La Jolla Cluster Association reviews school district budget

Mitzi Merino explains the budget review procedure to members of La Jolla Cluster Association, April 22.
(María José Durán)

During the April 22 meeting of the La Jolla Cluster Association (LJCA) at Muirlands Middle School, members got to take the first look at the fresh-off-the-press draft of the 2016-2017 San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) budget. The document, named Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), is a three-year plan revised annually.

The consensus of the representatives from La Jolla’s five public schools was appreciation for the district’s effort to increase local control over the curriculum.

Donna Tripi, principal of La Jolla Elementary, has been in the LCAP committee for two years, and highlighted the benefits of the increased control. For one thing, the higher performance of students in La Jolla sometimes doesn’t match the curriculum requirements of the district.

“Our students are very high-performing, we have a large number of gifted students, so we’ve always felt our students have been somewhat different than maybe across the district,” Tripi said. “The district always aligns how we are teaching and what resources we are using, and the timelines that we are using them in, so we cover the common curriculum, but we cover it in a more rigorous and challenging way.”

Specifically, the second bullet point of the draft’s first page reads: “Central office staff supports area superintendents, principals, and school staffs to design site-based assessment systems that promote a culture of revision and continuous improvement of student learning.”

La Jolla High School principal Chuck Podhorsky agreed to this change in the district’s policies. “The site-based common assessments are really critical for schools to measure the progress of students along the way,” he said. “It’s also important that it’s site-based because the teachers at the school are really the ones who are working daily with the curriculum and know the best way to align that.”

Site management could also be extended to career development and professional learning. Torrey Pines Elementary School principal Sara Ott reviewed that section of the LCAP draft. “Our cluster is very unique, we track kids at a very high level and some of the district’s support and professional development is at a lower level,” Ott said.

The draft document also included different initiatives to improve the performance of diverse students. Mary Taylor, principal at Bird Rock, reviewed that section.

“We are not living it because we don’t have a lot of diversity at Bird Rock,” Taylor said. “But I could see how many of the changes they’ve made in this document will assist getting children of color, foster youth, and children who live in diverse situations closer to meeting the standards.”

Mitzi Merino, Area 5 superintendent for SDUSD was at the meeting to receive feedback and answer any questions the school representatives had. “One of the things that we have been doing all along is going out to our communities and seeking input around their priorities for LCAP plans, so we can then align our district support,” Merino said.

When the review process is done, if changes are approved, these measures could go to the 2016-2017 budget. To provide input on the draft, visit