Budget Information Archive

Budget Update – 12.21.2018

Stay and Rescind Notice – PDF

Budget Update – 12.20.2018

En Español

Dear Staff and Community Members,

Over the past few months the Sweetwater Union High School District has faced significant challenges with respect to our organizational budget. We have dedicated considerable time and effort to finding solutions by working with as many of our stakeholders as possible including our labor partners, staff, parents and students. We realize that these issues may seem insurmountable at times, but we want to assure you that despite some of the doubts being cast in the public, we are moving forward with a stabilization plan that will ensure positive financial health.

At our Board of Trustees Special Meeting on Monday, December 17, 2018, we took a major step in our plan by approving the Supplemental Early Retirement Plan (SERP). With over 300 staff members taking the incentive, we continue in our efforts of “right sizing” the district and doing so in a way that values our staff and ensures that the positions they leave are being staffed by other current site teachers or other highly qualified staff. Although over 300 staff is a significant number, as an organization that employs over 5,000 people, we have a wealth of expertise and experience already in the district. In cases where necessary, employment postings are already being made public. We appreciate the many years of service among these staff members and wish them the absolute best in their retirement!

Related to the SERP, we received a letter from the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) on the same day as our Special Meeting asking us to consider not accepting the SERP because our current agreements do not layoff staff in the current year. While we have a fundamental difference of opinion and approach with them, we will continue to ask them to be our partners in this effort as we move forward.

As we implement the SERP, we are working closely with school site principals and department directors to assess specific needs. As much as possible, we are working towards finding optimal staffing levels across the district and ensuring the least disruption possible. We have 94 certificated staff leaving us in December. In line with a reduction in enrollment, the departure of these staff gives us the opportunity to revise our master schedules in a way that continues to meet student needs. As an example, this could include a teacher who currently teaches five periods in a day adding an additional class and also receiving compensation for that assignment. This provides less disruption to students and helps us align curriculum and instruction efforts.

At the Special Meeting the Board of Trustees, staff, and the community also heard a presentation by the Financial Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT). Their review was initiated after the Sweetwater District budget was disapproved by the SDCOE in September. FCMAT performs a fiscal risk analysis that determines the level of risk for insolvency that includes numerous factors. District staff worked with FCMAT over the past couple of months to provide hundreds of documents that gave a picture of our finances. There are many elements that we had already begun to address prior to FCMAT’s visit in October and prior to the publication of the report. We will continue to work on these efforts until they are corrected.

What FCMAT ultimately reported on was where our district has been, and not our current direction. We are taking their recommendations very seriously and will continue to take the necessary corrective action steps to meet their requirements. In addition, the SDCOE has called for additional audits and we welcome the opportunity to collaborate with them, or any other public agencies, in these efforts.

In addition, we want to respond to a few key areas that were in the report: position control, information systems, interfund borrowing/cash management, contributions to other funds, and governance and leadership.

Position Control

In an organization that employs over 5,000 people, there are several shifts and changes that occur on a regular basis. In the past few years we have been working on integrating our systems to be more effective and efficient. Part of this process has been to complete a manual review of all of our budgeted positions and actual employees and creating a reconciliation of the two. Our finance staff, payroll staff and human resources staff are hard at work on this and we are on our way toward resolution. One of these solutions is that we will be bringing in expertise to specifically assist us in this area.

Information Systems

One of the initial actions taken by our current leadership team in 2016 was to review all core systems that serve students and staff. As part of our strategic goal to improve and integrate systems, we have implemented needed system enhancements in the areas of firewall, security, student information, payroll, accounting, and human resource systems. The True Course (financial) system was one that we identified as needing change due to its obsolesce and support concerns. As a result, we have initiated an assessment project that will identify a financial system that will support our growing business and educational needs. A system recommendation will be brought to our Board of Trustees for approval in early 2019. Our goal is to implement a financial system that will streamline our business processes and promote integrated communication with all systems at the District.

Interfund Borrowing/Cash Management

An ongoing challenge faced by all districts in California is the timing of when we receive state funds. Each month the Sweetwater District has a payroll obligation of over $30 million. Consistent with California Education Code, in months where the state is providing less than our payroll obligations, we have used our own internal accounts to borrow funds, specifically from Fund 49 – the Community Facilities District accounts. This practice provides a less costly way of borrowing. The funds must be repaid within 120 days of the borrowing and must be repaid with interest. As of right now, as we do throughout the year, we are on track to repay over $30 million this month back to the fund within the 120-day deadline.

