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School Board Approves Budget, Reshuffles Leadership

By Ann K. Williams
Staff Writer

July 2 -- All was tranquil Thursday night as the School Board passed a $114 million budget and realigned top leadership, while tidying up loose ends on projects ranging from bus schedules to last year’s voter-approved bond.

The 2007-08 fiscal budget includes staff cuts of 23.3 full time employees (FTE’s) due to a projected drop in enrollment, from this year’s 11,897 students to 11,376 students in academic year 2009-10. Since the State gives the District a set amount per student, a drop in enrollment means a corresponding drop in revenue.

The budget, however, does not include the $530,000 that may or may not come from the City.

In fact, hardly a word was said about the ruckus with the City Council, which passed a motion last month withholding the money until the District stops requiring parents of special education students to sign confidentiality clauses in their special education settlement agreements. That issue will be taken up next month

Instead, the board passed its own budget, which has been the subject of local and State scrutiny in recent months after former Chief Financial Officer Winston Braham refused to sign off on a previous version in October. Braham objected that the draft budget failed to account for a 5 percent pay hike for teachers that would put the district some $7 million in the red over the next three years.

The current 2007-08 budget reflects a review by the State’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Team, invited by Superintendent Dianne Talarico to restore public confidence and provide an independent analysis of the District’s finances.

The budget pegs $113,692,641 in general fund revenues, balanced against projected expenses of $114,525,927.

General fund revenues include:

  • $85,123,359 from the State,
  • $4,427,306 from the Federal government,
  • $10,494,000 from local parcel taxes,
  • $6,736,184 from the City of Santa Monica, and
  • $4,268.380 from the PTA and other local incomes.

General fund expenses include:

  • $99,154,138 for salaries and benefits,
  • $4,016,965 for books and supplies, and
  • $11,194,836 for services and other operating expenses.

The board also adopted the draft Facilities Master Plan that formed the basis for Proposition BB, last fall’s school bond measure. The board appointed a bond oversight committee and moved closer to placing the bonds on sale.

The highlights of the meeting included a farewell to long-term board member Emily Bloomfield and a welcome back home to former Malibu High principal and district office administrator Mike Matthews.

Talarico lauded Bloomfield as “an incredible woman and a fantastic leader.”

“You’ve raised the bar,” Teachers’ Union President Harry Keiley added. “In a highly political district, you’ve been bold, you’ve spoken the truth.”

And Board member Jose Escarce, who originally steered Bloomfield into local school politics after meeting her at a Little League game six years ago, saw a bright future for her when she moves with her family to Washington, D.C.

“We’ll see if Emily can fix that too,” Escarce said.

Later, Matthews was welcomed back to the District he left last summer to take a job with Extreme Learning, a San Francisco based firm that develops after-school programming for Title I Schools.

Matthews is returning as Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources.

“He will be an asset to the existing team,” Talarico said, citing his “institutional memory,” which she said has been lacking at the senior administrative level since she came to the District.

“I feel that this is the night of returning employees,” said Talarico, as she also welcomed back former Will Rogers Elementary Principal Natalie Burton, who will replace Jerry Harris when he retires as Principal of Roosevelt Elementary School.

The board also adjusted Chief Academic Officer Chiung Sally Chou’s contract, so that Talarico’s leadership team members will share the same contract schedule.

After the meeting, Talarico described her currently configured team as “dynamic, energetic, productive, thorough.”

“We can agree to disagree,” she said. “It kind of functions like a think tank.”

The only hint at the controversy over special education policies that led the City Council to insist on a more transparent mediation process in exchange for more than half a million dollars came when PTA Council President Rebecca Kennerly gave her presentation to the board.

Kennerly said she has conducted a “straw poll” among parents to find out where they stand on the controversy. Later, she told the Lookout that she plans to present her findings, which she characterized as mixed, at the August 9 board meeting.

After the meeting, Talarico reiterated her commitment to an independent review of special education policies and practices and said there will be more discussion of the topic at the August 9 meeting.

The board will meet July 12, August 9 and August 23 at the District Office at 1651 16th Street across from Memorial Park. See www.smmusd.org for details.


“I feel that this is the night of returning employees.”
Dianne Talarico






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