Logo horizontal ruler

New School Board Makes Initial Cuts

By Jorge Casuso

Dec. 15 -- The three new school board members -- Emily Bloomfield, Shane McLoud and Oscar de la Torre -- got a quick dose of reality last week, making a first round of budget cuts shortly after taking their seats.

The newly elected members joined the rest of the board (Michael Jordan was absent) in unanimously electing Maria Leon-Vazquez as board president and Joe Escarce as vice president before raising the price of school lunches, bus passes and transportation for field trips.

Before taking their seats on the dais, the newcomers watched from the audience as the board bid farewell to Pam Brady, Tom Pratt and Brenda Gottfried. The outgoing members were presented with gifts and proclamations from local, county and state officials, as well as parents and community members.

"It was almost inconceivable that the board could change from one day to the next," Escarce said. "For the most part it was really a marvelous board. There's no question I'm going to miss the three board members."

Gottfried, who fell short in her bid for reelection, left early to a standing ovation to watch her grandson play in a Samohi basketball game.

"Thank you so much for everything," Gottfried said. "I promised my grandson I would go to the game. This is part of my new life."

Superintendent John Deasy thanked the outgoing board members, especially Brady, who served 12 years and was known across the state as an education advocate.

"Thank you for your support and your guidance," said Deasy, who was hired 1 1/2 years ago. "Your leadership when I first came to the district was invaluable."

"When I was a new school boar member, Pam was a great mentor to me," said former board president Julia Brownley, who was reelected in November and is the longest serving member.

Brady thanked the district staff. "You have never ever not made me proud," she said. "Everywhere I go I can stand proud because of the work this staff does for children." Brady also thanked the students and community members "who have also kept me real."

Board members also thanked Tom Pratt, who served as president during one of his four years on the board, praising him for his dedication and sense of humor.

"I don't know what we will do without your humor," Brownley said.

After swiftly electing the new president and vice president on consent, the board tackled the first round of cuts needed to bridge an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million budget shortfall in the current school year.

The board unanimously voted to increase the price of school lunch items across the board -- from cookies to burritos -- by a quarter. The board also doubled the yearly cost of bus passes to $472 per student, $824 for two students from a family and to $1,108 for three or more students.

The reduced rate for needy students also doubled to $112 per student, $190 for two students and $264 for three or more students in a family.

In addition, the board voted to increase the district cost for field trips from $21.09 an hour to $24.39 and from $1.59 a mile to $2.07. The costs are usually picked up by PTAs and paid for through fundraising efforts.

The initial round of budget cuts -- which will include a hiring freeze and cuts in funds for school improvements -- come a month after Santa Monica and Malibu voters rejected a $300 parcel tax that would have pumped an estimated $9.6 million a year into the cash-strapped district.

Deasy told the board that he had made a "very formal recommendation" to the district's Parcel Tax Committee to ask the board to place a tax for a June 3 election. The revised six-year parcel tax would be $144 for residential properties and $675 for commercial and industrial properties.

"The landscape has changed so dramatically," Deasy said, that the tax would be "to maintain instead of enhance services."

"It will require us to continue to look for alternative sources" of funding, Deasy said.

Lookout Logo footer image
Copyright 1999-2008 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.
Footer Email icon