Contributions to Other Funds (Special Education, Cafeteria Fund, Adult Education)

As a part of rebuilding the Sweetwater District’s budget, there are several areas where our budget estimates have not been accurate and have ultimately affected the general fund. In the areas of Special Education, Nutrition Services, and Adult Education the district has over the years provided cash contributions to ensure their fiscal stability. Going forward we will be reducing these contributions and working with each of the departments to ensure fiscal responsibility and continue to best serve the students of this district.

We recognize that there is a lot of work to be done. As FCMAT pointed out, many of these issues stretch back many years. When the current Board of Trustees was elected in 2014 and set their priorities, fighting against this culture and correcting these issues was the most important. The Superintendent and the entire Cabinet team were selected for their commitment to making positive change in the Sweetwater District. Together, with the staff, with our community partners, with the parents, and most importantly with the students, significant positive efforts have been made.

The financial situation we face was not created overnight, nor will it go away overnight, but you, as a community, have our deepest commitment that we will do everything we can possibly do to make this right. The students of the district are our utmost priority and we, with your continued support, can make this right together. Thank you.

“We can pinpoint the exact moment when resilience can be cultivated. You can do something about how you experience every day. You don’t have to be a victim of the turmoil and unpredictability of the world. Change is a given; how you respond is within your control.” Elena Aguilar from Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators


20 de diciembre de 2018.

Estimados miembros del personal y miembros de la comunidad:

En los últimos meses el distrito Sweetwater Union High School District ha enfrentado retos importantes relacionados con el presupuesto de nuestra organización. Hemos dedicado bastante tiempo y esfuerzo a encontrar soluciones trabajando con la mayor cantidad posible de las partes interesadas, que incluye a nuestros colaboradores laborales, personal, padres de familia y alumnos. Nos damos cuenta de que a veces estos problemas pueden parecer insuperables, sin embargo queremos asegurarles que, a pesar de algunas de las dudas que se lanzan al público, estamos avanzando con un plan de estabilización que garantizará una salud financiera positiva.

En nuestra junta extraordinaria de la Mesa Directiva del Distrito que se llevó a cabo el lunes 17 de diciembre de 2018, dimos un paso importante en nuestro plan al aprobar el Plan Complementario de Jubilación Temprana (SERP*). Contamos con más de 300 miembros del personal que aceptaron el incentivo de jubiliación, de tal manera que seguimos con nuestros esfuerzos para que el distrito “llegue al tamaño correcto”, y hacer lo antes mencionado es una manera de valorar al personal y asegurar que los puestos vacantes que queden sean ocupados por otros maestros que actualmente trabajan en la escuela u otros miembros del personal altamente cualificados. Aunque decir más de 300 empleados es una cifra importante, para una organización con más de 5,000 personas contratadas, contamos con una gran cantidad de personal con preparación y experiencia en el distrito. En casos necesarios, ya se están publicando los puestos vacantes. ¡Agradecemos los muchos años de servicio de dichos miembros del personal y les deseamos lo mejor en su jubilación!

En cuanto al SERP, recibimos una carta de la Oficina de Educación del Condado de San Diego (SDCOE*) el mismo día de nuestra junta extraordinaria, solicitándonos que consideremos no aceptar el SERP debido a que nuestros acuerdos actuales no permiten despidos de personal en el año en curso. Si bien existe una diferencia fundamental de opinión y de enfoque con ellos, a medida que avanzamos, seguiremos pidiéndoles que sean nuestros colaboradores en este esfuerzo.

A medida que implementamos el SERP, estamos trabajando estrechamente con los directores de las escuelas y los directores de los departamentos para evaluar las necesidades específicas. En la medida de lo posible, estamos trabajando para encontrar niveles óptimos de dotación de personal en todo el distrito y garantizar la menor alteración posible. 94 miembros del personal certificado abandonan el distrito en diciembre. Junto con la reducción en la cantidad de alumnos inscritos, la salida de dicho personal nos brinda la oportunidad de revisar nuestros horarios maestros de una manera que siga cumpliendo con las necesidades del alumno. Como ejemplo, lo anterior podría incluir a un maestro que actualmente imparte cinco períodos al día agregando una clase adicional y recibir una compensación por ello. Lo cual representa menos interrupciones para los alumnos y nos ayuda a alinear el currículum y los esfuerzos de enseñanza.

