News

Big cuts coming for Mountain View schools

Amid waning growth, district seeks to slash $3.6M in annual spending

The Mountain View Whisman School District is looking to cut positions and drop programs as a means to scale back the size of the budget, which district leaders describe as unsustainable and a path to insolvency.

Recent years have been a boom time for Mountain View's schools and the envy of neighboring districts, with double-digit property tax growth fueling Mountain View Whisman's budget. In just two years, the district's annual revenue shot up from $61.9 million to $74.2 million, a nearly 20 percent increase.

But it also came with a huge spending spree that included big raises for both of the district's unions, special funds set aside for lower-performing schools, a complete revamp of middle school schedules and a "co-teaching" model intended to help kids with special needs. Barring any changes, the district is expecting anywhere from $4.6 million to $5.2 million in deficit spending each year through 2021.

Worse yet, those estimates don't include future raises for staff, nor do they take into account Bullis Mountain View, which is projected to divert up to $3.4 million in annual funding from the district's future revenue. The charter school would draw away students and reduce staffing requirements at the district, but it's still expected to reduce the district's overall funds.

"That is an unsustainable path, and this is also part of the reason why we have to make adjustments," Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told school board members at the Jan. 24 meeting.

Numerous programs, services and jobs are on the chopping block, with the goal of bringing down expenditures by $3.6 million without having a direct and obvious effect on classroom education. Board members also made clear that programs aimed at helping at-risk students -- particularly children from low-income families -- needed to be preserved during the process.

Bus driver positions, maintenance staff, an accountant, a translator and an administrative secretary are all positions that were eliminated by the district's leadership in 2018. Under the district's current plan, fewer instructional coaches will serve the same number of classroom teachers, and the districtwide summer school program will be eliminated. Summer school provided 19 days of half-day instruction, which was hard on parent schedules and difficult to staff.

Rudolph made assurances that Theuerkauf and Castro elementary schools, which have a high number of low-income families, will still run a separate summer school program for high-needs elementary school students, and that other supplemental programs like Stretch To Kindergarten and the extended school year program won't be touched by the cuts. Cutting summer school is expected to save $150,000 annually.

With the wide range of job consolidations and reductions on the way, Rudolph told board members he's hoping to avoid losing any district employees in the process, and that job titles and wages are hopefully the only things that change for the affected staffers.

"I can't guarantee that across the board, but it is definitely our hope and our goal that we keep everyone within the district employed in some type of way at this time," he said.

Although the goal was to leave programs for at-risk children out of the cuts, some special education staffing positions are being wiped away under the proposed changes. Ten so-called "roving" instructional assistant positions have already been eliminated, along with one of the three special education coordinator positions that was left vacant during a staffing shuffle.

Rudolph told the Voice that roving instructional assistants are essentially on-call substitutes for the district's workforce of instructional aides, who are integral for providing day-to-day assistance and support for students with special needs. Getting rid of substitute positions shouldn't have an effect on special needs students, he said, and the employees serving in a substitute role weren't laid off in the process.

As for getting rid of a special education coordinator, Rudolph said the special education department is "staffed pretty generously" and seems prepared to handle the extra workload.

"Three or four years ago we had maybe one coordinator, this year we had three," he said. "And our special ed department says that they can function with two."

Board members generally agreed with the cuts, but they won't be taking action formally accepting the reductions until later in the year when the 2019-20 budget is approved. Board member Devon Conley said she hopes the district won't have to fire any staff or take away anyone's benefits, which she said is a very painful process for teachers and their families.

"The more we can retain high-quality staff, the better impact we have on our students," she said.

Board member Ellen Wheeler praised the plan for keeping the fifth-grade science camp program and the annual field trip to Yosemite National Park, even though the trip may not have a clear value when focusing on test scores and academic achievement.

Barring any unforeseen changes in property tax growth, the reduction plan should bring down deficit spending for the 2019-20 school year from $5.2 million to $1.6 million. It's not exactly a balanced budget, but Rudolph said it's about as close as the district can get before it really starts to have ripple effects.

"We wanted to make sure none of the cuts were felt in the classroom," he said.

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Comments

82 people like this
Posted by Boom
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 31, 2019 at 1:46 pm

It's been a boom time but the district has been spending even more than the boom provided? We'll be up a creek when the downturn eventually happens.


96 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 31, 2019 at 2:03 pm

I never understood why the Board agreed to build a new school at Slater while schools like Monta Loma and Theuerkauf sit half empty. I know there was emotional attachment to having a school in that neighborhood to replace the one that was closed earlier, but if the district doesn't have the money for a new school it should never have been built.


