Rowland Unified releases survey results about the district

By Rowland Unified
The Rowland Unified School District released the results of a recent survey that asked teachers, parents and residents to share their thoughts on district topics such as educational programs, career pathways and community relations.

The full report can be found on the “Your Voice” section of the District website www.RowlandSchools.org as well as school websites. The results were discussed at the school board meeting last night.

Designed by the independent firm K12 Insight, the survey will give the district important baseline data it can use to make improvements.

“We are committed to our continuous improvement efforts,” said Superintendent Ruben Frutos. “Hearing from our stakeholders ensures that our programs and services are effectively meeting student needs and allows us to fulfill our vision for success.”

The surveys were taken from Jan. 8-31 and 916 people responded. Overall, the district reported positive feedback.

Specifically, the survey found that nearly six out of 10 respondents feel the district is doing an excellent or good job of fulfilling its mission.

District officials said nearly seven out of 10 participants say the district is doing an excellent or good job of educating students.

Survey findings also indicate that 75 percent of participants think their local school is doing an excellent or good job of educating students. Additional results show that approximately seven out of 10 respondents are aware of the district’s International Baccalaureate Program.

The survey found that 83 percent of respondents feel welcome to participate in meetings or other activities at their local school. The district added that 57 percent understand that the district made difficult decisions in order to remain solvent.

“This survey helps ensure that we have a system defined by rigorous academics, the innovative use of technology, creative exploration and nurturing learning experiences,” Frutos said. “Together, we will create an optimal learning environment that enables all of our students to succeed in their chosen careers.”

Rowland Unified holding community meeting on April 30

The Rowland Unified School District will hold a community informational meeting on the Local Control Accountability Plan on April 30 at 6 p.m. at Telesis Academy of Science & Math in the Multipurpose Room.

Community members are encouraged to attend to learn  about the process and the development of the new Local Control Accountability Plan which ensures that funding is targeted to the needs of all students. Telesis Academy of Science & Math is located at 2800 E. Hollingworth Street in West Covina.

California school districts now have the flexibility to prioritize resources in order to meet the specific needs of its student populations with a new funding formula.

The new method — Local Control Funding Formula — has been passed by state legislation to allow local insight and meaningful conversations to take place between parents, employees and the community about their schools.

To view materials and information, visit the Rowland Unified School District website www.RowlandSchools.org under Local Control Funding Formula – Unified for Ed Excellence.

The Rowland Unified School District is proud to serve 16,000 students in the communities of Rowland Heights, Walnut, La Puente, City of Industry, and West Covina.

More than 5,000 adults (16+) are also served by the Rowland Adult and Community Education School. For more information, download the free Rowland Unified School District Mobile App or visit www.RowlandSchools.org or call (626) 965-2541.

Enrollment in Rowland Unified begins on April 7

Enrollment in the Rowland Unified School District for the 2014-2015 school year for Transitional Kindergarteners/Kindergarteners and new students through grade 12 begins April 7. Parents can pick up registration packets at school sites now. Parents who need to find their home school can click on My School Locator at www.rowlandschools.org or call the Pupil Services Office at (626) 935-8203.

Transitional Kindergarten (TK) classes are available at all elementary schools. TK is a bridge between preschool and Kindergarten, giving younger children (students who turn 5 years old betweenSeptember 2 and December 2) more time for hands-on, interactive learning and provides a high-quality Kindergarten readiness at no cost to parents with classes taught by credentialed teachers.

For more questions about Transitional Kindergarten, parents can visit www.tkcalifornia.org or speak with RUSD TK Specialist Annabelle Danneman at (626) 854-8544.

School of Choice Applicants: On April 7, parents of students accepted to a school of choice for the 2014-2015 school year must start the enrollment process. The parents of students accepted through the Choice program must complete and turn in all required enrollment packets and documentation to the schools of choice, by April 30. If the parent fails to submit the required enrollment packet and documentation, Choice is forfeited and the student will need to enroll at their school of residence for the 2014-2015 school year.

For general information regarding enrolling your students in any RUSD program or school, please feel free to call Pupil Services at (626) 935-8203 for further assistance.

Rowland Unified teachers, administrators far apart on salary talks

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

Rowland teachers have declared an impasse in the stalled contract negotiations with the Rowland Unified School District. The Association of Rowland Educators is asking the state to send in a mediator to handle further negotiations. “We’re filing the paperwork now to declare an impasse with the state,” said ARE President John Petersen on Monday.

Union officials say the contract talks broke down during the eighth bargaining session last Thursday. In an email to teachers, Nadine Loza, bargaining chair, explained what happened.

“The ARE bargaining team was disappointed (but not surprised) when the district presented their counterproposal after lunch. The district’s proposal was not significantly different from their last proposal. Overall, the district has not moved significantly from their initial proposal especially on critical issues like salary, benefits, planning time, adjunct duties and combo classes.”

