Funding issues and closing the budget deficit are the biggest challenges facing the new superintendent for the Lake Elsinore Unified School District, Dr. Douglas G. Kimberly.
Kimberly, a Yorba Linda resident, was hired June 14 when the district’s Governing Board unanimously approved his employment contract. His start date is July 1 but he’s already thinking about what’s ahead.
Kimberly, 50, was recruited from the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District in northern Santa Barbara County, where he has served as district superintendent for the past three years. Previously, Kimberly served as assistant superintendent of human resources in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District, and he was a high school principal at two high schools, a high school teacher and a water polo coach at public schools in Orange County for several years.
The new superintendent’s annual salary will be $205,000, plus benefits, according to his three-year employment contract – essentially the same salary as his predecessor, Dr. Frank W. Passarella, who retires this month. Passarella was the LEUSD superintendent for the past six and a half years.
Under Passarella’s leadership, LEUSD schools have shown strong growth in academic performance; the district is now one of the top performing districts in Riverside County, based on standardized test scores.
In an interview with SWRNN, Kimberly said he’d like to continue that upward trend, even as state funding per pupil faces another year of decline. It’s an issue that continues to dog public school districts statewide, he said.
Kimberly said he’s impressed with achievement gains under Passarella.
“I feel a little pressure to continue that,” he said. “I’ve been very impressed with what they’ve done academically over the last four or five years. I’m excited to push that forward.”
Budgeting issues remain a challenge. To close a projected $15 million budget deficit for the 2012-2013 school year, LEUSD made several cuts, including instituting 12 furlough days for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, with three having already been taken and nine more planned for the upcoming school year. No teachers were laid off but home-to-school busing is being eliminated.
Until Election Day in November, the district won’t know whether voters will support one of two proposed tax-increase plans appearing on the November ballot. If both fail, per-pupil spending will decrease, Kimberly said.
“Funding has a ripple effect on two things directly: How we service students and how we address facility needs. Some older schools need repairs and over the last few years maintenance has been deferred,” he said, adding that the longer repairs are put off, the more they can cost later in some cases, when the damage is greater.
At the district’s recent board meeting, board members talked in general about floating a possible bond measure before voters to raise money for facility maintenance (bond funds can’t be used for day-to-day operational expenses.) Kimberly said some older schools need roofing repairs and infrastructure upgrades to accommodate newer technology.
It’s hard to tell, however, if local voters would support a bond for the schools given the fact that the state also is seeking to raise taxes, he said.
“There is a point where people get a bit exhausted. And the economy hasn’t recovered to the point that people have confidence in their own employment.”
Meanwhile, Kimberly will reach out to parents, PTAs, service clubs and teachers, and he plans to host some informal meet-and-greet events during the summer to get to know people in the community.
Amy Bentley is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.