En la junta extraordinaria de la Mesa Directiva del distrito, el personal y la comunidad también escucharon la presentación del Equipo de Asistencia para Crisis Financiera y Administrativa (FCMAT*). Su revisión se inició después de que en septiembre el SDCOE no aprobara el presupuesto del Distrito de Sweetwater.

El FCMAT realiza un análisis de riesgo fiscal que determina el nivel de riesgo de insolvencia que incluye numerosos factores. El personal del distrito trabajó con FCMAT durante los últimos meses para proporcionar cientos de documentos que proporcionaron una imagen de nuestras finanzas. Existen muchos elementos que ya habíamos comenzado a abordar antes de la visita en octubre de FCMAT y antes de la publicación del informe. Seguiremos trabajando en dichos esfuerzos hasta que sean corregidos.

Lo que finalmente informó el FCMAT fue sobre cuál ha sido el estado de nuestro distrito, y no sobre nuestro rumbo actual. Estamos tomando muy en serio sus recomendaciones y seguiremos tomando las medidas correctivas necesarias para cumplir con sus requisitos. Además, la oficina de SDCOE ha solicitado auditorías adicionales y estamos en la mejor disposición ante la oportunidad de colaborar con ellos, o con cualquier otra agencia pública, en dicha labor.

Además, queremos responder a algunas de las áreas clave que se encuentran en el informe: control de posición, sistemas de información, préstamos inter gubernamentales y administración de efectivo, contribuciones a otros fondos, y gobierno y liderazgo.

Control de posición

En una organización que cuenta con más de 5,000 empleados, se dan varios desplazamientos y cambios que ocurren periódicamente. En los últimos años, hemos estado trabajando para integrar nuestros sistemas con el fin de que sean más eficaces y eficientes. Parte de este proceso ha sido realizar una revisión manual de todos los puestos presupuestados del distrito y empleados contratados  y crear una conciliación de ambos. Nuestro personal de finanzas, personal de nómina y personal de recursos humanos están trabajando arduamente en esto y vamos rumbo a la resolución. Una de las soluciones es traer expertos para ayudarnos específicamente en esta área.

Sistemas de información

En el 2016, una de las acciones iniciales tomadas por nuestro equipo de liderazgo actual fue revisar todos los sistemas centrales que se utilizan con los alumnos y el personal.  Como parte de nuestro objetivo estratégico de mejorar e integrar los sistemas, hemos implementado las mejoras necesarias en los sistemas de firewall, seguridad, información estudiantil, nómina, contabilidad y sistemas de recursos humanos. Se identificó que el sistema financiero True Course necesita cambios debido a cuestiones de obsolescencia y falta de sistemas de apoyo. Como resultado, hemos iniciado un proyecto de evaluación que identificará un sistema financiero que apoyará nuestras crecientes necesidades comerciales y educativas. Se presentará una recomendación de un sistema ante la Mesa Directiva del Distrito para su aprobación a principios de 2019. Nuestro objetivo es implementar un sistema financiero que agilice nuestros procesos comerciales y promueva la comunicación integrada con todos los sistemas en el Distrito.

Préstamos entre fondos internos y administración de efectivo

Un reto constante que enfrentan todos los distritos de California es la fecha en que recibimos los fondos estatales. Todos los meses, el Distrito de Sweetwater tiene la obligación de cubrir la nómina de más de $30 millones. De acuerdo con el Código de Educación de California, en los meses en que el estado provee menos que nuestras obligaciones de nómina, hemos utilizado nuestras propias cuentas internas para solicitar préstamos, específicamente del Fondo 49, es decir de las cuentas de las Instalaciones Comunitarias del Distrito. Esta práctica es una forma menos costosa de pedir prestado. Los fondos deben reembolsarse con intereses dentro de los 120 días posteriores a la fecha del préstamo. Actualmente, como lo hacemos durante todo el año, este mes estamos en vías de reembolsar al fondo más de $30 millones cumpliendo con el plazo de 120 días

Aportaciones a otros fondos (educación especial, fondo de cafetería, educación de adultos)

Como parte de la reconstrucción del presupuesto del Distrito de Sweetwater, existen varias áreas donde nuestros cálculos presupuestarios no han sido precisos y, en última instancia, han afectado al fondo general. En las áreas de Educación Especial, Servicios de Nutrición y Educación de Adultos, el distrito, en el transcurso de los años, ha proporcionado aportaciones en efectivo para garantizar su estabilidad fiscal. En el futuro, reduciremos estas aportaciones y trabajaremos con cada uno de los departamentos para garantizar la responsabilidad fiscal y seguir proporcionando un mejor servicio a los alumnos del distrito.

