Ravenswood school district to eliminate 83 jobs

The Ravenswood City School District board room had an overflow crowd for Thursday night's meeting. Post photo by Emily Mibach.
The Ravenswood City School District board room had an overflow crowd for Thursday night's meeting. Post photo by Emily Mibach.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The Ravenswood City School District board voted last night (Feb. 8) to make $5.8 million in cuts to avert a possible state takeover of the troubled school district that serves East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park.

The cuts will eliminate 83 positions including those of two principals, two vice principals, an associate superintendent and 15 teachers. The district will also relinquish control of its preschool program, which the state or county might possibly pick up.

Trustee Marielena Gaona-Mendoza asked San Mateo County School Superintendent Anne Campbell if it was possible for the school board to postpone the vote. But Campbell told the board that it had “backed itself into a corner,” indicating the cuts had to be made now.

If the board did not approve the cuts, the state could take control of the district, according to Campbell, whose presentation to the board galvanized the district’s grim outlook before the board took action.

State funding is tied to enrollment, and the number of students attending the district’s schools has dropped 22% since 2014 to just 2,682 students.

The families of many of the students left because they were priced out of the community, district financial officer Steve Eichman said on Monday.

The board’s vote last night (Feb. 8) was 4-0-1 with Gaona-Mendoza abstaining.

Preschool’s future

The meeting was packed with families, many of whom pleaded with the board to keep the preschool. The preschool costs the district about $500,000 a year to operate, and it is not subsidized by the state.

A group of preschool teachers showed a video of their students and colleagues talking about the preschool. One child, who recited his numbers up to 35 and breezed through the ABCs, drew thunderous applause from the room and board.

Teacher Maisha Brooks went to the preschool herself, and sent her children there.

“I don’t know how we got to this point … but I think that you need to go back and make some readjustments to keep the sense of togetherness we have at the CDC (Child Development Center),” Brooks said.

Trustees Sharifa Wilson and Ana Maria Pulido told the packed room that they are working with the state and the county to take over the preschool.

Mayor says crisis was preventable

East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica also said he felt that there had not been enough public outreach regarding the cuts.

“The enrollment trends have been there for years,” Abrica said. “This crisis has been ongoing and you could have prevented it three years ago if you had done something … this was mismanaged by the superintendent and that’s the bottom line.”