By Ann K. Williams
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
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
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,”
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
Matthews is returning as Assistant Superintendent of Human
“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
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