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13 Teachers, Rollingwood Principal to Lose Jobs, School Board Says

The San Bruno Park School Board took a 4-1 vote Wednesday to lay off the elementary school teachers and principal because of ongoing state budget cuts. The board also voted 4-1 to move forward with a parcel tax for November.

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.

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savesanbrunoschools May 12, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Chill out SanBrunoParnet. you do not have to show anybody your name. You do not think that dr. hutt resigning and the Board being recalled will change anything? That is not true. New people will bring new fresh ideas that will give the schools a fresh start. New people can't do worse than dr. hutt and this Baord and they have a good chance of doing better.
Heidi Beck May 12, 2012 at 07:15 PM
I'll agree that the criteria were flawed. I've said that here and at school board meetings. Nevertheless, the committee did what it was charged to do. Unlike some people ...
Heidi Beck May 12, 2012 at 07:18 PM
And that is also why Basic Aid districts don't object if students leave.
awat May 12, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Wow. It is hard for me to believe that this superintendent and Board are so bad that they have their few supporters online here asking the public to do their job for them and come up with suggestions to solve all of the problems they have created. Clearly, the only answer to this probelm is to have Dr. Hutt resign and get a recall going or this situation is going to continue. The most constructive suggestion anybody can make is to remove the decision makers who have been making the worng decisions for almost 10 years and replace them with new people who will not divide this community and bring new ideas to these problems that Dr. Hutt and Board has created. They had their chance now it is time for them to go.
Paul Linden May 12, 2012 at 07:38 PM
@savesanbrunoschools I wish there some fresh ideas but I haven't heard any. If there is someone out there with ideas that can save the school district and is willing to stand for election to the school board, they should come forward and present those ideas.
savesanbrunoschools May 12, 2012 at 08:05 PM
if you want fresh ideas you need a new superintendent and Board. you don't find fresh ideas for a school district trolling a public message thread. that just proves dr. Hutt and Board have run their schools into the ground are out of ideas need to be replced. saavy.....
Paul Linden May 13, 2012 at 12:04 AM
I'm surprised I have to explain this, but there's no way I can be mistaken for a supporter of the board. I am connected to any member of the board in any way. This is too complicated and important to our children's future to be reduced to a simple demand for the board to go. It's not enough to say "the board should so X" without considering how X can be done, who will do X, how much X will cost and what effects X will have on the equally important Y. It's not enough to say a new board will do better without explaining how a new board can do better. Words are cheap. Everything wouldn't magically be ok if the board were replaced. I can pretty much guarantee, if we remove the current board, the people demanding their removal will be back here in two years time demanding the resignation of the new members.
Cliona McHale May 13, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Do we REALLY think that having our kids in combination classes year after year is the best we can do? Apparently, since this is what we have chosen for our children. We expect our teachers to teach two separate curricula to 31 kids in the same room with no aide, give individual attention to each student, and have time for extras like art and music (if we could afford them). Providing differentiated instruction in one curriculum to 31 students is challenging enough. Our teachers, as always, give their utmost but when an entire grade has to be in combination classes, the teachers have little flexibility in selecting the students (independent workers, etc.) who could create a successful combination class dynamic. I agree that many kids can do ok in a carefully selected combined class situation but it can be an extra challenge for students who have issues with attention or behavior or a learning disadvantage. This is a double whammy at a time when schools have fewer resources (e.g. learning support, professional development or a full-time Principal) to help those kids. I don’t believe those kids had a voice at the Board meetings; nor do I believe this is a good reason to ignore them. We can make grand statements about 21st century schools but we have voluntarily taken one step backwards as far as this parent is concerned.
