Local

Attempt to recall YUSD trustees Loveland and Wilder takes first step

Anita Johnson, one of three coordinators of the Community Action Team, a group that has put in motion the process to recall two Yosemite Unified School District board members, spoke at the Feb. 12 board meeting in the Yosemite High School cafeteria. Johnson presented trustees Tammy Loveland and Christine Wilder with intent to recall petitions prior to the start of the meeting.s
Anita Johnson, one of three coordinators of the Community Action Team, a group that has put in motion the process to recall two Yosemite Unified School District board members, spoke at the Feb. 12 board meeting in the Yosemite High School cafeteria. Johnson presented trustees Tammy Loveland and Christine Wilder with intent to recall petitions prior to the start of the meeting.s Sierra Star

Tammy Loveland, the president of the Yosemite Unified School District, and trustee Christine Wilder were each served with a ‘Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petion’ before the start of the Feb. 12 YUSD board meeting held in the Yosemite High School cafeteria.

As Loveland and Wilder entered the cafeteria for the meeting, they were handed the petitions by Anita Johnson, one of three coordinators of a small group called the Community Action Team. It was later, during the public comment portion of the meeting that the petitions were read by Jill Smith of Coarsegold, the mother of two district children with special needs.

Reading from the notice of intent Smith, directing her comments to Loveland and Wilder, said that the group represents “the proponents of a recall petition and we intend to seek your recall and removal from the governing board ... and to demand an election of successors.”

Each notice of intent listed grounds for the proposed recall based on basic roles and responsibilities the two women have failed to fulfill including: Not setting direction for the district; not ensuing accountability; not conducting regular and timely evaluations of the superintendent; not adopting a fiscally responsible budget and regularly monitoring the fiscal health of the district; not establishing a framework for the district’s collective bargaining process and adopting responsible agreements; and hiring and supporting the superintendent (referring to Dr. Cecelia Greenberg).

“Any governing body that lacks the support of its constituents, becomes a body of no action,” Johnson said after the meeting. “The Yosemite Unified Board of Trustees has violated the most sacred oath of office in the school district. All trust in the decision making process of this board has been lost. Each trustee bears the responsibility to not only acknowledge the role and responsibility they played in creating the crisis in which they have placed the district, but to understand the essential skill sets necessary to navigate the YUSD out of the crisis.”

The petitions are expected to be filed with the county elections department soon. Loveland and Wilder will have the opportunity to respond to the intent to recall. When approved, the proponents of the recall will have 60 days to gather valid signatures from 25% of the registered voters in the respective areas that the two trustees serve.

The petitions at that time will include the reasons for the recall and the statements from Loveland and Wilder.

Loveland represents Area 3, and Wilder represents residents of Area 2 - both are not up for reelection until 2020.

Johnson said trustees John Reynolds (Area 1) and Monika Moulin (Area 5) will be up for re-election in November and do not qualify for a recall due to the time frame qualifications.

New to the board, Stacey Montalto (Area 4) will also be on the November ballot, after filling the vacancy on the board left when Joe Smith retired.

A map with the boundaries of all five trustee areas can be found on the district website, www.yosemiteusd.com - click on ‘school board’ tab at top of page.

Loveland said she will fight hard to do her job until the recall process plays out.

“I was elected to represent my area as a trustee of the Yosemite Unified School District, which means I trust the electoral process completely, and in so doing will continue to serve, work, and fight hard to do my job until that process completely plays out,” Loveland said. “The easy thing for anyone to do would be to walk away from these present challenges, but I don’t feel that is the responsible option. Right now, we have much more immediate and pressing issues facing our district and I am fully committed to helping solve these issues, as well as, ensuring that our kids, employees, and community understand that through this, YUSD will continue to be an outstanding school district. The short term does include that things will be difficult, but we will be even better and stronger in the long run - especially by working together.”

Johnson said member of the recall group include parents of Yosemite High School, alternative home schools, Rivergold Elementary, Coarsegold Elementary, retirees and area business owners.

Although it is not known at this time who will be running or not, or if the recall is approved for the November General Election ballot, the elections department has estimated the cost to the district for the for all five district seats (3 open seats - Areas 1,4,5) and two potential recall seats (Areas 2 and 3), would the district cost between $30,000 and $40,000 dollars.

Wilder was not available for comment for this story.

Financial issues

The recall effort was sparked by what has been called the district’s financial crises and issues with district Superintendent Dr.Cecilia Greenberg.

The district was notified in a Jan. 12 letter by Madera County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Cecilia Massetti, that she changed the district’s 2017-18 self-certified First Interim Report from “Qualified” to “Negative” for a number of reasons, including the review of financial data.

“Based on the information provided by the district, including a multi-year projection (and ) budget assumptions, the projections reflect that the district may not be able to meet the financial obligations for the current fiscal or subsequent two years,” Massetti wrote.

The letter pointed out that the YUSD’s fiscal health is suspect and is deemed to have risk of insolvency for a number of reasons.

The Madera County Office of Education (MCOE) then evoked AB1200, allowing MCOE to bring in staff to help advise the district on financial issues and to help get the budget back on track to solvency.

In the budget submitted by the district to the MCOER, reductions of some $670,000 in labor cuts and $300,000 in operating expenditures would be made in the 2017-18 school year and an additional $170,000 in labor cuts and $300,000 in operating costs need to be made in 2018-19. However, the MCOE has not seen a specific plan from the district to reach those goals.

Jamie Perry, the consultant and fiscal adviser brought in by Massetti, in her presentation to the board Feb. 12, explained that based on the First Interim budget projections, if the District “does not reduce its expenditures,” it will fall $2.3 million short of meeting the 3% reserve standard in 2019-20.

The 3% reserved recommended by the state is minimal, especially considering a 3% reserve by the district would cover the district (Yosemite High School and Coarsegold and Rivergold Elementary schools)payroll for about two weeks according to Perry.

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