Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tough Choices

My heart

.....is breaking.


Jan. 25, 2011

Dear Sierra & Auberry Elementary Families,

As a parent member of the SES School Site Council, I was asked to represent K-3 parents on the SUSD Budget Advisory Committee. This group was formed to take an in-depth look at the district’s funding crisis and make recommendations. I wanted to update you on where we are today.

The district is at a point where major changes must be made. Funding has decreased due to declining enrollment, and the state is currently only meeting 80% of its funding obligation per student. The governor has proposed a budget for next year which depends on voters approving the extension of current taxes. If this doesn’t pass, we can expect state funding to decrease at least another 5%. This is the scenario for which we must plan—a cut of $2M next school year. Unfortunately, it is likely that these trends (including decreasing enrollment) will take several years to reverse. With the failure of the proposed bond measure last fall, the district must make major cuts to resources and personnel going into the 2011/12 school year.

The committee is looking at several scenarios and studying the impacts. The most likely scenarios are:

- AES, SES, FMS, and SHS all remain open

o Class sizes increase to 27-28 at SES & 23-31 at AES with grade combos, no music or PE teacher, health services cut

o FMS class sizes at 26-33, health service cut

o SHS loses AP classes, drama, some ag/FFA & ROP, all small sports, & more

- SES closes, all K-3 move to AES, FMS remains 4-8, SHS remains 9-12

o Same as above except K-3 class sizes increase slightly (avg. 28 per class) w/o combo classes

o AES can accommodate with less expense on infrastructure repair

o SES goes into maintenance-only status, with power & limited water, no heating/cooling

- AES and SES close, FMS becomes K-6, SHS becomes 7-12

o K-3 classes average 21 students

o SHS programs remain intact

o SES & AES go into maintenance-only status described above

o Requires fencing & playground modifications at FMS

- AES and SES close, FMS becomes K-8, SHS remains 9-12

o Requires costly retrofitting of classrooms with portables or larger class sizes at FMS

Each of these scenarios saves $1.6-$1.7 million, so additional steps will likely be necessary. In addition to deeper personnel cuts, the board is considering a 4-day school week, retirement incentives, and selling or leasing the district office and various campuses, among other things. I will tell you that the majority of the committee is leaning toward the third scenario, which preserves programs and class sizes over “footprint” for these next few years.

The next several weeks are critical in the decision process. This Thursday, Jan 27th, is a board meeting at 7 p.m. in the FMS multi-purpose room. It is the public forum for the community to bring their questions or make comments regarding the scenarios directly to the board. We will hold another budget committee meeting on Feb 1st, which is an open meeting. Feb 10th will be the board meeting where the budget committee presents their recommendations and the board intends to make a decision about which direction to take.

This process has generated, and will continue to generate, many questions and concerns. I am happy to give you as much detail as you would like, and would like to help bring forward any questions or ideas you have. Please contact me via e-mail at cnmschlaef@gmail.com, by phone at 855-7372, or send a note through Val in the SES front office. This has been a tough process, and we are all stakeholders in different ways: parents, home owners, business owners, employees, and alumni. I can honestly tell you there is a common theme among all the discussions: we need to do what is best for the education of the children in our community.


Connie Schlaefer

SES School Site Council member


  1. Wow...great letter....I feel your pain...we are going through the same stuff here. It's very very sad!

  2. Awesome job Connie. Even though my child is in his last few months of high school, I am very frustrated at the funding for our children's education. It's very hard to watch all the money being spent that involve Monty's deployment, and know that we could be helping so many children in our own back yard. Keep up the good fight!!