Schools OK Budget, 1.5% Pay Raises


By Amy Orr, Special to the Independent

With four days remaining before the start of a new fiscal year, the Laguna Beach school board approved an annual budget of $56 million, 1.89 percent lower than the previous year, Tuesday, June 27. By a 4-0 vote, board members also ratified new employment contracts, giving district employees a 1.5 percent pay raise in ongoing compensation and a one-time, 1 percent off-schedule payment, according to the agenda. Member Carol Normandin was absent.

The credentialed teaching staff and non-certificated employees elected to apply their 1.5% increase in different ways, but district negotiators offered the same pay hikes to both groups. Board president Jan Vickers stressed the importance of equal settlements, signaling that district administrators value each bargaining group without favor.

A strong sense of community spirit filled the final board meeting of the school year as local groups were recognized for their contributions and gratitude was in the air.

Board members, present for promotion and commencement ceremonies at each of the four schools, expressed pride in the Laguna community and praised its staff for the legwork required in creating the documents under consideration.

The district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) passed without dissent. Having heard discussions and presentations during previous weeks, the board agreed with the assessment of Jeff Dixon, assistant superintendent of business services, that LCAP goals align with the district’s action plan.

Ryan Zajda
Ryan Zajda

Dixon took the post in April, promoted from a previous position as director of facilities. On Tuesday, administrators filled the vacated post by hiring Ryan Zajda, current director of construction for the Irvine School District.

California School Employee Association (CSEA) President Margaret Warder, who negotiated on behalf of the group’s 155 members, said both sides collaborated over the agreement.

Warder was especially pleased that the non-teaching staff will now enjoy an extra paid holiday Dec. 26, clearer language in their contract about overtime and breaks for hourly employees, and the extension of health benefits to members with five years of experience and jobs limited to 5.75 hours a day.

She also highlighted the increase in professional development opportunities and said that the implementation of online training has helped employees become more knowledgeable and better able to assist students.

Mindy Hawkins, president of Laguna Beach Unified Faculty Association (LaBUFA), said that 99% of those who voted favored the new faculty contract. “We were very pleased with the outcome,” she said.

In the LaBUFA contract, clarity was provided for teacher evaluations, classes from kindergarten to third grade were reduced to 25 students from 32, and academic and athletic stipends were increased.

Athletic Director Lance Neal was happy about the changes. “Our coaches are better funded. We have more funding for assistants as well.” Neal predicted that the changes should help with the retention of coaches.

Brett Fleming, the LBHS boys basketball coach, expressed similar support for the revisions. “The new stipend structure especially helps walk-on coaches and assistants, which is important to keeping coaches around for a while,” he said.



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