Charter group gets encouraging news

Charter group gets encouraging news

The newly named board of the La Jolla Cluster Association received a pleasant surprise at its first meeting: a commitment from a school district official that he will make an effort to get some of the cuts restored to local schools.

In a recent e-mail, Sharon Jones, one of the parents who organized the group representing La Jolla’s five public schools, said that Phil Stover, the district’s “money man” and interim chief special projects officer, was there to respond to a letter from the group. It had asked the district to reconsider the across-the-board 2.5 percent cuts the principals have been told to make for the remainder of this year.

Because La Jolla’s schools do not receive as much special, or “categorical,” funding, the flat-rate cuts hit programs such as those for low-income or English language learners harder, Jones said. They are forcing cuts for instructional aides, math and literacy and gifted programs.

But after Stover’s presentation on April 6, the cluster representatives said they were encouraged.

Jones noted Stover “agreed that the cuts were not implemented fairly.”

Although he told them he could not get all of the money back, “he asked us to let him know how much money the schools need to continue existing instructional programs,” Jones added.

Stover also told the group that district administrators are reorganizing so that they can better support the cluster system, which is designed to give parents, staff, teachers and administrators a greater voice in what happens in their community’s schools.

The day after Stover’s presentation, Debbie Balmat, a fourth-grade teacher at La Jolla Elementary Schools, said: “I think that it’s exciting that we already got a positive response to our first letter to the district. We’re being validated as a group.”

Another teacher, Howard Tenenbaum from La Jolla High, sent an e-mail after the meeting to the parents who organized the cluster group: “Thank you all for making this happen. Let’s see what we can do!”

He and his wife, Rachel Tenenbaum, both Advanced Placement teachers at the high school, are new cluster members. One will be a voting teacher representative, and one will serve as a nonvoting member at large.

Jones said they are working on getting information to Stover so he can follow through on his efforts.

Meanwhile, the group set up a committee system for the board, organizing six committees: finance, curriculum, safety, technology, legal and public relations/communications. A chairperson won’t be selected until the bylaws are adopted; until then, they’ll rotate in leading meetings.

  • Finance Committee (headed by John May) will oversee the 2.5 percent budget cuts and site-based management of funding.
  • PR/Communications (Fran Shimp) will oversee the district relations committee, the Web site, e-blasts, logo, media and interactions with other clusters.
  • Legal (Laurie Barnet and Natascha Vossen) will produce the bylaws and 501(c)3 documents.
  • Technology Committee (Sharon Jones) will bring together technology representatives from the various schools to discuss district implementation of the hardware/software.
  • Curriculum (Alison Lee) will oversee such issues as vertical and horizontal teaming, GATE, special education, English language learners and No Child Left Behind.
Jones said the parents would continue to meet weekly and the full board will meet once a month. For information, go to