SMMUSD HDQTRS — The Board of Education approved a resolution Wednesday giving it the ability to eliminate nearly 12 positions before the next school year.

The cuts depend on the state of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s financial health, which has been threatened by lower enrollment figures, loss of state funds for special education programs and the potential loss of the Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School to charter school status.

“We had to start making interesting decisions, because we don’t know where the state of California is going to be,” said board member Nimish Patel.

Patel characterized the pink slips, to be delivered to 5.6 nursing positions and 6 full-time elementary school teachers, as a “precautionary measure.”

“It gives the board flexibility, given certain things expected to happen in the near future,” he said.

The potential transition of Point Dume to a charter school weighed heavily on the decision to propose teacher layoffs, as not all of the 11 or 12 teachers employed at the school could be brought back into the district, Patel said.

“We would be overly staffed. We’ll extend notices that there is a chance that we may not get positions back if that happens,” he said.

Deborah Moore Washington, the SMMUSD assistant superintendent of human resources, said other factors also had an impact, including decreased kindergarten enrollment.

Also of concern were possible cuts to special education funding, caused by the elimination of AB 3632 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The cuts could cause up to $1.3 million in losses to the school district, which may have to pay in full for its contract with Los Angeles County to provide mental health services and individualized education programs to needy students.

L.A. County would charge the district $250,000 a month to continue providing services.

Shari Davis, chair of the Parent Teacher Association, said that the association took a position against the cuts.

“The outlook is grim for the district if that funding has to come out of the district’s funds,” Davis said.

She took hope in three lawsuits challenging Schwarzenegger’s elimination of the funding, which are working through the court system, as well as estimates from the district that costs incurred by contracting with the county might be well under the estimated amount.

According to the discussion item, the district has 15 students in residential treatment centers and another 59 receiving outpatient IEP-based mental health services.

ashley@smdp.com

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