Monday, July 5, 2010

Grand Jury push for District Consolidation

The Santa Clara Count Grand Jury recently released a report urging consolidation of a number of local school districts, including LASD. (Article here, Grand Jury report here)

I have been asked about this by a few folks, particularly during the budget discussions. There's a general thinking that says "businesses consolidate to save money, why shouldn't school districts?"

I am not in favor of merging, either with Mountain View-Whisman, or with the MVLA High School District.

First, our district is already extremely efficient. Thanks in no small part to Randy Kenyon, our Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs, we run one of the leanest operations in the State of California. We have received an award from the State for the past six years for our exceptionally low overhead. (Roughly speaking, LASD spends just under 9% of our budget on administration. The State average is substantially higher.) Businesses that merge and achieve greater efficiencies do so by cutting overhead. Since we're already lean, there's little to be gained in this regard.

The other big reason to remain independent is to retain local control. LASD has achieved exceptionally strong results academically. Our tight-knit community is very active in the education of our students. I am not convinced that we would retain the same great engagement if our district size suddenly increased to 3x our current size. We hire for different skills, and we serve different needs. By remaining separate, we are able to continue to provide the best possible education to our students-- and do it in a financially responsible manner.

There are some that would argue that we could improve continuity with our high school if we were of the same district. I'll never rule out activities which improve our program. I will point out, though, that our administration and faculty meet with their counterparts in the High School District to constantly examine what we're doing and how we can better prepare our students for the next step in their educational journey. Individual student tracking has shown that our kids are doing a great job when they reach high school, whether they attend MVLA or one of the many local private high schools. (See results sheet here)

I'm always willing to learn new information that may change my opinion, but for now, I'm convinced that remaining separate is in the best interests of our students.

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