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2009: A Tough Year For School District:

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) faced some difficult challenges in 2009 due to California’s unprecedented state budget crisis.

Superintendent Tim Cuneo formed a 12-member committee last March to look at the overall budget of the District over the next 18 months. This committee along with the District’s Financial Oversight Committee (FOC) made recommendations to the Superintendent and the Board on the actions they should take in order to cope with the reduction in revenues the District receives from the state.

School Board members found it necessary to cut $4.5 million dollars from the District’s 2009-2010 budget last June. Santa Monica High School’s budget (SAMOHI) was reduced approximately $495,000 by cutting the number of houses/small learning communities from six to five. Increasing class sizes throughout the District saved another $1.9 million. Cuts totaling $300,00 were made to contracts for district office departments, reductions of $700,000 were made in the District’s Special Education budget, and $1 million in reductions were made in a variety of Tier III categorical programs.

However, deeper cuts may have to be made in the 2010-2011 budget because the state budget crisis has not lessened. In July, the School Board created a citizens committee to examine the feasibility of an emergency parcel tax to help offset all or a portion of the District’s growing budget deficit. The FOC has also suggested a number of other options for the District to explore to help enhance its revenues.

In February the School Board approved Cuneo to serve as the District’s Superintendent until July 31, 2011 to guide the District through these tough economic times. Cuneo had been serving as the District’s Interim Superintendent.

The District also took steps to define their future direction by hiring a consultant, the Gensler Group, to help them update their strategic plan. The District developed its current strategic plan in 2002 with seven initiatives and wants to develop a new plan by May 2010.

A revised homework policy was approved for the District’s students in October to help answer questions that arise about the amount of homework or the type of assignments that should be given. The policy states that the optimal amount of time students should spend on homework begins with 10 minutes a day in the first grade and increases by ten minutes per grade level, not to exceed a total of 120 minutes a day of all classes combined, in the 12th grade.

The District also acquired two properties through eminent domain that currently abut the Edison Language Academy campus,- so that they will be able to expand and reconstruct the campus.

Lastly, the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) recognized the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) on September 3 for helping to test a new Environmental Educational Initiative (EEI) curriculum.

­Contact Hannah Heineman

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