26 people like this
Posted by Thanks Bullis
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2019 at 2:18 pm

It has begun.


28 people like this
Posted by Bored M
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 31, 2019 at 2:36 pm

How about instead of the City Council demanding large amounts of affordable housing and putting more strain on budgets, they instead ask for an annual education fee to support the kids? A first rate education extends many benefits and piling on more children (and needs) without adequate resources seems like an unending disaster.


64 people like this
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 31, 2019 at 2:40 pm

Can I say "I told you so"?

When all the spending was just being planned some people, myself included, said "Hey.. let's save some of this cash for a rainy day."

That fell on deaf ears.

It's raining now people. No money for umbrellas.. sorry.


174 people like this
Posted by Diablo
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 31, 2019 at 2:40 pm

I know teachers have to live in this expensive area, but I saw this coming with the recent generous raises. The city council was patting themselves on the back for those big raises. So short-sighted, imo. Thanks teachers' union. Thx city council. If we're in this position now, during boom times, wait 'til the real downturn happens.




19 people like this
Posted by Doublespeak
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 31, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Instructional aides "are integral for providing day-to-day assistance and support for students with special needs." Yet the elimination of their substitutes "shouldn't have an effect on special needs students."

Riiiiiight.


135 people like this
Posted by Stop paying consultants!
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2019 at 2:54 pm

How about killing off the babysitting contract with Peter Gorman? (Or dock Ayinde's pay by an equal amount.)

That will save ~$70K per year.

I hope the Board takes a careful look at other consulting contracts. LOTS of money being spent their for no good reason.


183 people like this
Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 31, 2019 at 3:11 pm

To the person up above who blamed Bullis, please do “can” it. Income is up 20%, and then the district blew past that in spending, particularly on meeting union demands. Blowing past this boom time windfall was stupid, because this sort of thing is cyclica and when revenues fall hard, as they ALWAYS do, the district will be completely underwater financially. Of course, they just keep trying to pass bonds rather than be fiscally responsible, so here we are.


10 people like this
Posted by Been there
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2019 at 4:03 pm

No matter how many new schools are built, they won’t be in demand unless their SED students rate is around maybe 20% max?
I have no idea what slater will look like in terms of low income kids. This will make or break the school.
As for Bullis, there is demand for a school that would be attuned to high achieving kids’ needs. If the district does not saturate the demand, the charters will. I don’t believe for a split second that Bullis will have over 10% SED students.
Make Slater/Vargas highly attractive for educated families by opening special programs and charters will not be needed. MV is changing and it is not just about closing the achievement gap anymore.


13 people like this
Posted by Fed-Up With Excuses
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 31, 2019 at 4:10 pm

Trustee Coladonato warned us this would happen!
And if he was still on the Board he would have a solution.
Thank you Trustee Coladonato for doing what you did and investing not only your time but your business acumen. Too bad more Trustees and the parents didn't listen.


138 people like this
Posted by Wash, Rinse, Repeat
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 31, 2019 at 4:18 pm

Don't worry folks. Ayinde Rudolph will be announcing he will be moving on about this time next year. His five years will be up. He and Peter Gorman fleeced the district and will now move on to the next. All the consultant money has been spent. All the reasons for the flavor-of-the-week programs to reform math or rescue English Learners and personnel shifts firings will be forgotten. Nothing will have changed. Board members such as Gutierrez will never figure out why the achievement gap persists. Board Member Wheeler will keep getting re-elected. Board Member Giggles Blakley will still look like a deer caught in the headlights. And then in comes a new starry-eyed superintendent and the dog and pony show starts anew.


19 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jan 31, 2019 at 4:20 pm

While Bullis does make this more challenging, blaming Bullis does not address the underlying governance mistakes at the root of this problem. This was projected to happen in 2017 when they pledged to avoid this exact predicament: ç

The challenge is the board didn't demand the district to follow standard fiscal practices. Teachers needed higher pay and most certainly deserved their health care restored, but that should be sought by making a case to the community via increasing the parcel tax or via other cuts, not through one-time reserve spending. Fine to spend down reserves on one-time bonuses, but to increase on-going salaries and benefits on the back of reserves was short-sighted.

Though the biggest hole isn't salaries but the funding for new school construction, by not using bond funds, and refunneling lease funds, that took $2 million out of the general fund. More info: While Bullis does make this more challenging, blaming Bullis does not address the underlying governance mistakes at the root of this problem. This was projected to happen in 2017 when they pledged to avoid this very problem: Web Link The conventional approach would have been to go get another bond by this time in point rather than loan out general revenue. Measure G was 7 years ago, other districts would have started their second bond by now, MVWSD should too.


