Construction full steam ahead for HHS gym, district enters into contract reopeners
It was a busy night for the Healdsburg Unified School District Board of Trustees with several housekeeping items on the agenda and a special recognition ceremony for 2018-19 Reclassified Fluent English Proficient (RFEP) students.
The board voted 4-0, Trustee Judy Velasquez was absent, to enter into contract reopeners for well-fare benefits, hours of employment and class size with the Healdsburg Area Teachers Association (HATA). The board also heard a report from Counterpoint Construction on the progress of several Healdsburg High School construction projects and the district’s Director of Business Services, Steve Barekman gave a report on student enrollment.
But before trustees got down to business, around 70 students were honored for their new RFEP status.
Elementary, junior high and high school students were decked out in their finest threads while proud parents scrambled to get photos of students with their certificates.
Healdsburg High School Principal Bill Halliday, Healdsburg Junior High School Principal Chris Miller, Healdsburg Elementary School Fitch Mountain Campus Principal Erika McGuire and Healdsburg Elementary School Principal Jeff Franey handed out certificates as students’ names were called.
Before addressing the contract reopeners HATA President Ever Flores gave his regular report and discussed the desire to have one registered nurse and one school counselor assigned full-time at every school site.
“HATA submitted our sunshine letter to you guys and because HATA prioritizes the success of each student HATA shall seek to establish a minimum ratio of at least one school counselor and one registered nurse assigned full-time at each school site,” Flores said.
He also touched on teacher's salary.
“According to the state of California and the district’s own reporting Healdsburg Unified School District the school district receives 134% of the state average in pupil funding, but Healdsburg educators earn only 82% of the state average salary. Given this Healdsburg bargaining unit members will seek to improve those conditions,” Flores said.
Healdsburg Unified School District Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel said he would like to be the highest paying district in the county.
“We share the desire to pay our teachers better and like I’ve said in union negotiations, I’d like to be the highest paying district in Sonoma County and the board has given me direction to move in that direction,” Vanden Heuvel said. “There is a budget that we have to keep in mind but we are committed and we recognize and hold teachers in high regard and we want to pay better.”
He added that the district wants to be able to retain the teachers they have and also attract the best.
Following the report the board voted 4-0 to enter into contract reopeners.
A contract reopener is a clause written into a contract between organized employees and an employer that allows for a given issue to be revisited at a certain date before the contract expires.
”We’re reopening salary and benefits, hours of work, class size. Those are the articles that we’ve agreed to negotiate,” Vanden Heuvel said, noting that full negotiation details cannot be discussed publicly.
A letter to the district from HATA President Flores said the district and HATA are interested in reaching an agreement on “Fair and equitable health and welfare benefits and articles of the contract specified by the association or the district as ‘re-openers.’”
The association specifically wants to open Article 10, hours of employment and Article 13, class size. The district wants to open Article 10 and Article 18, Evaluation procedures.
The California School Employees Association also wants to reach an agreement on fair and equitable salary, fair and equitable health and welfare benefits and other article topics, according to a letter from CSEA to the district.
Counterpoint Construction Services Project Manager Tenaya Dale gave an update on the construction projects that have been occurring this past summer, projects in planning and upcoming projects for next summer.
The 2019 bond projects include the new Healdsburg High School gym and locker rooms (A $17 million cost from $20 million in 2019 bond sales) to be completed in 2020, a new roof on building “A” and an HVAC system and tennis court rehabilitation.
While the tennis court resurfacing isn’t a permanent fix it will last a few years, according to Dale.
“Obviously a gym is more than a summer project, but we had certain goals that we’d try to accomplish this summer,” Dale said of the summer work. “One big goal was between the gym area and the classrooms, that whole area is getting a refresh, but we did as much as the hardscapes as we could.”
The gym crews also had to move thousands of yards of dirt, treat it and put it back along with all of the utilities. The concrete slab for the new gym will be poured next week.
Work also included redoing the senior courtyard.
“It is much more inviting,” Dale said of the new turf and bench area. “We also had to do some tree replacements and remove redwood trees that were near structures. They definitely do a lot of damage to structural slabs.”
Looking forward on projects, “We’re into heavy, heavy planning for the junior high project,” Dale said.
This includes a complete overhaul of the original gym, which was built in 1927, and work to add a new STEM classroom space.
“The gym has the original gym floor, it is old,” she said.
Also, the lore behind whether or not the gym had a basement was solved.
“We can confirm that there is no basement. We had somebody under the floor this summer doing some investigation for us and I hate to say it, but there is no basement there,” Dale quipped.
Windows, plumbing, electrical upgrades and new bleachers and locker rooms round out the “To-Do” list for the junior high project.
The timeline for the project is still to be announced due to increased costs associated with contractors and construction according to Dale.
“One of the problems that we are having in adding scope is because there are a lot of increased costs right now, the labor market is killing us, the tariffs are killing us etc. There’s been a huge escalation, the fires affect it, not just here but everywhere,” she said.
Dale said they have a contractor on board, but they still have to discuss how cash flow will turn out for that.
Unfunded projects include a junior high school field overhaul and classroom modernization at the high school, which includes updates like new carpet, windows and other detail work.
While this school year saw a huge jump in kindergarten enrollment, the district overall, according to numbers from the last four years, is still in a slight downward trend.
Barekman presented enrollment charts that showed the actual and projected enrollment figures for K-5 and junior and high school.
Green numbers indicate that enrollment is higher than projected, black means the numbers are exactly the same and red means the figure is under what was projected.
“Overall we are 28 students up than what we anticipated in K-5 at Healdsburg Elementary School and that is 25 more than the school year last year,” Barekman said. “Huge jump in kindergarten.”
There are also three students up at the charter school from what was originally projected.
“It is a little more stability than we’ve seen in the K-5 level over the years,” he said.
Trustees asked why there was such a bump in kindergarten enrollment.
“We’ve checked birth rates over the years to see if there is a correlation and there just isn’t,” he said.
Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Erin Fender, said the district also has a larger transitional kindergarten (TK) class this year.
Typically the TK is combined with the kindergarten class, however, this they have their own full class.
“We have 19 TK’s,” Fender said. “Since I’ve been in the district we’ve had a TK/K combo, so we think it is a blip honestly.”
“The good thing is that we didn’t see a decrease. We were a little worried with the change in the program,” Fender said referring to the introduction of the one kindergarten program at Healdsburg Elementary School.
The two day-school preschool programs are also full.
Secondary level 16 students up than what was projected.
In terms of a four year recap Barekman said the district is still trending down despite a spike in kindergarteners.
“It is always a bit of a roller coaster,” he said.