Many ESC programs will now rely on fundraising
Nineteen teachers will be laid off in the Del Mar Union School District after the Board of Trustees voted for the cuts 4-1 in an effort to balance the budget; but they said they would to do their best to preserve the Extended Studies Curriculum.
The new plan will slim the budget from $2.5 million to $1.8 million.
Superintendent Sharon McClain said in her nine years as a superintendent, she's never seen a situation this dire.
"It's been painful," McClain said of the layoffs. "We don't want to be doing this and we wish we didn't have to."
Allowing for flexibility
The board's decision calls for a different ESC model than a three-core proposal made on Feb. 11. The new model offers science and technology, but gives schools the flexibility of choosing either music or art.
A district physical education specialist will be brought in to assist with regular instruction in grades first through sixth.
The option the board selected means the district will pay for 20.2 ESC specialists and allow schools to fundraise for the addition or expansion of programs.
Principals will now choose between offering district-funded music or art, which McClain said is a benefit.
However, McClain said drawbacks are that there will be more itinerant teachers who will have to travel from site to site. Additionally, schools will share one PE specialist district-wide for all grade levels.
The foundation has until April 15 to raise site-specific funds for the programs they want to keep.
"I know we want it all, I believe we can have it all," Matthew Zevin, foundation president said. "We can have it all if all parents give what they can to the foundation."
Ashley Falls School was given as an example. They will need to raise $47,969 to meet their site-based goal of 2.1 ESC teachers.
Del Mar Hills PTA president Kerry Traylor said she was disappointed they only have 49 days to raise the money.
"The school board failed to give the foundation enough direction to operate effectively," Traylor said.
At the meeting, parents and teachers said they were more than willing to try to raise the money. Jeff Bales, a fourth-grade teacher at Ocean Air, said he would personally wash cars.
Public speaks out
An audience of more than 80 listened to debate that centered mainly on how much to cut.
The cuts were called "heartbreaking" and tears fell on the faces of teachers as they listed all the things that would be lost.
In the public comment segment, overwhelmingly, the principals, teachers and parents supported the program proposed Feb. 11, which offered a strong core of science, technology and music.
They said the plan made fundraising goals easier for parents and the Del Mar Education Foundation, meaning they only had to focus on paying for PE and art programs.
One teacher after another said the three-core program is fairer and the best for student learning. It allows for more high quality, meaningful programs rather than a curriculum that has been watered down, they said.
Music teacher Erinn Mitchell said that with the layoffs she would loose her dream job. She spoke about her time at Ashley Falls making blues albums with her students and working as a team with classroom teachers. She said she wasn't just a teacher who showed up for a few days and then left.
"I know the teachers will do their best but it'll be with one hand tied behind their back," Mitchell said to applause.
Del Mar Heights teacher Michelle Besson worried that thousands of dollars worth of donated instruments would go un-played.
Parent Mary Johnson said while students would get physical activity they would loose their physical education where specialists integrate physical activities into classroom curriculum.
Shayne Griffith, an art teacher at Sage Canyon, spoke about the depth of subject taught in her classroom, which will be lost with the cuts. Now, a traveling art teacher will have 1,000 students and they will get lost in the crowd she said.
She said as a full-time teacher, she knows her students well - she knows her autistic student's favorite color, that Joshua needs to sit in front because of his vision and that Lindsay is a second grader with fourth-grade talent.
Griffith also said ESC classrooms are safe havens for some students, where they can find support.
"Instead they will find locked a classroom because the teacher is in route to the next school," Griffith said, followed by a standing ovation and hugs from fellow teachers.
Fundraising is key
Trustee Comischell Rodriguez was the only board member to vote against the decision.
After listening to all the comments, Rodriguez motioned to approve the three-core program, saying she had faith in fundraising for the other two programs.
"I believe our parents and teachers will come together and save those programs," Rodriguez said.
She was not seconded.
"I'm very uncomfortable having holes in our curriculum," board president Katherine White said.
White said she didn't think it was a smart decision to eliminate any program, because she feared they might not be able to bring it back.