RSF School District will not renew policy on allowing teachers’ children to attend

The R. Roger Rowe School campus.
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe School board declined the Rancho Santa Fe Faculty Association’s request to reinstate a policy that would allow teachers’ children to enroll in R. Roger Rowe School.

In August, the Rancho Santa Fe Faculty Association (RSFFA) requested new language for Board Policy 4111 which was amended in 2016 limiting the enrollment to only teachers’ children previously enrolled and their siblings. The RSFFA initially asked that 20 students would be allowed to be enrolled, however, considering the most current data, this month they were open to 10 enrollment spots.

Last month the board voted 3-2 to study the feasibility of reinstating the policy and at the Nov. 18 meeting, the majority had enough information on the potential impacts to the budget and class sizes to make a decision.

“On a personal level, this is a policy that I have a natural inclination to want to support,” wrote Trustee John Tree in a statement read into the record by President Kali Kim—he was pulled away to military duty at the Pentagon and could not attend the meeting. “After careful consideration of all of the conclusion is that the board should not reinstate this policy. In my view, the potential negatives outweigh the potential benefits and therefore we should not pursue it. I do not want to put an unfavorable financial burden on the district.”

As a basic aid district, the district would not receive funding to educate students from outside of the district and the board has stated that it could put a strain on the RSF Education Foundation to raise funds to support additional students. With the district’s hard cap on class sizes of 20:1, there could also be the budget impactions of adding additional teachers.

Neighboring school districts such as Solana Beach, Del Mar, Cardiff, Poway and San Marcos all have policies that allow teachers’ children to attend their schools. In Rancho Santa Fe’s Board Policy 4111, previously up to 15 teachers’ children were allowed to be enrolled at Rowe.

The policy had a sunset clause which ended it every three years unless a contract agreement was made—teacher Steve Rossier said it was used as leverage against the teachers in negotiations and eventually the conflict and tension over the policy was resolved by its termination in 2016.

At the time, there were seven teachers who had 10 children at the school. Rossier said the most teachers’ children they ever had enrolled at the school was 11.

Currently, five teachers’ children are enrolled this year with a projection of a peak of 12 students to be enrolled through 2029 based on current, full-time, tenured staff. According to a RSFFA survey, there are a handful of non-tenured staff members who have shown interest in enrolling their children if they are still employed and tenured in the future.

“Certainly there are some year-to-year costs but not to the point where the number of teachers’ kids would put the district in financial jeopardy,” Rossier said.

During public comment, several teachers spoke in support of reinstating the policy.

“I couldn’t wait for my future children to attend here,” said teacher Jen Overstreet. As she loves the school and the community, Overstreet said it was “crushing” when the policy was revoked shortly after she returned from her maternity leave.

Teachers said that reinstating the policy would be a sign of mutual respect, help the district attract and retain qualified candidates and would lift staff morale: “It’s pro-family, pro-teacher and pro-community,” said teacher Ali Munson.

Board Vice President Jee Manghani said looking at budget pressures and deficits potentially getting bigger, he could not support reinstating the policy.

The board’s approved budget for 2021-22 does predict a surplus due to one-time federal and state funding to help address the impact of the pandemic. Earlier this year Allison Oppeltz, director of finance, warned that in the 2022-23 school year and beyond the district may face a deficit due to an increase in expenditures such as special education, retirement contributions and unemployment insurance.

“This is a brutal decision for me,” said Trustee Annette Ross in her comments. “We all really love our teachers here a lot. This is hard to say no but I have to say no.”