Questions submitted to the Future Focused Schools Team and Superintendent's Cabinet regarding configuration options for BHUSD are answered here:
Q: Does the Future Focused Schools Team have a formal problem statement or mission statement?
A: The FFST's charge is to develop viable configuration options for the BHUSD Board of Education to consider to improve and enhance educational opportunities for students while ensuring long-term financial sustainability for the district.
Q: How, when, and by whom was this team selected?
A: Prospective team members submitted applications based on a call for community volunteers that was advertised in the Bevelry Hills Courier, Beverly Hills Weekly and on all the District websites in September. Applications were reviewed (with names redacted). The Superintendent and Cabinet members selected members from these anonymous applications with the goal of creating a team that included a cross-section of community and District stakeholders. Two K-8 Principals, the BHHS Principal, one BHHS teacher and one City of Beverly Hills employee were appointed to the Team to ensure all stakeholder groups are represented in the Team's work.
Q: Are team members receiving any compensation? How much?
A: Team members are volunteers and are not receiving any compensation.
Q: Are any team members employees of Beverly Hills?
A: In addition to the parent volunteers and community members, the committee includes BHUSD teachers and administrators who are currently serving in our schools. Six BHUSD teachers and three Principals are members of the FFST. One FFST member is employed by the City of Beverly Hills. The complete list of FFST committee members can be found HERE.
Q: Is there a possibility of making a magnet middle school or magnet high school out of one of the schools?
Q: Is there a third party facilitator for the group?
A: No. The Superintendent's Cabinet facitiates meetings and serves in an advisory capacity for Team members.
Q: What exactly is the problem that FFST is trying to solve?
Q: Have you conducted a root cause analysis to identify underlying issues to the problem that the FFST is trying to solve?
A: The FFST's charge is to develop viable configuration options for the BHUSD Board of Education to consider to improve and enhance educational opportunities for students while ensuring long-term financial sustainability for the district.
Q: Why is there only one parent with elementary student out of a group of 22?
A: Five members of the FFST have children in BHUSD elementary schools. Three members of the FFST have students in middle school grades (6-8) at BHUSD. Additional members have students at BHHS, students who have graduated from our BHUSD schools and/or students in various grades outside BHUSD.
Q: Why isn't the team at least 50% comprosed of vested parents with children currently enrolled under fifth grade rather than teachers, admin, retired employees, parents of kids no longer in the district, etc?
A: Five members of the FFST currently have children in elementary school in BHUSD. Three members of the FFST have students in middle school grades (6-8) at BHUSD. Additional members have students at BHHS, students who have graduated from our BHUSD schools and/or students in various grades outside BHUSD. A cross-section of different groups was intentionally selected to get a diverse view that included parents, teachers, principals and the community at large. The complete list of FFST committee members can be found HERE.
Q: Are you planning on collecting student input? How? When?
A: ASB students from BHHS have been anlayzing the work of the FFST and the pros and cons of the K-8 model from their perspective. They have volunteered to visit our middle schools in January to have conversations with students to answer questions and get their thoughts and input.
Q: Why aren't any surveys being passed out to ask questions/ input of parents?
A: A feedback tool has been set up on the FFST page in order to gather feedback and input from parents and all community members throughout the process. The feedback offered is shared with all FFST members and taken seriously as we include it in our discussions and considerations. There will also be a survey for community members to fill out at the FFST Community Forums to be held on January 10th and 11th.
A: The current configuration and budget utilization do not allow for expanding the existing K-8 offering. The facilities we use in order to serve the needs of our gifted and talented students should be part of a comprehensive K-12 Gifted & Talented strategy and program which is not in the current scope of this committee's work. Whatever configuration the Board ultimately adopts, the Student and Education Services team will maximize the resources available to the benefit of all students.
Q: Is there a compromise between the K-8 model and added electives/ middle school sports?
A: The current configuration, coupled with the low student enrollment, limits the number of electives that can be offered in our current configuration. Consolidating students onto fewer campuses could enable additional electives including sports.
Q: How do we answer logistical concerns? (e.g. children at multiple schools)
A: As is currently the case, Middle School and Elementary School start times will differ. In addition, both before and after school programming can be evaluated to best serve the needs of BHUSD families. Logistical concerns will be evaluated as part of any configuration adoption.