7 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jan 31, 2019 at 4:31 pm

While Bullis does make this more challenging, blaming Bullis does not address the underlying governance mistakes at the root of this problem. This was projected to happen in 2017 when they pledged to avoid this exact predicament: Web Link

The challenge is the board didn't demand the district to follow standard fiscal practices. Teachers needed higher pay and most certainly deserved their health care restored, but that should be sought by making a case to the community via increasing the parcel tax or via other cuts, not through one-time reserve spending. Fine to spend down reserves on one-time bonuses, but to increase on-going salaries and benefits on the back of reserves was short-sighted.

Though the biggest hole isn't salaries but the funding for new school construction, by not using bond funds, and refunneling lease funds, that took $2 million out of the general fund. The conventional approach would have been to go get another bond by this time in point rather than loan out general revenue. Measure G was 7 years ago, other districts would have started their second bond by now, MVWSD should too.


86 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 31, 2019 at 4:32 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

So rather than leave a good program alone, a very weak School Board, egged on by unions and bureaucrats caved in and stupidly initiated "a huge spending spree that included big raises for both of the district's unions, special funds set aside for lower-performing schools, a complete revamp of middle school schedules and a "co-teaching" model intended to help kids with special needs."

The School Board needs to learn that when you spend limited money, you must aim to get "the most bang for your buck". Expensive programs for "special" and under performing students may FEEL good, but they are useless to the great majority of students enrolled in the school district. Those students' educations give the greatest "bang for the buck" because in the end we need them to grow our local economy and quality of life.


176 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 31, 2019 at 4:57 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

In the last MV Whisman School Board election, I read the credentials of all four (is this right?) candidates running and none of them appeared to be even remotely qualified to be responsible for intelligent, highly trained, and competent management of something as essential and complex as properly educating the children of Mountain View. None had any of the skills necessary to succeed as managers in a competitive business environment. Until MV Whisman can attract truly qualified board members who can make sound fiscal, educational, legal, and especially resource allocation decisions, then the District is doomed to grossly terminal sub-medeocrity and failure for children who deserve solid educations.

If I had children, I'd enroll them in either Bullis or in an academically superior private school. I've lost all faith in MV Whisman SD. It is far too concerned with politically-correct Form and not with real-world Substance. To be blunt, it is blindly incompetent and never had a chance to succeed.


5 people like this
Posted by Andrew K
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 31, 2019 at 6:03 pm

The US Census 2020 will likely show a large growth in the student population. That census is not only important in guiding policymakers, but also in funding for our local MV schools. We better get a good and accurate count so we get the money that is due to us.


95 people like this
Posted by no more bonds
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 31, 2019 at 6:26 pm

I'm not against giving teachers raises. The problem with public schools is that EVERY teacher get the same raise, even the ones who are horrible, ineffective teachers. We all know who they are. They get passed around from one school to another and they gain seniority and can't get fired while the young, energetic, effective teachers get the ax. I'm so fed up that I will vote no on all school bonds. We can't continue to be the easy fix because the Board won't make the tough decisions to live within the district's means.


9 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jan 31, 2019 at 7:24 pm

"Live within its means?" [from the post above] Yes, the board needs to tighten its oversight, but it is also true that: MVWSD gets $13,494 per pupil Web Link and the high school district gets $20,882 Web Link. And MVLA has passed two bonds during the time MVWSD has had just one.

It is no surprise that MV is often praising its high school district and perplexed by the issues facing MVWSD. It's easy to look good when you have that much more money.

So, yes to more board oversight, and yes to funding these two systems equally. It's crazy to deprive children K-8 and K-8 teachers, then all of a sudden invest a much great amount 9-12, when it's so much harder to intervene with struggling students when they are older, and K-8 teachers are just as skilled, yet get paid $20,000-40,000 less than their HS counter parts in the same city.

At the very least, why are Shoreline city tax funds given to MVLA equally to MVWSD, when MVLA already has so much? Can't MVLA part with some its extra funds to fund some of the intervention programs now slated for termination? Doesn't MVLA benefit in the end to invest in MVWSD 6-8 under the same premise that MVWSD invests in preschools?

MVWSD needs both more oversight and more money.


8 people like this
Posted by Surprised?
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 31, 2019 at 8:55 pm

Isn't this the definition of incompetence? Instituting a bunch of programs with no funds to sustain them? Unbelievable.

