Editor’s Note: The following letter from Fred Cogan, administrator on special assignment to the Yosemite Unified School District from the Madera County Office of Education, was sent to district staff members March 15:
Let me start by thanking each of you for accepting me so openly into the YUSD family. I have been truly overwhelmed with the professionalism, collegiality, and friendliness from all I have had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with since arriving in Oakhurst.
Having the opportunity to serve the YUSD district and mountain community has been an honor. I thank you. The purpose of my email is to bring you “up to speed” on where our district is, and has come in the last month, and to calibrate the current state of our district as we move into the last quarter of the year.
1. The partnership between YUSD and Madera County Superintendent of Schools has been in existence all year long to ensure the fiscal stability of the district to do what we do best, which is serve kids.
2. The work going on has been to ensure the district could maintain programs for our kids and community. The guiding vision of every conversation has been, “Kids first, People Matter.”
3. The 3-year YUSD budget came into question given several factors including declining enrollment, dramatic increases in PERS/STRS retirement contributions mandated by the state government, and the impending closure of the necessary small school at Raymond in the next two years. All of these factors have taken, or will take, a huge toll on our budget, thus the impetus to gain control now.
4. Balancing the budget for the next three years must be priority number one if we wish to maintain programs, and grow in the future. A sound budget is the cornerstone for any successful organization. Ours is no different.
5. The working number needed to balance our budget for the next three years is approximately $1.7 million dollars. We are well on our way to achieving that number without eliminating ANY programs with the exception of placing elementary music on hold as we make programmatic changes.
Calibrating and clarifying information:
1. I have been part of numerous conversations in the last five weeks regarding our budget and I can tell you plainly that not one employee has been fired since I have arrived. Our goal is to keep all of employees working. Some employees have elected to leave the district before the end of the year. We have honored their requests in an effort to help them into their next professional endeavor. The district is actively working to fill the “holes” created by their departures.
2. We have not eliminated ANY program: academic, athletic, or otherwise.
3. Your leadership is working tirelessly to mitigate the effects of any layoff that happens with our employees. Our goal is to reduce the number of layoffs needed to the smallest possible number and still achieve a responsible budget for the future of our kids.
4. In contrast to a recent news report stating our district is making layoffs now of $1.1 million dollars this year and another $2 million next year is categorically false. The layoff happening this year is in place so we can begin rebuilding our programs under a healthy budget plan starting July 1.
The history of Yosemite Unified is rich, strong, and proud. So much success on so many levels. So much change in such a short time. But here we are. One of the things I remember from being a teenager is having a coach tell me once, “Adversity reveals character.” As of today, we have been in the middle of quite an adverse situation in which the very essence of our character is being tested.
How will we respond? Change is hard. How will this change test our character? Our resolve? What will our legacy be as lessons for our kids based on our decisions of today? I promise you, better days are ahead. Patience, perseverance, prudence. Together, we all will build Yosemite (USD) better.
Please remember: Kids first, people matter.