Nogales Unified Superintendent's Message

To the NUSD Team, 

We are coming closer to the end of the first semester, and I would like to thank all of you as you move forward and plan for the second part of the school year, providing the best educational opportunities for all of our students. Be mindful of the powerful impact you make every day as you teach and learn with all of our students. What we say, what we do, and how we relate and interact every day with our students is forever part of them, their experiences, and their character. 

This is also a time for giving thanks for everything we have, most importantly our health, our safety, our profession, and our families. Enjoy your holiday break as you take time to be with family, friends, and all the people you care for. Appreciate life and everything we have. Do not take things for granted or let the little things of everyday life consume you. Be understanding that life happens and embrace it for what it is. We are very fortunate! We also have the best students at NUSD. Nogales is a good, safe and special place to teach and learn. Make the very best of what you do every day. 

The Prop 301 Inflation Funding Lawsuit

Here is a brief history behind the lawsuit filed back in 2010 by ASBA, AEA, and AASBO, claiming that the state failed to fully fund the voter-mandated inflation 2013 increases. (Statements ASBA) 

  • The Arizona Supreme Court in 2013‎ ruled that the state owed the schools about $1.3 billion in back pay and increased per pupil funding.
  • In August 2014, a judge ordered the legislature to immediately pay schools an additional $331 million a year for failing to fully fund inflation. 
  • Legislation to settle the Prop 301 lawsuit passed the legislature and was signed into law by the governor in October of 2015. This legislation will be contingent upon voter approval at a statewide special election on May 17, 2016.
  • Key factors of the resolution, if approved by the voters, will provide $3.5 billion over 10 years. The base level amount the state pays per student would increase this FY by $120.44, projecting a total of $3,590.01. (Currently $3,469.97) 
  • For now, the projected estimate total increase for NUSD would be $ 1,084,017.94. 
  • Districts would also get an additional $50 million a year for five years and $75 million a year for the following years, if the special election passes.
  • There will be no‎ policy strings or specific restrictions on how districts spend the money.

The increases will impact the current school year (2015-2016) if the election passes. Included in the process is a provision that extends the date for revising the FY 2016 budget from May 15, 2016 to June 30, 2016 and a provision that would allow districts to carry forward funding for the FY 2017 budget. The funds would not count against the normal 4% carry-forward limitation.

As I mentioned, these monies are flexible for schools to use as they need. Approximately 55-60% of the money would come from the State Land Trust with the rest drawn from the state general fund. 

We ‎continue to receive weekly updates and different projections, and we realize that this will be ongoing. We will keep you posted as we receive more details about this legislation and its potential impact on school districts. This is a very positive first step to school funding, but it will depend on the vote. It is not a long-term education funding plan or a final solution to the many years of negligence to school funding solving Arizona's long term or short term funding needs. The fact is that even after the settlement, Arizona will still rank near the bottom in comparison with what other states invest in public education. (AASBO). There is also a great need to reverse cuts to JTED district-career and technical education and for the state to provide greatly enhanced funding for capital and facilities’ needs. 

Student Enrollment/Student Count 

As of November 2015, our total district enrollment count is 5,792. These numbers fluctuate back and forth as we are averaging a yearly 1.5 percentage‎ enrollment decline. It is concerning that our enrollment is in decline and has continued in this trend for the past few years. We will also be moving into a new state student count (formula) system that will be in transition for the coming year. The current school district formula will move from existing prior year student count to a current year student count system for FY17. These changes in student count will definitely have implications with student funding allocations, as we will need to use projected figures and estimates to develop the district's yearly budget. 
 
There are also many factors affecting our student enrollment and student enrollment decline at NUSD. We have been monitoring and reviewing the mobility and withdrawals of our students. We have a high mobility trend within our families. Many are moving completely out of the district and going north. Others are returning south or moving in with extended family outside of the district. ‎A high percentage of our families in Nogales are renting local properties on a temporary basis, as they are not staying for the long-term in Nogales due to economic reasons and the lack of local jobs. We have much movement within our own district schools as well due to families finding other places to live that are more affordable. Some families leave for several months and then come back. Our open enrollment is high and consistent, but families out of the district are also having personal difficulties and are choosing other options or leaving the county and the state altogether. 

We have extremely high unemployment in our county at 14.7 %, placing us at the second highest rate among other counties in the state. We will continue to monitor and to plan accordingly as all state funding is allocated to districts based on enrollment numbers. 

Academic Achievement

We have many great things going on at NUSD at all levels of schooling, from the elementary through our secondary levels, which are preparing our students for academic success. We should not be defined or measured only by a state assessment. School success needs to be measured by many other factors that play a critical role in the overall achievements of our students. We need to look at how our special education services help our students grow independently, how our second language students transition into the mainstream in all levels, how our music and art programs align with student academic success, the high enrollment in our honors programs, our CTE programs providing additional opportunities for our students to enhance their college-and-career readiness skills, and how many students do well in AP courses, scoring high numbers in the AP and IB assessments including the impressive participation numbers in these very rigorous courses. Many students are receiving college credit, saving money before they have entered college. The state has now included into the accountability system the importance of graduation rates. NHS has the highest graduation rates in the state at 92% in comparison with other high schools with the same demographics. This is a huge measurement of student academic success at NUSD. 

AzMERIT Accountability

Included in the state accountability system is the AzMERIT, but this is only one component of measuring individual student success at NUSD. We received the AzMERIT scores-results data in October 2015. Every site is or will be analyzing, reviewing, and disaggregating the data accordingly as we prepare for the state assessment once again this coming spring. Our principals will be presenting the assessment results in January to our governing board and community. Our academic achievement study sessions will include a complete presentation of the results, individual school goals, plans of action, and curriculum and instruction-specific strategies that we will implement to meet our goals. 

‎We must continue to build trust in our community with our parents as well as with our own school community at NUSD. We must keep doing the right thing for all of our students district-wide. Together with our leadership, we all need to be committed and have personal ownership to academic achievement at all of our schools. Together we will work at NUSD to confront and embrace the new state assessment accountability measurement system and core standards that will now be in the second year of implementation. There is a great deal of hard work ahead for all of us, but we are committed to the new challenges as well as doing what is in the best interests for our students and NUSD. 

Online Learning

We have invested in and are currently piloting a district online program for our secondary students. The online program is servicing both NHS and PVHS for credit recovery and for individual highly motivated students to advance with their credits. The online program is being administered and monitored at PVHS. We are still working out many details and going through some technical glitches and temporary challenges that we are currently addressing. We are moving forward and making adjustments with this online district program to better serve our students. This will also help NUSD keep our students in the district and improve the drop-out and attendance rates, as many have left our district to attend such programs at the local charter schools or other online programs. 

Midstate Energy Construction Project

As you should know, the district is currently going through infrastructure and construction renovation to improve NUSD heating and cooling, lighting, water, and energy management systems. This work is ongoing, and once the renovations and improvements are complete by early 2016, we project an annual savings for NUSD of about $320,000. We are anticipating significant savings and lower utility costs district-wide.  We are also providing professional development within our curriculum and instruction K-12. Thank you to our team of teacher representatives currently going through the training as we pursue efforts promoting sustainable practices for energy conservation. ‎We are currently working on a set of guidelines that will increase our awareness of energy and resource needs that are associated with operating costs. A common sense approach to energy conservation will be the new culture at NUSD. This will only work if all of us pull together to establish a safe and energy aware environment district-wide. 

Thank you for what you do every day!

Fernando Parra- Superintendent

 

Fernando Parra

Fernando Parra
Superintendent