Let the learning begin
The last layoff notice was rescinded just last week, said Cary Dritz, SVUSD assistant superintendent of personnel services.
The school board had voted to lay off 46 district teachers ahead of the state’s May 15 notification deadline. Only 31 notices were sent because 15 teachers retired or resigned at the end of the last school year. All but four of the notices were given to elementary school teachers. The layoffs would have saved the district $2 million.
Despite the positive start, the district may be forced to cut salaries and implement furlough days if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increases are not approved in November, said Michael Clear, SVUSD assistant superintendent of business and facilities.
“We’re creating a menu of (cuts) for the board to consider, mostly salary and benefits,” Clear said. “We’re putting that list together to present to the board next month or in October to get some direction.”
Declining enrollment has also hit the district’s funding.
As of late last week, about 18,850 students were expected in classrooms for the 2012-13 school year, down from 19,817 students last year and 20,030 the year before.
“The district continues to assume a decline in enrollment, (but) it’s marginal,” Clear said.
SVUSD principals said they will focus on students, not budget issues.
“I have 2,500 kids I need to educate,” said Steve Pietrolungo, principal of Simi Valley High School. “I will do the best I can with the resources I have. I can’t dwell on the negative.”
Deborah Salgado, principal of Royal High School, said she won’t let spending cuts affect instruction.
“To quote ‘Apollo 13,’ I think this is going to be our finest hour,” Salgado said. “That’s what we talked about in our staff meeting this morning. Kids in high school didn’t choose when they went to high school. This is their time. We want to make sure it is their time. Teachers will do everything they can to keep negative things out of the classroom.”
Schools are abuzz with new programs this year.
At Mountain View Elementary, a model technology school will encourage development of technology in SVUSD.
Mountain View Interactive Technology will roll out in four annual phases, beginning with the installation of SMART boards, or interactive whiteboards, in all 12 classrooms.
“It engages (students’) attention,” said principal Jenny Goldman. “It’s really an effective tool.”
In two years, students will have access to a mobile cart of 30 tablets, including iPads, and in three years additional tablets will be available. By the fourth year of the program, students will be learning in a digital classroom, with increasing access to digital textbooks, Goldman said.
“We have a very devoted staff here, and we’re committed to working with the kids,” the new principal said. “Everyone here is energized and excited. The technology rollout is keeping the energy very positive.”
Local high schools are also looking to give students a boost. Starting this year, Simi Valley High will partner with Cal State Northridge’s engineering department to allow SVHS juniors and seniors to enroll at the university and earn two engineering credits. Students will complete assignments online, and a teacher at the high school will lead a hands-on lab.
“CSUN was telling us that they’re getting students in the engineering department who had never handled a screwdriver,” Pietrolungo said about the purpose of the collaboration. “This gets kids in high school thinking about college.”
SVHS also introduced its first Motivation, Attitude and Participation freshman seminar this week to help students map out their plans for high school and beyond. About 20 teachers guided a standing-room-only crowd of parents and students during the three-hour session.
“We’re getting all freshmen developing their lifelong goals and mapping out where they plan to be,” Pietrolungo said. “ Research shows that students who make 10-year plans are more successful in high school. If they don’t have guidance, they can fall between the cracks.”
Royal High School will also be making sure no one falls behind with its Success Academy for students with autism. SVUSD has hired two teachers for a group of about 10 students, Salgado said.
Similar programs are in place at Mountain View Elementary and Hillside Middle School.
“The program started in middle schools, and those kids are now going to high school. This is a great continuing program for kids with autism,” Salgado said.
Four new principals greeted students on the first day of school this week. They are Goldman; Lori Rangel, principal of Big Springs Elementary; Angela Baxter, principal of Santa Susana Elementary; and Kate Snowden, principal of Simi Elementary.
Rob Hunter, former principal of Santa Susana Elementary, will be Berylwood Elementary’s new principal.
Goldman, Rangel and Baxter have all worked at Ventura County Educational Offices. Snowden was previously employed by the district as a literacy coach at Berylwood Elementary. Before that, she taught for 10 years at Santa Susana Elementary.