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PUSD Finances ‘Strong for the Immediate Future, ‘ Says Board President in State of Schools Address

Michelle Richardson Bailey delivers optimistic ‘State of the Schools’ address Thursday

Published on Friday, May 19, 2023 | 6:03 am

Pictured at the 2023 State of the Schools event on Thursday, May 18 are (from left to right, Pasadena Unified School Board Member Patrice Marshall McKenzie and Jennifer Hall Lee, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Elizabeth Blanco, Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald, Board President Michelle Richardson Bailey, and School Board Members Patrick Cahalan, Tina Fredericks and Kim Kenne. [Eddie Rivera/Pasadena Now]
Before an attentive audience in the auditorium at John Muir High School Thursday evening, PUSD Board of Education President Michelle Richardson Bailey delivered the District’s 2023 “State of the Schools” address, one that was optimistic, even congratulatory in tone. 

The PUSD Board President must deliver a State of the Schools speech each year, as mandated by the Pasadena City Charter.

The event is an opportunity for the community to learn more about the current state of the District’s schools finances, student achievements, and plans for the future.

The speech also called for stability and unity in the face of leadership changes in the district.

Among those on hand for the address were City Manager Miguel Márquez, Pasadena Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian McDonald, PUSD Board members Patrick Cahalan, Jennifer Hall Lee, Tina Fredricks, Patrice Marshall McKenzie,  Kim Kenne, and former Board Member Dr. Elizabeth Pomeroy, as well as Chief Academic Officer Dr. Elizabeth Blanco. 

The Muir High School Jazz Band and Vocal Rhapsody choir sang along with two solo performances from the school’s recent production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” which the school recently produced and performed with the cooperation of The Pasadena Playhouse. 

Bailey was introduced by John Muir High School student Christina Leyva, who was recently named a Posse Scholar and earned a full four-year college scholarship.

Bailey said in her address that the financial state of PUSD is “strong for the immediate future,” owing to increased Cost of Living Adjustments and the COVID Relief funding that the District received from State and Federal governments.

As Bailey explained, the District’s combined General Fund revenues come from the State, the Federal Government and local sources. The State provides the funds through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) with two sources of revenue—property taxes and State Aid. 

The District’s LCFF allocation was $191 million in 2022-23, in base grants, which are used for the general operations of the district, as well as 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. 

These funds are also required to be used to supplement the general education program, she noted.

Measure J, which passed in 2018, and which directs a portion of the City of Pasadena’s sales tax to the PUSD, have allowed the District’s signature programs to flourish, said Bailey. 

As she explained further, Measure J is used for the reserve fund, certain academic programs such as STEM, DLIP, IB, Arts, and High School Academies, remain strongly funded.

Bailey pointed out that this year the District was able to give teachers a 10% salary increase, the largest single increase in PUSD history. 

“Last year, we were able to adjust salary schedules so that our teachers and employees are compensated closer to similar districts,” she said.

Bailey also pointed to the District’s first All-Star Musical, “Into the Woods” as a “historic achievement,” and noted that during the past school year, among other achievements: 

  • Sierra Madre Elementary was named a California Distinguished School
  • Altadena Arts Magnet was named a National Magnet Model School
  • There are eight Posse Scholars this year
  • PUSD student-athletes are competing at a high level, John Muir’s football and boys’ water polo, and Blair’s boys’ basketball teams won CIF division championships 
  • The student-led Student Think Tank is now in its third year. The cross-district student-led collective gathers to research and study district and community needs as well as social justice issues in Southern California.

“It’s been a year of recovery as the pandemic has officially ended,” said Bailey. “This year, our focus has been on helping students recover both academically and emotionally. This has included expanded learning options such as tutoring and after-school programs as well as new wellness teachers assigned to every school.”

To that end, Bailey pointed out that PUSD was awarded a third federal magnet grant to expand school programs.

“It’s not common for school districts to get a third grant,” she said,  “and it’s a testament to the quality of our collective efforts that the federal government has in PUSD.”

Bailey also noted that Pasadena’s high schools are also earning 6-year accreditation from WASC.

The District has demonstrated that it can meet its financial obligations for this year and the two subsequent years. PUSD has received a “Positive Certification” on each of its financial reports since March of 2019,” said Bailey. “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.”

The District has also continued to receive the highest possible rating for the annual outside audits of its financial statements and the facilities bond program since 2019, she said. 

Bailey also told her audience that she anticipates  PUSD receiving over $10 million from Measure J this year.

 “We can sustain our signature programs like Dual Language Immersion, STEM, and the robust Visual and Performing Arts programs because we have Measure J funds to shore up our mandated reserves.”

Goals for the 23-24 school year, Bailey stated, are to create a transition plan for the loss of COVID Relief funds, continue to increase salaries in order to retain and recruit qualified staff, and to complete the Facilities Master Plan and move into the planning and construction phase.  

This has also been a year of planning for the future, said Bailey. 

The development of the District’s new Strategic Plan has been led by Deputy Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Blanco, who worked together with Scott Harden, students, district leaders, parents, and families through the process that began last summer, Bailey reported. 

“Through five design teams and a steering committee, we have engaged with different representatives of the community to develop a vision, mission, and roadmap for the next five years that centers on bringing the PUSD to the next level. 

Bailey said that the new strategic plan will take effect in the new school year, but that schools and district departments are already “taking what we’ve learned during the process and applying it to our actions and plans.”

Chief Business Officer Dr. Leslie Barnes, Facilities Director Leonard Hernandez and Chief of Technology Tendaji Jamal have left or tendered their resignations this year. Late last year, Chief Human Resources Officer Stephen Miller retired.

“As changes happen at the leadership level, I know that there is speculation and uncertainty but we must lead through any change with steadiness and a clear vision to serve our students,” the speech reads.

Bailey alluded to Superintendent Dr. McDonald’s recent unsuccessful application to Columbus, Ohio city schools for the superintendent position there and the recent resignations of three and retirement of one other top District administrators.

“As changes happen at the leadership level, I know that there is speculation and uncertainty,” she said. “But I want to say this: PUSD is a school system that stays focused on the success and well-being of our students. 

“Our previous and current leadership have gotten us to this point,“ she continued. “Together, we must lead through any change in unity, steadiness, and a clear vision to serve our students.”

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