Klentschy, who has been at the helm of El Centro's school district for nine years, said, "We're past the fat and muscle now and we're down to the bone. Something very dramatic is going to need to happen at the state level because obviously school funding is heavily tied to the economy in California. As long as the economy is sluggish and slow, so is the funding."
Allowing that the district has had to "reduce almost every facet of the school district operation that is not a statutory type operation that we must provide at a certain level," Klentschy is confident academic gains made in previous years will not be eroded by a diminished budget.
"This is not a new thing; last year there were significant reductions to the budget as well," he said, adding, "But the schools in our district are achieving and making gains despite the budget cuts of recent years and despite all the other factors that we have — a rural urban small city type configuration."
Klentschy cites the involvement of parents as a pivotal factor in maintaining those gains made.
"We have parents who really want their children to succeed … as well as dedicated teachers and a very supportive governing board and administrative staff," Klentschy said.
Stressing the importance of parent engagement and involvement in their children's schools, Klentschy pointed out, "parents being involved in our schools doesn't cost money and effective parent-teacher communication doesn't cost money, either."
Saying schools with a high degree of student achievement are invariably those with a high degree of positive, proactive parent participation, Klentschy offered this advice to parents:
"Parents need to be involved at the local school level in three significant ways. They need to participate on school site councils and they need to be involved with school activities like back-to-school nights. And they also need to keep in close communication with their child's teacher."
The man who was last year named "superintendent of the year" for Imperial and San Diego counties by the Association of California School Administrators is cautiously optimistic about the long-term effects of budget cuts in his district.
"We do have to remain optimistic but we also have to be realistic as to what the district can afford to do and what the district cannot afford to do in terms of programs, services and salaries."
>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or firstname.lastname@example.org