The financial state of the Pasadena Unified School District is “good for the immediate future,” said PUSD Board President Dr. Elizabeth Pomeroy in her 2021-2022 State of Schools address at the McKinley School gymnasium Tuesday.
The Pasadena City Charter requires that the President of the Board of Education present a State of the Schools address to the public by May of each year, regarding the progress of the District in achieving its goals, and plans for the future, including the financial state of its schools.
“There have been positive developments in this area in the last couple of years, due to additional funding PUSD received from both the State and Federal governments,” Pomeroy explained, adding that the District has demonstrated that it can meet its financial obligations for this year and the two subsequent years.
The District was also successfully able to raise teacher and staff salaries this year, she noted.
According to Pomeroy, PUSD has received a “Positive Certification” on each of its financial reports since March of 2019.
“This certification is crucial because it determines the financial health of the District by the Los Angeles County Office of Education and by bond rating agencies,” she said.
The District has also continued to receive the highest possible rating for the annual outside audits of its financial statements, said Pomeroy, as well as its facilities bond program since 2019.
The address, which was also streamed live online, came after the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed campuses for at least one year, and has continued to affect the District still.
Pomeroy framed her address around what she called her “favorite proverb,” saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Pomeroy then asked, “So what is the state of our schools now in terms of going alone or going together?
Answering herself, Pomeroy said, “That first pandemic year, with campuses closed, there was way too much going alone. Students were often in a state of isolation, missing their friends and teachers, trying to learn from a computer screen. Teachers were isolated too, trying to provide learning and encouragement to students they couldn’t see on their screens.
“When campuses cautiously opened this academic year, it was still not smooth sailing,” she continued. “But even with unwanted solitude, PUSD was creating forms of “going together” never before imagined: Academic staff recreated ways of teaching to fit online needs.”
The District’s Technology Department provided devices and training and trouble-shooting in abundance, said Pomeroy, and The Center of Independent Studies, originally a high school program, expanded to include elementary students for those not yet ready to return to campuses.
Also, said Pomeroy proudly, the first kindergarten class of students in the District’s Dual Language Immersion programs will be graduating this year..
The Dual Language Immersion Program program has grown from two languages to four, expanded from a few classrooms to five elementary schools and two middle schools, and continues with world languages in District high schools. PUSD schools now offer Armenian, French, Mandarin, and Spanish.
Magnet schools are thriving, said Pomeroy, with John Muir Early College Magnet High School students now able to earn both high school diplomas and Associate of Arts degrees from Pasadena City College at the same time.
Senior Kennedy Hackett is the first John Muir student to earn both diplomas this year and will be heading to Harvard in the fall where she will major in Natural Sciences, said Pomeroy. Kennedy attended the Engineering and Environmental Science Academy at John Muir Early College Magnet High School.
Returning to finances, Pomeroy explained that PUSD’s combined General Fund revenues come from three sources—State, the Federal Government and Local revenues. The State provides these funds through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) which has two sources of revenue; property taxes and State Aid. The District’s LCFF allocation is $172 million in 2021-2022.
These funds come to the District in two forms, base grants, which are used for the general operations of the district; and supplemental and concentration grants which are targeted for use with specific student populations such as Foster Youth, English Learners and students who qualify for low socio-economic status and are required to be used to supplement the general education program.
Pomeroy noted three fiscal goals for the year — serving the needs of all of the students through the use of all available resources, preserving signature programs, college and career academies, and arts education programs, and raising employee compensation.
The District also added additional staff such as counselors, nurses, behavioral aides, community facilitators and even clerical and administrative staff.
“I thought Elizabeth did a good job of mixing wonderful student talks and performances tonight,” said former PUSD Board President Scott Phelps, who joked that he had delivered his State of Schools address last year “in an empty room with a camera, with just a few techs standing around.”
Phelps added that he was pleased that the District had set a goal of improving employee compensation, and achieved it.
Prior to Pomeroy’s address, McKinley School’s Bucket Drum Team and choir performed an uplifting version of Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
McKinley School Student Body President Franco Rodriguez and Pasadena High School senior Miguel Roybal-Monzo also addressed the crowd, reflecting on their goals and memories of the past school year.
Roybal-Monzo thanked his teachers and the District for the resources he was provided, praising the Ethnic Studies program in particular, and said,” It’s important to realize that those resources are not always universal.”
Roybal-Monzo added that he wanted “current students and teachers to continue to transform the Pasadena Unified School District.”