Natomas Would Suffer From School Takeover

Officials last night painted a bleak picture for Natomas should the state take over its schools.

Superintendent Bobbie Plough gave school board members a detailed report on the impacts of bankruptcy proceedings, a multi-million dollar loan that would take several years to repay, and appointment of a state trustee to oversee all Natomas Unified operations. If the district fails to meet a Nov. 30 deadline, the process will start to borrow the money needed to keep the school district afloat.

Once the bond is sold to secure the multi-million dollar loan, “there is no turning back,” said Plough. “All power lies in the hands of one person, and there is no public accountability.”

The school district’s management and confidential employees have agreed to take a 7.9 percent pay cut and several unpaid furlough days to help close an $8.9 million cash-flow gap. District officials continue to negotiate with the teachers’ and classified employee unions for similar concessions, but to date, no agreements have been reached.

Plough’s report included insight from state trustees and steps they took to mend finances in other school districts, including Compton and Oakland. If the trustee cannot secure employee concessions, she said, Natomas could expect:
  • 36 students in elementary grade classrooms and 40+ in secondary grades.
  • Teacher and support staff layoffs.
  • School closures.
  • Consolidation of administrative and support staff.
“We are asking, once again, (for employees) to make a huge sacrifice,” said Plough. “I understand that.”

A handful of Natomas residents, including councilmember-elect Angelique Ashby who has a child in Natomas schools, made the case for pay cuts and avoiding a state takeover in Natomas. The local housing market, economy and a generation of children would feel the impact of state receivership for many years to come, they said.

School board member Lisa Kaplan pointed out employee pay cuts for the 2011-12 school year is not a long-term solution to Natomas Unified’s money woes and that similar cuts would be needed in subsequent years.

Plough agreed, but said the pay cuts would avoid a state takeover in the short term and buy the district time to explore other options.

Independent charter schools operating within the Natomas Unified School District’s boundaries would not be affected by a state takeover.


  1. Yet another example of the teachers who have not been affected by layoffs and the union looking out for adults instead of for the children they teach. Ask a teacher who has been laid off if they would be willing to make salary concessions if they could keep their jobs? Their answer, for many would be in a heartbeat! Many Natomas teachers are making upwards of $70,000 a year because they have been teaching for so long. While I agree an experienced teacher is a good thing, sometimes you have to think about the sacrifices you could make to save the kids. Just a thought. Thank you Buzz for posting this.

  2. Natomas residents, please do your homework and understand that a State takeover of our District will not be good for our community. I know we appreciate our teachers and staff and we are aware that they had about a 4% cut this year and next year they are asking for another 4% on top of that ( total 7.9%). But if the State takes control of our District, those cuts will be greater. Please talk to your child’s teacher and let them know that we as parents do not want the State to gain control of our District.

  3. 1. It’s a shame that some members of the community believe, without questioning, the district’s latest version of their budget, even as if changes constantly, and even as the district continues to spend on consultants and unneccesary programs.
    2. Why would a district with as small a budget as Natomas has (very much unlike Vallejo and others) even consider state receivership for as small a shortfall as they are claiming? We have been deficit spending as a district for years, and it’s the same problem year after year. There never seems to be an end to the behavior. If there is never going to be an end to the cuts, then state takeover is unfortunately inevitable.
    3. Who else, what other profession, with as much responsibility and education as teachers take on, would be asked to make such sacrifices as management is claiming to need now, especially to bail out a board and management that has essesntially mismanaged their way, for years, to get here? When employees from NTA and CSEA made budget saving suggestions that were ignored, why would anyone then expect that these groups should be the ones to make more sacrifices… to what end? As if all of their decisions thus far have been with the students in mind, and the front-line teachers have not? Simply ludicrous.
    Those of us that have really been paying attention and are in the know, and have been following the budget year after year, really do know better. Please stop falling for the propoganda. Our teachers are not that gullible, thank goodness.

