School Board Likes Feb. 26 for Tax Renewal Election

The San Marino Unified School District has settled on Feb. 26 as the date for an election to decide whether to renew a parcel tax used to pay for a variety of faculty and staff members.
The Board of Education unanimously voted on that date, suggested by board member Chris Norgaard, at its meeting last week. The board’s next step will be to adopt a resolution formally calling the election no later than Nov. 30; state law requires that elections be called at least 88 days prior to their date.
There also was the option to have the election on Feb. 5 or Feb. 12, but Norgaard said he preferred Feb. 26 because it would maximize the period of time for new faces in district leadership to familiarize themselves with the ballot item enough to effectively lobby for it. Three of the board’s five seats are being contested by seven candidates (including two incumbents) in November, and the board also is searching for a new superintendent since Alex Cherniss accepted a job elsewhere last month.
First approved in 1991, the parcel tax — known as Measure R — presently generates around $1.6 million annually for the district, which uses it to fund 13 full-time teaching and support positions and one part-time teaching position.
It was most recently approved for a six-year run in 2013 at $336.40 per parcel, and will expire in June.
Principals at each of SMUSD’s schools told board members their back-to-school days went as smoothly as ever and outlined their plans for success in the current school year.
“The first day of school is so exciting, and I think it’s exciting for everyone,” San Marino High School Principal Issaic Gates said. “Teachers have the same stories that students have and administrators have the same stories teachers have. I don’t think anyone sleeps the night before.”
The high school’s return included a tour of Caltech facilities for the inaugural year of the university’s collaboration with SMHS to teach students high-level STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) research. Work also is underway to install the Titan Student Center at the SMHS library to host the districtwide Student Wellness Initiative.
Alana Fauré, the new principal at Huntington Middle School, told board members that 240 6th-graders attended the Where Everybody Belongs program before the start of school to help them adjust to their new environment and meet their peers and older students. Rick Barclay, the school’s new assistant principal, pointed out that enrollment for a variety of outdoors programs already is high and educators are working to make it close to 100%.
“We’re working together to create a very dynamic learning community for all of our learners,” said Fauré, who was the school’s assistant principal before her promotion this summer. “I feel like all of that spelled a very strong success for our start of school.”
Michael Lin, entering his third year as principal at Carver Elementary School, said he was focused on continuing to build Carver’s culture of success.
“The character of Carver is grounded in nurture and passion, not just in our students, but in our staff, and that propagates out to our families,” he said. “Ninety percent of our students are testing above average, so why not close that gap?”
At Valentine Elementary School, Principal Colleen Shields praised the growth of Mandarin translation at school-related events and noted that only seven parents missed the back-to-school night this year.
“We had standing room only at so many events at the start of the school year,” Shields said, “which shows you why we have such a fantastic district, because we have so many parents who turn out in support.”

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