Photo by Sean Roney
Community members and Greenfield school staff gather for a bus trip to Salinas last week to advocate for district unification.
BY SEAN RONEY
FOR GREENFIELD NEWS
GREENFIELD — District administration and staff members from the Greenfield Union School District were joined by dozens of community members on a trip to Salinas on March 21, where they made their case for district unification.
The Monterey County Committee on School District Organization heard their presentations and comments, and found that out of the nine criteria for unifying the Greenfield elementary schools with the high school under one district, there are two financial-related criteria left to meet, leading to the conclusion that unification could not be approved.
“It was a no, just not yet, primarily because of the loan,” said Superintendent Zandra Jo Galvan. “The committee was very respectful in listening to all our folks speaking their testimony.”
Galvan went on to say, “The earliest practical time for us to revisit unification is in 2020. It’s not feasible right now, but that’s not to say that it will never happen. It will happen.”
“We had probably 20 community members, along with students, come up and speak on behalf of unification,” said Director of College and Career Readiness Will Zibell. He noted the sense of pride in having all the city’s schools in the same district. “We want to be able to watch our own students from K-12 be successful.”
Galvan noted student concerns, saying, “They want to graduate from a school that is Greenfield Unified School District,” as well as parent concerns, saying, “It’s hard for them to figure out family vacations or babysitting when the calendars don’t match.”
The Greenfield High School campus is part of the South Monterey County Joint Union High School District, and has been subject to its district’s limitations while under state receivership that began in 2009. The district’s loan expires in 2029, which complicates efforts to switch the GHS campus from one district to another. However, the debt on the loan will be an estimated $8.1 million in 2020, and two options presented by GUSD were to either pay off the loan in full at that time or to go through 2029 while cost-sharing the payments with SMCJUHSD.
“There’s nine criteria that have to be met,” Galvan said. “They were voting on the last three that have to be met. Six were already met in the last few years.”
The first remaining criteria concerned division of property and facilities, which was not approved due to the loan. The next criteria was sound educational program and finding of no disruption to programs, which the committee approved after hearing information from Zibell. The final criteria was fiscal solvency, which was also affected by the loan as well as aligning salaries between high school employees and the rest of the district, and was also not approved.
“If both districts start saving up and keep track of our budgets, when 2020 comes up, we could absolutely defease the loan,” Zibell said.
In the meantime, GUSD staff continue to collaborate with SMCJUHSD to align educational offerings.
“Even absent of a K-12, we can do some great things as two separate districts with a common vision,” Galvan said.
“The next step for us is continuing to work with the high school district,” added Galvan, explaining that the educational service teams of both districts will continue to collaborate. “Working together is in the common interest in making sure our students succeed.”
Another step is community outreach through forums so parents know the progress and plans.
Galvan explained there was a sense of community between parents, teachers, and staff.
“We’ve got this. We can do this,” she said.