At its last scheduled meeting of the year, the South Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education welcomed a new member, acknowledged a departing colleague and picked a new president of the panel.
The Dec. 13 session began with praise for Dr. Ruby Kalra, who had served on the board since 2018. During her four-year term on the school board, Kalra served a year as board president. She did not seek reelection.
Kalra received two awards — from the state Senate and the school district — at the meeting.
Board member Michele Kipke took the podium to highlight Kalra’s past roles and applaud the outgoing board member’s years of service.
“There is not one person in this community that has given as much as you have to our schools and our district. As our friend and as someone that has served with you, I just want to thank you. We are a much better district and our schools are much better because of you,” Kipke said.
In return, Kalra complimented her colleagues.
“You all made it that much easier to serve on the board because when you work on a highly functioning team of fellow board members and district staff, under the direction of [Superintendent Geoff Yantz] — it’s amazing how well we were all able to address these past four years, especially in light of the pandemic,” she said.
“I hope you enjoy your time on the school board as much as I did. Thank you very much.”
Karen Tamis was elected to succeed Kalra in the general election and was the only candidate to run to fill the Area 5 seat. Tamis was sworn in as school board member for a term lasting until 2026 and will assume purview of Area 5, which includes oversight of South Pasadena Middle School.
Later, board members decided on a leader for the upcoming year. Karissa Adams and Kipke nominated Patricia Martinez-Miller, who was given a unanimous vote of approval from her colleagues. Martinez-Miller served on the board from 1989-2001 and returned in 2020. She succeeds Zahir Robb as president.
As part of the board’s reorganization, Adams assumed the role of board clerk, Yantz was elected secretary to the board, and Assistant Superintendent David Lubs, Christiane Gervais and Linda Junge as well as Director of Fiscal Services Dana Smith were also certified for their roles.
Also, Martinez-Miller and Robb were elected liaisons to the city of South Pasadena. Martinez-Miller will remain liaison to the Council PTA Special Needs Committee; Robb and Adams will also remain liaisons to the Five Star Education Coalition. Kipke was reelected as the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization district representative, and Tamis was elected as liaison to the South Pasadena Educational Foundation.
FIRST INTERIM BUDGET 2022-23
Lubs, the assistant superintendent of business services, outlined the first interim budget, in which the district gives updates on budget projections initially passed earlier this year. Updates in the budget include an increase in the cost-of-living adjustment from 6.56% to an additional 6.70%. COLA is an increase in state or federal funding due to inflation and the grants are allocated to school districts to maintain tutoring, literacy programs, physical and mental health services and other educational programs.
Other reported updates were the Learning Recovery Emergency Block Grant amounting to $2.2 million, the Discretionary Block Grant amounting to $3 million and the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program amount growing to $950,000.
The district’s minimum financial reserves were reported to be higher at $2 million in the first interim budget compared to $1 million in the budget adopted in June. Lubs attributed this to increased state funding and COLA.
Lubs mentioned SPUSD’s slight three-year decline of enrolled students. “Over the past three years, we’ve declined by about 200 students but looking at trends currently — we’re not anticipating anymore of a drop,” he said.
Superintendent Yantz reviewed a history of enrollment in SPUSD and told the board that “we have larger graduating classes than we have younger classes coming up through the system … we have smaller classes coming in that we have going out.”
In 2019, SPUSD had 4,860 enrolled students whereas in 2022 there were 4,654, according to the superintendent.
As for projections into 2022-23 through 2024-25, the school district anticipates a steady average daily attendance of 4,499 students, according to Lubs. For context, last year’s first interim budget reported that “In 2020-21 SPUSD enrollment declined by 142, and in 2021-22 enrollment declined by an additional 55. The result is a total decline of 197 students over a two-year period.”
Yantz added that SPUSD saw a five-student increase in enrollment this year due to the state-mandated transitional kindergarten program that requires any school district operating a kindergarten to offer the transitional program by 2025-26.
The TK program was championed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021 with a goal of offering all 4 year olds an extra educational step between preschool and kindergarten for equitable learning opportunities. The $2.7 billion program’s purpose is to provide a universal preschool option for any student “regardless of background, race, ZIP code, immigration status, or income level, every child will have access to TK as a quality learning experience the year before kindergarten,” according to the California Department of Education.