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Santa Monica-Malibu School District Plans to Overhaul ROP Program

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Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

February 5, 2015 -- Floral design could be trimmed out, and a professional dance course could also have its legs cut from under it, as part of a far-reaching plan to overhaul the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Regional Occupational Program (ROP).

At its meeting at Malibu City Hall, 23825 Stuart Road, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the district’s Board of Education will hold the first public discussion on the future of the ROP program, with the ultimate goal of completely revamping the program’s course offerings, officials said.

 “We’re taking a look at all of the classes that are classified now as ROP,” said district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker. “What we’re finding is that some of them are actually better suited for our general education categorization.”

ROP now offers 23 different “hands-on” courses ranging from automotive technology to business management to computer repair to film and video production.
But the program also includes courses in floral design, dance, the culinary arts, photography and acting.

“In some cases, some ROP programs like visual and performing arts will remain at their host schools, but their funding will shift from ROP to not being classified as ROP in the future,” said Pinsker.

At other school districts, Pinsker noted, ROP programs in recent years have moved away from “things like floristry” to more career-focused courses “where students can actually be able to have a career once the graduate or help them with their college planning.”

Locally, the goal would be to create a new ROP program that “would be more robust,” she added.

“It would offer students career pathways that are suitable to careers and college readiness in the 21st century,” she said.

Proposals for new courses might include “anything from media and entertainment to legal to construction services, including things like electricians and plumbing,” she said. “It would absolutely include technology.”

As part of the Westside’s “Silicon Beach,” Santa Monica had some 1,827 tech-related companies in 2014. Local technology and entertainment companies employed 26 percent of the City’s total workforce, according to a 2014 City economic statistics report.

Designing an ROP program that offers more classes that put students on paths to careers in those local tech firms makes sense, Pinsker said.

Much of the push to revamp the district’s ROP program comes from the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula for public school districts, which shifted funding sources around for certain types of educational programs, she said.

“Governor Brown signed this into law a couple of years ago, and we have been gradually  implementing it,” Pinsker said. “We’re realigning our programs to what’s expected of us under the formula, as well as the Common Core state standards, which are very much focused on college and career readiness.”

As part of the revamping, however, district officials are considering laying off “a few of our ROP teachers,” Pinsker said.

Although most ROP teachers would stay on the District payroll, some would be transitioned into other classes, while a few teachers who teach only a few ROP classes could receive layoff notices as early as March, she said.

“They may receive a pink slip” Pinsker said. “However, there is an effort being made to keep these staff members, if at all possible, as we transition to a more robust program.

“Also, there may be cases where certain credentials may be required that some of these staff members may not hold.”

Board members have slotted 45 minutes to discuss the program Thursday. They also will hear from district staff members, teachers, students and parents. No actions will be taken by the Board at Thursday’s meeting, said Pinsker.


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