School Board Budget Update

San Marcos Teachers Approve Parity

Though the Santa Barbara School Board cut more than $4 million from its budget on April 29, some items on the list of cuts remained tentative until earlier this week. Librarian positions as well as three school psychologists were left waiting, to be saved from the bloodletting only if San Marcos High School staff approved a contract renegotiation. According to District officials, the teachers of San Marcos passed the necessary contract waiver on April 25, paving the way for the saving of librarians and psychologists. The vote was announced this week.

With San Marcos running on a block schedule, they had, for the past few years, been staffed by the District with a lower student-to-teacher ratio, 31-to-1, than the 35-to-1 ratio in place at Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos high schools. Realizing that bringing parity to all district high schools would equal about $320,000 in needed savings, the School Board tentatively approved a two-year process during the late April budget cuts that would bring San Marcos in line with its peers, though the action could not be made official until it got the thumbs up from San Marcos’ staff. After all, such an increase in ratios would no doubt equal the loss of at least a few fulltime teacher positions. Made public this week, San Marcos’ staff approved a contract waiver that allows the student teacher ratio to increase to 33-to-1 for the 2008-09 school year. As a result, three psychologist positions were officially saved from the cuts list this week as was the continued and popular practice of hiring certificated librarians to staff the district’s secondary school libraries. (Two other school psychologists, however, were not so fortunate.)

In other news, the Santa Barbara School Board voted this week to table a controversial new dress code policy until mid-May pending further investigation of its practicalities. The initial proposal included, among other things, rendering illegal “the presence of any apparel that denotes membership in a gang.” This approach gave pause to several of the boardmembers, who worried how exactly it would be enforced or even defined. Also identified on the proposed do not wear list were white, black or blue t-shirts when worn in conjunction with low sagging pants or long shorts with knee high shorts.

The matter will return to the board on May 13.

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