The San Diego Unified School board decided this morning to pull the plug on its program to close small, underperforming schools next year in order to save money.

The board had hoped to save the district $4 million by closing eight schools next year. This morning’s direction from the board has two big impacts:

• The district will now have to find that $4 million savings elsewhere.

• District staff won’t have to spend the next few months studying which schools to close.

The second of these points is significant in the light of what happened last year, when the board told staff to spend months studying which schools to close, only to balk at taking action on the recommendations staff came back with.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

(While the school closure drama was playing out last year, trustee Shelia Jackson claimed she couldn’t be blamed for the shortlist of schools to close, since the school board didn’t even know what the criteria were for choosing the schools. As we pointed out, the board had set the criteria and, indeed, had set the whole program in motion. The statement resulted in a classic fact-check.)

As I outlined in this story, it wasn’t the first time the district had talked tough on closing schools then backtracked when parents protested the closures.

This morning’s decision preempts any wasted effort by staff and ensures parents don’t have to go through months of stress as their schools are placed on a shortlist for closure.

Rather than having his staff spend months looking into which schools to close, district Deputy Superintendent of Business Phil Stover convened a workshop with the board to ascertain whether they really wanted to move ahead with a program that could end up with schools being closed to save money.

The three board members who were at the meeting decided they didn’t.

For context, here’s the reasoning for closing small schools, from my story last year:

The district has a large number of small schools with fewer than 300 students. Running those small schools is expensive, and the district may well be going broke. Faced with a minimum deficit of $60 million next year, the district has to cut spending significantly, and has estimated it can save $500,000 for every school it closes.

And the argument for closing small schools has only gotten stronger as the district’s student body has continued to shrink. Since fall 2003, the district has lost 11 percent of its enrollment, or more than 14,000 students.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.

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    This article relates to: Education, News

    Written by Will Carless

    Will Carless is the former head of investigations at Voice of San Diego. He currently lives in Montevideo, Uruguay, where he is a freelance foreign correspondent and occasional contributor to VOSD. You can reach him at will.carless.work@gmail.com.

    62 comments
    Veronica Krautheim
    Veronica Krautheim subscriber

    Ain't it great that the district is spending all of this money to "improve" my classroom? Gee, Jim Jones, maybe the district should cut my salary so it can afford to put more of this technology into more science classrooms.

    Resident
    Resident

    Ain't it great that the district is spending all of this money to "improve" my classroom? Gee, Jim Jones, maybe the district should cut my salary so it can afford to put more of this technology into more science classrooms.

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa subscriber

    So that new $90 million deficit hole the district announced the day the agreement was approved was no surprise, huh?

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa

    So that new $90 million deficit hole the district announced the day the agreement was approved was no surprise, huh?

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa subscriber

    After 34 years I am no longer a union member.

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa

    After 34 years I am no longer a union member.

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa subscriber

    The district makes stuff up. The way the new agreement is worded, the teachers will never see a penny and furlough days will continue, whether the November ballot initiative is passed or not.

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa

    The district makes stuff up. The way the new agreement is worded, the teachers will never see a penny and furlough days will continue, whether the November ballot initiative is passed or not.

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa subscriber

    So like the district. Fund the hardware. Then it sits because there are no personnel to do the training and provide support.

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa

    So like the district. Fund the hardware. Then it sits because there are no personnel to do the training and provide support.

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa subscriber

    Why should they close those schools? $4 million? Hey, the teachers will pay for that. Just RIF a few more and take away their health care.

    mlaiuppa
    mlaiuppa

    Why should they close those schools? $4 million? Hey, the teachers will pay for that. Just RIF a few more and take away their health care.

    Scott Kovacik
    Scott Kovacik subscriber

    The costs associated with the iPad 3rd generation devices were much greater that the iPad 2nd generation devices, without greater benefit. Keeping costs in check, while serving the greatest need of students numbers, necessitated this choice.

    sdnative1958
    sdnative1958

    The costs associated with the iPad 3rd generation devices were much greater that the iPad 2nd generation devices, without greater benefit. Keeping costs in check, while serving the greatest need of students numbers, necessitated this choice.

