I am on the PTA at Vista de Las Cruces School and sit on their Vista Foundation board. Our school board just pink-slipped three full-time teachers and one part-time staff member. We will be down to three teachers for TK through eighth grade.

I have proposed to their board that they annex to another district and share administration costs.

Did you know that we have seven (yes, seven!) superintendents in the Santa Ynez Valley for 2,925 students, based on 2016-17 enrollment reports. Here is the breakdown:

  • Buellton School District: Dr. Randal Haggard (about 612 students for Jonata and Oak Valley combined)
  • Solvang School District: Dr. Steve Seaford (about 591 students)
  • College/Santa Ynez School District: Dr. Jim Brown (about 369 students for College, Santa Ynez, and charter combined)
  • Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District: Scott Cory (about 1,000 students)
  • Los Olivos School District: Bridget Baublits (about 146 students)
  • Ballard School District: Allan Pelletier (about 129 students)
  • Vista del Mar School District: Dr. Emilio Handall (about 78 students)

The average superintendent makes $150,000 or more in our area. We are way overstaffed in our administration here. Compare it to Lompoc, where they only have one superintendent and three assistant superintendents for all of the following schools within the Lompoc Unified School District: Bob Forinash Community Day School, Buena Vista Elementary, Cabrillo High School, Clarence Ruth Elementary, Crestview Elementary, Fillmore Elementary, Hapgood Elementary, La Canada Elementary, La Honda Elementary, Lompoc High School, Lompoc Valley Middle School, Los Berros Elementary, Maple High School, Miguelito Elementary, Mission Valley School, Vandenberg Middle School, and their adult education program. They have 3,000 students just from their two high schools, let alone all of the students from their numerous elementary and middle schools.

Why are we spending so much money on administration and continuing to lay off our teachers? We should be sharing financial staff, sharing superintendents, reinstating the idea of teaching principals, and bringing back our teachers.

With all the new construction, increased businesses contributing to our local bed taxes, we should be doing better, not worse. Yet we continue to go down this path with all of our schools.

Laying off teachers is not sustainable. They don’t make enough to fix the huge deficits within our school budgets. We need to follow Montecito School District’s lead and lower administration costs. It has helped them get back on track and they have similar numbers to our local schools.

There are a few of our districts that have combination superintendent-principals, but we would still save if we combined superintendent roles and had teaching principals or combined principals for shared campuses. I wouldn’t think we would need a separate principal for middle schools that share a campus with their district elementary school. If we focus on administration, we have a good shot at long-term sustainability.

My suggestion is that we start writing letters to the school boards, attending the board meetings and speaking out, and presenting a plan that involves administration cuts. Any school that is considering any major changes to staff or other cuts should be providing a sustainability plan to the school community so that we, as parents and community members, can see the numbers for ourselves.

We could easily go down to three superintendents, which would mean laying off four superintendents for a savings of an estimated $600,000 that could pay for 13 teachers at $45,000 average a year. We would also save on retirement costs in the PERS and STRS systems.

I have heard countless times that the reason the local school boards want to keep their own district is to keep local control. It seems to me that this local control is not helping us overall. If we combine districts, then people from the local schools can still run for the combined school board. We would still have local control, but we would be saving a lot of money, saving teachers, and giving our children the attention and education they need.

We cannot continue doing the same thing every year and expect different results. Fundraisers, bond measures (which are a hard sell), and certified staff layoffs are merely Band-Aids. We must focus on the bigger picture and look at the fact that we are top heavy in administration costs, and continually lowering our certified staff costs. This is not a path that is sustainable or will help anyone in the end. Big changes are needed, and the combined districts would allow for long-term sustainability.



Jillian Knight is a member of the PTA and the Vista Foundation board for Vista de Las Cruces School District in Gaviota. She can be reached at silliejillie1@gmail.com.