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.
As dedicated volunteers, working intimately at each of our San Marino School sites, we are devastated at the failure of Measure E. Despite PTA and community efforts to support the Measure E campaign, it failed to pass by 120 votes. On March 9, the School Board voted to eliminate 41.2 positions throughout San Marino Schools. We are heartbroken for our students, teachers and staff.
Longtime local resident Barbara Franks Bice has been appointed to the board of directors at Muse/ique, a Pasadena-based pioneering live music organization which holds a summer events series at The Huntington.
The board, chaired by philanthropist LeeAnn Havner, provides leadership in carrying out Muse/ique’s mission of making music accessible to all through adventurous and meaningful programming, an effort continued throughout the pandemic with drive-in concerts, lawn serenades, and “In a Minute! (…or Two!)” video series, which recently surpassed 100 episodes.
Also joining the board are Christine Swanson and Jonathan Weedman.
“To serve as chair of Muse/ique’s board of directors is to be part of an inspiring and passionate team,” said Havner. “With much enthusiasm, we welcome to the board our newest members — Barbara Franks Bice, Chirstine Swanson and Jonathan Weedman — all of whom bring a breadth of experience and expertise that will help bring to fruition Muse/ique’s adventurous plans for the future.”
Though supporters of Measure E — the parcel tax which partially funds the San Marino Unified School District — received an increase in votes this past week, the final numbers weren’t enough to approve the parcel tax, which went down to defeat. Measure E was a funding source which provides more than $4 million to the district’s coffers.
Ken Ude, who last month took over as the community’s mayor for a year, will be the featured speaker for the San Marino City Club’s first meeting of 2021 on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m.
Ude will speak about the state of the city and update the club on the status of many of the key projects and issues currently facing San Marino.
A 35-year resident of the community, Ude was elected to the City Council in November 2017 after running on the premise that “San Marino is a $30 million business and should be run like one.” Professionally, Ude was CEO of a number of private equity-backed companies in a variety of industries, ranging from a race car driving school to women’s cosmetics to PODS portable storage.
More recently, he was director of USC’s Family Business Program, which led him into consulting with family-owned businesses as they grow their market and plan for generational transitions. His focus on the council has been on financial, operational and capital improvements.
Ude is a graduate of USC, where he earned his undergraduate degree, Master of Business Administration degree and a master’s in public relations. Ken and his wife,
The San Marino Schools Foundation thanked its generous supporters by planting yard signs at their homes. During this challenging year, community members were asked to donate to help fulfill the foundation’s annual commitment to fund 21 full-time teaching positions; the foundation also sought to save 14 full-time positions after layoff notices were given. Thanks to families like those represented here, the foundation achieved its goal and is expressing its gratitude to the community.
Though it is clearly not alone in confronting the trend, the San Marino Unified School District is entering a period of significant declining enrollment, according to a report received by the school board at a recent meeting.
Enrollment in California’s public schools at the K-12 level dropped by 1.5% in the past decade and is forecast to take an additional 7% hit by the end of the 2027-28 school year, according to Linda de la Torre, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources.
The SMUSD predicts a drop of just over 200 students for the 2020-21 school year alone, according to the report. The district ended the 2019-20 school year with an enrollment of 2,973 students and projects 2,764 for the opening of the 2020-21 school year, which is expected to begin on Aug. 12.
By comparison, the SMUSD ended the 2009-10 school year with 3,228 students, according to the presentation, during which De la Torre stated that 3,200 students “is ideal.”
Based on California’s funding model, average daily attendance is the main source of revenue, with each student bringing $10,200 annually to the district’s coffers.
“Most declines last about 10 years and require drastic downsizing,” said De la Torre.
To possibly offset the shrinkage, the SMUSD plans to market and promote its new legacy interdistrict permit program, suspending the signing of students seeking a release from the SMUSD and meeting with site administrators to discuss staffing and enrollment issues.
Passed by the board last month, the legacy inter-district transfer permit program, allows the grandchildren of those who have lived in San Marino for 10 years or more to attend SMUSD schools. Since its inception, the program has received five applications, according to De la Torre, who also noted that the projected enrollment figures could be artificially low due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some parents might be reluctant to enroll their students,” said De la Torre. “Some might be waiting until the environment improves.”
The San Marino Schools Foundation achieved its recent goal of sparing all 14 full-time positions within the San Marino Unified School District that were in danger of being laid off by raising a total of $1.218 million through its “We Are San Marino” campaign.