Q: If schools are reconfigured, will busing be needed and how will it be paid for?
A: The FFST has not explored this issue very deeply. When the issue has come up, it has been generally determined that it would be dependent on whether providing transportation would be popular and utilized by the community.
Q: Is there an analysis of possible impact upon traffic and pollution from increased driving and busing in a reconfiguration?
A: No, the FFST is not qualified to make such an analysis.
Q: Is a 7-12 model possible?
A: Due to the ongoing construction at BHHS the 7-12 model would not be able to be implemented in a timeframe sufficient to address the need to remediate our deficit spending for LACOE complaince. In addition, there is an issue regarding 6th grade teaching Certificaiton when 6th grade is part of an elementary school which would need to be remediated. A 7-12 configuration could be considered in future years.
Q: How do you respond to parents who say that they moved to Beverly Hills for the K-8 model?
A: While the K-8 model has been a long-time component of the Beverly Hills "brand", this committee is focused on finding the best education delivery model available today to serve the needs of all of our students within the budget that we have. Therefore, we are evaluating the K-8 model along with others in order to recommend what we believe will best prepare students to be successful in the future.
Q: Is the only research being looked at about the benefits of K-5 and a middle school configuration? Why not look at the researched benefits of a K-8 model?
A: Research regarding all educational models is being considered. The FFST's charge is to consider all options when developing recommendations for Board consideration. The FFST is evaluating the K-8 model along with others in order to recommend what we believe will best prepare students to be successful in the future.
Q: Why is there no option to create a middle school while keeping a K-8 system?
A: A very small middle school currently exists within each of our K-8's. The committee has been evaluating whether this distributed model provides the best options and opportunities for all of our 6-8 students.
Q: What criteria was used to narrow down configuration options?
A: In addition to any independent research or expertise individual committee members bring to the process, the Team is asking questions and discussing the benefits of and concerns with various grade-span models. We are leveraging the professional knowledge and personal experience of the Cabinet members and educators to understand different perspectives on what works and what the challenges are with the different models. We are also seeking out and listening to the individual feedback of the parents and community members.
Q: We were told that several options were being considered, but we have heard that there are now only two? Why were the options narrowed down so quickly?
Q: Shouldn't more options be considered instead of just putting students at a middle school site or keeping it the same?
Q: Why can't the team share all options with the community...not just the final choices of the team?
A: Numerous options have been explored throughout the process. Given the time required to properly estimate the cost of any option, the committee voted on our original list of options (in addition to the current Four K-8 model which we already have an actual budget for) to establish a prioritized list. With each committee member using up to 3 votes, the options with the greatest support were (A) Three K-8's, (B) Three K-5's and One 6-8, and (C) Two K-5's and One 6-8. Once the financials of each of these options is calulated, the committee will review the options against the scope of what we believe a BHUSD ecucation should provide students and subsequently determine if options lower on the priority list should still be evaluated.
Q: Why are these two options the favorite ones?
Q: Please clarify the descriptions of the final options.
A: Assuming the question refers to the K-8 and the K-5 + 6-8 models as two of the options, these were prioritized options for further budget analysis because they garnered the most support by way of a preliminary vote from the committee members. K-5 + 7-12 was ruled out due to the duration of time that would be required to redevelop the BHHS property to support a 7-12 population. The Team may still put forth other scenarios.
Q: Miss Chan's Choir is a huge success at Beverly Vista. How will you divide her up if she is not at BV?
A: The FFST is not charged with making specific staffing recommendations. The goal is to research opportunities that provide all students with equitable access to electives.
Q: If there is a single middle school, what would staffing look like for PE? Would current staff be retained? Would elementary students have PE or would all PE teachers go to the middle school?
A: The District would still staff PE appropriately to the number of students per building based on state physical education requirements.
Q: Will one middle school really help students grades and scores, or will a middle school drag achievement down?
Q: We need strong proof that this change will benefit our students academically and mentally?
A: The primary goal of the FFST is to explore and recommend the best options to achieve the best results for our kids' education. In that pursuit, we have been looking at what other school district's are doing, and how they have achieved better results while spending less money per student. Data analyzed by the Team shows that of the top 10 performing public school districts in the City of LA, County of LA, State of California, not a single one is the K-8 model.
