At the June 20 board meeting, the Solana Beach School District board approved its 2019-20 budget and set the priorities for the coming school year, which include a focus on special education, transportation and supporting students’ recycling efforts.
The approved budget includes a projected $1.2 million in deficit spending, with an ending reserve balance of $10.7 million or 21.7 percent.
On the expenditure side, the budget includes a 2.44 percent salary increase for certificated employees and a three percent increase for classified staff as a result of “collaborative and productive” negotiations between the district and the Solana Beach Teachers’ Association and the Solana Beach Association of Support Professionals unions.
Neva Ayn Magalnick, a member of the Solana Beach Teachers Association, called this year’s collective bargaining process “a year of healing,” following somewhat contentious negotiations in prior years.
“Many of the previous years’ scars were diminished,” Magalnick said. “This year’s remedies included a new school board, administration and new problem solvers at the negotiation table and the results were healing. We listened, we learned, we compromised.”
As the board discusses budget allocations in September, Clerk Debra Schade said she wanted to see a focus placed on special education, busing for the Pacific Highlands Ranch community and an evaluation method for the implementation of its comprehensive social emotional program.
Schade said that more districts are putting money into special education to gain cost containment, such as adding a staff position with the task of building relationships with the community and parents. Schade said a model she has seen other districts use is a specialist whose sole job is engaging with special education families and helping them understand more about the services offered in a non-adversarial way.
“It has a lot of plusses and I don’t know if it’s a good fit for our district but I think it’s something we can start thinking about,” Schade said.
SBSD Vice President Rich Leib agreed with the idea of strengthening special ed, as costs are increasing throughout the state.
“We have 400 special education students which is a significant part of our population and I think overall improving that is big priority for us because it is preventive. We spend a lot of money and if we don’t do it properly we end up spending a lot more,” Leib said. “Over the last 10 years I’ve seen that happen.”
SBSD Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said improving special education services this year is a collective interest of both the staff and the board and something they had planned to study this year.
Brentlinger said transportation options will be brought to the board for discussion in September, such as potentially providing buses for students in Pacific Highlands Ranch who have been assigned to schools outside of the community.