By this time of year, local school districts are typically facing layoffs. In Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, however, administrators are creating new jobs using Race to the Top grant funds. In sum, 30 new jobs will be created.
But what will happen when the $10 million in federal funding runs out in 2017? Officials are hopeful there will be a statewide economic turnaround by then.
In December 2012, the district became one of only 16 applicants selected from 372 districts nationwide to receive the four-year grant award. It focuses on improving student achievement, among other things.
This year, unlike the past few years, the district is not considering closing any schools, and it will experience very minimal or no layoffs for next year, according to Superintendent Karen Schauer.
She refers to the new federally funded positions as promising seeds to sow the district's dream of having every student collegeand career-ready.
"After experiencing six years of cuts, we now can rebuild our system in exciting ways for our students — beginning with new school district jobs," Schauer said. "This transformational work that requires increased people power through new jobs is a dream come true to help the district design 21st century school learning environments for every student."
School board president Kevin Papineau said there has been some discussion of what will happen with personnel at the end of the grant funding.
"The best-case scenario would be that the state economy recovers and school funding returns to, or close to, pre-recession levels, which would fund retaining the added personnel where needed," he said. "That, of course, cannot be counted on, so the goal is to implement the systemic changes under the grant in such a way that the system can be maintained on our existing budget."
Last month, Robert Nacario, director of educational services, began presenting new job descriptions to the school board that would support the district redesign using the Race to the Top funding.
Among the positions approved in February were a coordinator of instructional technology integration and an extended learning supervisor. In addition, job posts for academic coaches and new assistant principal positions to support every school have been advertised, and some of these positions have already been filled.
Earlier this week, the board approved the Bright Futures Center technician who will operate the centers — essentially repurposed school libraries — to support blended learning opportunities for students and families during and after school.
Also on Wednesday, the board approved other employees to support Bright Futures efforts, including three assistant principals to support personalized learning and four academic coaches/teacher leaders.
It is Schauer's plan to launch this transition in July, and the district is reposting a number of jobs yet to be filled.
All of the positions are first being posted for district employees' applications, as administrators feel it is important to select or promote from within, according to the superintendent.
The Race to the Top-related changes will be more labor intensive at the start, so not all positions will run for the full term of the grant, according to Papineau.
For example, some of the job positions are reduced in year three or four of the grant, according to Schauer.
"When the grant monies are spent in the next few years, we hope that the economy will have improved," she said, adding that if the district receives its full per-student state funding instead of 77 cents on every dollar, its administrators believe they could sustain most of the new jobs.
"We will continue to watch for other grants or resources to help with sustainability," she said.
In the end, Schauer said, the Race to the Top grant neither helps nor hinders the district's cash flow. It will not be paid in one lump sum. Instead, the district can draw funds from it to be used within three days.
And even with the grant, the district will still need to take out a low-interest loan to cover some monthly bills that include employee payroll, according to Schauer.
That's because the state reimburses the district in an untimely manner and, historically, with less than the amount the district should receive, she said in a recent public report.
"We continue to have severe cash flow problems that create challenges when considering dipping into the budget reserve for areas other than payroll," she said.
Still, Schauer is confident: "This is the best challenge we have had in a long time, new jobs in (the district)."
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.