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Clements school won't shut doors

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Posted: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 10:00 pm

Despite plans otherwise, Clements Elementary School will remain open next school year for kindergarten and first-graders.

In a cost-savings measure, the Lodi Unified school board was expected to close the campus and bus its students to Lockeford beginning this fall, but at least one speaker convinced trustees that the plan did not make sense financially.

Parents and more than a dozen students clad in Bulldog red who came to Tuesday's meeting to speak about keeping Turner Elementary School open were not as successful. With a unanimous board vote, Turner will close at the end of the school year because the cost to treat the well-water is high.

Trustees deemed keeping the 60-student campus open a safety hazard. Its students will be sent to Lakewood Elementary, saving Lodi Unified $214,861.

The district continues to look at ways to close a multi million-dollar budget deficit as it heads into next school year. State budget funding, lagging revenue and a historic declining enrollment are among the funding culprits.

Last week, the district cut close to 45 positions, at a savings of $3 million, and has already limited overtime, restricted conferences unless approved by the superintendent and filled vacant positions at the primary level with substitutes.

To save money, the board last fall directed the district to look at any potential cost savings of closing schools with fewer than 250 students. Both Turner and Clements fall into that category.

Annual cost savings at a glance

Turner School closure: $214,861
Lockeford K-8 expansion postponement: $218,378
Source: Lodi Unified School District

But Clements parent Gary Reiff took issue with the actual money that would be saved if the school was closed.

The district estimated an annual savings of $54,000 in utilities and salaries for clerical and janitorial positions, however a portable at a one-time cost of $50,000 would be required to house a portion of the students.

"You're going to spend $50,000 this school year to have a savings of $54,000 next school year," Reiff told trustees. "We're going to go through the hassle of saving $4,000 when you have to cut $24 million?"

He went one step further when he held up a check from the local Parent Teacher Association to cover the shortfall. "If you leave our school alone, we have a $4,000 check for you. I actually have it right here," Reiff said.

"Really, it's a drop in the bucket when you look at your numbers. (But) Clements school is paying its way out of the problem." Instead, Reiff encouraged the board to look toward its union representatives and their insurance prices for possible cost savings.

When the vote was taken, some trustees - including Ken Davis, who said he came to the meeting ready to close Clements - credited Reiff with providing a "compelling argument."

"It makes no sense at all," Trustee Jeff Thompson said of the figures presented by staff.

"I'm getting a little angry now … if we're going to nickel and dime this (budget) issue."

Trustee Calvin Young echoed his sentiments. "I know we have a hole to fill, but the cost savings may not warrant the action."

The board voted 5-2 in favor of keeping the school open, but Davis cautioned that its closure could end up on a similar list next year. "You may get a reprieve this time around."

Turner Elementary School will close by fall. (Dan Evans/News-Sentinel)

Reiff, who planned to stick around until the end of the meeting to personally thank the board, got a handful of pats on the back and even a hug or two from fellow Clements school parents and teachers as they were leaving the meeting.

The campus, or its likeness, alongside Highway 88, has been a part of the community for more than 100 years, and many of its students have parents who attended it.

Frankie Abel, a 1959 Clements school graduate, has had two children go through the school and said closing it would be a disservice to parents, who rely on one another since the town is so far removed.

The current school was built 20 years ago on the same site as the original 1879 two-story school building, and before that the town had a different school.

"The citizens of that tiny town have cared about the education of their community for 150 years," Trustee Bonnie Cassel said.

In separate action Tuesday, trustees voted 6-1 to postpone Lockeford Elementary School's K-8 expansion, due mostly to the state's building fund freeze. Cassel cast the lone dissenting vote.

Although phases one and two are nearly complete, Art Hand, the district superintendent of facilities and planning, said there is no money to move into phase three. However, that delay may clear the way for a computer lab and library that have been put on hold.

Assistant Superintendent Catherine Pennington said she and Dawn Vetica, director of elementary education, would be willing to work with parents and teachers on that issue.

