with Del Oro to update aged facilities. This could be better addressed through a coordinated bond campaign. I believe local control is the best result for our schools. Loomis, Penryn, Ophir, and Newcastle jealously guard the unique culture and interrelationship with the community that is not common to schools up the corridor. The price tag for a “super district” takeover will be costly along with identity loss and remote governance over an unwieldy geographical district. Therefore, the time for the Del Oro District unification has come for “local control of our local schools.” To get involved in a community grass roots effort, or for more information, contact me at Jack Day, a certified public accountant, has served on the Loomis Union School District board of trustees for 12 years. Editor’s Note: Placer Union High School District Superintendent Bart O’Brien has asked the Placer County Office of Education to look into the financial implications of consolidating the county's school districts.