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Peninsula Schools Weigh Cuts

May 24, 1987|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

Education is a whole lot more than math, history and languages, a long line of speakers reminded the Palos Verdes Peninsula school board last week as the trustees began reviewing possible cuts in next year's programs and staff.

It's gymnastics, track, baseball, basketball, soccer and wrestling. And don't forget golf, said Palos Verdes High student Brad Haney, describing how his participation in the sport balanced the rigors of academic studies and "made my mind work better."

It's drama and stagecraft and dance and music. And don't forget the Model United Nations, said Rolling Hills High student Kathy Ho.

"We're only kids, but we can figure out solutions to world crises," she said. "I'm hoping the school board can solve this budget crisis without making a lot of program cuts."

The trustees agreed that extracurricular activities help build character and sound bodies and give youngsters alternatives to getting into drugs and other mischief. And nobody is talking about eliminating those activities entirely.

But, said board President Sally Burrage, there is also the reality of a $1.3-million deficit in next year's $35-million budget and something has to go. She said programs mandated by the state can't be touched, leaving only a few areas in which the board can make cuts.

Still, she added, the board will not make final decisions until it learns from Sacramento how much state aid the district will get. When the allocations are known late next month, programs will be cut or saved according to their place on a list of priorities.

A second public hearing on a broader range of possible program and staff reductions or eliminations will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the board room at the Valmonte Administration Center in Palos Verdes Estates.

Letter Campaign

In the meantime, Trustee Jack N. Bagdasar told about 100 parents and students at last week's meeting, "take pen in hand" and write letters to Gov. George Deukmejian, urging him to allocate more money for education. Those who don't have time to write should "pick up the phone and send a telegram," added board member Marlys J. Kinnel.

Several parents reproached the board for targeting athletics for reduction or elimination without first seeking voluntary contributions from the community. "We want to help, but first tell us how much you need and give us an opportunity to work out a plan," said parent Eugene Teal.

Palos Verdes High drama teacher Jim Bell urged the board to stage a cable TV fund-raising telethon at the district's three high schools. If the schools' plight is adequately dramatized, he said, "I think you will see a tremendous outpouring of support."

Supt. Jack Price said he will call a meeting of booster club leaders to determine what can be done to increase voluntary contributions from parents whose children participate in extracurricular activities.

Tax Failed

Joseph Sanford, a member of citizens group that advocated a parcel tax last March to help solve the district's short-term financial problems, said he was impressed by the turnout at the meeting. But he wondered why more people didn't get behind efforts to pass the parcel tax. The tax, which narrowly failed to get the two-thirds majority vote needed for approval, would have raised $2.4 million in each of the next five years.

Sanford, offering what he called an overview of the district's financial problems, faulted trustees for not carrying out recommendations made last year by a citizens master plan committee on which he served. A key recommendation, besides the parcel tax and accelerated efforts to dispose of surplus school property, was to close one of the district's three high schools.

The board backed away from shutting down a high school, Sanford said, and instead took the politically easier route of closing the Dapplegray intermediate school and consolidating its students at Miraleste High.

As a result, Sanford said, many in the community remain unconvinced that the board has done everything it should to bring the district's physical plant into line with its reduced enrollment.

No Hasty Action

In response, Trustee Bagdasar said the board is prepared to close more schools if necessary but will not be forced into "acting in haste so that we have to repent at leisure." Board member Jeffrey N. Younggren said governing a school system isn't solely a matter of making "prudent business decisions." Actions, such as closing neighborhood schools, raise "social issues" that must also be weighed, he said.

Earlier in the week, Supt. Price reported that the district expects to receive about $23 million from the sale of surplus property. The capital from property not restricted by deeds will boost the district's interest income to about $1.7 million a year under current rates, he said.

However, he said that prospects of future income will not help the schools through their current financial problems. He said it will take at least 18 months to complete the sales and then the money will have to be invested for another year to earn a year's interest.

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