At Turner, the annual savings will mostly come from the current cost to treat the school's drinking water.

Jeff Svekow, who has two children who go to Turner, said closing the school would alienate and even exclude parents who are currently active in their students' education because of the close proximity to where they live. A large number of the student population are Spanish speakers.

Sixth-grader Isabel Jimenez referred to the school's teachers, administrators and even custodians as family members. "Please don't take our second family from us," she told the board before a decision was made.

In other action Tuesday, the school board:

  • Received an annual report from the Measure K Citizens Oversight Committee.
  • Adopted several math textbooks, despite opposition from a handful of teachers.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 5:00 am on Thu, Feb 5, 2009.


    and by the way "oldguy" We would come up with $54k next year if we needed to. Or we will put the money up to expand Lockeford school the correct way to incorporate the students in a way that benefits our way of life. But it is already our tax money they have...and we probably pay a lot more taxes on our "country" property,and on our farming, ranching, and businesses per acre out here than most other schools in the district, I am sure we pay for our schools and for most of yours in town to with our annual tax contributions. I love equitable redistribution of wealth...so we can work our @$$ off for 100s of years to pay for a city full of complainers that find it easier to complain on blogs like this than to get up and actually make a contribution.

  • posted at 4:49 am on Thu, Feb 5, 2009.


    Well, part of the difference of our "country" school is that we are comprised almost 100% of property tax paying and income-tax paying property owners, not too many non-income earning tax leaches in our "country" area. this gives us a lot of incentive to protect our own, since it truely is OUR tax dollars they are spending. And we support our OWN children morally and financially. The fact that we stick together, and are smart about how we defend our way of life goes without saying, we dont depend on the government...we shape it...its called the ORIGINAL AMERICAN WAY...not the new Liberal Socialistic Goverment-Dependant mentality.

  • posted at 6:18 pm on Wed, Feb 4, 2009.


    Great. The parents came up with the $4000 for the first year. Will they come up with the $54,000 next year and the year after that. The trustees can't seem to see beyond the end of their nose. If the district is in the extremis they say they are in they better start making some hard decisions NOW. When are all these Ass't Superintendents going to leave. Every dollar spent today is not available tomorrow.

  • posted at 2:22 pm on Wed, Feb 4, 2009.


    shockedinlodi, great post.

  • posted at 2:21 pm on Wed, Feb 4, 2009.


    Why thank you, Gator.

  • posted at 1:21 pm on Wed, Feb 4, 2009.


    Actually at the first meeting they had the numbers. When they were questioned about it only being $4000 they kept saying that is only the first year. The parents beat them fair and square. I think the Superintendent had no clue that the parents would come together and present the case before the school board. I think she thought she had this in the bag and did not give it a second thought. I am proud of the parents at Clements. They came together and stuck together wanting the best for their children. I hope this shows all parents that the LUSD can be fought and you can win if you go in with the informaiton you need. They did it correctly they focused on the money issue and did not beat up any other schools or allow the focus to go into the negative. They showed class and smarts. Parents of Clements deserve a hand.

  • posted at 12:54 pm on Wed, Feb 4, 2009.


    It does seem strange that the higher-ups didn't work out the numbers before they decided to close Clements School.

  • posted at 11:24 am on Wed, Feb 4, 2009.


    I do agree with Flowerchild in this case of only K-1st graders.BUT, why couldn't the layers of Educrats figure out that same $4K savings?Because the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.

  • posted at 11:04 am on Wed, Feb 4, 2009.


    Bloody good show "SAM"!!!

  • posted at 9:43 am on Wed, Feb 4, 2009.


    I love it when parents come together and "fight" the system. Well done. Country schools are priceless. Enjoy these early years... they are so important... and your babes grow so fast.

  • posted at 6:44 am on Wed, Feb 4, 2009.


    Kindergarten and First Grade only? Close this school. They'll be going to a different school in a couple of years anyhow.



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