San Diego Unified Officials Address Concerns About Closure of Schools in Pt. Loma Cluster

by on October 25, 2011 · 15 comments

in Education, Ocean Beach, Popular, San Diego

Dana Middle School Band plays for gathered crowd

San Diego Unified School District once again facing massive budget shortfalls, must close 10 schools throughout district.

Concerned Pt. Loma/Ocean Beach parents, teachers, and kids packed the Jackson Theater at Dana Middle School Monday night to near its 548 person capacity to hear district officials explain their latest ideas on how the financially distressed district plans to cut costs and avoid insolvency in the near future.  Signs reading “Save Our Schools” were raised throughout the room as the Dana Middle School band played for their early arriving guests, and TV news vans lined the street in front of the school.  But there was a definite sense of anguish among the gathered crowd, and they were there to seek answers and a rationale for the closure of schools that had been “outperforming the norm” according to Matt Spathas, the Pt. Loma Cluster president.

The latest proposal from the San Diego Unified School District includes plans to relocate the Barnard Mandarin Chinese Magnate School from its current home off of West Pt. Loma Ave to another location within the district; shuttering Cabrillo Elementary; and combining Dana Middle School and Correia Middle School into one school and closing the other.

By closing Cabrillo Elementary, said SDUSD Deputy Superintendant Phil Stover, the school district estimated it would save up to $400,000 per year.  By closing one of the cluster’s middle schools the district could save up to $600,000 per year.  Cabrillo Elementary is the smallest school in the cluster, with a current enrollment of 202 students and a capacity for 300.

Previously the district had proposed closing Dana Middle School and relocating the Barnard Magnate School into the Dana building, however staunch community opposition led district staff to reconsider.  “We want The Panda to be able to grow and expand,” said Stover of Barnard.  The facility that currently houses the school is in poor condition, he said, and the school has outgrown it.

Near capacity crowd for town hall meeting

Barnard is a unique language immersion school that has earned national accolades.  The program has a waiting list for admission, and has been featured in the U.S. Department of Education’s The Magnate Compass magazine for magnate schools.  By relocating and expanding the enrollment of the Barnard school the district would be able to take advantage of the high demand for the school from all around San Diego County and realize additional revenue.

The district is also planning on reconfiguring the Pt. Loma Cluster schools to make the elementary schools K-5 instead of the current K-4.  This would allow the cluster to combine the two middle schools—Dana currently serves the 5th and 6th grades, while Correia is home to the 7th and 8th grades.  Other changes include the possibility of increasing the K-3 class sizes to a 29 to 1 student to teacher ratio in the coming years.

The prospect was raised of Barnard relocating to the Correia location should the lone middle school for the cluster be placed at Dana.

Deputy Superintendant Phil Stover

The San Diego Unified School District has compiled a list of 14 schools to be considered for closure, with a target number of 10 to be shut down, saving the district $5 million.  The school district is facing funding shortfalls of $60 million beginning in January, 2012, with the potential of reaching $80 million.  “There is a 50/50 chance that the district will be insolvent within one year,” said school board member Scott Barnett.

The San Diego Unified School District “bet big” that tax revenues in the state would increase enough to avoid a major funding shortage, said Spathas.  But that gamble certainly did not pay off.  And with the latest round of cutbacks even more classified staff—including bus drivers, administrative, and custodial staff—stand to lose their jobs.  It is not expected at this time that teaching positions will be eliminated.

With most of the schools within the cluster operating at very near capacity, district administrators were asked how they could expect to be able to consolidate schools and not overrun the schools’ capacity.  It was explained that as a part of the district’s cutbacks, most of the busing programs that transport students participating in Program Improvement School Choice program will be eliminated, thereby eliminating many of the cluster’s school choice students, resulting in a slight decrease in enrollment in the Pt. Loma schools.

Residents also expressed concerns about what the district would plan to do with the schools that are closed down.  Mr. Stover informed the audience that there are currently no plans in place at this time to deal with excess district properties.  Mr. Barnett also stated that it was highly doubtful that any of the closed properties would be sold off, and instead the district would seek ways to generate new revenues from them via new lease agreements with outside parties such as church groups or other community groups, or possibly offered to charter schools.  The district, he said, currently earns $6.5 million per year from properties that are not currently active, a figure that could potentially be doubled.