District officials were surprised by the sudden impasse, but they say they remain open to fair negotiations with the union’s 700 members.

“We’re still committed to negotiating with them in good faith,” said Superintendent Ruben Frutos.

Both sides say pay raises remain the largest stumbling block. The teachers want a 10 percent pay raise next year, the district has offered 2.5 percent the first year and 2 percent the next.

“Originally, the teachers wanted a 12 percent raise, 6 percent the first year, then 6 percent the second,” recalled Assistant Superintendent Douglas Staine. “We were surprised when they changed to 10 percent for one year.”

Rowland Unified had originally offered a 3.5 percent raise, 1.75 percent the first year and the same the second year.

Read more in SALARY.

Rowland teachers declare impasse in contract talks

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

Rowland teachers have declared an impasse in the stalled contract negotiations with the Rowland Unified School District.

The Association of Rowland Educators is asking the state to send in a mediator to handle further negotiations. The state steps in when regular negotiations break down.

“We’re filing the paperwork now to declare an impasse with the state,” said ARE President John Petersen.

Union officials say the contract talks broke down during the eighth bargaining session last Thursday. In an email to the teachers, Nadine Loza, bargaining chair, explained what happened.

“The ARE bargaining team was disappointed (but not surprised) when the district presented their counterproposal after lunch. The district’s proposal was not significantly different from their last proposal. Overall, the district has not moved significantly from their initial proposal especially on critical issues like salary, benefits, planning time, adjunct duties and combo classes.”

The teachers’ representatives say they declared a impasse and cancelled the next bargaining session set for Thursday.

“There’s a backlog for mediators, so we don’t expect the state to assign one for at least six weeks,” Petersen said.

This mediator will meet with both sides to try and work out the differences. Petersen insists the bargaining teams will not meet until the state assigns a mediator.

Read more in IMPASSE

Rowland Unified begins new search for superintendent

By Staff Writer Steve Scauzillo

The Rowland Unified school board on Tuesday officially began the process of finding a new leader for the 14,500-student district — possibly the first time in its history such a search has been orchestrated.

Such a move is a reversal from a decision made one year ago to appoint business manager Ruben Frutos as superintendent. The surprise appointment precipitated protests, pickets and demands from teachers, parents and community members to hold a proper search for a new superintendent.

That demand was met Tuesday, when the board directed its staff to bring a list of consultants forward at a special board meeting set for April 17.

At the upcoming meeting, the board will hear pitches from search firms and pick one to begin gathering resumes.

“This is important work. I will cancel what I was to be speaking at. We need to get this done,” said board President Heidi Gallegos, who cleared her schedule in order to attend the special meeting.

At least four executive search firms have already answered a request sent out by the Rowland Unified School District more than a week ago, announced Douglas Staine, RUSD assistant superintendent for human resources.

While he couldn’t guess how many firms would apply for the work, Staine said it could be more than 20. They have until Friday.

Only a firm with experience helping a school district pick a new leader will be considered, Gallegos said.

“A professional firm should have experience, particularly with good community engagement,” she said after the two-hour meeting. Once a consultant is chosen, the firm will work directly with the board in gathering resumes and soliciting input from teachers, parents and community members, she said.

She wants to see the community be able to directly email the search consultant with questions or suggestions, she said.

Read more in SEARCH.

Rowland Unified surprised by teachers’ contract impasse

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

Rowland teachers have declared an impasse in the stalled contract negotiations with the Rowland Unified School District. The Association of Rowland Educators is asking the state to send in a mediator to handle further negotiations. District officials were surprised Tuesday by the sudden impasse, but they say they remain open to fair negotiations with the union’s 700 members.

“We’re still committed to negotiating with them in good faith,” said Superintendent Ruben Frutos.

Both sides say pay raises remain the largest stumbling block. The teachers want a 10 percent pay raise next year, the district has offered 2.5 percent the first year and 2 percent the next.

“Originally, the teachers wanted a 12 percent raise, 6 percent the first year, then 6 percent the second,” recalled Assistant Superintendent Douglas Staine. “We were surprised when they changed to 10 percent for one year.”

Rowland Unified had originally offered a 3.5 percent raise, 1.75 percent the first year and the same the second year.

Staine estimates a 10 percent raise would cost the district $6.7 million a year in additional payroll. The director of human resources noted that salaries already consume more than 85 percent of the district’s yearly budget.

The teachers’ union says Rowland’s instructors are paid less than other school districts. They say they only want parity.

Beginning teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience earn an annual salary of $45,180 at Rowland, which is ranked 18th out of 47 school districts in a salary survey from the Los Angeles County Office of Education for 2012-2013.

