District Office ordered books too late
There are 86 instruction days in the fall semester at Farmersville Unified School District, and some students there went at least 37 school days without textbooks.
In other words, by the end of this semester some students will have had their text books about half of the time they were in class.
Since school began on Aug. 14 parents have been attending meetings concerned about the lack of textbooks for their children, especially at Hester Elementary. Parents were outraged that six weeks into the school year kindergarteners were already falling behind without access to reading and math workbooks to build a solid core toward strengthen their ability to learn new material.
The disappointing chapter of insufficient textbooks finally came to a close earlier this month when each principal stood up and announced they had received all of textbooks (with a few exceptions) they had ordered during the Oct. 8 Farmesrville Unified School Board meeting.
Unsatisfied with the update, parents still wanted answers as to why the books were late. A public records request by the Sun-Gazette to FUSD’s District Office shed some light on the issue but many questions remain.
The District Office did not return calls as of press time.
It was not known as of press time if Hester Elementary had received its math workbooks for the entire kindergarten class, about 200 students. At the Oct. 8 meeting, interim Principal Gary Carter said the books were still on back order from Houghton Mifflin in Geneva, IL.
At the Sept. 24 meeting, Carter said he sent the purchase order for all of his text books to the district office in mid-June, the same way he did during his 15 years as principal at Hester and 13 years at Snowden before retiring in 2006.
“I’m not sure what happened after we sent the order to the district office but I don’t think anyone intended for students not to have them,” Carter said in a September interview.
The District Office did not provide the dates the Purchase Order was originally received by the District Office or when it was mailed/faxed to the publishing company.
When the school did not receive the text books on Aug. 1, Carter requested the District Office reorder them. Dr. Garcia said the math books were reordered on Aug. 9 but some are still not at Hester School.
“There was a delay with the printer and/or publisher,” Dr. Garcia said at the Sept. 24 meeting. “I have personally followed up with phone calls and e-mails. They should have been here the first day of school.”
Hester generated another Purchase Order for kindergarten math books on Aug. 23 and the District Office faxed the order to Houghton Mifflin on Aug. 27.
Carter said the grades K-1 school did receive most of the reading books by the first day of school on Aug. 14, but did not get first grade math books until a few weeks later. Most of the books for the Kindergarten and first grade school had to be reordered several times, with the latest orders being faxed/mailed by the District Office between Aug. 21 and Sept. 9.
Under the Williams Settlement of 2004, all schools are required to perform self-evaluations to ensure compliance with the textbook and facilities standards. School districts have two months from the start of school to remedy the situation, according to the California Department of Education. A Williams Compliance Survey was completed at Freedom and identified the school had missing books due to a shipping delay by the textbook company.
Dr. Paul Garcia noted the order was originally sent to the District Office on June 25 and mailed/faxed to Follett Educational Services in Woodridge, IL on July 30. It was one of the largest Purchase Orders for the grades 4-6 school including 210 English textbooks, 210 5th grade Math books, 210 5th grade reading books and 28 other books.
Principal Melinda Canning said at the Oct. 8 meeting the school had all of its books, except those on back order with the publishing company, by mid-September.
Farmersville Junior High School
According to public documents, it is not known when the book orders were received by the District Office. However, the orders to include requisition dates and document creation dates. Just 15 books on a single order were ordered before the start of August at Farmersville Junior High School (FJHS). The earliest Purchase Order was created on July 30 and the District Office mailed the order to the publisher on Aug. 2. Two more Purchase Orders were created on Aug. 2 but the District Office did not order them until the day before school on Aug. 13.
One of the largest orders of 500 books was not even created until Aug. 20 and sent out by the District Office on Aug. 21. A fourth and final order for 36 books was created on Sept. 18 and faxed by the District Office to the publisher on Sept. 20. Principal Loretta Aragon reported she had all of her materials at the Oct. 8 meeting.
Farmersville High School
Many of Farmersville High School’s textbooks were ordered in July except two, one which happened to be one of its largest orders and another to compensate for late enrollment. FHS Principal Ernie Flores sent an order for 80 textbooks to the District Office on Aug. 9 where staff quickly turned around and faxed the Purchase Order by Aug. 14. The textbooks arrived on Aug. 16, just two days after school started.
At the Oct. 8 meeting, Principal Ernie Flores said the only reason his school was short on books was due to a late enrollment crunch. Flores said he was short six AP English Language Arts textbooks and 10 AP History textbooks because his enrollment swelled from 719 students to 736 by the second week of school.
“That is what led to the deficiency because there were a few hold-ups and glitches with the purchase orders for the extra books,” Flores said.
There were no delays for textbooks at Snowden. According to Purchase Orders from the second and third grade school, all of the instructional materials were received by the District Office by June 24 and mailed/faxed by district staff by July 12. However, the district office did not fax/mail two of the orders until the week before school started on Aug. 7. Despite the delay of the two orders, Principal Richard Albay reiterated at the Oct. 8 meeting that every student had textbooks on the first day of school.
“We did order some additional materials after the start of school,” Albay said.
In most cases, textbooks were late because the District Office waited too long to send out the orders to the publishing companies. In one instance, the District Office received two Purchase Orders from Snowden Elementary on June 24 – one for 490 and another for 1,125 textbooks. Despite ordering the textbooks before the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year, the District Office did not order the books until Aug. 7, 45 days later and just a week before the start of the fall semester.
The orders were nearly late for the start of school even after the following plea by former Snowden Principal Randy DeGraw was noted on each purchase order: “PLACE ORDER AS SOON AS PURCHASE ORDER IS PROCESSED!!!”
Furthermore, it appears some the dates of the Purchase Orders at the three school sites who began the year without enough textbooks (Freedom, FJHS and Hester) were omitted from the cover sheets of the Sun-Gazette’s public records request. The cover letters for Snowden and FHS included both the date the orders were received by the District Office and the date the District Office mailed/faxed the order to the publishing company. The date the Purchase Orders from Freedom, FJHS and Hester were received by the District Office were expunged from the documents.
Ultimately, Dr. Garcia took full responsibility for not ordering the textbooks in time, both at a town hall meeting on Oct. 7 and at the Oct. 8 School Board meeting.
In order to prevent a textbook tragedy in the future, Dr. Garcia announced at the Oct. 8 meeting that all of the instructional materials for school sites must be turned into the district office by April 15, 2014 for the Fall 2014 semester. Garcia said the district will verify all of the orders have been purchased with the publishing companies by July 1, 2014.
For more information on District policy, call the Farmersville Unified School District Office at 559-592-2010 or visit www.farmersville.k12.ca.us.