Reconocemos que hay mucho trabajo por hacer. Como señaló el FCMAT, muchos de estos problemas se remontan a muchos años. Cuando se eligió a la actual Mesa Directiva del Distrito en el 2014 y se establecieron sus prioridades, lo más importante fue luchar contra esta cultura y corregir estos problemas. El Superintendente y todo el equipo del gabinete fueron seleccionados por su compromiso a lograr un cambio positivo en el Distrito de Sweetwater. Unidos, con el personal, con nuestros colaboradores de la comunidad, con los padres de familia, y lo más importante con los alumnos, se han realizado esfuerzos positivos importantes.

La situación financiera que enfrentamos no se creó de la noche a la mañana, ni desaparecerá de la noche a la mañana, pero ustedes, como miembros de la comunidad, cuentan con nuestro mayor compromiso de que haremos todo lo posible para corregir la situación. Los alumnos del distrito son nuestra máxima prioridad y nosotros, con su apoyo constante, podemos enderezar las cosas. Gracias.

“Podemos señalar el momento exacto en que se puede cultivar la resiliencia. Puedes hacer algo sobre cómo vives cada día. No tienes que ser una víctima de la confusión y la imprevisibilidad del mundo. El cambio es un hecho; la manera como respondes está bajo tu control”.

Elena Aguilar autora de “Adelante: cultivando la resiliencia emocional en los educadores” (Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators)


(*Por sus siglas en inglés.)

Budget Update – 12.18.2018

Over the past few months the Sweetwater Union High School District has faced very significant challenges with respect to our organizational budget. We have worked diligently to stabilize our budget and taken the appropriate measures. We have done so in very close collaboration with our labor partners and with our community stakeholders.

Tonight, our Board of Trustees will consider one of the major steps in our budget solutions process – the Supplemental Early Retirement Plan (SERP). You will hear more details in the next few minutes, but let me provide you one of the major highlights: This program resulted in over 300 employees from all levels – management, certificated, and classified – who have elected to take the incentive in either December of 2018 or June of 2019.

Click here to view the Q-1 PARS Post Analysis Report – PDF

Recently, we received a letter from the San Diego County Office of Education stating that they do not believe that the SERP is in the best interest of the district. A major factor indicated in their letter is the concern about the inability to lay off staff if there are additional savings needed. However, we have a fundamental difference of opinion and approach with SDCOE. A fundamental part of finding budget solutions is through collaborations with our associations and to create a humane and thoughtful process where solutions such as layoffs for our 7-12 staff are not a primary part of this process. Through the SERP we have made agreements with our labor partners that several positions will not be replaced and ultimately result in reduction in staff. As we have continuously stated, we believe that the solutions lie in the collaboration with our partners.

We believe that being a good partner is walking together along the path to solution. We want to continue to extend our offer to SDCOE to walk this path with us and do what is right for this community – our community.

There is still much work to be done, but ultimately, we are confident that by working with our internal and external partners (including SDCOE), we can move forward in a positive manner and continue to serve the students and families of our district.

Click here to view the 12.17.18 SDCOE Letter to SUHSD – PDF

Setting the Record Straight – 11.05.2018


Over the past several weeks, the Sweetwater Union High School District has been working through a very challenging situation with our budget. As you are aware, the district identified a shortfall in our budget for the 2018-2019 school year and immediately self-reported it to the San Diego County Office of Education. The district immediately began to fully deconstruct our budget and build it back up in a way that was accurate and truly reflective of our financial position.


With help from our employee labor groups, educational partners and community stakeholders, we were able to identify ways to balance our budget and do so in a way that was the least impactful to students and our classrooms as possible.


The purpose of this communication is to answer some commonly asked questions and to provide you with information that is honest, accurate, and provides as much clarity as possible.


As we continue through this process, we hope you will work with us to identify ways that we can better and more efficiently serve our students, while also being responsible stewards of our finances. Thank you



How did we get here and who is responsible?


It is important to acknowledge that there were mistakes made across our system that contributed to this current budget situation. The systems approach to addressing organizational setbacks accepts mistakes will happen, mistakes usually triggered by factors built into the system.