District officials say such comparisons are misleading because the vast majority of their teachers are at the top end of the pay scale. When asked for a salary analysis, they provided this information.

More than 20 percent of Rowland instructors earn $80,000 to $90,000 a year. They would get close to $9,000 more with a 10 percent raise, bringing them to almost $100,000 a year.

Read more in IMPASSE.

NASA’s JPL engineers talk to Shelyn Elementary students in Rowland Heights

JPL engineer Anita Sengupta is talking to Shelyn Elementary students this morning in Rowland Heights.

JPL engineer Anita Sengupta is talking to Shelyn Elementary students this morning in Rowland Heights.

Two engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena will talk to Shelyn Elementary  students this morning in Rowland Heights.  The engineers will discuss their work on the Curiosity Mission to Mars.

Dr. Anita Sengupta will explain her work for Curiosity’s entry, descent and landing on the Red Planet.  On Aug. 5, NASA landed its most capable robot on Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission placed 2,000 lb rover, the size of a compact car, on the plains of Mars.

The rover will search for organic compounds, study the climate and geology, and continue the search for life.  One of the most challenging aspects of the mission, from an engineering perspective, was safely landing the rover on the surface.

The entry descent and landing (EDL) system used a heat shield to accommodate its hypersonic entry conditions, followed by a supersonic parachute, and eight retro rockets for the powered descent phase.

For its final terminal descent, a maneuver called the sky crane was used where the rover was lowered on tethers for touchdown. The JPL engineers will  talk about the motivation for Mars Exploration and how the MSL EDL engineering challenges were tackled with computational modeling and cutting edge experimental techniques.

Rowland superintendent to step down, search is on for replacement

 By Staff Writer Steve Scauzillo

After a tumultuous year, Superintendent Ruben Frutos has indicated he is willing to step down into his old position while the district searches for a replacement.

The school district directed its staff Tuesday night to send out proposals for search firms to begin the process. The “request for proposals” will be in the mail next week, according to the district.

Board President Heidi Gallegos said the board may have a list of search firms by its next meeting on March 25.

A search for a new superintendent could take between four and six months, she estimated.

Board members, parents and members of the teachers union said Wednesday the move toward securing a new superintendent ended a year of tension that often resulted in hundreds of people attending board meetings and picketing on the street, and union members waving signs demanding Frutos step down.

In February, the Association of Rowland Educators formerly asked the board to search for a new superintendent, after a survey of its members revealed only 3 percent of teachers who responded wanted him to stay.

“The association definitely got what we wanted. Absolutely,” said John Petersen, ARE president. “But it was really a community issue and the community was pretty vocal (Tuesday) night.”

Read more in ROWLAND.

Rowland Unified teachers want a 10 percent raise

By Staff Writer Steve Scauzillo

Raises for teachers are just some of the major issues before the school board Tuesday night.

The board Tuesday will hear from Douglas Staine, assistant superintendent of human resources, on the status of ongoing labor talks with Association of Rowland Educators (ARE)  and with the California School Employees Association (CSEA).

The district and its teachers are moving closer on the issue of salary hikes.

ARE moved from 12.5 percent over two years to 10 percent over one year. The district moved its offer from 3.5 percent to a 4.5 percent salary increase over two years.

The district also proposed increasing its maximum health benefits contribution for teachers by $850 over two years.

The district is concerned about the teachers’ proposal for a one-year pay hike for this year, retroactive to July 1, 2013. “This was a significant departure from prior sessions because both teams had been exchanging two year compensation proposals for 2013-14 and 2014-15,” according to the district’s “Negotiation Update” released Feb. 25.

Petersen said the union negotiators consolidated their offer into one year because the teachers are not sure what to expect from the district next year. He was positive about the district’s funding presentation from Ron Bennett, a consultant hired by RUSD.

But the teachers said there is too much uncertainty in scheduling of teacher training days and in other aspects of work days. “We are trying to develop a system where we have a plan. In this district, in the last decade, plans change from month to month.”

Petersen added: “It is the culture of the district. It has everything to do with trust and controlling our working conditions.”

Beginning teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience earn an annual salary of $45,180 at RUSD, which is ranked 18th out of 47 school districts, according to a salary survey from the Los Angeles County Office of Education dated June 2013. Arcadia Unified was No. 1 with starting salaries at $49,874; Bassett Unifed was near the bottom at $38,776. Charter Oak was last at $38,495.

Teachers with a master’s degree and listed as the maximum salary step for RUSD earn $69,216, for a ranking of 21 out of 34 districts for which there was comparable data, according to the LACOE report.

RUSD operates 19 schools in Rowland Heights, Walnut, La Puente, Industry and West Covina — with 15,000 students. Board meetings are held at district headquarters, 1830 S. Nogales St., at 5:30 p.m. for the closed session and 7 p.m. for the regular session.