    Scott Kovacik
    Scott Kovacik subscriber

    Please feel free to email me anytime to meet and/or chat regarding any of this - at the very least, I want to assure you and anyone else that those of us involved in the support and service of these components want very much to have things "work right" for those out in the trenches. Thanks for your support and hard work - your students are lucky to have you.

    sdnative1958
    sdnative1958

    Please feel free to email me anytime to meet and/or chat regarding any of this - at the very least, I want to assure you and anyone else that those of us involved in the support and service of these components want very much to have things "work right" for those out in the trenches. Thanks for your support and hard work - your students are lucky to have you.

    Lou Dodge
    Lou Dodge subscriber

    @Emilio, you said a mouthful about the technology and I mostly agree. The teachers I know who use it well spent many, many hours of their own time mastering it to a level of satisfaction where they and the students were happy. The net carts are a wast of time since they take forever to sync. And people did miss their whiteboards when the promethian boards were placed directly in front of the old boards without time to adjust. The only thing I would add is that over time, teachers did adjust and seem to accept and use them. Overall, I think they are an improvement and people will get more and more efficient with them but to what level is the question. More hands on training would certainly help and training done before the fact as you said.

    4theprofession
    4theprofession

    @Emilio, you said a mouthful about the technology and I mostly agree. The teachers I know who use it well spent many, many hours of their own time mastering it to a level of satisfaction where they and the students were happy. The net carts are a wast of time since they take forever to sync. And people did miss their whiteboards when the promethian boards were placed directly in front of the old boards without time to adjust. The only thing I would add is that over time, teachers did adjust and seem to accept and use them. Overall, I think they are an improvement and people will get more and more efficient with them but to what level is the question. More hands on training would certainly help and training done before the fact as you said.

    Emilio Torres
    Emilio Torres subscriber

    Overall, I’m all for bringing technology in the classroom, but it needs to be done much more thoughtfully than the District is doing it. If you are not going to mandate training and allocate serious compensated time for incorporating the tech into curricula, than it should be done on a voluntary basis at first. Despite my gripes, I made good use of the tech and am happier for it. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I was willing to work on my own time/dime. It’s not fair to expect others to do that, especially when technology doesn’t in itself make for good teaching, and good teaching can, and does, happen without it.

    Emilio
    Emilio

    Overall, I’m all for bringing technology in the classroom, but it needs to be done much more thoughtfully than the District is doing it. If you are not going to mandate training and allocate serious compensated time for incorporating the tech into curricula, than it should be done on a voluntary basis at first. Despite my gripes, I made good use of the tech and am happier for it. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I was willing to work on my own time/dime. It’s not fair to expect others to do that, especially when technology doesn’t in itself make for good teaching, and good teaching can, and does, happen without it.

    Dennis Schamp
    Dennis Schamp subscriber

    Thanks for the complements, by the way. They are appreciated. But please, I'm just a teacher, not a preacher - the only gospel I preach is education.

    Dennis Schamp
    Dennis Schamp

    Thanks for the complements, by the way. They are appreciated. But please, I'm just a teacher, not a preacher - the only gospel I preach is education.

    Daniel James
    Daniel James subscriber

    Did I mention that they have no money.. because if I didn't.. the district doesn't have the money this year.

    catcherman2222
    catcherman2222

    Did I mention that they have no money.. because if I didn't.. the district doesn't have the money this year.

    john kaleto
    john kaleto subscriber

    Sure, Jim. Except for the fact that I've never said "teachers are underpaid", "our schools are great", or "we don't need metrics or solutions". And when I say "we need more money" for the 1200th time, THEN you can do the same.

    kaleto
    kaleto

    Sure, Jim. Except for the fact that I've never said "teachers are underpaid", "our schools are great", or "we don't need metrics or solutions". And when I say "we need more money" for the 1200th time, THEN you can do the same.

    Lou Dodge
    Lou Dodge subscriber

    On that same note of charters, apparently Brown compromised in order to get his tax initiative on the ballot in Nov where it is taking top billing. The compromise was to promote and allow more charters!

    4theprofession
    4theprofession

    On that same note of charters, apparently Brown compromised in order to get his tax initiative on the ballot in Nov where it is taking top billing. The compromise was to promote and allow more charters!

