Our country and our county are facing difficult times and we must work together as a community to look at the long-term strategic needs and goals while not emotionally reacting to short-term immediate gratifications.As we look outside the box for viable solutions to meet our needs, one solution stands very clearly in the forefront: consolidation of our school districts. For years Congress and our state Legislature have decreased funding for education, while raising the bar for standards and requirements. Expectations have been raised, but the funding does not support the expected results.
There is a simple answer to help Tuolumne County, its citizens and
our children’s future: consolidate our school districts. These words
have been controversial over the years and individuals have been
elected and appointed to office for their stance against consolidation.
However, now is time to sit down and have a serious talk about our
Look at the facts: Tuolumne County has 12 school districts, 10
superintendents, approximately 12 chief business officials (CBOs),
nearly three dozen district staff members and over 50 trustees. I am
certain I am not alone in thinking this is more than enough for a
county with 57,000 residents. Keep in mind these numbers are not
reflective of the staff or trustees of the county’s board of education.
Simple math demonstrates that nearly $1 million could be saved by
consolidating these positions and leveraging a larger districts’ buying
and negotiating power for contracts. With fewer school districts to
manage, Tuolumne County wins by reducing the required staff at its
superintendent of schools office.
My own recommendation is to accomplish this through retirement and non-replacement or reassignment of jobs.
Over the years our community has discussed consolidation. In
conversations with friends and neighbors, I understand the concerns and
feelings that a consolidated district would take away control from the
local site and ruin the curriculum and feel of a small school.
My belief is that the opposite will occur. I believe we will see an
even stronger sense of school pride, more involvement by parent
organizations and staff while handing over the administrative headaches
to the district. To be clear, let’s not forget the real prize of
consolidation — financial stability for our schools.
We are blessed to have several amazing superintendents, CBOs and
key staff members now working and residing in our county that have
experience running larger multi-site and school districts. Their
experience would allow them to step into the job of a consolidated
State law allows districts to merge should their boards approve
such an action. I am calling on the superintendent of schools to hold
an exploratory meeting with all the districts to discuss and review our
options. I would also ask the Tuolumne County Grand Jury to review
these actions and, while not easy to implement, confirm they are in the
best interests of all involved.
I am not looking at this issue as an armchair quarterback or the
sidelines. I proudly serve as a trustee for the Sonora Elementary
School District. My perspective is that of an elected official looking
out for the welfare of the school I represent, my children and my