Scrutiny comes after superintendent announces cuts to staff and programs in one of the highest-funded districts in California
Marsi Hauenstein, a parent of two children who attend R. Roger Rowe in the Rancho Santa Fe School District in San Diego County, first heard about teacher lay-offs after their controversial new Superintendent Donna Trippi told educators about them at a recent staff meeting. Despite receiving over $20,000 in funding per student-about twice what other districts receive- Trippi announced an unprecedented 20% layoff in staffing at the two-school district.
Rancho Santa Fe is unlike most districts. Their high per capita student funding in this Basic Aid school district is only part of their rosy financial picture. A perpetual multi-million dollar endowment continually provides additional resources, along with property owned and leased out by the district for additional revenue. And while RSFSD officials count their profits, it appears the students will take the loss.
Jake Hauenstein, a 4th grader at Rowe, is just one of them. As his mother describes, “He knows there may be several changes to the current staff, which has him down in the dumps and feeling nervous. He constantly is asking ‘has the board decided yet?’ He sees these educators as partners in his success at Rowe.”
Hauenstein expressed her frustration at the board’s lack of inclusion of parents and students in the lead up to a decision of such magnitude and change for students; “Rancho Santa Fe School Board took unilateral action with zero feedback from the community, its administrators, or school principals, and dismissed the needs of students and parents by pink slipping approximately 20% of our teachers. At a minimum, I’m afraid the public has been manipulated into believing the board had no choice with their decisions.”
After the announcement became official, Hauenstein and other parents organized and attended school board meetings to begin to ask questions about RSFSD’s financial assets and priorities.
Parent Mary McGrath wants to know how revenue is being allocated; “I am quite concerned with the teacher layoffs that are proposed. I have long felt there was a very top-heavy administration at the school,” “I think that is an area that hasn’t been discussed.”
Parent advocate Stacy Harris spoke frankly about the special nature of Rowe’s school community; “By making the cuts you are suggesting, you are not just taking away jobs, you are taking away a culture and climate that’s unlike any other. The relationships and bonds these students have with these teachers is so incredibly special. They do so much more than just teach. I ask you to figure out a way not to take away these positions and keep this extraordinary school extraordinary…”
As RSFSD officials now move teachers through the Reduction In Force process, parents and community members will continue to expect clarity and transparency by the elected school board. That transparency includes clear guidelines and justification for cuts that directly impact existing educational supports-and the students that depend on them.