  • Organizations usually have a series of measures in place to prevent errors – e.g. alarms, procedures, checklists, trained staff, etc. Each of these measures can be looked upon as a “defensive layer” against error. What we’ve learned about our current systems is that we did not have tight internal controls or warning systems in place. Stronger internal controls, in addition to these alerts, are needed around payroll and staffing, site and department budgets, as well as the implementation of checks & balances at every level of the organization. The lack of these tight internal controls and warning systems resulted in unbudgeted increases in expenditures at the site and district levels.
  • On top of this, we factor in the “perfect storm” that characterized the 2017-18 fiscal year: declining enrollment, declining average daily attendance (ADA), and declining percentage of unduplicated student groups (Foster Youth/Homeless, Low Income, English Learners) – all revenue sources. This resulted in a decrease in revenues.
  • An increase in expenditures and a decrease in revenues = a budget shortfall.


Will academic interventions (such as tutoring, credit recovery, etc.) still be offered at school sites?

Yes. At several schools that receive Title I funds (funding from the federal government for lower socioeconomic status students), there should be no change to the academic intervention programs being offered. At some schools that do not receive Title I dollars you may see some shifts in how interventions are offered, but the intent is still to provide students with the support that they need.


It is important to note that school sites across the district are able to adjust their programs as they see most appropriate to meet student needs. Therefore, the programs that one school might offer do not necessarily mirror what another school offers. If you have questions about this, please do not hesitate to contact your site principal.


Will Summer School be offered in 2019?


Yes. Over the past several years we have made an effort to provide summer school at as many sites as possible. Although the plan has not been finalized yet, summer school will be offered at several schools throughout the district. This is a model that has been used in years past in Sweetwater and will enable us to ensure cost savings at campuses that are not being used. When a final plan is developed, it will be shared with the community.


Will activities such as prom, grad night and others be cancelled?


No. Funding for these events comes from separate revenue sources and are not being affected by the budget situation.


Are any athletic programs being eliminated?

No. We are very proud of the athletic traditions in Sweetwater Schools and will continue to support our student athletes across all competitive sports.


Is transportation being eliminated?

No. The district is looking at ways to be more efficient in how we offer transportation and working with school sites on how to minimize costs and resources while still taking advantage of the current fleet we have.


Will all schools and district offices be closed during Thanksgiving and the Winter Break?

The week of Thanksgiving (Nov. 19-23) and Winter Break (Dec. 24 – Jan. 15) are non-instruction days. This will also be a time when some staff will be taking furlough days (pending negotiation). We are working on a plan to minimize use of resources and to create energy savings, this may include several sites and district offices to be closed during this time. For detailed information on a school site or district department, please call ahead of time for their hours of operation. A district directory can he found here and school site information can be found here.



Has District Office staff increased in the past few years?


Staff across the district has increased over the past few years, including both school sites and district office staff. In the 2014-15 school year Sweetwater Union High School District employed 3,970 staff members, while in 2018-19 the district employs 4,367 staff. This includes increases at all levels of employee units – certificated, classified and management.


These increases were possible due to an increased stream of revenue from the State of California to all school districts, including Sweetwater under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and one-time monies that were made available. In the 2014-15 school year our general fund unrestricted budget was $313,069,683.53 and in 2018-19 our funding is $384,590,166.88.


Along with increased revenue from the state, came several requirements based on the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) where funding is directly correlated to services offered by the district. The Sweetwater District’s LCAP goals can be found here.


As part of the LCAP goals, funding and staffing was increased across several areas based on school site needs and the LCAP goals. This included areas such as mental health services, homeless and foster students and several other categories. Funding for these programs are both general fund as well as specific funding sources such as Federal, State, and County dollars allocated for specific uses.



Induction (new teacher support) was reinstated in Sweetwater in 2016. The district funded Induction for 2016-2018 using one-time funds, the Educator Effectiveness Entitlement, which were given to all districts by the state. Our Board approved our plan for the use of the $2.9 Million dollars we received from the entitlement in late 2015. Induction provides 1:1 mentoring and programmatic support for teachers clearing their credential through a California Teaching Credential Commission (CTC)-approved program, as required by state law.


During the 2016-17 school year Induction supported 275 new teachers and interns. During the 2017-18 school year Induction supported 230 new teachers and interns. This year Induction is being funded out of General Fund (10%) and Federal Title II (90%) dollars. Induction is supporting 170 new teachers and interns. The focus of both the Educator Effectiveness Entitlement and Title II funds centers around new teacher and administrator induction and support.