  4. One other comment. A previous post mentioned teacher salary, stating most teachers “make upwards of $70,00.” Even if this figure were accurate, think about it a bit. It’s probably the gross amount for one thing, so when we get to net, do we really think that after all of the classroom necessities spent out of their pocket we’re even that close to that amount? Necessities that a district office should provide, but they don’t or won’t – what other profession expects their employees to purchase their own supplies? Talk to many of our teachers and you will find that at the end of the day, many are close to losing their homes. Again, for the amount of education they paid for and daily responsibility they take on, why would our expectation be that they live below poverty and give up the homes they worked years for? Don’t they do so much daily already for their students?
    What you see at board meetings such as the one this week is not about budgets or the state, but a group of people who fear losing power over the community and the schools they are charged to administer. You don’t see greedy teachers… there are hardly any that can attend at the end of a long, tired day of work and contact with dozens of students. (Witter teachers attended once because despite everything, they have successfully reached distinguished school status, and they are understandably angry at the district and board for their poor decision-making, as are their colleagues at other schools.)
    Rather, you see people afraid of losing their decision-making power. Instead of vilifying the hard-working teacher, please thank a teacher for their hard work and appreciate them for their lack of gullibility towards the current management that continues to demand more and more sacrifices from them/us.
    Who does state receivership hurt the most? The decision-makers. The teachers and students and families will still be in Natomas throughout it all. We’re not going anywhere. Why would we? We’re proud of our work here. We’re not in it for the power and glory, we’re here for the students. And with our top-notch teachers, like the ones we saw just make Witter a distinguished school, we will all be fine.

  5. NTA Executive board. Almost everyone has had to take significant cuts on this economy. All professions have been asked to take cuts even deeper that what the teachers are being ask to take. Stop making yourself out to be the only victim in this economy. Teachers get paid full time for only 9 months out the the year. I was sympathetic to the NTA and the teachers in general until your posts. It is obvious now that you care more about teacher salaries and benefits than you care about the state of the district.

  6. NTA is also issuing propaganda. They make it sound like a state trustee would care or negotiate with the union. They would not. The trustee would simply declare impasse and impose on the union.

    NTA needs to give a fair explanation for how they justify not taking ANY pay cuts during this budget crisis. Freeze in step and column is not a pay cut.

    Davissig, for the record, most teachers work 10 months, not 9 and hold either graduate degrees or the equivalent in units. They would get paid more in other fields for the same amount of work.

  7. Happy to answer. A state trustee must continue negotiations. There is no automatic impass and no automatic imposition. You do no have your facts straight. Just have to research other districts to learn that information. Also, who said that NTA didn’t take any pay cuts? We already took them two years in a row. We were furloughed a week each for 2 years in a row and you can bet we were not paid for those days. We did not freeze step or column, so again, not getting the facts straight. This kind of misinformation concerns me. Teachers are paid for 12 months of the year. We work evenings and weekends, as well as summer months prepping for and attending trainings for the next year. Another fallacy propogated by the non-teacher crowd is that we don’t work a full year. Finally, where you get that teachers don’t care about the district, I have no idea. We care so much that we try to get through to district leadership, but we remain unheard. Right now, you can drive by Hight and Natomas Middle and see all of the interior lights going on all night, and all weekend. Do you also know that many teachers go without a working printer, adequate paper, and other basic supplies to deliver curriculum to our students? Why would that be acceptable for this profession? These are the things Natomas teachers are concerned about. If that translates to you to be greedy and selfish, then we will never convince you that we care about our district.

  8. A state take over would be terrible for the community. Agreed, NUSD has not shown great leadership in the past. But if NTA doesn’t come to the table and offer a fair compromise they will not maintain the respect and support from parents. And while I think it is terrible that teacher have had their pay cut, remember many parents are state workers. We have had our paychecks cut 15% for the past two years. So we understand the sacrafice you are being asked to make for our children. Thank you.

