The San Bruno Park School Board voted 4-1 Wednesday to lay off 13 teachers next year—a sign that the school district’s budget issues are continuing to get worse.
School board members have already heard a mouthful from parents about the recent proposal to close two schools—a recommendation Superintendent David Hutt made because of declining state funding, a desire to reduce the number of combination classes and to avoid having schools with small student populations once sixth graders move to Parkside Intermediate next year.
But board members said the teacher cuts, while an unpopular decision, were necessary to keep the district financially solvent.
“It is a stage in the process,” Hutt said before the board took a vote.
If the school district gets more funding before next year, Hutt said, there is a possibility that some, if not all, of the laid off teachers could be re-hired—as has been the case in previous years.
But the outlook looks bleak at the moment.
Trustee Jennifer Blanco cast the lone dissenting vote.
What came as a surprise to a number of parents was the fact that the district had decided to include Rollingwood Elementary Principal Schrene Whitmore in the cuts for next year.
That means Rollingwood and another school will have to share a principal next year.
Some Rollingwood parents felt they were completely blindsided by that decision.
Christine Sonnenburg, a longtime kindergarten teacher at Rollingwood, said the school has had too much turnover with administrators in previous years and that the superintendent backed out of his word to prevent that turnover from happening again.
“Dr. Hutt promised that we wouldn’t lose our principal,” Sonnenburg said. “A promise is a promise.”
Parent Virna Santos said losing the school’s principal would cripple the entire neighborhood.
“I’m really disappointed that we’re going to have to share a principal,” Santos said. “On top of that, we’re going to lose teachers. Where’s your creativity to build up this community?”
Some were even more disturbed that the school district hadn’t even provided an explanation to parents as to why Whitmore, who just took over as principal this year, would lose her job.
Hutt said the school board decided at the March 14 meeting to issue what’s known as a "non-reelect letter" to Whitmore, which means her “term of service ends at the current school year.”
“It has to do with the economics of the school district as well as the fact that the school district is bringing the equivalent of a school up to Parkside,” Hutt said in an interview after the meeting.
Several Crestmoor Elementary parents also blasted Hutt for what they perceived as another personal attack on their school. They said Hutt was preventing the school from having a full kindergarten class next year by denying 11 students the ability to transfer to the school.
The school already has 19 kindergarteners enrolled, and five of the students whose families want them transferred to Crestmoor have siblings at the school. Parents said the school could have a full kindergarten class—30 students—if the school district allowed all of the transfers to go through.
Hutt denied the claim that the district was singling out Crestmoor and said none of the district's transfers have been completed for next year.
In other action, the board voted 4-1, with Blanco dissenting, to move forward with placing a parcel tax on the November ballot.
The board also began discussing whether to form a "Save Our Schools" committee to figure out how to prevent future school closures. But it still wasn't clear how that committee would work because residents said they don't want any school board members to be involved and some school board members said the committee's goals could possibly conflict with the parcel tax efforts.
A special school board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. May 16 at the to discuss several items that were tabled at Wednesday's meeting.