Public hearings will be held in Turlock and Denair on Wednesday to allow developers and the public to voice their opinion on the proposed Denair Unified School District boundary change.
Developers Ronald Katakis, of RBK Development in Turlock, and Christopher Hawke, of Maracor Development in San Francisco, have submitted a petition to the Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon requesting that property from Denair Unified School District be transferred to Turlock Unified School District.
Essentially, the transfer would see the District boundary lines for TUSD extended. As a result, it would have prospective students in the specified area attending schools in the TUSD instead of the DUSD.
Katakis is interested in the boundary being extended because it would allow his housing developments to be located within TUSD as opposed to DUSD.
The type of transfer Katakis and Hawke are pushing for counts as a type of reorganization of school districts.
There are three types of district reorganization that are considered to be common, according the California Department of Education. This includes two distinct types of unification where elementary and high school districts are reorganized to make a unified district serving grades K-12 and where feeder elementary schools are completely enveloped in a high school district.
The type of reorganization that Hawkes and Katakis have petitioned for is a transfer of one portion of a district, in this case DUSD, to another, the TUSD. The specific area petitioned for transfer is 90 acres of land located in the northwest corner of Tuolumne and Waring Road. In order for the transfer to take effect, it must be approved by the county committee.
One of the rationales Katakis and Hawkes have for this petition is based on substantial community identity. It would allow Turlock residents to attend Turlock schools, however, in accordance with the CDE, “There is no legal necessity that school district boundaries match city boundaries.”
Community identity can be determined by the patterns of parks, architecture, traffic, public transportation, and neighborhoods.
“No single factor is likely to determine that community identity exists,” according to the CDE. “The county committee probably will need to examine several attributes of the population and the makeup of the territory in question to make a judgment on this condition.”
Other rationales for the transfer include that it would have no effect on the education of the students, and that any school facility cost would be insignificant and incidental. The petition concludes that there would be no “substantial negative effect” to either DUSD or TUSD’s fiscal status.
Despite the petition’s claims, DUSD notes that the proposed move would see their District lose $1 million in developer fees and $750,000 in annual revenue to TUSD. The total amount reflects around 22 percent of DUSD’s budget and 1.5 percent of TUSD’s budget respectively. DUSD has noted that the transfer would “stifle enrollment and shortchange our finances….”
With the loss of money that could be going into its budget, DUSD notes that the proposal “artificially thwarts the natural development and growth of Denair Schools” and “sets a precedent for further encroachment in future years.”
Hearings for the proposed transfer will be held in both Turlock and Denair. Both communities will be able to voice their opinions on the matter, while Katakis presents his case for the change.
In accordance with the CDE, the county committee must recommend approval or disapproval of the proposal with 120 days of the first hearing. 10 days before the approval or disapproval is given, then the county committee must make its analysis public.
The following conditions would be analyzed by the committee: adequate enrollment, community identity, education, negative fiscal impacts, and any increase in school facilities costs. Additional analysis from the committee would determine if the reorganization is designed just to increase the property value and no other primary reason.
Active opposition to the proposal has been advocated by the likes of April Dunham-Filson, resident of Denair. Dunham-Filson has a petition against the proposal on Change.org that currently has 381 supporters.
Supporter of the Change.org petition, Susan Patterson, has noted, “I am a resident of Denair, and an employee of Denair Unified School District. The decision to remove this area from our district will negatively impact our community and schools. Our school has undergone positive changes and is a great place to receive a superior education.”
Even Turlock residents have signed the petition, with Rosanne Cantwell noting, “This land belongs in the Denair District and should remain so. To deny the students of Denair their rights to grow and prosper because a developer want to ‘sell’ his homes is not the way a democracy should work.”
The first public hearing will take place in Turlock on Oct. 28, at 5 p.m, in the Professional Development Center, located at 1100 Cahill Street. The second public hearing will take place afterward in Denair, at 6 p.m., in the Denair Middle School Center Gym, located at 3701 Lester Road.