  9. NTA- I am a teacher and in the district, so any facts I have wrong are the fault of NTA and the propaganda instead of reality being spewed by both sides. I also know for a fact that in other districts, the state negotiator did not continue beyond cursory negotiations. If the union is unwilling to sit at the table and negotiate pay cuts, that is impasse and pay cuts will be imposed.

    If we took pay cuts, but didn’t freeze step and column, then it wasn’t really a pay cut was it? It was paperwork.

    I do work all year, all the time. I pay for my own continuing education units, my training, my paper, my supplies and my supplies for my students. But when it comes down to it, experienced teachers are better for our kids than schools full of emergency credentialed teachers. I didn’t become a teacher to get rich, I became a teacher to make a difference.

  10. For the record I believe that the teachers do care about the students (see sacmom2003 post). I do not believe that the NTA cares about the district. Lights going on at night and the weekends? Really? That is your answer for shoring up the districts finances. No wonder you are not being heard, your solutions don’t make any meaningful impact.

    Again, stop making the NTA as the only victim in this economy, most professionals work weekends and nights, no one ever has enough office supplies (my child’s teacher asked parents to provide $125 for field trips and class supplies which we all did) and many professions have to pay for their own continuing education.

  11. Sacmom, many of our teachers seem to remain ill-informed, despite our newletters, updates, and probably because of low attendance at our informational meetings. Some members just want to believe what they want to believe. A state trustee will take one look at our salaries and benefits (many of us pay way more than other surrounding districts out of our pockets) and determine that the bargaining units are not causing the problem. Many of us don’t get step and column so it’s not just paperwork, it’s real cuts to real working families. I saw it in my family, didn’t you? NTA has been and continues to diligently negotiate with the district to make the best decisions for our members, for our health and welfare. It’s about self-respect for our teachers. However, for the district, it’s about asking the employees to solve a problem with the district’s “cash flow,” meaning their ability to continue to spend. Enabling a failing system is not something any reasonable tax-payer should be advocating for. We are working to change how decisions are made for a better district, not support the status-quo that got us where we are today. Your service as a teacher is appreciated by NTA.

  12. NTA- I think your post is the exact evidence why the Board doesn’t listen. How inflammatory! You assume that I am ill-informed, stubborn or choosing to live in the dark. You know what the kids all say about “assume”ing.

    Real cuts are coming all around. It’s the nature of a recession. Sure, I saw it in my family. But I planned ahead, lived within my means and was careful, just like the families of our students had to do. We are all very lucky we haven’t been hit harder in this time. I know many friends in the private sector that have been out of work for months or even more than a year.

  13. I WAS a Natomas teacher, Before the NTA decided not to accept a freeze for column and step increases last August. I and the other 40-50 teachers like me are forced to be subs in our own schools and wave to the students we once had. What has not been mentioned is that the freeze that could have happened last year would have conceded DOUBLE what the furloughs gave over the TWO years that they have been in place (Last year and this school year) I was ill informed by my union, the one that was supposed to be protecting my best interest, Of what truly would happen when I am out of a job. My family like many others has had to make severe sacrifices. I do not see why NTA teachers should be excluded.I now have to fight for the rights of my child and the other children who do attend a Natomas schools. I am so glad that the teachers union is once again looking out for the adults and not the children. It does not matter if the funds were mismanaged years ago, what matters is now…..

