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Board OKs Schools 2000 Reform Plan : Education: The program aims at improving student achievement. But the district's current budget crunch could delay implementation.

May 23, 1991|LORI GRANGE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Glendale Board of Education this week approved a costly, sweeping program of reforms aimed at improving student achievement but warned that district budget cuts probably will put the burden of funding on the private sector.

The board on Tuesday voted 5 to 0 to adopt Glendale Schools 2000, which comprises 125 "action plans" that will guide the school district into the 21st Century.

But prior to their vote, members advised Supt. Robert A. Sanchis that the budget crunch may restrain the district from immediately putting the plans into effect. The board must cut $2.4 million from a proposed $103.2-million budget before it adopts a final budget on June 25.

Board members urged Sanchis and other administrators to implement first those plans that would cost no money, then look to businesses and grant programs to pay for costlier strategies. The last resort, they said, would be to shift funds from existing programs.

"I think this comes to us at an excellent time, and certainly we have to implement all strategies," said member Charles Whitesell. "But I must caution us and future boards that this is all predicated on us having the financial resources."

After the meeting, Whitesell said: "We're not going to jeopardize any existing programs. I don't want to take away from any existing programs, no matter how good the 2000 program is."

The Glendale Schools 2000 report, a 15-point plan that includes a district mission statement, strategies and objectives, was generated by a committee of teachers, administrators, parents, students and community members over the past year.

The 125 plans would cost the district $46.6 million over the next five years if fully implemented. The first year would cost about $13 million, according to a district report.

But the reforms could be handled in three phases over the next decade. And 66 of the strategies could be initiated during the next two years for $500,000, which could come from shifting funds in the upcoming budget, Sanchis and other administrators told the board last week.

School officials at this week's board meeting said the district still plans to initiate as many plans as possible before 1993, but the $500,000 probably will have to be collected through private funds or grants.

Sanchis assured board members that no district funds would be allocated for the strategies without their consent.

"There are many activities here that will be of little or no cost," he said. "What we're proposing here is a good-faith intent to really progress over the next 10-year period. With some luck and some hard work, we can make that happen."

Sanchis is expected to begin talking to local businesses early next month about the 2000 report. The district already has a corporate sponsor for one of the strategies and will announce it at a June 5 reception honoring 2000 committee members, said Vic Pallos, a district spokesman.

A formal list of suggested reforms for the 1991-92 school year will be presented to the board in August, Sanchis said. Among the possibilities and their costs are:

* Allowing a student to sit as a non-voting member on the Board of Education; $0.

* Involving families in the education of their children through instructional programming on cable television; $3,000.

* Providing graduates with more opportunities to take proficiency exams and obtain certificates of completion and competency in job skills; $2,200.

* Assessing the performance of graduates in the job marketplace; $325,000.

* Developing a code of ethics for district employees; $166.

Other, more expensive strategies include providing students in grades five through 12 with word-processing classes ($1 million), recruiting bilingual and specially skilled teachers to deal with multiethnic needs ($6 million), and acquiring technology for district operations and instruction ($8 million).

The 2000 committee recommended that a coalition be developed to solicit state and federal grants, and money from public and private foundations. Members also suggested that a local bond issue be considered to raise funds.

Although meager district funds are available to pay for the strategies, the 2000 report actually may help school officials "chart a course that's especially valuable when funds are tight," Pallos said.

"To paraphrase a famous author, this has come along at the best of times and at the worst of times," he said.

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