School Board member Scott Barnett

Concerns were also raised about the district’s ability to maintain the current facilities within the cluster and expand a school’s capacity where necessary.  Barnett said that Prop S funds that have been allocated to a school scheduled for closure can be reallocated to other facilities within the cluster.  According to an information packet disseminated by the realignment/closure committee, the district could see a benefit of $35 million or more by being able to move funds to other campuses.  This includes projects within the Pt. Loma Cluster, specifically funds to improve the athletics facilities at Pt. Loma High School with the potential to improve facilities the high school shares with other cluster schools, including Dana and Correia.

By the end of the evening the assembled crowd, while certainly not pleased with the possibility of seeing one or more of the cluster’s schools shut down, were more informed and aware of the magnitude of the problems facing the district.  The initial anguish throughout the auditorium that the Pt. Loma Cluster had been unfairly targeted had subsided somewhat, as the district administrators who had addressed the throng made it clear that clusters from all over the second largest school district in the state of California were being presented with similar dire outcomes.  “We need to work with the district, not against it” to find creative solutions that save our schools said Spathas, the cluster president.  “The district is listening to what the community has to say” before they make any final decision, he said.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Frank Gormlie October 25, 2011 at 8:28 am

Andy, thanks so much for attending this important gathering and helping to spread this info throughout the Peninsula.

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avatar Bob Anderson October 25, 2011 at 9:10 am

“The second largest school district in the state of CA” needs to be broken up into more managable, less bureaucratic enitities. How much could be saved by cutting a number of Board Member and Superintendent salaries? PLUSD has a nice ring to it.

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avatar Ernie McCray October 25, 2011 at 11:03 am

I wouldn’t call what the board of education members make a salary; it’s more like a little stipend for their time.

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avatar Mary Cairns October 27, 2011 at 10:20 am

Hi. I was curious about the salary comment, so I just went online to look for salaries and budget numbers, and found that for the 5 members, the “budget” for the Board is $1, 028,118. The combined “salaries and benefits” make up $543,296 of this total (up 33K from last year’s budget), with $10,600 for “books & supplies” and $474,222 for “services & other operating” (whatever that is). So I don’t know if I would agree with your statement of “a little stipend” if indeed each member is getting over 100K each? It’s just what was printed in the Districts 2011-2012 Budget Book. It looks like the Superintendent gets $497,886 in “salaries and benefits” (up $44K from last year) – ha – at least that is more than the SDSU President at $400K (but the SDSU prez has both the car and house given to him).

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avatar doug porter October 25, 2011 at 10:17 am

And just how would you save on salaries? Each of the new districts would need boards and supervisors and bureaucracies that are required by Federal and State mandates. Look at the salaries SDUSD pays its Board: $18,000 a year. I suppose you think you can find people on Point Loma who can afford to live there for $18K. Or are your advocating for non-elected school boards?

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avatar smith October 25, 2011 at 10:51 am

Does anyone one else see a conflit of interest with our current cluster leadership? Matt Spathas has worked closely with the district (see below), one can say he is “in bed with them”, and his companies Sentre Partners and Bandwidth Now may directly benefit from the sale of the schools and the upgrading of the others – can someone please get to the bottom of this, has the cluster president had any “behind closed doors” input on why so many of our schools were selected? Additionally, the Point Loma high group is hoping to get their hands on the prop S money from the closed schools, is that why we are so targeted with 3 schools on the chopping block????
I feel like we are being lead like lambs to the slaughter.

From Wireless Tech Ed posting – Matt Spathas is passionate about transforming the 150 year old educational delivery system to better prepare students for the flat world and global economy. In 1999, Matt founded the educational resource web site ibrary.com to facilitate and share best practices, ideas and innovation in education. Matt is a frequent speaker in educational forums on the topic “Engaging, Empowering and Preparing Students for the 21st Century.” To learn more, see Speaking.

Matt is a partner with SENTRE Partners, a real estate investment company and CEO of Bandwidth Now, which creates buildings of the future. Matt has acquired, developed or managed or facilitated in excess of $2 billion of real estate transactions. In 2004, Matt journeyed to seek out next generation real estate and best practices, touring 38 buildings in 5 countries and 12 cities. This tour also included visiting two K thru 12 international schools, the Western Academy of Beijing and Concordia International School of Shanghai.

He has participated on several real estate thought leadership panels throughout the US including Realcomm, UNC Charlotte, Cisco, and Intel. SENTRE’s leading edge next generation buildings have been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, Cisco’s IQ Magazine and Fast Company Magazine. Matt’s vision for education has been profiled in the University of San Diego Horizons Magazine and the Voice of San Diego – 21st Century School House and Trashing the Chalkboards.