“From the bottom of my heart, I thank our community for contributing to and participating in the ‘We Are San Marino’ campaign,” said Erin Bilvado, president of SMSF. “We accomplished our goal thanks to the hard work of our trustees, parents, students, staff, associate trustees and community leaders. All who gave are heroes to our children and teachers.”
Encouraged by passionate pleas from community members and former students to rescue programs that have positively impacted their lives, the San Marino Unified School District Board of Education last Tuesday night voted unanimously to rescind layoff notices for nine of the 13 certificated employees remaining on the list of pink-slipped employees.
Using more than $848,843 that was donated to the San Marino Schools Foundation’s “We Are San Marino” campaign, the board was able to restore most of San Marino High School’s popular and successful speech and debate and drama programs, its Japanese language class, a full-time music position, four elementary core teachers as well as full-time science and elementary positions.
All that remains of the 31.2 full-time teaching positions who received “reduction in force” notices at the board’s March 10 meeting are two teachers, a counselor and a speech language pathologist. The other educators either elected to take an early retirement or accepted other positions. The Schools Foundation has since launched an incentive program that will include matching funds in hopes of filling the final four spots.
The previously eliminated speech and debate program received substantial support from the many who wrote the district or called into the meeting; among them is Matt Spence, a 1996 graduate of San Marino High School and national champion. Spence later received a diploma, studied at Oxford and served as a national security advisor for President Barack Obama. Spence was in the situation room with Obama during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and he said that his experience in speech and debate was “instrumental” in his career.
“I think back to at least four different times that I feel concretely how speech and debate made an enormous difference,” said Spence. “It was the skills of careful listening I learned in speech and debate that allowed me to do that. It was the skills of rapid preparation that allowed me to brief the president of the United States.”
Board member Chris Norgaard acknowledged those who participated.
“All of the students who wrote and spoke for all of these programs and all of these teachers, just the most eloquent, heartfelt messages I have ever read,” Norgaard said. He then thanked Grace Davis, a senior at San Marino High School who serves as the ASB representative to the school board, who “turned this battle ship in the right direction,” according to Norgaard. At the March 10 meeting – the last in-person meeting before the COVID-19 shutdown, San Marino High School’s speech and debate program was honored for its excellent showings earlier in the school year. Later in the same meeting during a discussion on budget cuts, it was suggested by Assistant Superintendent Linda de la Torre that speech and debate be changed from a class to a club. During her student advisory vote, Davis pointed out the irony of honoring the speech and debate program at the beginning of the meeting while later entertaining the notion of demoting it to a club. Davis voted “no” on the agenda item on March 10, but last week supported the re-hires.
“I wish to recognize the extraordinary efforts of Schools Foundation President Erin Bilvado,” said School Board president Joseph Chang. “I acknowledge her excellent leadership with her fellow trustees and staff. She and her fellow trustees have worked countless hours to spearhead the ‘We Are San Marino’ campaign.”
Additionally, the board heard the second reading of and later approved a legacy inter-district transfer permit program, whereby the grandchildren of those who have lived in San Marino for 10 years will be eligible to attend SMUSD schools to help offset declining enrollment. The motion was approved by a 5-0 vote, with Davis approving as well. The program will go into effect immediately, but the prospective students must be released by the district in which they legally reside.
“I recognize the reality,” said Board member Corey Barberie. “Young families can’t afford to buy $2-plus-million-dollar homes in San Marino.”
Board member Lisa Link said she has heard “a great deal of positive” about the program, which was first implemented in Beverly Hills.
The board also voted unanimously to take out a $6.8 million tax and revenue anticipation note, or TRAN loan. The district received a similar loan for the 2019-20 school year and expects to pay it off by July or August of this year. The loan carries a 1.85% interest rate.
“This is to manage our cash-flow situation,” said de la Torre.
“This is a pretty typical thing for a district our size,” Barberie added. “A district our size without significant reserves can’t make it through the year.”
The district has a monthly payroll tab of $2 million and its reserves have dropped to about 3%.
The San Marino Schools Foundation has announced an incentive program to rehire the final four certificated employees who received layoff notices in March and have yet to be reinstated.
As of Monday, two teachers, a counselor and a speech language pathologist have received final notices of layoff and await word as to whether they might be rehired in the coming weeks, with a final push of the Schools Foundation’s campaign concluding May 31.
“For the first time, the Foundation will access earnings from its endowment to incentivize additional donations,” said Erin Bilvado, president of the Schools Foundation. “Our endowment distribution policy allows us to distribute earnings annually. Saving these remaining positions for our children’s education and these individuals’ livelihoods is an important reason to access these funds.”