School Leadership Teams (SLT)

The School Leadership Teams (SLTs) were reinstated at the request of staff across the district. This structure is the only district-wide opportunity to address our instructional focus which is Effective first instruction that leads to student engagement and mastery through the lens of equity and culture. SLTs are composed of the Faculty Advisory Committee (FAC) that includes teachers, counselors, and administrators. In addition to the FAC members, SLTs also include the CIS, curriculum specialists, and a classified member. The substitutes for SLTs are funded out of Title II dollars. These are funds that specifically support ongoing professional development opportunities. Funding for Classified staff involved in SLT comes from Supplemental and Concentration dollars.

The purpose of the SLT is to create a site-based leadership team that empowers schools to focus on the important aspects of instruction, school culture and climate, and academic achievement.

How will special education services be impacted?

Special education services will continue to be provided as determined by each student’s Individualized Education Team. Services that students require will not be impacted due to the budget solutions.

Are these challenges that Sweetwater is facing unique to this district?

No. Unfortunately, despite increases in funding, school districts across California and across the nation are facing similar situations due to several areas of increased costs and decreased enrollment and attendance. In a recent publication by West Ed it was called the “silent recession.” You can download that publication here.

Recently, the San Diego Union Tribune also highlighted this issue in San Diego County. That story can be seen here.