Q: Where are you planning to move middle schoolers?
A: The idea of reconfiguration to increase delivery of academic depth requires a regrouping. The main problem to address on a micro level is to give broader, more consistent offerings to middle school students as a whole. The two campuses that best accomodate those needs are Beverly Vista and El Rodeo.
Q: Can you fit middle school children into elementary classrooms?
A: Yes, the current classroom sizes at El Rodeo would accomodate 1102 middle school students, and Beverly Vista would accomodate 1392 middle school students at the 29:1 ratio.
Q: There is so much pro middle school coming from FFST, but the community members who want to keep the K-8's aren't hearing their positive suggestions to continue this model. We can't keep hearing "more electives" as the middle school reasoning when there is so much at stake. We need time to figure it all out - the rush is very difficult for all.
A: The FFST is well aware of the historical ties the community has to the K-8 model and that for the most part of its 100 year history, the District has been an example of a community committed to excellent public education delivering on that promise. When exploring other possible options for delivering education, there are positives and negatives to each model. One of the negatives of the K-8 model with the District's current enrollment level, is that it is very inefficient and expensive and does not allow the District to maximize educational benefits. On the other hand, the K-8 model has community support and offers advantages as well. This debate has been at the heart of numerous FFST discussions.
Q: Are there any anti-bullying programs being discussed, like OLWEUS that Santa Monica uses?
A: Specific recommendations on anti-bullying programs are beyond the purview of the FFST. However, with a single middle school there is the possibility of an easier way to deliver more counseling and specific programs targeting the needs of the 6-8th grade population, as well as targeted counseling for the TK-5 population.
Q: Is there any discussion of a different disciplinary system for the proposed middle school that is much more effective than that of the elementary schools?
A: Specific recommendations on disciplinary programs are beyond the purview of the FFST. However, with a single middle school there is the possibility of a more focused administration of age appropriate discipline and expectations set for grades 6-8 and TK-5.
Q: Are you trying to solve a financial problem or an educational one?
A: The fundamental goal is to deliver the best education possible to our students. To do so, the District's resources need to be used efficiently. So the answer to this question is "both." The instructional challenge is to ensure that our students are in the optimal model to facilitate their academic success. The financial challenge is also a driver in that the District is facing a compounding structural spending deficit that will deplete the District's reserve in a few years. This financial challenge is not sustainable, and the District is mandated by regulations outlined in California state law AB2756 to address any projected financial difficulties.
Q: What data is this process being based on?
A: Data compiled and presented to the FFST is posted HERE on BHUSD.org and includes district finances, facilities, staffing, educational programming and student demographic information.
Q: Why has FFST not responded to offers of expert testimony/data?
A: FFST members have read and reviewed numerous articles and literature on educational programming and configuration. While there is much conflicting information depending on the viewpoint of the expert/author, the FFST is aware of and has examined and debated the merits of various models - including listening to teachers, principals and other educators. The FFST is also keenly aware that any proposal made by an outside consulting firm that yielded a recommendation of reconfiguration would be met with criticism that they were outsiders.
Q: Why is the process so secretive?
A: The work of the FFST is designed to be as open and transparent as possible. All notes and data are being published on BHUSD.org in the Future Focused Schools Team section found HERE. This includes detailed minutes from every one of the Team's meetings, found HERE. There are also ongoing meetings happening between FFST members, Cabinet, staff and parents at each of our schools, as well as upcoming community-wide forums to be held on January 10th and 11th, 2018 at BHHS.
Q: Where is the budget deficit coming from? The only year with a deficit was 2010 but that was a residual effect of the 2008 market crash.
A: The District's revenue growth is limited by Prop 13, Basic Aid and relatively low community support. BHUSD's cost growth is driven by the value that the community puts on high quality education across the spectrum of students and a wide variety of electives and enrichment oppotunities. It is also driven by a growth in the cost of delivering education that outstrips the structural limits on the District's existing revenue growth (absent material ongoing contributions from the community and/or additional taxes). This challenge is exacerbated by a low student population relative to the facility spread BHUSD is occupying. This causes a lack of efficiency in both student/teacher ratio and also in faculty knowledge sharing/leveraging. In addition to uneven delivery in scope and quality, it also drives the District's costs higher in the aggregate and on a per student basis. The details of BHUSD's current budget can be found here: https://1.cdn.edl.io/7rNbLzC7f3HtD62ufvgstU7O1LN2iRVr2nxWwZKA54KZv2vC.pdf
Q: Have you considered bringing in an outside accounting firm to give an unbiased report of finances?
