Community

School Board Delivers Layoff Notices After Parcel Tax Defeat

Less than two weeks after the defeat of Measure E, the San Marino school board unanimously approved a resolution calling for the elimination of 41 teaching and advisory positions in order to balance the budget for the 2021-22 school year, it was announced at Tuesday night’s board meeting.
Though the results of the election have not yet been certified, Measure E had been approved by 2,192 voters (63.04%) to 1,285 (36.96%) who voted in opposition. Measure E required a two-thirds majority for passage.
Measure E raised $4 million annually at $968 per parcel, adjusted by the lesser of the Los Angeles Statistical Area Consumer Price Index or 3%, including commercial properties within the boundaries of the school district. First approved by voters in 2009 for a six-year term, the parcel tax was renewed in 2015 and will now expire in June 2021, erasing approximately 10% of the district’s budget.
Included in the layoffs are six full-time equivalent [FTE] transitional kindergarten through 5th grade teaching positions and two counseling positions in the elementary schools. At the secondary level — which includes Huntington Middle and San Marino High schools — are two counseling positions, three English teachers, two 6th grade teachers, 2.6 music teachers, 2.4 math teachers, two social science positions and 3.8 other science jobs.
Other positions receiving pink slips were music and physical education spots at the elementary school level as well as art, coding, dance, drama, foreign language, physical education, speech and debate, yearbook and journalism at the secondary level. Two English language development spots were also pink-slipped as was a speech language pathologist.
By law, the district was required to provide layoff notices for the upcoming school year to employees by Monday, March 15, in order to provide a balanced budget to the Los Angeles County Department of Education for the 2021-22 school year. Educators can be rehired in the event funding becomes available.
Board member Corey Barberie called the decision “drastic.”
“Until we have a parcel tax or other source of revenue, it’s very challenging,” Barberie added.
School Board President Shelley Ryan expects the board to revisit the prospect of placing the parcel tax on a future ballot, with possible election dates in 2021 of Aug. 31 or Nov. 2, both of which are after the beginning of the SMUSD’s 2021-22 fiscal year.
One source of possible emergency funding emerged late last week, courtesy of the San Marino Schools Foundation.
“The San Marino Schools Foundation Board of Trustees met last night in response to this devastating news,” SMSF Board President Erin Bilvado said in a letter to the community dated last Thursday. “We agreed to adjust our annual campaign goal to raise funds in support of 53 full-time positions. As parents, we are saddened for our teachers and counselors. They are people we know, many of whom have taught multiple children in our family. They have cared for, supported, nurtured and helped our children grow. They have positively affected not only our children’s lives but our lives and our community. They are family.”
In the face of pending layoffs last year, the Schools Foundation spared 14 full-time positions within the San Marino Unified School District that were in danger of being laid off by raising more than $1.2 million through its “We Are San Marino” campaign, which ran from March through early June 2020. The school board was then able to rescind all layoff notices in June 2020.
The foundation’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30, which is the time frame for the SMSF to reach its original fundraising goal of $3.1 million.
A second school parcel tax — Measure R — is scheduled to sunset in June, 2025. First approved by voters in 1991, Measure R generates $1.6 million annually at $366 per parcel and also includes all parcels and commercial properties located within the city of San Marino as well as the boundaries of the San Marino Unified School District. Measure R currently carries a six-year term and requires two-thirds approval by voters.

BACK TO SCHOOL

Carver and Valentine Elementary schools welcomed students in grades 3-5 back to campuses last week, joining those in transitional kindergarten through 2nd grade.
SMUSD employees who took advantage of an arrangement with USC Keck Medical Center received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on March 5 and 6, with the second doses slated for March 26 and 27. The SMUSD’s spring break is scheduled for April 5-9, with the two events offering a possible window for return.
“The plan is to have everyone from TK-12 return for some in-
person learning as Department of Public Health guidelines permit,” said Ryan.

Now in his 25th year at The Tribune, Mitch Lehman is Editor and Sports Editor in addition to being the public address announcer for ten sports programs at San Marino High School. Mitch is one of only a handful in the community to receive the ‘Very Special Person Award’ from the San Marino PTA at the annual Founder’s Day ceremony, was acknowledged as a 'Terrific Titan' by the San Marino High School PTSA, was named an Honorary Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of San Marino and received a National Honorary Merit Badge in Journalism from the Boy Scouts of America. He has received two independent Pulitzer Prize nominations and in the past three years, Mitch has won seven awards and is a thirteen-time finalist in the California News Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest. In 2015, the press box at Titan Stadium was re-named 'Lehman's Loft' in his honor. You can reach Mitch at mitchlehman@sanmarinotribune.com.

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