La Jolla High Foundation rallying for teachers


The La Jolla High School Foundation, in a response to proposed statewide school budget cuts, has initiated a special fund-raising project called Save Our Teachers.

The goal is to raise $200,000 in order to save the jobs of four teachers, a counselor and a librarian whose positions could be eliminated in the cuts.

To date, more than $45,000 has been raised.

The school is facing the position cuts as part of a state-wide education funding reduction in response to a projected massive state budget shortfall.

This is not the first cut district schools have faced. About five years ago, they faced a 7 percent budget cut. A couple of years later they were forced to cut another 2.5 percent from operating budgets.

“We’re already working without a net,” said La Jolla High principal Dana Shelburne.

Pink slips went out to first- and second-year teachers in January, with a second round being dispatched in March.

La Jolla High, which serves 1,625 students, stood to lose one English teacher, one social studies teacher, two world language teachers, a counselor and a librarian.

A recent softening of the statewide budget decrease has resulted in some of the layoff notices being rescinded, but many probationary-period teachers are still under the gun.

“In many cases, these are the most energetic, enthusiastic teachers,” Shelburne said.

The instability of the local job market is prompting teachers to look for jobs elsewhere, especially when recruiters “flock like buzzards, waving signing bonuses under the noses of teachers,” Shelburne said.

“It has all kinds of ramifications for the future of our schools,” he added. “I don’t think that anyone in Sacramento really knows that.”

Shelburne is still uncertain how much money the district is going to re-allot to the coming year’s budget.

“It is a fluid environment,” Shelburne said, adding that a call to the district’s human resources department made last week still had not been returned. “They don’t have the answers. I have to believe when the board rescinds these notices, they’re confident they’re going to be able to pay these people.”

“This is sort of shooting at a moving target,” said Jackie Helm, the school’s Foundation president. “There’s still a huge problem … even if this money is reinstated through the district. We still have two teaches we’re going to lose.”

Parents Mimi Swenson and Kerri Smith are the driving force behind Save Our Teachers. When they approached Helm, she couldn’t turn down their request to raise the $200,000 even though the Foundation already had other fundraisers scheduled.

“Our goal is 100 percent participation,” Helm said. “We don’t care how much. We want the kids and parents involved.”

A student rally was held Wednesday, June 4, at 7 a.m. to promote the Save Our Teachers campaign. It is being followed by a telethon through Friday, June 6.

Donations can be made online at

(click on Foundation, then Donate Online) or mailing checks made payable to la Jolla High School Foundation to 750 Nautilus St., La Jolla, CA 92037. Call (858) 551-1250 for more information.

“I think the issue is pretty well documented,” Helm said. “That, as a state, we don’t value education. It’s an issue.”