Trustees hear updates on school facility projects, 2022-23 budget

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Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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By Angela Underwood
Express staff writer

The first Winters Joint Unified School District (Winters JUSD) meeting of the 2022-23 school year kept officials busy for almost three hours with new employee introductions, the annual budget, a superintendent update, and other business.

The Board of Trustees got right to business Thursday night, sharing their stories on the first day of school send-off with their children and the back-to-school staff kickoff.

“The first day was obviously spectacular, but I am at that spot where my boys would rather die of embarrassment than have me walk them near any perimeter of a campus,” Carrie Green, Board President, said. “But, I was able to drive around and see all the smiles and excitement at Rominger and Waggoner.”

Trustees Everardo Zaragoza and Kristin Trott also shared heartfelt first-day send-offs with their children and appreciation for the staff kickoff.

“I think it is great that we all have kids in the schools, so we see firsthand everything that goes on,” said Zaragoza.

“It was a great breakfast, and the whole event was really fun,” Trott said, adding she is happy to get back to post-pandemic personal acquaintances. “It was great to put some names to faces now that everyone is here.”

Acting Superintendent Phoebe Girimonte said she was excited to welcome back old staff while getting to know new employees, adding the common thread between all personnel is their love for children and dedication to teaching. Girimonte commended Waggoner Elementary’s expansion to universal prekindergarten under the direction of principal Travis Nelson-Oritz.

“They are working hard to make the first week and a half special, and they have navigated a few challenges kindly and gracefully with students and parents at the forefront of that,” Girimonte said.

Other district schools are also thriving during the new year. At Shirley Rominger Intermediate, you can already see math differentiation happening in classrooms, according to the superintendent. Likewise, Winters Middle School has a solid foundation for positive behavior expectations. Winters High School started the year with crew events, daily orientation, and a day on the green, and Wolfskill Career Readiness Academy’s new breakfast program is rebuilding school expectations for teachers and students.

“It’s been a great start, and I am just really proud of everybody for their hard work, and I am glad to be a part of it,” Girimonte said.

Other school business included a new employee introduction presented by Human Resources Director Lisa Dennis, who updated the board on the August 4 new-hire orientation. To get to know novel Winters JUDS hires, Dennis had employees prepare individual slides about themselves for an introductory PowerPoint she presented to the board of trustees. Some new hires, including school psychologists, counselors, office assistants, and special education elementary and middle school teachers, were present via Zoom.

“It’s a great group of people, and it’s super exciting to see the energy of new folks,” Dennis said.

The next order of business was a facilities update by Senior Project Manager Mary Fitzpatrick. The WHS physical education and music building drawings and specifications are upon approval, and Core Construction received multiple contractor bids on Aug. 5.

According to Fitzpatrick, the “good turnout” of prospective contractors will now get vetted down to the two lowest subcontractors whose bids capture the full scope of the work.

“Part of the interviewing process will be to discuss cutting costs to meet the $5 million budget,” Fitzpatrick said.

Also, Waggoner Elementary’s new transitional kindergarten eight-classroom building schematic designs will be reviewed on Sept. 7.

“At the meeting, community members will be encouraged to ask questions and provide comments about the proposed new building, playground, and parking lot design,” Fitzpatrick said.

Chief Business Officer Jonathan Feagle presented the 2022-23 Winters JUSD budget update. After the school district submitted its annual budget of $3 million on June 23, the state came back with some notable changes, he said. They include additional transportation funding and two one-time block grants: the Learning Recovery Block Grant and the Arts, Music, and Instructional Materials Discretionary Block Grant.

But the better budget surprise was an additional 6.28 percent increase in the local control funding formula.

“State lawmakers and the governor justified it because of the significant inflationary pressures currently experienced by school districts,” Feagle said, noting the overall increase to the budget now amounts to $3.2 million.

Girimonte said some of the money would be dispersed to district sites and teams making decisions regarding the augmentation of funds. She closed out the district meeting reporting on the Governance Calendar, which she detailed as a living document that should present benchmarks and milestones for the Winters JUSD to work towards to accomplish all mandates.

“It’s to assure the board, the public, and the community are made aware of ongoing initiatives of work in the district,” Girimonte said, adding unique items have arisen in the last two years of pandemic learning. “By and large, we are moving back to business as usual.”

The next Winters JUSD meeting is Thursday, Sept. 1, at 6 p.m. at the school district office. Those who wish to make public input statements are encouraged to attend in-person. The public can also join virtually through the Zoom link available on www.wintersjusd.org.

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