Pacific Beach Elementary will have to share a principal with another small elementary school of less than 500 students if a plan adopted by the San Diego Unified School District’s (SDUSD) board of trustees comes to fruition. Twenty schools across the district face sharing principals.
The plan, adopted in early March, also eliminates magnet school busing and increases class size, among other measures trustees said will save the district an estimated $34 million.
Dawna Deatrick, president of Friends of Pacific Beach Elementary, said the PB Elementary staff, part-time counselor and part-time nurse already fulfill multiple roles. Cutting a principal’s time would affect the school’s organization.
“Without a principal, there’s nobody to lead the school,” Deatrick said.
Lisa Bonebrake, a member of the Bird Rock Elementary Parent Committee, said “half-time principals” are lawsuits waiting to happen.
“Should there be any… other emergency, we will have no principal, vice principal or counselor on site,” Bonebrake said.
By law, there must be a designated contact person at the school for emergencies, according to school board officials.
The school board made the decision to divide principals’ time without consulting principals or parents, Bonebrake said.
She said the community will help find better options so “we can keep our principals.”
Bonebrake joined more than 100 students, parents, principals and administrators March 24 at the SDUSD board meeting at the Eugene Brucker Education Center to protest the elimination of student busing to magnet schools and the plan to consolidate principals.
Sunset View Elementary School Principal Linda Parker said principals develop relationships with students, staff and parent organizations. She said dividing a principal’s time between two schools would affect the quality of education and those relationships.
“The reality is that a principal of two schools… will be at each school less than half time, yet remain responsible for both full time,” Parker told trustees during the meeting.
Barnard Elementary is a magnet school with fewer than 400 students. The district currently buses students from across the district because some parents can’t transport their children.
“If the buses stop, the options stop,” Barnard Principal Edward Park said.
But while options for students and families are under threat, the SDUSD Board of Education seems to have plenty of options.
Instead of sending pink slips to teachers and possibly rescinding them later, the board proposed to cut programs such as magnet school busing, according to SDUSD board member John de Beck, who represents schools in many of the beach communities.
He said the board decided on the proposed plan to satisfy San Diego County Department of Education deadlines. The school district reports to the county and needs to show a “fiscally solvent” budget, de Beck said. The board needs to review decisions on issues like sharing principals, he said.
Sharing principals, he said, is “impractical” at some small schools like Bird Rock Elementary. The school is close to capacity with more that 400 students.
He added that the school board should determine which schools share principals on a case-by-case basis instead of all small schools bearing the brunt.
Getting rid of magnet school busing, de Beck added, may require canceling entire magnet programs at schools that bus in a large number of students.
“This is a serious budget year,” de Beck said. “So [the communities] need to tell us their views.”