Interesting that the priority/ bulk of the new spending as well as that which won't be cut, goes to the low income families = primarily hispanic = undocumented and/or legal anchor baby kids born to undocumented. "Not low-income" kids need strong education too! What's wrong with our system when we can't afford to properly educate Americans but divert the bulk of our resources to non-Americans? I'm all for equality but when the benefits of illegals exceed those of legals we have a problem. We've opened the floodgates to welcome anybody that steps across the border with free education, healthcare, food, etc and then complain that we don't have enough money to sustain our valued programs without continuing to increase taxes (Christopher Chang seems to think that new parcel taxes/ bond measures are "no-brainer" solutions - you know, you just open up the bag and pull out more money!). That 70% tax is coming soon to a neighborhood near you...


29 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 31, 2019 at 10:16 pm

Opening Slater/Vargas when there was not a need was a costly mistake.


9 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 31, 2019 at 10:25 pm

Our teachers deserved their raises/salaries. I repect them and appreciate what they’re doing to educate our children. Of course there are a few bad apples as there are in every single profession! For those who think they know how schools should be run and how students should be taught, keep your own kids at home and homeschool them.
Just a Bullis Charter School has been a thorn in LASD’s side, so too will BMV be just like a growing wart that we can’t get rid of. Sigh..


11 people like this
Posted by zoop
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 31, 2019 at 10:43 pm

Wash, Rinse, Repeat has it wrong. The pattern for the last two Superintendents is: the Superintendent will be granted another 5 year contract. Then at the end of the first year, there will be an expensive buyout to get rid of him.


16 people like this
Posted by ST parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 1, 2019 at 8:35 am

ST parent is a registered user.

@Surprised?

"Isn't this the definition of incompetence? Instituting a bunch of programs with no funds to sustain them?"

No, it's the definition of normal California politics.
Dominated by tax & spend one-party rule.

" Unbelievable. "

I must assume you're new to California?


2 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 2, 2019 at 2:41 am

The Whisman area has a large population of youth and new housing now, so Slater/Vargas and Bullis are excellent and needed options for thus neighborhood. Stop blaming these new schools for fiscal problems largely stemming from inefficient union costs and special program spending....


2 people like this
Posted by ST parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 3, 2019 at 5:08 pm

ST parent is a registered user.

@Mike of Whisman Station

"The Whisman area has a large population of youth and new housing now,"

The Whisman/Slater area had 400 kids in the Slater school back in 2004 and several dozens who were attending other schools around the MVWSD. Next year the new Vargas school will have roughly 450+ kids enrolled. So, the Whisman/Slater area simply has not seen any growth over the decades.

The "new" housing is not expected to produce any increase of public school kids for many years yet and even then, not many.

Vargas was not built due to growth in Whisman/Slater area kids, it was built because of overcrowding at some of the other schools in MVWSD. The boundaries got redrawn until each school came in as close as was possible to 450 kids.

"so Slater/Vargas and Bullis are excellent"

Since Vargas is a new school and fully controlled by the MVWSD, I would assume it will perform just as well as our other normal public schools, but as with other public schools, the school performance will depend mainly on the educational background of the kids parents.

Bullis is very different and the MVWSD has very little control over anything about how Bullis operates, so nobody can predict how it will perform, but I would bet the educational backgrounds of the parents of the kids who go to Bullis will predict the results.

"and needed options for thus neighborhood."

Vargas is in and for the Whisman/Slater neighborhood, Bullis is a district-wide choice school and the parents who have singed-up with interest in Bullis are scattered around the entire MVWSD. Most likely Bullis will enroll kids of well-educated parents and thus Bullis will perform about the same as Stevenson or Huff.

"Stop blaming these new schools for fiscal problems"

Vargas was built by a $40million construction loan taken out by the MVWSD because the Measure G funds were not enough to get all the needed facilities work done. Building Vargas cost more than any other elementary school, but because the District Office cleverly figured out how to make it all work out, Vargas did NOT cause the fiscal problems people are talking about. Vargas was built with restricted-use money which could not be used for general operations.

In any case, Bullis will cause significant financial difficulties that the MVWSD will have to figure out how to cope with. We can't even properly predict how big the hit will be until we know what percentage of the kids are in the "Free/Reduced Lunch Program". Bullis claims 40%, but nobody really thinks Bullis will get even 10%.

"largely stemming from inefficient union costs"

If you get rid of the Teachers Union and collective bargaining, you can certainly bring down costs, but we have a hard enough time getting teachers for our public schools as it is, where are teachers going to come from? Public school teachers are already underpaid and over worked.

"and special program spending...."

Special programs are mainly the result of the public perception that the "achievement gap" is caused by bad schools and thus it can be "solved" by making the schools "better" with targeted programs.

The truth is that the "achievement gap" is caused by factors in the home and cannot be solved in the schools. At most the schools can reduce the gap. Change public perception and you remove the pressure for expensive special programs.


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