  14. In the interest of full disclosure let say right that I am a teacher in Natomas, that being said, please ponder this thought. While the district has been asking for sacrifices from all its staff, and gotten them for the last two years. Many of these workers (myself included) see no end to the district asking/demanding more concessions. Here is a thought for the parents who implore us to continue on doing more work for less and less money when we have our own debts to pay for. Why hasn’t the School Board gone to the voters and asked them through a parcel tax to support the students of this district. There have been, at least two election during this crisis that the Board could have used to accomplish this and yet not one of the board members have even put forth the concept. Other districts have done so. Why? I think it because the board knows that they do not have the support of the voters in the district, after years of mismanagement, land deals for swamps, budget projections that off and have been for years, why would anyone give this organization any more money? No they don’t think that concept has a chance, so they go after its workers. Parents keep saying who state takeover will hurt there home values, and we the workers need to fall on our swords “for the (their) kids”. The workers of this district have their own kids to feed and shelter. Where are the parents demanding to raise their own taxes to support their own KIDS? Mac

  15. Wow, this is getting ugly. Mac- I don’t think that parents want you to “fall on your swords” for our kids. Just do your job which is to educate them. I teach in another district where we have also had to make concessions. We also have to ask for supplies, paper, etc, or buy it with our own money. The difference is that our parents already live at the poverty level and its VERY hard for them to help. But you know what, they do. We can’t ask them for $100+ per kid for field trips and other supplies, but they will scrape together a few dollars (sometimes in change) so we can go on our 1 field trip for the school year. So please, don’t make the parents out to be the enemy. We are doing the best we can to support our children, their teachers and their classrooms.

  16. I would like more information to better understand the problem.

    Plough’s reported the following may occur if employee concessions are not made and the state takes over the district:

    36 students in elementary grade classrooms and 40+ in secondary grades.
    Teacher and support staff layoffs.
    School closures.
    Consolidation of administrative and support staff.

    Does NTA agree with Plough prediction? If not what does NTA predict will be the outcome of a state take over regarding class size expanding, teacher layoffs, school closings and consolidation of adminstriative staff?

    What employee concessions is the district asking in this lastest bargaining round? What concessions, if any, is NTA willing to make?

    What other solutions does NTA propose to bridge the gap?

  17. Hello,

    I’m a teacher at Inderkum, a member of the negotiating team, and treasurer for the NTA exectutive Board. Before your blood pressure shoots up, please hear me out with an open mind.

    It’s clear from the comments that many people have many strong emotional feelings about our problems. I think that shows how much people care about the problems and hopefully the solutions will be that much more effective because of it.

    I’d like to address the “process” very briefly. NTA began the negotiation process with NUSD back in February. NTA made proposal after proposal to NUSD and NUSD would only respond and counter to “Shared Contract” which affects less than 8 members of the NTA. Eight proposals were made and none but shared contract were responded to. It wasn’t until September (8 months after negotiations began) that they had a proposal. Having been through this before, I’m not surprised or angry, but I want everyone to know that the negotiation process takes a long time. Every teacher on the negotiating team is a full time teacher and Negotiating is on top of that. I encourage people (from all groups) to be patient. We are trying really hard. I personally am missing time with my 12 day old daughter to sit in negotiations tomorrow. A sacrifice I’m making, that is more than just a percentage of my salary.

    NTA was ready to go and moving full speed in February, the District dragged it’s feet till September and now everyone wants to hurry, hurry, hurry. While this is understandable, the process takes a long time and we (NTA) are not professional negotiators. The district hires attorneys to attend the meetings, I guess they can afford it, but all NTA negotiators are elementary teachers, middle school teachers, and counselors. We can’t just become fast, efficient negotiators now that the NUSD is finally ready.

    Concessions: The NTA has offered millions to the NUSD in the last month and that is on top of the millions we offered each of the last two years. Furloughs are a pay cut. I don’t remember who said they weren’t, but why would the district accept a concession that didn’t cut their costs? That argument doesn’t make sense to me. Perhaps I misunderstood, but the district saved 3 million and if teachers were getting paid the same, they would not have made that 3 million in savings.

    I am seeing a very troubling trend. That is that the things that are being written cannot be taken back and the relationship between parents and teachers will not recover for years. Parents depend on teachers and teachers depend on parents, so please be careful with what you say. The long term affects of a word war can outlast a budget shortfall and make a bad problem worse for a long time to come.

