Oakland Unified School District has fewer students, fewer teachers and fewer custodians this year than it did last year.
But it has more administrators.
That is one of the findings deep inside the district's First Interim Financial Report, for 2012-13 - a two-inch thick document presented to the district's Board of Education Wednesday night.
Oakland Unified is operating in the black this year, the report indicates. It even has small surplus balance of $33 million on its total $212.2 million budget. But next fall, it may have a $6 million budget shortfall, officials predict, largely because of falling enrollment.
The district has 750 fewer students this year than it expected at the outset of the academic year. It now has 34,493 students.
The Interim Financial Report says it has it has 234 fewer certified staff, including nine fewer teachers and fewer librarians, counselors and others - a roughly 10 percent attrition in certified staff from last academic year. It also has 36 fewer classified staff or secretaries, custodians and technicians.
But the report's figures indicate it added 37 people to its management/administrative staff.
These staff numbers buried in the back of the budget report weren't missed by Oakland Education Association president, Trish Gorham. At the end of a long budget discussion several hours into the meeting, she came up to the podium to note the reduced number of teachers and students and the paradox of more administrative staff.
"Somehow we have an increase of 37 administrators," Gorham said. "Are we managing programs or people here?"
Gorham claimed that the percent of OUSD's budget going to administrative costs is higher than other districts in Alameda County.
Her observation didn’t elicit any immediate response from board members or district staff, although earlier in the meeting Superintendent Tony Smith said the district is required to pay salaries for six or seven state auditors because of the years it was in receivership in the middle of the decade.
On Thursday, district spokesman Troy Flint said "the increase in managerial positions is primarily related to efforts to strengthen operations in the Technology Services and the Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction Departments," as well as setting up Full Service Community School centers in several neighborhoods.
Enrollment in OUSD has been sliding for the last several years, prompting the district to embark on the controversial plan to close four elementary schools last year, despite protests from parents and teachers and the loss of students to a new charter school created when another school targeted for closing, Lazear Elementary School, converted.
The district's strategic plan calls for devoting more resources to fewer schools in an effort to improve academic outcomes. Smith has said he wants to spend money on textbooks and teachers rather than on utilities and building maintenance.
Wednesday's report estimated ongoing savings from the school closings at $3.2 million a year - except for this year, when it only saved $539,000 because of expenses of the move.
The Board of Education Wednesday also discussed new attendance boundaries for several elementary schools – an attempt to solve yet another enrollment snafu.
As the school year started in late August, some schools were over-subscribed and others under-subscribed. Crocker Highlands Elementary School, among the most popular schools in OUSD, had so many new kindergartners registering that over the summer it decided to open another kindergarten class. But that created repercussions in nearby OUSD schools when families made last minute shifts to Crocker.
At Cleveland Elementary School, another popular campus, some teachers were reassigned and some classes combined at the last minute, even though it had appeared in the spring that Cleveland, too, would be over-subscribed. Both are high performing schools.
Wednesday night, district staff unveiled a plan for smoothing out some of the subscription and enrollment irregularities by realigning attendance boundaries of a couple popular schools.
To be the topic of another board hearing Jan. 9, the proposal suggests narrowing the attendance boundaries for Crocker Highlands and widening the boundaries for Cleveland Elementary. Both schools had had their districts widened a year ago to accommodate kids from the closing elementary schools.
"These schools are very similar in academic performance, the quality of the program," and in adjacent neighborhoods, David Montes de Oca, head of the district's Quality Community Schools Development said. Despite the new kindergarten class, the district says it does not think Crocker Highlands will have room for all the 4-year-olds in its attendance boundaries next year, based on data from the 2010 U.S. Census.
About a dozen parents from that neighborhood showed up Wednesday and spoke mostly praise for the district in coming up with a plan to address the over-subscription problem. But some also spoke of their concern that their children might not be able to attend the school in the neighborhood they moved to because of the school.
"It is difficult to hear you had the choice to send your child to the school, but now it may be taken back because of where you live," said Todd Brantley, father of a 4-year-old.
Some said the boundaries that OUSD outlines might have to change again because people continue to move into the neighborhood near Crocker.
Parent Irene Lee said she was pleased her kindergartener is attending the school, but many of the neighborhood kids did not get in.