Heidi Beck May 13, 2012 at 01:00 AM
@SanBrunoParent -- I hear ya! On one of the threads on another story, I nearly bust a gut laughing when someone suggested the district was paying me by the word to post on the Patch. (Yeah, like I'm gonna quit my day job to be a PR consultant to the district, LOL!!!) This kind of banter would be pretty darn funny if it weren't such a serious issue. I am so very glad my kids are done with school -- though one's a freshman at UC, so I hope the state budget mess doesn't screw things up too badly for him and his cohort in the next few years. But I worry about my neighbor's kids, I worry about my future grandkids. Things are a mess with education in this state, and it's a bigger problem than what's going on at the local level. Though there certainly are problems at the local level that need to be addressed. I really wish anonymous posters would use their names -- I'd like to know if I ever worked on a PTA committee with them, if they ever came to PTO or district meetings. But with this mentality that you can just call people stupid or make insinuations that aren't based in fact, no wonder people who see things in shades of grey rather than black-and-white would rather not deal with the crap.
awat May 13, 2012 at 01:30 AM
I picked up this post from another thread. Anybody know if the is true that Dr. Hutt had a girlfriend in the school district: "savesanbrunoschools 11:56 am on Saturday, May 12, 2012 who is Mary Ellen who posted this Patch stuff on April13? "Why was Dr. Sanchez's name and number left off the sign if he has not come out against school closures? As an FYI, here at the other board members home phone numbers Dr. Henry Sanchez 415-514-2068, Jennifer Blanco 650-872-1334, Skip Henderson 650-871-9511. Once again one of the problems with the school district being in dire straights is our Superintendent. Doesn't anyone feel apalled by the fact that Dr.Hutt is continuously ask the board for more money? Or the fact that he gave Lynn Orong a huge raise and bonus to be his assistant superintendant and girlfriend? Dr. Hutt has also tried to transfer Carlsandberg money into the district's retirement fund. How can our district get back on track when it is being mismanaged by the superintendant?" i do not think dr. Hutt had a girlfriend he gave a raise to to be his girlfriend? that is hard to believe. How could he have a girlfirend if he is married?"
Chris Kiely May 13, 2012 at 07:28 PM
awat- can't help answering the scandal question; the only time I dealt with the Supe was at Board meetings. From what they showed at Board meetings, the professional relationship between the Supe and the prior CBO was bad for the District. He virtually let her run the meetings. She'd be insulting to the public & the Board if they disagreed with her. She had lots of numbers at her disposal when she wanted them, but would always have to "look into them" if it was a question she didn't like. She'd bend and stretch the truth to support what she wanted. When she was backed into a corner, there would be staff or administrators or some committee seemingly manipulated (or perhaps bullied) into supporting her. All the while, Hutt sat there like a bump on a log. It's not that she was automatically wrong on everything. It's that she acted like she was automatically right on everything, and the Supe let her do that, meeting after meeting. The district wasted the last 5 years financially. Instead of tightening up ship, they sailed onto the rocks. She championed a bunch of dumb ideas and treated anyone who opposed her as the enemy. A Supe shouldn't let that happen under his watch. It padded her resume, but left SBPSD where it is now. I'm sure people will continue to speculate about WHY they acted that way. For me, however, the bad part is WHAT they did ON THE JOB: a horrible combination of Supe, CBO & Board trashing the District
Colleen May 13, 2012 at 10:53 PM
My suggestion to the Superintendant and Board Members would be to look at the Millbrae School District web site addressing their budget situation. My frustration with our district has been the lack of relevant information provided in a timely manner. The district is required to submit a balanced budget on a certain date. A vote to close schools has been rejected. Now a decision to share a principal and layoff 14 teachers has been made to bring the district into compliance. It really would have been helpful to have these scenarios laid out providing a brief overview of why cuts are required and showing the options. Option A - close schools, Option B – not close schools, share principal between schools, and layoff teachers, Option C - other suggestions from the community. Multiple presentations should be made to the community to solicit feedback and offer input prior to the board voting. For those who do not support a parcel tax, another option might be to donate directly to the San Bruno Education Foundation. The reason I support a tax is because it guarantees the contribution of the entire community. If given the choice, most people will not voluntarily donate. The resistance to support a tax due to lack of confidence in the superintendant and several board members can be mitigated by participating in the democratic process.
Chris Kiely May 13, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Good points Colleen. There still has been no real presentation, from the District detailing why Dr. Hutt wants to close schools, and what the tradeoffs are in terms of split classes, class sizes, etc.