Matt’s work in public education includes:

Led initiative to launch Live Homework Help, a free online tutoring service for San Diego students
Member of the San Diego County Office of Education Strategic Planning Committee
Served on team to create San Diego Unified School District virtual high school “ihigh”
Co-Chair of San Diego Unified School District Prop S – a $2.1 Billion Bond Measure
Independent Citizens Advisory Committee, San Diego Unified School District
Superintendent Search Committee 2010, San Diego Unified School District
Online Math Pilot, a one-to-one web-based curriculum and assessment for grades 5 to 8

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avatar Cynthia February 15, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Thank you Smith for putting some More info. out there for folks!

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avatar Cynthia Conger October 25, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Why hasn’t the News 8 ‘posted’ my information? The SD Redevelopment Agency has ‘diverted’ public property taxes to itself, in the amount of $9,500,000,000+, that should be going to the Teachers and Schools. Yet the District is ‘siding’ with Redevelopment, planning on ‘giving away’ more school properties, like the undervalued sale, at auction, of Scripps Ranch Fairbanks of 12.09 acres for $4.4 million? Mission Beach and Barnard’s 2.6 & 2.5 acrres are ‘slated for disposition,’ at the Bottom of the Market, yet the ‘difference between the two Coastal Property sites, both in heavily densified residential zoning, is $125/sq.ft. & $20/sq. ft? Why? There is more to this story and none of our media are reporting the truth. The truth is available at: the State has been Heavily Depleted of Property Taxes from “117 Redevelopment Agencies” and (San Diego’s 17), with a ‘longer than normal’ time of ‘accumulating Debt,’ and ‘Siphoning Property Taxes from the State, Cities and Counties (Siphoning ‘the normal amounts of property taxes due the Schools’), they are now in ‘deficit’, just as the County (& the Cities who have Redevelopment) are.

‘Why this is happening’ of San Diego’s School Deficits (Diverted to the Redevelopment Agency the last 40 yrs.), are explained in this easily readable site from ’06: http://www.redevelopment.us/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/RUG-2006-final.pdf
In *The Unknown Government, it explains who can Stop this Ponzi Scheme that ‘creates more demand’, yet at the same time, Steals from the Public Property Tax Revenues, and especially ‘Schools’, those funds that normally ‘fund the schools, property taxes.’

& the True Numbers of the Redevelopment Agency’s Diverted Tax DEBTS to SDUSD are in the 9/11 Redevelopment Agency Report to the State of CA, Section II (Monarch School) & Section VI, pages 1-4, look for those ’11 amounts ‘due’ (& not ‘paid’ due to the RA ‘suing the state?), and the ‘Total Tax Debt’, added up totaling over $9.5 BILLION that is Owed to SDUSD, from the RA! http://docs.sandiego.gov/councildockets_attach/2011/September/Attachment_2_Enforceable_Obligation_Payment_Schedule_Corrected_Version_Sept_9_09_13.pdf

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avatar Mary Cairns October 27, 2011 at 9:47 am

I am sad to think of Dana closing (class of 1969). They have ball fields named after David Wells, and the school itself after a great explorer of early SD. I can’t believe they want to keep Collier – oops, my slip – Correia open instead, probably due to the influence of the family? I have written the Principle twice to complain that in the “history” section of that school, it doesn’t even mention Collier (who gave that land to the city that the school is built on), his contributions to this city, etc – only that “Correia was built in 1958″….I don’t think so! How can we keep a school open, that can’t even account correctly for it’s history? Bah humbug, why save a school whose Principle supports lying to the children?

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avatar Mary Cairns October 27, 2011 at 10:33 am

This is a P.S…..obviously school did me no good, since I can’t spell “Principal”! ha

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avatar RB October 27, 2011 at 12:15 pm

At the meeting, Phil Stover, from the District, said that either Dana or Correia would be closed as a middle school. The community could decide to make Dana the 6-9 middle school and close Correia as a middle school. There is also a push to keep and develop the lower field at Correia and a possible move of the language program at Barnard to Correia.

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avatar Andy Cohen October 27, 2011 at 8:19 pm

The middle school would be 6-8, and PLHS would continue to be 9-12. Currently Dana is 5th and 6th grades, while Correia is 7th and 8th. They would move 5th grade to the elementary schools and make either Dana or Correia, whichever they choose to keep open (probably Dana in my estimation, since it’s a better location and closer to PLHS and is also the home of PLHS’ varsity baseball field) 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.

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avatar Matt Spathas February 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm

@smith – never have done or tried to do any business with San Diego Unified – just done my best to help support our schools and students. – Matt Spathas

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avatar Cynthia March 15, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Smith, pls. contact me 619-665-3210.

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