A: The FFST has relied on the financial information supplied by the Superintendent and Cabinet, who have also provided supplemental information when asked. The BHUSD budget is audited and requires Board approval.
Q: How will restructuring the district solve the budget concerns?
A: At current enrollment levels and operating 4 individual K-8's, students are not concentrated onto campuses in a way that allows the District to utilize staff efficiently and offer consistent and robust educational programming across all school sites. The Team does not yet know if a proposed configuration opportunity will solve the District's financial problem because it's still in the process of its work analyzing data and researching options.
Q: Of the $14K+ that BHUSD spends per student, how does this spend break down into details?
A: On average, it costs $10,615 to send a student through public school for a year (statistic pulled from Census Bureau in 2012). The $10,615 covers the federal, state, and local government spending combined. With inflation over the years, cutting programs or adding programs this number has increased in some areas/ states and decreased in others. Currently some districts in New York and District of Columbia are spending up to $18,000 per student per year. For BHUSD's $14,000 + per student, there are a variety of costs associated with this number. The District covers teacher salaries, materials/ resources for Educational Programming (from PE equipment to consumeable materials like workbooks), Social Services (nurse, counselors, and school psychologists), intervention progamming, technology, and even safety measures like playground supervisors. While it can be broken down in an almost unlimited number of ways, the overwhelming majority of the budget is spent on salaries and benefits for teaches, staff and administration.
Q: Should the Board have the responsibility of voting on the favorite option(s)..not the FFST?
A: The Board of Education is responsible to determine the actions that will be taken to address our budget deficit and also the education delivery model that we will use. The FFST has been convened to explore different education delivery models and provide the Board with summary data on different options. The Team has yet to decide whether it will recommend any specific option that will best serve the needs of our students.
Q: Why does this process feel/ have to be rushed?
Q: Why does the change have to be so urgent? What is the urgency?
Q: Are the district's money problems that urgent?
A: In order for the BHUSD budget for the upcoming 2018-19 school year to be approved by the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), it must include multi-million dollar reductions. To achieve savings of that magnitude, the elimination of employee positions will have to be considered. Staff must be notified of any potential layoffs in March, which is why decisions regarding the finances and staffing for the upcoming school year must happen before then. The FFST was charged with making its recommendations regarding reconfiguration to the Board by the end of January 2018 as a possible solution to address the District’s compounding structural deficit spending, while still providing students with enriched educational opportunities. The Board may otherwise have to consider targeted budget cuts that could lead to a reduction of curriculum offerings.
From La Tanya KirkCarter Latham, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services: The District‘s Finances - Revenues & Expenditures should be reviewed regularly to anwer this question: is the District spending its finite resources wisely? For the last three years – The Adopted District Budget at June 30th of each calendar year, has shown a budget deficits (Expenditures greater that Incoming Revenue) ranging from negative 2.5Million to negative $4.5 million; however as the District continues throughout the year, spending is refined, Budget cuts in 2015-16 and 2016-2017 have helped the District budget to not end each budget year with the adopted deficits. The 2017-18 adopted budget on June 30th, showed a spending deficit of almost $5.0 million. As with each budget year, as it materializes things change, we have increased expenditures in some areas and decreased in others, additional revenues from JPA & reimbursements from Oil Well Bankruptcy, etc, The District’s Budget is better than presented at June 30th. Yet Multi Year Projections are based upon known and unknown assumptions – known assumptions include negotiated salary increases, step & Colum Increases, Increases in pensions, utilities. Unknown Assumptions include growth in Property tax revenue, thus we budget conservatively. The District Multi Year Projections (MYP) indicate spending deficits in the next four years. California Law requires that the District address and projections of financial short falls.
Q: Why not get $5 million for the budget from selling the District Office?
A: Increasing revenue is an important aspect to look at. This includes the possibility of selling or leasing the District Office. If revenues can be increased, this would allow additional resources to be used for educational purposes. Any sale or lease of the District Office would not "solve" the financial issues, but all additional revenue would certainly help. Whether or not additional revenue can be generated, the FFST is still charged with addressing and exploring the best education/enrichment delivery system.
