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Students in Rebecca Johnson's (above) third grade class work through math problems in the computer lab at Grant Elementary School on Pearl Street on Wednesday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

SMMUSD HDQTRS — The Board of Education at tonight’s meeting will consider eliminating six elementary teaching positions and nearly as many nursing jobs in an effort to hedge against potential revenue reductions.

Deborah Moore Washington, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District assistant superintendent of human resources, said the board must vote to approve the potential layoffs now so that staff can determine which teachers will receive notice before March 15.

California Code of Education dictates that all affected teachers must be informed of potential layoffs by the March 15 deadline, whether or not the board decides, in the end, to fire those employees, Washington said.

“We have until May to make final decisions in our district,” Washington said.

The district faces major uncertainty in its budget despite aggressive fundraising efforts in 2010, with threats coming from both the state and local levels.

Funding for schools in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget rests heavily on the extension of a half-cent sales tax and vehicle licensing fee.

Two-thirds of the state legislature must vote to put the extensions on the June ballot, and two-thirds of voters must then approve the extensions.

If those two taxes do not pass, SMMUSD stands to lose up to $3.6 million the state gives for average daily attendance, according to the district.

The school may lose approximately $1.25 million due to state cuts in mental health services funding approved by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October 2010.

Schwarzenegger eliminated the mandate and funding for a 1984 law which provided money to schools for individualized education programs, or IEPs for selected students with mental health needs.

At the meeting, the board will discuss contracting with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health to continue providing the services at a cost of approximately $250,000 per month from Feb. 1 through the end of the school year.

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

Additional state funding could also be lost if the number of students in the district declines.

Reductions in the number of enrolled students would mean losing out on Average Daily Attendance funding from the state, which equated to $6,815 per student in this district in the 2008-09 school year, the last year for which statistics are available.

Washington cited a study by the DecisionInsite firm which showed decreasing enrollment figures in the district between now and 2015.

The district is also unsure whether or not an application to convert the Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School into a charter school will pass at the state level.

The Board of Education denied the application in December 2010, but the matter can be brought to the state for consideration.

“All of those factors drove us to look at putting this forward,” Washington said.

The cuts may come despite the passage of Measure Y in November 2010 and the successful Save Our Schools campaign which helped retain approximately 26 teachers in the 2010-11 school year.

The SOS campaign brought in $1.2 million, and Measure YY, which pledges schools half of the revenues raised by a half-cent sales tax, is hoped to bring in approximately $6 million.

Those two funding sources prevented more drastic measures, Washington said.

California Teachers Union representative Harry Keiley said that the proposed cuts are nothing to be alarmed about.

“It’s early on in the process that staff does this,” Keiley said. “We believe our district is well positioned, in great part due to the success of Measures Y and YY, and sacrifices employee groups have made in the past couple of years, and that the reduction will not be necessary going forward.”

The union will keep an eye on the proceedings, Keiley said.

“We have expressed our opposition to the reductions, and feel confident that going forward, we will prevail,” he said.

If approved tonight, the resolution would allow staff to determine which six kindergarten through fifth grade teachers and 5.6 nursing positions will receive notification of the layoffs.

ashley@smdp.com

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