Heidi Beck May 14, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Millbrae may present its info more clearly on its website, but they are having trouble too. They already cut the school year by 5 days this year and I believe they also cut staff development days (though I'm not 100% sure about the latter).
Colleen May 14, 2012 at 03:05 AM
II apologize if I was unclear in my last post. After reviewing the Millbrae website, I could see the district is experiencing a similar situation and found complete transparency. The website provides the estimated budget deficit, impact to teacher/administration headcount as well as categorical expenses.
Heidi Beck May 14, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Colleen, I think maybe I was unclear. All I wanted to do was point out that Millbrae has its problems too. But kudos to them for a more informative and transparent presentation -- our district could learn from that. Last year, when I still had a kid at Mills HS, one of the assistant superintendants (this would be SMUHSD, not Millbrae Elementary) came to one of the PTO meetings and gave a really detailed and informative presentation on the budget and the planning process, with different projections/scenarios based on the vagaries of the state funding. If X happens, then this; if Y happens, then this, etc. Really, really helpful. All districts should have meetings like this.
Jacqui Pastoral-Conclara May 14, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Thank you to the old timers for providing us a historical perspective to the current situation and the district budget woes, particularly on the issue of the former CBO. My family and I only moved to San Bruno in 2002 and our oldest kid entered school only in 2007. If we somehow knew about the district's situation and the politics involved, we would have considered other options like sending the kids to the district where our work places are. But despite all these financial troubles and its consequences, I am happy to say that we have found a very supportive and loving community of families at Rollingwood.
Paul Linden May 14, 2012 at 06:13 PM
After thinking about this and talking to someone directly involved, I find the idea of principal sharing even more insane than I first thought. Considering the work Schrene Witmore has had put into Rollingwood, on top of the district administrative tasks all principals have been asked to do, sharing a principal is going to put the progress of a whole school at risk. Unless the plan is to run down Rollingwood so that it can be closed without opposition, I can see no logical reason for this. If this isn't the reasoning, is this just a short term fix? Is there going to be a rota, with two other schools asked to share a principal or will Rollingwood continue without a dedicated principal (which would be politically advantageous since it localizes opposition)? Is Rollingwood being offered any help for the following year? The answer to the last question is no. As Colleen and Heidi said, there is a severe lack of communication. What does the district gain from this? What exactly is the plan? The first step is indeed to ask for Dr Hutt to step down. I think he is smart enough to understand the problems, but I think he is in over his head trying to find a solution. He has lost the confidence of the teaching staff and community, and a new superintendant would be a fresh start, even if that doesn't change the fundamental problems. It would be cynical for the board to ask for his resignation to deflect from criticism of their own actions, but it would still be the right move.
Paul Linden May 14, 2012 at 09:22 PM
I've just learned that Parkside has asked for the 6th grade move to be delayed by a year because of lack of organization (no 6th grade teachers, no female custodian, no calendar for scheduling). I hereby offer my sincerest apologies for being so stubborn about giving the board and district administration some benefit of the doubt that they had some idea about what they are doing.
Bill Baker May 14, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Apologies accepted :-)
Karin Cunningham May 14, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I can't EVEN believe it! Holy Moly! No teachers or schedule yet?
Chris Kiely May 14, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Oh come on Bill. You know the District would have absolutely no problems if only mean people would stop saying bad things about them...... I'd toss in a ROFL if this wasn't such a lousy topic. I don't know if you could write this as a TV show, too unrealistic. Maybe an educational version of "The Office."
Chris Kiely May 14, 2012 at 10:09 PM
new patch article on this.
Bill Baker May 14, 2012 at 10:29 PM
HaHaHa....................