Q: BHUSD is already in a huge budgetary crisis - reconfiguring a separate middle school can save money in the long run but it will require a lot of expenditure in order to get it going - what funding will they be using?
A: From La Tanya KirkCarter Latham, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services: BHUSD is not in what can be characterized as a "huge budgetary crisis". Agreed, that the current Multi Year projections without any reductions would have the District in deep financial trouble in the 2019-2020 school year. A reduction between $2.5 and $5.0 million would give the district years of budgetary stability, that is approximately 7.5% of the current budget. The Funding for the construction & facility reconfiguration related expenses would come from Bond funds, not General Funds.
Q: From the unaudited 2016-17 financials: there’s an increase in the service and other operating exp. >$2m or 24% compared to last year. Employee benefits also has >1m increase. What are these increases for, seeing as these contribute >$3m to the deficit?
A: From La Tanya KirkCarter Latham, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services: The Majority of the increase in service and operating is the $1.0 million for the oil well. As well as increases in Utilities, technology service contracts, transportation, water & trash. The Change to Employee Benefits are the increases to STRS & PERS.
Q: From the unaudited 2016-17 financials: See pdf page 10 for total revenue of $65,674,898.50 vs. total expenditures on PDF page 16 of $65,265,653.66. If I am correct $409,244.90 is the surplus monies reported by LaTanya to the Board of Education and the State of California.
A: Based upon the District's audited financials the district ended the year with $92,985 positive change in the fund balance. We are currently projecting a negative change of (3,990,347) to the fund balance for 2017-18.
Q: Regarding future liabilities for long term employee benefits: previously the board voted to pay it forward and committed 800K the first year. Two years ago, the board stopped paying it forward so not only did the amount grow but it is compounded, which makes financials look worse long term. Is this true?
A: From La Tanya KirkCarter Latham, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services: This amount is reflected in the District's Long Term Obligations, which will continue to grow if it is not addressed. It is permissible by law to pay the obligation as you go, which most school districts do. At the First Interim reporting the Board directed staff to pay 2% of payroll to this obligation annually. It is currently Budgeted.
Q: If four campuses are still operated in some type of reconfiguration, where is the costs savings?
A: The main answer to your question, is that reconfiguration will eliminate inefficiencies. By way of example, if an Honors Engligh class of Horace Mann and Beverly Vista each have 12 students, at a dedicated middle school, those two classes can be combined and taught by one teacher, not two. That is just one example, reducing travelling teachers (teachers that teach at multiple sites) and efficiencies in delivering Special Education are others.
Q: What are the current proposed dates of the decision?
A: The FFST plans to present recommendations to the Board of Education in January. The timeline for decision/action and an implementation schedule will then be up to the Board.
Q: When will voting on any possible change happen?
A: The FFST has been charged with presenting its options to the Board in January. It will then be up to the Board to choose when to vote and to establish the timline for any course of action.
Q: Why can the vote not be postponed in order to devote more time to analysis?
A: In order for the BHUSD budget for the upcoming 2018-19 school year to be approved by the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), it must include multi-million dollar reductions. To achieve savings of that magnitude, the elimination of employee positions will have to be considered. Staff must be notified of any potential layoffs in March. This is why decisions regarding the finances and staffing for the upcoming school year must happen before March. Thus, the FFST was charged with making its recommendations to the Board by the end of January 2018. It is important to note that the Team's recommendations may be associated with a range of timelines - including changes that would be implemented in the next school year, as well as options that would involve implementation at a later date. It will ultimately be up to the Board of Education to establish a timeline for any course of action.
Q: Would transitioning to one middle school next August guarantee that the middle school will be ready for the kids when they start, with all the construction completed and all middle school programming in place?
A: It would be a challenge to transition to a dedicated middle school next year. It is one of the issues that the FFST is factoring in as it continues to develop its recommendations.
Q: What can we possibly do to NOT transition to one middle school starting in August, 2018?
A: It is clear to the Team that one of the issues causing stress in the community is when any change will take place. The FFST has been charged with making its recommendations by the end of January 2018, but that does not mean any change would be implemented next year.