Message from the Superintendent – October.22.2018

  • Tonight I want to provide an update to our staff and community on our budget situation. Our budget situation has been described as serious, significant, challenging, difficult, even a crisis. Here is what we know – our Board adopted a revised 2018-19 budget that is balanced operationally; we also know we still have work to do. We know we didn’t arrive at the solutions for the revised budget independently, but rather through a collaborative process. I realize there are questions, even major concerns, about how did this happen, who is responsible? How did we get here? I’d like to start with providing some context.
  • Much can be learned about an organization by observing what leaders and management do when things go wrong. In such situations, the governance and district leadership teams have focused on the issue and worked with our stakeholders in order to find solutions. Here are some examples:
    • When the new Board and leadership began in 2015, one of the first tasks we tackled was to revise our LCAP goals.  Part of reconstructing the LCAP was taking it out to stakeholders to get input. We deliberately chose to take it out to the five trustee areas. The way we asked for input was specifically by stakeholder group – teachers/certificated staff, counselors, classified staff, administrators, parents, and students. We believe that was an action of our Board and new leadership to rebuild the trust and put the “we” back in Sweetwater. That was our first big message of who we are and how we were going to do business going forward.  Due to feedback from stakeholders, we purposely added an additional goal on “Developing coherent and transparent systems for operational excellence to support each student’s success.” Why is that so important and critical? Because we are committed to honest, ethical, and transparent decision making.
    • SUHSD is almost 100 years old. There are systems that have been in place for a long time, maybe not 100 years, but in many examples at least for 20+ years. We knew we needed to examine these systems and replace them with structures and practices that meet our current needs. When this Board first got elected in 2014-15, the most glaring system that needed attention was planning & construction and maintenance. Two years ago an internal review was conducted that resulted in improved systems. There is lots of evidence that these changes have made a positive difference for our students, our staff, our district and improved credibility with our partners in the community.
    • Another area we knew we needed to assess was the lack of integration of our payroll, HR, and finance operating systems. The 2014-15 FCMAT report mentioned position control: “To be effective, the position control system must be integrated with other financial modules such as budget and payroll.” The first step involved upgrading the HR Infor system.  Next, SDCOE implemented a required payroll system for all districts, which we know as PeopleSoft. Sweetwater has been using the PeopleSoft system for less than two years.  PeopleSoft has been problematic for districts across the county, and for those districts who implemented it for their HR and finance system; therefore, we determined that using PeopleSoft for payroll, HR, and finance was not a viable solution to meet the recommendation made in the FCMAT report. We continue to use True Course for finance after almost 20 years, but it can no longer be upgraded. To support “developing coherent and transparent systems”, in Spring 2018, we contracted with School Services of California to conduct an internal review of HR, payroll, finance, accounting, purchasing, risk management, and benefits to get input into how we can improve the interconnectedness between these systems. That is the context to consider as I discuss our current budget situation.
  • So back to the question of what happened and who is responsible?
    • First, the Board’s role is to establish policies, determine district priorities and direction, and to hire a superintendent.
    • The superintendent’s role is to focus on student learning, achievement, and the attainment of the district’s vision and goals, as well as to manage the non-instructional operations of the district. Ultimately, I am responsible to our Board and everyone in our district for what happened and I am responsible for moving us forward. I am a product of the Sweetwater district and I care deeply about ensuring that all areas of the district are high quality and functioning at their optimum, so I do not take this responsibility lightly.
    • I am first a teacher, so I’m putting on my teacher hat. Research on organizational health states when things go wrong in an organization there are two normal types of responses, one reaction is to hunt for a scapegoat, the other is to take a systemic view that focuses on finding the root cause and to figure out how to prevent it from recurring. Research also says that scapegoating and assigning blame erodes collaboration and trust. If a blaming culture infiltrates an organization, employees are less willing to take risks, less creative, and less likely to learn from mistakes.  So, while we are not going to engage in a blaming culture, it is important to acknowledge that there were mistakes made across our system that contributed to this current budget situation. The systems approach to addressing organizational setbacks accepts mistakes will happen, mistakes usually triggered by factors built into the system.
    • Organizations usually have a series of measures in place to prevent errors – e.g. alarms, procedures, checklists, trained staff, etc. Each of these measures can be looked upon as a “defensive layer” against error. What we’ve learned about our current systems is that we did not have tight internal controls or warning systems in place.  Stronger internal controls, in addition to these alerts, are needed around payroll and staffing, site and department budgets, as well as the implementation of checks & balances at every level of the organization.  The lack of these tight internal controls and warning systems resulted in unbudgeted increases in expenditures at the site and district levels.
    • On top of this, we factor in the “perfect storm” that characterized the 2017-18 fiscal year: declining enrollment, declining average daily attendance (ADA), and declining percentage of unduplicated student groups (Foster Youth/Homeless, Low Income, English Learners) – all revenue sources. This resulted in a decrease in revenues.
    • An increase in expenditures and a decrease in revenues = a budget shortfall.
    • In determining our budget solutions, we have asked staff and community for ideas. Some of these ideas result in making sacrifices, and staff are uncertain or fearful about what might happen in the future. We realize and acknowledge this is a difficult time, and we appreciate the spirit of collaboration that has helped us find solutions.
    • My responsibility as the leader of a large organization is to develop a strong culture of transparency and collaboration that promotes the development of solutions and results in replacing, repairing, or revising our systems to prevent this from happening again.
    • But, I can’t do this alone. We continue to rely on your help and ideas. We need everyone to be mindful of ways to conserve and save our resources.  District budgets are very complicated, so our conversations need to include educating everyone about the basics of district financial systems.
      • We have already made changes to internal controls as a result of recommendations from staff. One example is position control. We are putting more oversight in the PAR (Position Action Request) workflow. We have created a Position Control Committee that is reviewing site and district staffing allocations to ensure there is alignment with the budget.
      • We have scheduled meetings with site and department teams to train and inform them of those changes.
      • Because we have three separate systems, there are manual processes and procedures that create potential for inefficiencies. We are working to reduce inefficiencies.  An example here is data automation for onboarding new employees. We have to input data on new employees in three different systems – PeopleSoft, Infor, True Course. Staff is finding ways to minimize the redundancies of that data input.
      • We have been exploring web-based finance programs since last year. Our goal is to bring some options to the Board for approval as we move forward in addressing this issue.
      • We will continue to involve and include staff and community in the discussions around ongoing budget solutions.
      • We will offer a series of workshops on budget development and budget-related topics open to all stakeholders.
      • Finally, we remain committed to our Mission and Beliefs which put students first and creates a learning environment that is safe, inclusive and promotes academic, social and emotional development.
  • We want to thank everyone who has contributed to our budget solutions – labor associations, staff and community. We could not have progressed this far and this fast without you.
  • We have been in contact with the San Diego County Office of Education. We are optimistic we will be hearing official news soon on next steps towards approving our revised budget. With that in mind, and in an effort to continue working on addressing our budget going forward, we will be requesting assistance from SDCOE in the areas of position control, computer system infrastructure and implementation, cash management, multi-year projections, Special Education and Maintenance of Effort requirements, Supplemental Early Retirement Plan analysis and implementation, Interfund borrowing, pension reporting for Adult Ed STRS, and routine restricted maintenance.
  • Let’s support each other as we walk through this in a way that makes us proud and true to what we believe. It will be difficult, and the best way to do this is by walking together!

