Pasadena Unified Board to Consider School Closings in Special Meeting Tuesday

With $3.1 million in reductions made, the School Board looks for an additional $6.9 million to avoid Los Angeles County takeover of District; will consider closing two elementary schools, one middle school

Published : Monday, October 29, 2018 | 4:20 AM

Continuing the painful process of budget reductions for the two fiscal years, the Pasadena Unified School District Board is scheduled to convene a special meeting, Tuesday, October 30 at 4 p.m., to decide the fate of three District schools in the crosshairs for closing.

The three schools—Cleveland Elementary, Franklin Elementary, and Wilson Middle School—are part of a slate of proposed reductions meant to be decided upon at the last District Board meeting October 25.

During last Thursday night’s meeting, however, which lasted more than six hours, several board members agreed with Board member Kimberly Kenne that more discussion was needed on the closures and that a special meeting should be devoted only to the school closures.

According to a PUSD staff report, closing Cleveland Elementary would save $306, 570 in the next fiscal year, and $613,140 through 2021. Closing Franklin Elementary would save $475,472 in the next fiscal year, and $950,944 through 2021. The closure of Wilson Middle School would save $1,167,477in the next fiscal year, and $2,334,955 through 2021.

Closing all three schools would save $3,899, 039 through the 2021 fiscal year.

At a previous Board meeting, however, Board member Michelle Bailey said she would not vote for any budget reductions “that involved closing schools.”

At Thursday’s meeting, Kenne told her colleagues, “I feel like we don’t have a rationale. I need to know why these particular schools were chosen to be closed. I don’t know that without these closings, we won’t get to our goal. I need a rationale.”

By the end of Thursday’s meeting, the Board had completed the first round of cuts of approximately $3,111,288, with an additional $6,988,712 in cuts still to be made.

As District Superintendent Brian McDonald told the Board at that meeting, “Declining enrollment, flat state and federal revenues, and mandatory costs” have necessitated the budget cuts.

“Tough decisions must be made to right-size our district and cut costs,” McDonald said, explaining, “Some schools are small, thus operationally inefficient. For example, the cost of a principal for one school with 100 students, is the same as for a principal for a school with 700 students.”

McDonald then put it more bluntly, stressing, “School closures are needed now, and there also needs to be a long-term plan to right-size the school district.”

The Board will hold meetings on October 30, November 7, November 8, November 13, and November 15, “until the needed amount of reductions is made,” said McDonald.

The Board needs to increase its 2020-21 Ending Fund Balance Projection by $10.1 million in order to create to obtain a 3% reserve, according to the PUSD staff report.

The District’s Financial Stabilization Plan must then be finalized on or before the November 15, 2018, regular board meeting, in order to be incorporated into the District’s First Interim Report, to be presented at the December 13, 2018, regular board meeting.

Meanwhile, Measure J, an advisory sales tax measure on the upcoming November ballot, could provide approximately $7 million to the District, should it prevail.

However, according to a District administrative staff report, “since the measure is ‘advisory,’ these funds may not be included in the Fiscal Stability Plan until there is a vote of the City Council confirming the funds will be allocated to the District. The Council vote would need to occur prior to the December 13, 2018, Board of Education meeting, in order to be considered in the Fiscal Stabilization Plan.

The L.A. County Office of Education has already informed the board that they are “prepared to elevate the Fiscal Expert to a Fiscal Advisor with ‘stay and rescind authority.’”

Should this happen, the Board would no longer retain its decision-making authority.

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