Co-principals Scott Bergerhouse and Clarence Isadore were among the 52 district employees issued layoff notices in mid-March. Unless the district’s financial situation changes for the better, those layoffs will become official on May 30. District Superintendent Donald Gill made $4 million in ongoing cuts in order to keep the budget in the black for the next few years.
Gill felt the team of Bergerhouse and Isadore worked well together, but the district was forced to issue the layoff notices in order to survive. “The two principals are very effective in working together in terms of their personal relationship,” Gill said. “Having things stay the way they’ve always been, I’d love to do that, but my responsibility to the board and the community is to stay financially solvent.”
Gill cited declining enrollment at not just Deer Valley, but schools throughout the district as reason for the need for the layoff notices. In 2008, Deer Valley served roughly 3,300 students – it’s current enrollment is 2,726. Districtwide enrollment fell from 19,096 in October of 2009 to 18,471 in October of 2010.
Antioch High, which is about 600 students smaller, also saw one of its four vice principals receive a pink slip.
Deer Valley will most likely employ one principal next year. While Gill said that Bergerhouse and Isadore are welcome to apply for the position, they will not be given preferential treatment.
“If we do end up going to a one-principal model, they will interview exactly as any candidate,” Gill said. “How would I pick one over the other?”
In its second interim budget report, the district was given a positive certification from the state board of education. But less money from the state due to declining enrollment plus budget woes in Sacramento forced the district to make the cuts. Bergerhouse and Isadore each earn a principal’s salary. While specific information regarding the principals’ pay was not available, the annual salary range for a high school principal in the district is between $95,645 and $122,423.
Gill said the district is taking the time between now and May 30 to examine the differences between Antioch, which employs one principal – Louie Rocha – and the two-principal system under which Deer Valley operates. He has ordered a study on the two schools, but was unsure when it would be completed.
“We know the financial implications and now we’re looking at if a two-principal system enhances the school,” Gill said. “(The study) will show me and show our community if this model is a superior model to the one-principal model.”
Deer Valley students and their parents have generally been supportive of Bergerhouse and Isadore, who were elevated to the position in 2007. Last year, both earned awards from the Association of California School Administrators.
At the most recent AUSD Board meeting, parents spoke out, pleading with the district to reconsider its decision. Parents felt that Bergerhouse and Isadore have greatly improved the school’s reputation, which had been hurt by incidents on- and off-campus. In addition to policing the school, the principals have been known to head to nearby locales such as Burger King, making sure students aren’t hanging out there in the morning to skip class or be truant.
“I was unsure about the co-principal concept, but after seeing those guys in action, I know that they made a difference,” said Jim Thompson, a parent of a Deer Valley student and graduate. “You don’t cut good people for the sake of trying to find a way to improve something in that school. You don’t cut them just for a budgetary reason when there are other alternatives. You find what’s going to make that school better.”
Board members, along with Gill, were not able to respond to comments or questions from the public, since it was a personnel matter not on that meeting’s agenda.
Deer Valley senior Celestina Amigo, whose mother, Candi Amigo, spoke at the meeting, felt that the two principals have been a constant positive presence. Celestina, the school’s Associated Student Body president, said students have been confused about what’s going on since the layoff notices were issued.
“I see them on a daily basis and they are fantastic principals,” Celestina said. “They’re always just out there; they’re very visible principals that the students can always approach for whatever reason.”