Message from the Superintendent – October.08.2018

October.08.2018 District Board meeting – Budget Presentation

Welcome back to the second quarter of the 2018-19 school year! Hope you had a great break!

During the break many of you hopefully read the email I sent September 26, 2018, on behalf of the Board of Trustees and me, regarding our budget situation. Perhaps you also read some concerning information in the media or heard rumors about how we were going to solve our budget challenges. We are sorry that all this news may have caused uncertainty or worry about how this might impact you personally.

Please know that during the break lots of work has been done to resolve our significant budget challenges. We are confident to say that by working together, we have been able to achieve a balanced operating budget and do so in a way that results in the least disruption to staff, continues to put students first, and does not jeopardize student/staff safety on our campuses.

Our team began to reconstruct our 2018-19 budget and rebuild it in a way that would meet the identified shortfalls and do so in a way that is solid, sound, and compassionate to all stakeholders. Since the September 24th Board Meeting, we immediately began discussing with our internal labor partners, district leaders, as well as outside agencies such as the California Department of Education and the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) to address this current challenge.

We appreciate all the suggestions from staff that we heard in meetings or received via email or the online survey. Many of those suggestions are being brought forward to the Board at the Monday, October 8th, meeting. Some examples include energy cost savings, freezing unfilled positions, reduction in the work year for all Management, and program funding shifts from General Fund budgets to restricted budgets such as Title I and Title IV.

Throughout this budget challenge, we believe that we have remained pragmatic, honest, and transparent in our efforts. This process has also enabled us to implement new practices and protocols that will help prevent this situation in the future. We cannot give enough thanks to our labor partners and all of our employee units who were willing to work together and find solutions while not compromising our Mission, Beliefs, and organizational values.

You are invited to look at the documents we are presenting to our Board of Trustees on Monday by going to this link. We encourage all stakeholders to watch the live streaming of this meeting.

Thank you for your continued support for our Mission, Beliefs, and LCAP Goals. As we move forward, let’s continue to remember our theme of T.E.A.M. – Together Everyone Always Matters – and organizational decisions are always better when we work together as partners.

Dear Sweetwater Staff and Community,

At our September 24th Board of Trustees meeting, we had a presentation of our unaudited actuals. The unaudited actuals are where we close all of our financial books for the 2017-18 school year and is an annual requirement from the California Department of Education (CDE).

As our Board and district leadership are committed to transparency, we are taking this opportunity to share this financial update with you, our Sweetwater community.

When our staff was finalizing this report in late August, we detected some cause for concern of a potential shortfall in closing our financial books for the 17-18 school year. Immediately, we communicated with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) since we work in partnership with them and they provide our district with oversight and support. We conveyed the need for more time than the September 15th requirement to verify and confirm the final numbers. The SDCOE supported the extension to provide extra time to finalize our unaudited actuals.

As a result of a shortfall in closing the financial books of 2017-18 school year, we will have to revise/rebuild our adopted budget for the 2018-19 school year. While the SDOCE has committed to support and assist us, they have preliminarily disapproved our adopted 18/19 budget from June and are providing suggestions on how to move to approval when we submit a revised 18-19 budget for board action on October 8 and, if necessary, October 22. This is consistent with the education code process and we are thankful to the support the CDE and SDCOE are providing to make these changes.

Since we first noticed the concern, we have been sharing information with our Board of Trustees, site and district leaders, as well as our labor partner leaders. Our commitment during this process continues to involve voices, opinions, recommendations, suggestions as we move forward to rebuild the 18-19 budget.

What is important to know now is that we are approaching this challenge like we have approached other challenges in the past knowing that collectively we bring creative solutions when all voices are at the table. This situation is no different. We are confident we can collaboratively determine solutions to address this current financial deficit.

We want to assure the Sweetwater community that our ongoing commitment is to work diligently and thoroughly to keep focused on our LCAP Goals of teaching and learning, equity and culture, parent/community engagement, and coherent and transparent systems that support each student’s success. At the same time, over the next several weeks, we will collectively and collaboratively implement a plan to address our budget challenges with the least disruption to our students and staff.

Our Board of Trustees and district leadership appreciate the opportunity to collaborate during this dynamic process ensuring we continue the work of “Putting Students First.”

In an effort to keep you informed, we have created a page on our district Website where you can find updated information, and soon we will have a method for you to provide recommendations and suggestions on ways to address and support our budget deficit. Our goal is to share weekly updates.

Board of Trustees and Superintendent Janney