On a recent evening, Rebel Harrison started counting individual mailboxes in the offices of the Regional Occupational Program as the director tallied teachers and staffers.

Suffice it to say that the ROP facility might soon have some empty slots.

As the county education department holds onto funds that the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has used to cover the costs of instruction and equipment for the career-focused courses, the school board is weighing major cutbacks to a popular program that offers technical training and workforce development skills to some 850 students.

According to the agenda for the school board’s Thursday meeting, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Malibu City Hall, officials will discuss a proposed resolution that would significantly impact ROP next year.

“It is the opinion of this Board of Education that it has become necessary to reduce or discontinue particular kinds of services in the District’s ROP program,” reads the resolution, which has not yet been adopted.

The proposed resolution, which could come before a vote Thursday, states that cutbacks in course offerings would accompany layoffs in certificated staff.

Although categorical funding for ROP doesn’t expire until June 30, according to a district report, state law stipulates that employees whose jobs are in jeopardy must be notified by March 15.

The program in question involves 14 instructors, six of whom are full-time employees, as well as two support staffers and a counselor, Harrison said.

At the meeting, staff will update the board on the district’s plan for ROP courses in 2015-16.

The proposed resolution includes cuts in many ROP teaching services. Auto shop, facility maintenance, floral design, business management, sales/marketing, computer, film production and theater offerings would be affected.

According to education code referenced in the resolution, the district must give priority to permanent employees over probationary employees or employees with less seniority.

The board has the power to determine the order of layoffs for employees with the same number of years served “based upon the needs of the district and the students thereof,” according to the proposed resolution.

The annual ROP budget is $900,000, Harrison said, down from $1.3 million in previous years. Harrison said courses in the program are often expensive because they require up-to-date equipment.

She added that ROP teachers are invaluable because they have experience in their fields.

“They must have worked in the industry and have expertise,” Harrison said. “It’s the magic of ROP instruction.”

News of possible cuts in the program sparked an outpouring of support at the school board’s Jan. 20 meeting in Santa Monica, where officials heard passionate testimony from students, parents, teachers and alumni.

The upcoming meeting is also expected to include a budget update, a look at Common Core State Standards and a District Advisory Committee report.

Contact Jeff Goodman by phone at 310-573-8351, via email at jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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