Welcome to the inaugural On Education column in San Carlos Patch!
In these pages, I will venture to keep San Carlans informed on education news and issues facing our community. It's an interesting time in education, and public schools are under more financial stress than ever. However, San Carlos has a history of producing excellent schools despite its limited resources.
Kids arrived back in classes a few weeks ago, and the schools are in full swing. In fact, the San Carlos public schools have more students than ever! The seven schools currently have almost 3,200 students enrolled, 130 more than last year.
There are a number of issues facing the local public schools this year. Due to a number years of increased enrollment, one of the biggest topics will be capacity planning. If current trends continue, it will be more difficult for many schools to provide quality space for all students (local realtors report that more and more young families continue to move to San Carlos because of the reputation of the schools). At the School Board meeting last Thursday night, the Board directed the Superintendent to inform parents of current 4th grade students who live outside of the school district boundaries that they will not be able to get into one of the two middle schools next year. However the Board agreed that it needed to discuss both short-term and long-term strategies to increase capacity across the district.
Another big topic for the year will be finances. The State of California has not yet passed a budget for the current fiscal year, and there continues to be concerns among education leaders that school budgets may be cut further. Yet there is potential good news in that California should soon release funds to local schools from the Federal Education Jobs law – this should provide around $550,000 to the San Carlos public schools. However, this is a one-time grant, and there still remains the risk that the state may reduce the education budget by an offsetting amount. If funds are received, they must be spent to directly support classroom education. Given that it is impractical to expect lowering of class sizes in the middle of the year, it's likely that we'll see the San Carlos School District use that money to reduce cuts made earlier to employee compensation and programs.
The beginning of the school year brings more good financial news. The San Carlos Education Foundation reached its last year's fundraising goal of $1.7 million, and the district has been successful in launching its SMART-E program of summer camps and afterschool programs, bringing in additional revenue streams.
The other big financial event of the school year will most certainly be the potential ballot measure to renew the Measure D parcel tax. Passed by the voters in 2003, the measure raises over $1 million per year for the school district. Measure D expires in 2011, and a citizens' committee has already formed to work on a campaign for its renewal this Spring if and when the School Board places such a measure on the ballot.
Other new initiatives announced by the school district at the start of the school year include a new communication system with parents and a new wellness program courtesy of a grant from the Sequoia Healthcare District.
The School Board is set to finalize the yearly goals for the Board and the Superintendent at its next regularly scheduled meeting. The School Board meets normally on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month, and the next meeting will be on Thursday, Sept. 23 at 7 pm at the Central Middle School Library.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggested topics for future columns, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In future columns, I will publish some frequently asked questions and answers.
Seth Rosenblatt is a member of the San Carlos School Board, elected in 2007. He also serves on the Board of the San Mateo County School Boards Association and has his own consulting business with clients in technology and media.
Want to know more about your child's education? Let Seth know your comments below!