By Karen Billing
Del Mar Union School District staff and board members recently received a “frantic flood” of emails from concerned parents as rumors buzzed from school parking lots to the bleachers at little league baseball games. Parents were frustrated they could not find out more about the Del Mar Classified Teachers Association’s (DMCTA) meetings and votes on the 2013-16 contract update, and whispers persisted that class sizes were going up and parents would not be given a platform to express their opinion.
At the March 26 board meeting, district superintendent Holly McClurg said she personally answered nearly every e-mail and met with parents in groups on the weekend to ease concerns and share what information she could.
“I was emailed over the weekend that there was a secret board meeting and that upset me because I wasn’t invited to a secret board meeting,” trustee Alan Kholos said.
All jokes aside, Kholos said that he appreciates the fact that parents in the district feel comfortable enough to contact him to ask him what’s going on and he encourages that practice to continue.
“We’re all members of the same community, just call us, let’s go have coffee and we’ll talk about it,” Kholos said.
Parents have asked for greater transparency and the board members said that is their goal too, and that they are always available, even in the grocery store. Board president Doug Rafner joked that as board members they have been instructed to hit the frozen food aisle last, in case their items melt while encountering and talking to members of the public.
“I have realized we belong to a community that really cares about the district. To me, that’s the reason I’m sitting here now, we all care about our kids and the district,” Rafner said.
McClurg agreed that passionate, involved parents are what make the district truly special.
“We always want to do better, any way we can communicate better we definitely want to do that, ” McClurg said. “I thank the parents for letting us know what’s truly valued.”
Parents spoke up in a flurry last week as the initial tentative agreement between the DMCTA and the district went to a vote, with 108 opposed and 105 in favor.
The contract language included the budget solutions agreed on in last year’s one-year memorandum of understanding, giving the district the flexibility to go up to the state’s maximum of 24 in K-3 and 29 in grades 4-6.
McClurg said since the MOU was approved, 108 kindergarten through third grade classes in the district remained at 17-22 students a class, with eight at 23 students and one class with 24 students.
McClurg said the classroom with 24 students was due to a decision made by the school site.
At the fourth through sixth grade level, there are 56 classes at 19-27 students, 17 at 28:1 and one class with 29 students.
McClurg said the classroom with 29 students was required to dissolve a combination class.
“There are significant costs associated with the MOU expiring,” McClurg said, noting that the district would again be required to pay over class size payments (teachers receive $10 to 20 a day depending on grade level for every student over the cap), shared contracts, increase in hours and paid compensatory days and conference days.