Chuck Zelnik May 15, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Just wondering out loud who would send a letter to the Patch anonymously? Could this be someone hell bent on getting rid of Dr Hutt which would be a good thing or just stirring up people's emotions? For the past 2 years many SBPSD 6th grade teachers have attended classes so that they will be credential to teach at Parkside Middle School. Teachers follow the student population. If there are not enough credential teachers who are qualified to teach at Parkside Middle School from within the SBPSD, then the principal and the district will hire the necessary qualified teachers for the 6th grade students. This will lead to a reshuffling of teachers by seniority ( union contract ). Regarding the calendar, around this time of year the district and the teachers' union try to negotiate a calendar. The letter writer seems to be fanning the flames to conjure up support for some agenda. Blanco has only recently been talking about getting rid of Dr. Hutt, but only a few people know that she has said that she wants the new superintendent to be of Hispanic descent. Those are her words, not mine. Whatever happen to hiring a person that is best qualified for the district and for the job? So what is Blanco's true agenda? With all this whipping up of emotions, people need to take the first step and recall Henderson, Sanchez and Martinez, so that no hidden agendas will add to this mess. Chuck Zelnik Former President San Bruno Park School District Board
Paul Linden May 15, 2012 at 05:30 PM
I've sent the following questions in an email to the board members. These all need to be answered. As the parents of two children attending Rollingwood, we are concerned about the recent decision to eliminate the principal's position. The board of trustees is elected to serve the San Bruno school district, and as such is answerable to the parents. In the interests of transparency, Rollingwood parents need answers to the following: 1. How much is saved by eliminating a principal? 2. What process was followed in deciding to eliminate a principal's position? 3. What process was followed in deciding which prinicipal's position to eliminate? 4. What were the criteria for choosing Ms Whitmore for dismissal? 5. In the light of recent signs of mismanagement, is the board going to reconsider this decision? If the decision is not going to be revoked, the parents in both Rollingwood and the as yet unnamed school need to know that measures are being taken to maintain standards: 1. Is there a plan in place to manage sharing a principal between the two schools? 2. Has the other principal been chosen? 3. If no to either, was this decision hastily made without considering the full consequences? 4. If there is currently no plan, when can we expect one to be in place? [continued]
Paul Linden May 15, 2012 at 05:30 PM
[continued] If and when there is a plan, it needs to be published. Considering the absence of a principal for 50% of the time, it cannot just be the same as the current measures in place to deal with temporary absences of the principal. 1. How will on-site time be scheduled? 2. Who will handle discipline issues when the principal is off-site? 3. Who will handle emergencies? 4. Who will create the IEPs for children that need them? How will a 50% principal determine who needs them? 5. Who will meet with parents who have concerns? 6. How will the shared principal juggle two PTAs and other extra-curricular activies? 7. If teachers are expected to fill in, will they be compensated for their extra responsibilities? 8. What aid, if any, will be offered to teachers who will have to leave their classes to deal with disciplinary issues and other situations normally handled by an on-site principal? 9. What monitoring will be in place to look for signs that either school is suffering academically and culturally during the period of principal sharing? 10. What exit plan is in place if it's determined that either school is suffering excessively from not having a full time principal? 11. Does the district have the resources to ensure that neither school is in trouble? [continued]
Paul Linden May 15, 2012 at 05:30 PM
[continued] We need to know the long term plans: 1. The budget calls for deficit spending for at least the next two years. Is the district planning to continue with principal sharing? 2. If principal sharing continues, will two other schools be chosen the following year, or will Rollingwood continue being without a full time principal? 3. If principal sharing is temporary, where will the district get the funds for a full time principal in 2013-14? 4. If this decision results in falling academic standards in either school, will it receive any additional help in subsequent years to help get back on track with API requirements?
Alfonso Esqueda May 17, 2012 at 03:07 AM
There is no need to fire the Rollingwood Principle. The Crestmoor Principle jumped ship before crew members could yell " Iceberg Straight Ahead!"
Edwin S May 17, 2012 at 08:05 AM
Come on Alfonso, you have got to be joking. Mr Haven was a good, if not great Principal. He even went so far as to volunteer his time to the local San Bruno library. You can not fault him for moving onto a typical Principal position when our district, without his knowledge, assigned him to be Principal of 2 schools. So unreasonable. But don't take it from me, why don't you ask a Principal whose opinion you value if they think he "jumped ship", they will likely tell you his assignment was so absurd that he had no choice but to find another option.

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