Dear Parents, Staff, and Community Members,
As I wrap up my time as President of our South Pasadena Unified School District’s Governing Board (aka School Board), I want to thank this wonderful community for its ongoing support and unwavering commitment to providing an outstanding educational experience for each and every one of our students. I am so proud of our District and our District staff, led by our Superintendent, Dr. Geoff Yantz, and I am excited to take this opportunity to share with you a few of the programs and initiatives now underway. This work is informed by our District’s Strategic Plan, which serves as an overarching guide for the Board and its short- and long-term decision-making process. Our Strategic Goals are as follows:
- Enable greater achievement for all students;
- Evaluate and modify existing intervention programs to close the achievement gap for identified sub-groups;
- Enhance offerings in the visual and performing arts at all levels in all mediums to amplify student achievement;
- Expand world language and cultural experiences;
- Provide experiences for students who desire to gain proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing a language other than English;
- Develop relationships with active and supportive regional businesses and educational institutions to provide students with real world experiences; and
- Offer State-of-the-Art Curriculum & Instruction
Below are some highlights of this important work and our achievements during this past year.
In the area of student achievement, we added key strategic positions to support our special education students; we added a zero period at the middle school to allow students with impacted schedules the ability to enroll in elective courses; and in partnership with SPEF, we launched our new Train Your Brain Program, which is designed to provide support to students who are feeling anxious, depressed or are struggling to cope with school and other stressors.
In the area of curriculum and instruction, we continue to provide ongoing professional development focused on quality instruction and implementation of the Common Core. We have also added orchestra at the middle school; expanded high school digital photography offerings; and expanded the capabilities of our Graphic Arts lab with new hardware and software. A really exciting program launched this year was the Dual Immersion program, with Spanish now offered at Monterey Hills. Next year we will expand this program to also include Mandarin at one of our other elementary schools. Moreover, we now offer new K-12 curricular pathways in the areas of biomedicine, visual and performing arts, engineering, and computer science.
A key focus of the Board has been our financial strength and sustainability. The Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is a formula that dictates the fiscal revenue each district will receive in a given year. Unfortunately, this new formula does not serve our district well, and indeed, it has created a significant disparity in funding. South Pasadena is now under-funded in comparison to most other districts in the State. Thus, considerable effort has been made to ensure we maintain our financial stability. This year we were able to successfully decrease our long-standing structural deficit while also providing our hard-working employees with increased and competitive salaries and benefits. Key to this success has been our strong partnership with our respective labor associations. Our shared commitment to attracting and maintaining the best educators in the business is key to our success now and in the future.
The Board has also considered additional ways to create an ongoing, sustainable source of revenue, including the development of the District parking lot. To this end, the Mission Place Project is nearing the completion of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) phase and we look forward to the next steps. Once completed, the project is initially anticipated to provide $375,000 for our students. This revenue will increase to an average of $625,000 annually, and generate an estimated $1,000,000 by year 30.
It is important to note that approximately 10% of the District’s annual revenue comes from local sources – SPEF, PTA, Booster Club, facility and property rental, and most notably, the community-supported Parcel Tax. To some, 10% may not sound like a lot. But it is precisely this 10% that has enabled our district and our schools to go from good to great. The LCFF will continue to underfund our District, making these local and private contributions mission-critical to our ongoing success. We thank you for your support. Our children thank you as well.
We have done considerable work this year in the area of providing excellent educational facilities. A new track, a refurbished pool, and a beautiful park-like facelift to the middle school quad are just a few of the recent renovations. We look forward to similar enhancements (planned for this year) to the Tiger Patio at the high school. During this coming year, we will also use our Proposition 39 (California Clean Energy Jobs Act) funds to upgrade our heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning monitoring and controls, and install energy efficient lighting for many interior and exterior fixtures, including computer labs, gyms, walkway lights, and office spaces. These steps will both improve our facilities and reduce our energy costs.
This past year we engaged an outside firm to perform a comprehensive facilities assessment for our district properties and mechanical systems. This work is nearly completed and we expect the full report after the first of the year. This report will guide the development of a strategic approach to ensuring that we provide safe and educationally enriching facilities for many years to come. We also asked that this study take a close look at how to provide dedicated artistic instructional spaces; address historical and projected student population trends at the elementary schools; and assess the auditoriums at both our middle school and high schools.
As you can see, the District is hard at work ensuring that your children receive the best educational experience possible. While test scores always need to be viewed in the proper context, we are proud that our first year with the new CAASPP testing system resulted in South Pasadena Unified ranking 7th overall for unified school districts in the State of California. Other examples of academic excellence include the middle school math team placing 1st in the SIGMA national competition and the high school’s Academic Decathlon team placing 1st in Los Angeles County. We also continue to be proud of the countless athletic, artistic, and other co-curricular successes that our students experience year after year. And what about our high school varsity football team now 7-0 as we go into this evening’s Homecoming game? We are so proud of our students.
Again, we thank you for your support and for all you do to prepare your children each day for a challenging and enriching educational experience. The new President of the School Board will be selected during our December Board meeting. I look forward to continuing to serve as a Board Member thereafter.
Michele Kipke, Ph.D.
President, South Pasadena Unified School District Governing Board