La Jolla High backers launch campaign to 'Conquer the Cuts'

Dana Irwin and Beth Penny show off the banner promoting the fundraising campaign.   Photo: Kathy Day
Dana Irwin and Beth Penny show off the banner promoting the fundraising campaign. Photo: Kathy Day

By Kathy Day

Staff Writer

Expressing a firm belief that students shouldn’t have to feel the impacts of budget cuts, the La Jolla High School Foundation has launched a drive to raise $200,000 to “maintain the status quo.”

Called “Conquer the Cuts,” the campaign formally began on Wednesday and is being headed up by foundation board members Beth Penny and Dana Irwin.

The name, they said, does not symbolize that the school and students “are victims, but that they are conquerors.”

Acknowledging that the students are in a generation that will continue to see reductions in spending for schools, Irwin said this is a good lesson for the students to see that they need to take action if something is going to be affected.

The two talked last week about the challenges Principal Dana Shelburne is facing amidst the district’s likely estimated $120 million budget shortfall. On March 10, the school board will consider whether to issue layoff notices to 910 fulltime teachers, administrators and other staff members.

The high school’s estimated deficit is $225,000 to $235,000. Each campus leader was asked to come up with a plan, which in Shelburne’s case included not eliminating any people but leaving no money for supplies of any kind, he said in a recent interview.

On top of the new campaign’s $200,000 goal, the LJHS Foundation has already pledged $125,000 for supplies and technology, Irwin said last week.

At PTA, governance committee and foundation meetings, people were asking “What can people do to help that’s tangible,” Irwin said.

“This evolved as a direction, an easy way to help the kids,” she added, noting that it doesn’t require “attending a gala, sitting through an auction or standing in line at a restaurant to get a 20 percent cut of the day’s sales.”

Penny added that all they have to do “is just click and send,” referring to a website link where one can make a donation:

ljhs.sandi.net/foundation/ConquerTheCuts.html

The website will be supplemented by a mailing going out next week, weekly e-blasts and outreach to businesses. They are also working on a strategy that will involve the students in the fundraising effort, much as the Foundation's “Save our Teachers” drive did in 2008 when La Jolla High faced a similar financial hole.

That year, students held an evening rally and assisted with a telethon to raise money that helped save several positions.

They hope to reach their goal by May 1 “and not keep asking after that,” Penny said.

“People have said they want to help, even if they don’t have children at La Jolla High,” Irwin said.

She and Penny cited parents of children at area private schools who see the value in good education, as well as grandparents and others who want to pitch in. Even area Realtors who are members of REBA have offered to contribute.

Both say they are optimistic and excited that they will reach and even exceed the $200,000 mark.

“The stakes are so high in getting our children the programs they need to get into college,” Irwin said. “We just need to give them all the right tools.”

Beyond La Jolla High

La Jolla’s other public schools are facing similar challenges, even though principals say they won’t know the final impacts until later this spring.

Their first look at their budgets included responding to the district’s request for each to present a spending plan for staffing and operations based on a per-student allocation. That’s different from the past when they were given the number of positions they would have, said Muirlands Principal Chris Hargrave.

While Supt. Bill Kowba has presented his first recommendations to the board — which would include cutting 910 fulltime positions among faculty, administrators, nurses and counselors — no action has been taken. The board will reconsider issuing layoff notices at its March 10 meeting.

Even then, the picture is not complete as the governor issues a May “budget revise” and this year is proposing a ballot measure for tax extensions that could cut the deficit from a projected $120 million to about $63 million. Then, in late September, enrollment counts can also affect the number of teachers, depending on whether estimates are on target.

Here’s a quick look at how cuts could affect two other schools, based upon the first “budget books” submitted by principals to the district office:

MUIRLANDS

• Would eliminate one teacher/class sizes would rise in English classes

• Would cut counselors from 2 to 1.5 positions, meaning an administrator would have to pick up some counseling duties since each counselor is limited to 500 students.

• Would eliminate a half-time librarian/keep library tech

• Would eliminate a half-time secretary

• Keeps nurse two days per week

• Unknown impacts from support staff cuts where seniority comes into play

• Muirlands Foundation contributed about $100,000 this year and helps supports the nurse’s position, a portion of the two vice principals as well as instructional and technology materials and support. The projected need for next year is about the same.

— Source: Principal Chris Hargrave

BIRD ROCK ELEMENTARY

• Would lose one nurse

• Would lose half of a library assistant’s position

• Bird Rock Elementary Foundation has a target to raise $400,000 that could be used to pick up the cost of two teachers as well as supplemental programs, technology and materials.

— Source: Principal Sally Viavada

TORREY PINES ELEMENTARY

• Would lose one or two teachers, depending on class size increases

• Would look to foundation for visual and performing arts, technology and perhaps to fund teacher to hold class sizes down.

— Source: Principal Jim Solo

   
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