Community sends out SOS for schools – Calabasas Real Estate

Community sends out SOS for schools

2011-04-21 / Community
By Stephanie Bertholdo

HELPING—Families at the recent Bay Laurel carnival SOS booth.   LAURA SAISSE/Special to The Acorn HELPING—Families at the recent Bay Laurel carnival SOS booth. LAURA SAISSE/Special to The Acorn Las Virgenes Unified School District is ramping up fundraising efforts in order to offset the anticipated effects of California’s budget cuts.

As of April 14, LVUSD raisedmore than $262,000 through 1,116 individual donations, said Karen Kimmel, LVUSD’s chief business official. Of that sum, parents and alumni have contributed $239,000 since the Save Our Schools (SOS) campaign launched in February, while members of the general community have donated more than $20,000. Corporate matching programs have yielded another $3,275.

Kimmel said the money will be used to rescind as many teacher layoff notices as possible. Fifty-five teachers and counselors received pink slips on March 15.

At Bay Laurel Elementary School in Calabasas, students hosted an SOS booth at the annual spring carnival and raised $1,500.

Bay Laurel parent Laura Saisse said 11 teachers at the school received layoff notices.

“Of course, our teachers and counselors, students and parents are devastated by the number of pink slips recently distributed,” Saisse said. “I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘My kids are already out of school’ or ‘We don’t have kids’ (as an excuse not to donate). It drives me crazy. The budget cuts do not just affect those with children still in school. It affects everyone. It’s no secret that good schools help drive property values and business revenues. No one should be apathetic to this situation.”

School officials are bracing for a $3.8-million funding cut from the state next year. The cut will be in addition to $10 million in state funding reductions over the past three years.

Some residents have donated large sums of money to the campaign.

“When I heard that there was the potential of layoffs, I felt it was a civic duty to contribute,” said Yerba Buena Elementary School parent Susanna Mac. “The schools really are the fabric of our community. . . . Educating this generation well is important, as in the future they will be leading and contributing to our community.”

Kimmel said parents Tami Hathaway and Gail Fridstein, along with other volunteers, will call all residents in the district and ask them to donate money.

Parent Janie Lai, an Agoura Hills resident, is organizing the sale of SOS wrist bands for $5 each, Kimmel said.

“ Our next deadline is the May 10 (school) board meeting, where we will be able to rescind as many layoff notices as we have raised money for,” Kimmel said. “The cities have been listening, but they feel they have been generous with their fourcity donations at this point.”

Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills and Westlake Village— cities whose resident children attend LVUSD schools—provide ongoing financial contributions to the district.

Calabasas resident Lesli Kraut and other district parents attended the Calabasas City Council meeting to ask officials for more financial support of the schools.

“It’s devastating, especially to our elementary classrooms,” Kraut said of the budget cuts. Kindergarten through thirdgrade classes will have up to 30 students in each class, and high schools will be forced to implement lecture-style history classes with up to 90 students, she said.

Kraut wants every parent to donate $200 per child and asked that the four district cities also contribute money to the SOS campaign.

“The challenges are daunting, even worse than in prior years,” Kraut said.

Superintendent Donald Zimring said the school board adopted its budget cuts and layoffs under the assumption that a temporary tax extension in California will not succeed. Board members also approved a budget based on a 175-day school year, he said. The average school year is 180 days.

At the April 12 LVUSD board meeting, Kimmel said the governor’s budget revision in May “will be like no other.”

Voters may be asked to approve a second parcel tax as a means to generate more revenue. Currently, residents pay a $98 tax per year to support schools. A parcel tax study is underway, and a final decision on whether to move forward with a ballot measure will be made in early summer after the governor announces his revised budget in mid-May.

An early-retirement program is also expected to save money for the district. Senior teachers in higher salary brackets were offered a financial incentive to step down in exchange for contributions toward their healthcare benefits. Since 28 of the highest paid teachers have accepted the offer, the district’s payroll will decrease.

Scary for Bay Laurel Elementary and the rest of the Las Virgenes schools who are going to suffer. Scary for our kids. This is my favorite part of the article: “I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘My kids are already out of school’ or ‘We don’t have kids’ (as an excuse not to donate). It drives me crazy. The budget cuts do not just affect those with children still in school. It affects everyone. It’s no secret that good schools help drive property values and business revenues. No one should be apathetic to this situation.”

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