Buoyed by the solid support of Measure E in the June special 29 election, the San Marino Unified School District board on Tuesday night was scheduled to take the first step toward finding a new superintendent to replace Jeff Wilson, who took a job elsewhere.
The board was to meet in a special session with Joel Shawn of USC’s Rossier School of Education, ask questions and gain insight into the process of “selecting the best path forward to identify, select and retain the next superintendent to lead the district,” according to board President Shelley Ryan. The meeting was due to begin after the Tribune’s press deadline.
Board members had agreed to delay the search until they had replaced former colleagues Corey Barberie and Julie Chan Lin, who both resigned earlier in the year. With the recent appointments of Nam Jack and Mike Killackey, the five-member board has reached full strength and will move forward in finding a successor to Wilson, who announced in April that he would become superintendent of the Claremont Unified School District.
With a week to digest the emerging results of the crucial Measure E parcel tax election, Ryan said she was “not surprised” by the apparent margin of victory, which as of Tuesday morning showed 3,526 (73.78%) in favor and 1,253 (26.22%) against. The renewal of Measure E, which raises $4.1 million a year for the district’s schools, required a two-thirds majority to pass; the final results are not expected for another week or longer.
“The almost 74% of the community that voted for Measure E did so to sustain the tradition of community support for its schools and in so voting, protected the continued excellence of education provided to the community’s children,” Ryan said. “The large positive result was not a surprise to those who recognized the leadership, resilience, perseverance and work ethic of Nam Jack and the many valued stakeholders who rallied the community to fight for the funding necessary to ensure that we continue the mission to provide a world-class educational experience and environment for all children.”
Jack stepped forward in late March to lead the pro-Measure E campaign and was later appointed to the board seat that was vacated by Barberie. A different version of the measure failed in a March election, apparently because of an automatic-renewal provision that was removed before the measure was resubmitted to voters.
Ryan said the vote represented a “mandate” from voters.
“The mandate is and always was to maintain our fiscal awareness while continuing our focus to do more to maximize the changing service of programs, expand learning opportunities, and address the social emotional needs of all children to achieve our goal of better-prepared students for their continued success and achievement,” Ryan said. “The passage of Measure E allows the availability of financial resources necessary to support student achievement through robust academics, arts, athletics, and enrichment activities provided by quality dedicated educators and dedicated support staff.”
One reason for the funding challenges is declining enrollment in San Marino’s schools.
“Declining enrollment is quickly becoming a nationwide issue, but it is highlighted in the San Gabriel Valley largely because of the cost of affordable housing in the area,” Ryan said. “In short, very few young families can afford to live in our community and until such time as salaries catch up with housing prices, little will change in that regard. In particular, the passage of Proposition 19 will have significant consequences as children who inherit their parents’ property will not be able to keep the property tax basis of their parents in the property, resulting in a significant increase in property taxes.”
Proposition 19, which was passed in November 2020 with just over 51% of the vote, limits tax benefits for certain transfers of real property between family members.
“The school district does not receive the increased amounts of tax revenue generated by the tax increases,” Ryan explained. “These tax increases will contribute to pricing young families out of San Marino. Consequently, the SMUSD will have to continue to address declining enrollment for the foreseeable future with little it can do but rely upon the continued generosity of the community to support the schools.”