    I’m going to tell you all something that I haven’t seen yet and it’s something you should consider before you make any more posts. It is very possible and even likely, that concessions will be given by NTA and the District will still go into Receivorsip. I’m not saying that it’s certain, but imagine that teachers give up 10% salary (approximately $5,000 per teacher) and it was for nothing? In budget discussions, it has come out that if teachers gave as much as 15% we would still be bankrupt in August of 2011. That is 9 months from now. Everyone seems to think that teachers can solve this problem, but in reality, we can only contribute and hope the leadership(NUSD) pulls off a miracle. (Got cut off here, I’ll make a second post).

  18. (Continued from previous Post)

    To be clear, NTA and CSEA can help with the problem, but we can’t solve it. As long as Leadership continues to spend money it doesn’t have, the problem will continue and every year we will have these same angry conversations. NTA and CSEA are also not to blame for the budget shortfall. I’d like to be clear that teachers have no say in how money has been spent in the 5 years that SCOE has been warning our Board Members. Our Board has ignored the suggests of Sacramento County office of Education and now everyone (teachers, parents, community, home values, etc.) will suffer. I was personally hopeful that community members would demand better from the Board and make changes, but it appears that the community in Natomas wants more of the same based on the priliminary election results.

    Teachers and secretaries can’t save NUSD. The only thing that could save us was improved quality of Board members and it looks like the community doesn’t want that. Natomas is electing the same board back to do the same job, but they want different results? Please note that the teachers have no control over the communities decision to elect Board members and we even stayed out of the election this year because we didn’t want to create divisions between ourselves and parents. I guess that didn’t work.

    If you really care deeply, please remember that when the dust settles, the teachers and parents will still be here. We can’t afford to alienate each other. I’m hopeful that Bobbi will take our concessions and pull off a miracle, but I also know that NTA and CSEA will only be able to contribute to that miracle, not create it with the proposed concessions.

    Michael Moyer
    Science Teacher
    Negotiation Team Member

  19. It sure would be nice to know who “NTA Executive Board” is (i.e. a person’s name). I don’t think it is the NTA President as she IS posting under her own name. You make many strong statements…some helpful information, some borderline attacks. Clearly, these posts cannot be the response of “The Board” of NTA..they come too quickly. So, I caution anyone reading the comments from “NTA Executive Board” to take that thought into consideration.

    Among the many statements “NTA Executive Board” makes that troubles me the most is that “we will all be fine” in the event of a State takeover. Really? The public statements of individuals at other Districts taken over would seem to completely invalidate that statement.

    For those who think a parcel tax for education is the answer to the problems the District faces, think fat chance. I myself would gladly vote for it; however, there are many voters in the District that don’t have children (or have children they have taken out of District schools). Given that such a measure would require a 2/3 vote to pass, it would be a miracle to pull that off.

    One of the teachers in the comments above suggests that the even if they take cuts, the State could still take over the District sooner or later. True enough. But the bottom line is this. The District has X money to work with (according to Trustee Burns ½ of funding received in the past is gone). A quick review of the District’s 2009-2010 financial statements (which are admittedly very difficult to follow so I may have my numbers wrong) of $60 million the District spends, $45 million goes to payroll and benefits. So, taking the emotion and the heartbreak out of the equation, where else other than salaries can the majority of the cuts come from? Even in the event of a State takeover, other than the one time loan they walk in with, they won’t have a magic way to increase revenue…cuts will still need to be made.

    One closing comment…many members of the NTA, both on these Natomas Buzz posts and in public statements, indicate they have no faith in the current board to solve the problems of the District. The problem for NTA with that statement is that they gave us these board members. NTA has endorsed 4 of the 5 current board members – Kaplan in 2006 and Tran, Roberts and Heredia in 2008 – in their election runs for the Board of NUSD. NTA did not endorse anyone in the 2010 election, which leads to another question…why not? District voters might have been eager to hear who you think would do a better job…I know I would have considered it.

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