Measure M: Pro unification committee responds to draft con arguments by elementary board

July 18, 2012
Santa Paula News

A ballot measure on the November ballot will decide whether or not the Santa Paula Elementary (SPESD) and Santa Paula Union High School Districts (SPUHSD) are to be merged into one unified district.

The California Department of Education and Ventura County Committee on School District Organization endorsed unification after it was proposed by the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce Education Committee in 2009. In February 2010, the Santa Paula City Council requested that the County Committee conduct a preliminary hearing on unification. 

The measure to approve unification will be called Measure M. “We’re thrilled” said Ginger Gherardi one of the lead members of the committee to approve unification. “After all, M will stand for more for our kids and for our schools. It means more money from the state with no new taxes and more money every year to do more for our kids by spending it in our classrooms rather than on administrative expenses.  Measure M will eliminate spending taxpayer money on two school boards, two superintendents, two administration offices and a number of duplicate expenses and will bring the districts together to develop a coordinated K-12 educational program and one calendar for elementary, middle and high school.”

The Santa Paula Elementary School District has maintained a neutral position since 2009, and told the State of Board of Education in May that they were taking a neutral position on unification.  However, it appears the school board has now decided to oppose the measure by writing the “con” argument for the ballot. “I think this is very unfortunate as the elementary school board’s own budget analysis is projecting fiscal insolvency in 2013-2014”, said Jim Tovias, Santa Paula City Councilman. “After much study, the majority of our City Council, the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce and a wide spectrum of citizens support unification.  Duplication of administrative services in our current system just doesn’t make sense for a city of our size. We need to spend our limited resources responsibly.” 

“We’ve seen a revolving door of elementary school superintendents over the years,” continued Tovias. “There have been six superintendent changes since 2007.  The cost has been significant in terms of organizational stability as well as the cost in dollars that could have been spent in the classrooms.”

Gherardi also noted that “The Elementary School Board says that they don’t have enough information on unification, but they have spent over $20,000 on studies and legal fees apparently to search for reasons not to unify.  Unification will bring new perspective and the opportunity to work together to reorganize and to build a better system - to build on the existing strengths and traditions of our two districts.  Money saved by cutting administration can be used to do more for our kids.”

“I read the Elementary School Boards “con” position said Joyce Carlson, Santa Paula civic leader, former elementary school board trustee and a unification committee member. “I’m afraid it gives an inaccurate picture of unification. This will unify the Santa Paula elementary schools and the High School district.  The Mupu, Briggs and Santa Clara districts ‘opted out’ of the unification in 2010, but they may join the Unified District later if they wish. Because they are very lean and efficient operations, there would not be significant savings in eliminating their administrations. This isn’t about getting larger- it’s about getting better, and it’s been studied exhaustively”.  The SPESD board has a “draft” of the con ballot argument but has not finalzed the document.

Cathy Barringer, Santa Clara Valley Hospice co-founder and unification committee member agrees that the con argument is not accurate. “The Elementary School Board’s trustees have said that property taxes will increase as a result of unification,” but this just isn’t so. There are no boundary changes that would change the tax structure. A responsible new unified school board will ensure that money is spent to maintain our classrooms and schools and keep classes small. Unification will also provide better coordination and one continuous program from Kindergarten through Grade 12, with no gaps between middle school and high school and one school calendar to help families and schools coordinate activities and holidays and reduce the loss of State funds due to absences.

Gherardi concludes, “Unification is the right thing to do...a long-awaited opportunity to bring our educational community together to provide the best education we can for our kids, and I think at the end of the day most of our citizens agree.”





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