    Jim Withers
    Jim Withers subscriber

    And health care for teachers is hardly secure. You will buy SDUSD's budget argument next year (broke again) and be more than willing to give that up to. You made it more than clear to the district this year that crying wolf is all that is necessary for self-serving union board members to sell everyone else out year after year from this point forward.

    Wiz1
    Wiz1

    And health care for teachers is hardly secure. You will buy SDUSD's budget argument next year (broke again) and be more than willing to give that up to. You made it more than clear to the district this year that crying wolf is all that is necessary for self-serving union board members to sell everyone else out year after year from this point forward.

    Scott Kovacik
    Scott Kovacik subscriber

    The waste, it seems, is in not embracing what's available.

    sdnative1958
    sdnative1958

    The waste, it seems, is in not embracing what's available.

    Emilio Torres
    Emilio Torres subscriber

    So much for civil conversations, btw. This place is starting to sound like the UT comment boards.

    Emilio
    Emilio

    So much for civil conversations, btw. This place is starting to sound like the UT comment boards.

    Emilio Torres
    Emilio Torres subscriber

    Starting a few years ago, the,District began ramming a bunch of low-performance netbooks and Promethean Boards into classrooms, where much of the technology just gathers dust or has fallen into disrepair. I've seen more than one teacher simply use Expo markers directly on the Promethean Board, rather than figure out how to actually use it. So insane. What a waste of money, regardless of which source of revenue it came from. I don't blame the teachers, by the way, for not wanting to use the tech. That's a separate issue. The District could have saved a lot of money, though, and used the technology efficiently.

    Emilio
    Emilio

    Starting a few years ago, the,District began ramming a bunch of low-performance netbooks and Promethean Boards into classrooms, where much of the technology just gathers dust or has fallen into disrepair. I've seen more than one teacher simply use Expo markers directly on the Promethean Board, rather than figure out how to actually use it. So insane. What a waste of money, regardless of which source of revenue it came from. I don't blame the teachers, by the way, for not wanting to use the tech. That's a separate issue. The District could have saved a lot of money, though, and used the technology efficiently.

    Rick Johnson
    Rick Johnson subscriber

    I'd also want to know if when a school is slotted for closure do the taxpayers in that area get a refund on Prop. S taxes?

    Simplat
    Simplat

    I'd also want to know if when a school is slotted for closure do the taxpayers in that area get a refund on Prop. S taxes?

    Dennis Schamp
    Dennis Schamp subscriber

    Jim Jones - "Money, money, money." Who'd have thought you were an ABBA fan? Personally, I prefer "Does Your Mother Know?" but that's just me.

    Dennis Schamp
    Dennis Schamp

    Jim Jones - "Money, money, money." Who'd have thought you were an ABBA fan? Personally, I prefer "Does Your Mother Know?" but that's just me.

    Jim Withers
    Jim Withers subscriber

    Second fact: You got duped.

    Wiz1
    Wiz1

    Second fact: You got duped.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    "Teachers are underpaid, our schools are great, we don't need metrics or solutions all we need is more money. Money money money!"

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    "Teachers are underpaid, our schools are great, we don't need metrics or solutions all we need is more money. Money money money!"

    john kaleto
    john kaleto subscriber

    Now when you get the urge to post, you can simply cut & paste the statement above.

    kaleto
    kaleto

    Now when you get the urge to post, you can simply cut & paste the statement above.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    As far as popping a cork on a champagne bottle, I'll save that for when our schools are among the best in the nation instead of the worst.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    As far as popping a cork on a champagne bottle, I'll save that for when our schools are among the best in the nation instead of the worst.

    Daniel James
    Daniel James subscriber

    Wow.. get over yourself. The teachers didn't just willy nilly hand over thier salary. They did it because the district's budget problems are REAL. The school board made the smart decision here and for once is not wasting money on something they're not going to do.

    catcherman2222
    catcherman2222

    Wow.. get over yourself. The teachers didn't just willy nilly hand over thier salary. They did it because the district's budget problems are REAL. The school board made the smart decision here and for once is not wasting money on something they're not going to do.