April 12, 2019

Board President's Update

Click here to listen to the audio recording of the April 9 meeting and to learn about all the agenda items and actions taken by the Board of Education, as well as to hear more detail about the various presentations referenced below.

Board Considers Sexual Health Education Curriculum
Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jason Kurtenbach educated the Board about the  requirements of the California Healthy Youth Act (CHYA) and recommended that the Board adopt the Teen Talk (Health Connected) sexual health education curriculum ( https://www.health-connected.org/), which must be taught during both middle and high school.
Mr. Kurtenbach explained the purpose and goals of the 2016 legislation, and he provided detail regarding each element of the State-mandated curriculum standards. He emphasized that the curriculum is to be age-appropriate and medically accurate and objective. Each SMUSD instructor will be trained on the curriculum, which includes educating teachers on how to respond to student inquiries and to not promote their own personal views. Parents will be able to "opt-out" their children from the sexual health instruction.
In response to a general invitation to SMUSD parents, teachers, and administrators in December 2018, ten parents and eight District employees expressed interest in participating on a CHYA curriculum review committee. This committee met in January and February to learn about the CHYA requirements and to review and consider three different State-approved curricula for SMUSD. They concluded that Teen Talk was the best curriculum for San Marino students.
The Board will vote on whether to adopt the Teen Talk curriculum at its next Board meeting on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. If the Teen Talk curriculum is approved, there will be a parent education night scheduled in May as well as at the beginning of the school year in August. These parent education nights will provide more information about the curriculum as well as opt-out procedures.
The Teen Talk curricula for both middle school and high school are available for parental review. Parents interested in reviewing the curriculum before April 23rd should contact the Assistant to the Superintendent, Tamara Conger (626-299-7000 x.1310;  tconger@smusd.us) to arrange a time to review the materials in the District office. Questions about the curriculum should be directed to Jason Kurtenbach at  jkurtenbach@smusd.us. Concerns should be directed to the Board of Education at  board@smusd.us.
The Board thanks the following parents and District employees who volunteered their time and expertise to review and recommend the appropriate curriculum:
  • Parents: Ginger Bercaw, Gabrielle Carlton, Amy Chang, Victoria Derrick, Melissa Estrada, Cathy Newton, Justene Pierce, Tommy Tang, Emily Vitan, Alex Watlington
  • Staff: Scott Barton, Jenna Bruner, Abby Cabrera, Soomin Chao, Alana Faure, Jason Kurtenbach, Daniel Montejano, Suzanne Nitta, Aileen Schaefer

District Facing Decline in Enrollment

In a presentation about enrollment data, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Linda de la Torre warned the Board that both the State of California and the San Marino Unified School District are experiencing a decline in enrollment. Over half of the State's school districts are currently in declining enrollment, which is possibly due to a statewide decrease in birth rates (currently at a record low since the 1930s) and an increase in the cost of living in California. Because the District receives a majority of its funding based solely on enrollment, Mrs. de la Torre advised the Board that the District may receive less State funding if enrollment trends continue as predicted.

Another significant factor that may be contributing to declining enrollment in San Marino is that a large number of San Marino homes do not have school-aged children for various reasons:
  • Lack of affordable housing for young families
  • Long-time residents without school-aged children (837 senior households filed for parcel tax exemption)
  • Vacant homes (81 vacant homes registered with City of San Marino)
  • Fewer homes available for lease (274 in 2016 down to 197 in 2018)
The District also loses enrollment when its residents and their children move out of San Marino or decide to send their children to other public or private schools, whether that is for religious reasons or to find other opportunities that meet the educational needs of their children. Between July 1, 2018 and April 3, 2019, out of approximately 3000 students, eighteen SMUSD students moved out of the country and thirteen moved out of the State. During the same time period, 33 SMUSD students transferred to another public school, either because they moved out of San Marino or they are attending another local public school, and 29 students transferred to a private school. 

Other local school districts are also experiencing declining enrollment, and some districts are considering closing schools or opening/increasing out-of-district transfers in order to address declining enrollment issues. Given that declining enrollment and the resulting smaller budget may negatively impact the educational programs the District can offer, Mrs. de la Torre suggested that the District conduct further research and consider solutions to declining enrollment for future Board consideration and discussion. 


Board to Review Superintendent Applications on April 16, 2019

At a Special Closed Session meeting on April 16 at 3:30 p.m., the Board of Education will meet with search firm consultants James Guerra and Michael Escalante to review the superintendent applications received as a result of a nationwide search. Click here to review the Special Closed Session agenda.

After reviewing the applications and viewing video interviews that the applicants submitted in response to questions drafted by the Board and search firm consultants based on community input, the Board will decide which candidates it would like to interview in person. Those interviews will take place on April 26 and 27 in Special Closed Session meetings.

In January, the Board committed to conducting a superintendent search that was as transparent and inclusive as possible, while preserving the confidential nature of the search process to maximize the quality and quantity of the candidate pool. The Board has appreciated the community input that has been received to date regarding the ideal characteristics, experience and values of the next superintendent. JG Consulting/Escalante & Associates met with about fifteen individuals and eighteen stakeholder groups over two days, and there were two public town halls, one in the evening and one in the morning. Approximately 100 individuals participated in an anonymous online survey and provided detailed comments about what they hoped for in the next superintendent.

Based on the community input received, the Board and search firm consultants developed a superintendent profile, as well as online interview questions, that reflected the many characteristics valued by San Marino stakeholders. Click here to view the superintendent profile.

A community member asked why the San Marino community (beyond the elected Board) is not also included in the candidate interview and decision-making process. According to consultant Mike Escalante, 99% of California searches are "closed" or "confidential," meaning that only the Board and consultants are aware of the candidates' identities and involved in the interview and hiring process. Mr. Escalante provided two main reasons for a closed search:
  • First, it has been shown consistently the best candidate pool is always secured in a closed process because candidates currently sitting in these high-profile positions won't apply if they are exposed to the public with the chance that they will not be successful in the process. Going back to their home district, being unsuccessful, weakens their political status.
  • Second, the board of education is the elected community body responsible for the success of the district and is accountable to the community. The most important decision the board makes is the selection of a superintendent. How can the board delegate this key responsibility to an unelected unaccountable committee?
With its combined almost-fifty years of experience as elected officials working with several different superintendents, administrators, faculty, staff, students, and parents in the San Marino public school system, the Board of Education is well prepared to make this important decision. Along with the community input that has been provided through individual and group stakeholder meetings, town halls, online surveys, emails, Public Comment, and casual conversations, each Board member will bring his/her different skills, experiences, and perspectives, and together the Board will make the best decision possible for San Marino.
San Marino Unified School District Board of Education

Lisa Link
Chris Norgaard
Vice President
C. Joseph Chang
Shelley Ryan
Corey Barberie