State of the Schools

Annual Press Conference Offers Glimpse into This Academic Year

School starts soon, and so comes the autumnal scent of sharpened pencils, the snap of three-ring binders, and the Santa Barbara School District press conference, which took place a few days ago, on Tuesday, August 10.

The “back-to-school” conference was intimately attended by a few members of the media and helmed by three members of the district administration: Superintendent J. Brian Sarvis, EdD, Deputy Superintendent Eric Smith, and Associate Superintendent Robin Sawaske.

Together, they provided a thorough progress report on a wide gamut of subjects, an agenda outlined as follows: “Student achievement, state test scores, board of education focus goals, bond measures, teacher layoffs, budget, educational programs, and board elections.” Of course, some topics were given greater attention than others.

In typical schoolroom practice, the meeting’s purview has been scantly summarized into bullet points — doodles and fudged orthography amended:

  • Scores: Despite cuts of about $20 million since 2007-8, student achievement — at both the elementary and junior high level — is increasing. STAR and exit exam tests also show an upward trend.
  • Associate Superintendent Sawaski assures that Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) courses are not being eliminated, but some of them will be redesignated as honors classes.
  • Bond Measures: Expect to see two bond measures on November 2. Measure R2010 and Measure Q2010. Measure R pertains to the elementary school district. It asks voters to approve $35 million to modernize, renovate, and generally upgrade facilities in the district. Measure Q asks for the approval of $75 million for the Secondary School District, containing more or less identical language as Measure R. The bonds will not increase the current tax rate and would borrow against future taxes for the elementary and secondary school districts, according to the release. To pass, they will need 55 percent of the vote.
  • There is declining enrollment.
  • The Harding University Partnership School has changed its name to reflect its relationship with UCSB’s graduate teaching program. The meeting also promoted the after-school and parental education programs.
  • Because the state has yet to submit a budget, next year’s school budget can only project tentative numbers, which will likely be revised after the state budget’s passing, says Deputy Superintendent Smith.
  • Teacher Layoffs: Reduction-in-force notices (RIF) were sent to 69 teachers in May, and 42 of these have been rescinded, thanks to retirement incentives, resignations, and teachers moving out of the area. In addition, two administrators were recently let go. One of these positions was a director of safety, welfare, and attendance—duties which will now go to the retired student services and compliance director.
  • Board Election: There are two open seats on the school board and three candidates so far. (The window for nominating is still open.)

School starts August 23 (charter schools not included). Visit for the back-to-school night schedule.

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