By Maureen Robertson
Enrollment hit a new low this year, with 5,725 students arriving for school, Ramona Unified School District Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann said. That’s 140 fewer than last year.
This is the 12th year of declining enrollment in the district, which in 2002-03 had 7,247 students, according to a district enrollment graph.
Enrollment includes students from transitional kindergarten through grade 12 — general education and severely handicapped students. The district receives the majority of its state and federal revenue from the number of students it educates, making enrollment the key to district finances, said Ostermann.
The breakdown of students as of Sept. 13 shows:
•2,800 in transitional kindergarten through sixth grade, a decrease of 45 students from last year;
•882 in seventh and eighth grades, a decline of 39;
•1,957 in grades nine through 12, a decline of 215; and
•86 in special education.
During the school board’s meeting last Thursday, Ostermann reviewed specifics from schools. The largest drop at the elementary level was at Barnett Elementary, which has 476 students, or 27 fewer than last year. Mt. Woodson Elementary has 492, or 2 more than last year.
Olive Peirce Middle School went from 855 seventh- and eighth-graders last year to 830, a loss of 20 students. Ramona High’s enrollment of 1,671 is 16 fewer than last year. Montecito High, Ramona Community School and Future Bound for independent study students also has fewer students, with Future Bound showing the most dramatic drop, from 70 last year to 48 this year.
“You could probably say that’s a good thing,” Ostermann said of Future Bound’s loss of 22 students, noting the district is keeping the students at the high schools.
After reviewing a three-year grade-level enrollment comparison, Ostermann said, “We’re looking at that decline to continue for a few more years.”
The district’s official report to the state will be based on enrollment on Oct. 2.
Among other action at the board meeting Sept. 19:
•Trustees approved a proclamation designating Oct. 23-31 Red Ribbon Week, a week set aside nationally for alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention and education programs and activities.
“A lot of schools are combining this with making healthy choices in all areas,” said Theresa Grace, senior director of education services.
•The district presented Veronica, Mackenzie and Mick Mahaffey with a plaque of appreciation for their C&M Relocation Systems donation of office equipment for the schools. The donation, including labor to deliver the furniture to schools, has a value of $191,250.
•The district reopened contract negotiations with the Ramona chapter of the California School Employees’ Association (CSEA), which represents support staff such as bus drivers, maintenance and office workers, teacher’s aides, campus supervisors and food services employees. Wages and health and welfare benefits for 2013-14 will be reviewed.
Representing the Ramona chapter, Sonny Adams said members believe they should have the same percentage of cuts as the teachers and administrators, and that any restoration money the district may receive “should go first to salary schedule and not to furlough days” because of how it affects employees’ retirement.
“Also be reminded that we, the classified employees, worked with the district last year to help solve the money problems,” he said. “We didn’t allow the negotiations to go to fact finding...We would like to work things out with the district peaceably.”
•School bus driver and past Ramona CSEA president Betsy Bargo called what she saw in the dumpsters behind the district office “a shameful waste.” Notebooks, hanging files, paper clips, alligator clips and boxes of three-ring binders were among items she found.
“I would like to encourage everyone to use what you order and recycle what you don’t,” she said. “Someone else in the district can use it.”
She suggested a “store” for unused supplies, “and use that stuff first before you’re allowed to buy anything new. Even the kids could use some of this stuff in their classrooms.”
•Trustees heard a detailed report about how Barnett Elementary school is preparing for the Common Core State Standards from Principal Linda Marthis. The school’s “Journey to the Common Core” started last year and will include a schoolwide focus on writing.
The new academic standards for language arts and math will so into effect in the 2014-15 school year.
•Ramona High teacher Cori McDonald, this year’s Ramona Teachers Association president, said teachers are excited about this school year “and all the potential with the common core and creating a (districtwide common core) steering committee, and where we’re moving with that, and the opportunities.”
She invited the trustees to a brunch hosted by the California Teachers Association.
•Student board members Holly Fletcher from Ramona High and Holly Smith from Ramona Community School presented reports about happenings at their schools. Fletcher said RHS Homecoming Week is Oct. 7-11, with Coming Home Night, a carnival open to the community, on Oct. 10.
Among items in her report, Smith said the school’s Fall Carnival will start at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 and include food, games, a dunk tank, mini golf and a cake walk. All are invited.
•Kristina Krohne, president of the Sun Valley Council PTA representing all PTAs in the district, reported on PTA activities and invited trustees to join as community members if they hadn’t already joined as parents at their children’s school. Superintendent Robert Graeff gave her his community membership donation at the meeting.
“We have a very young and energetic PTA, and we are all looking forward to a great year working with our staff and families to create a healthy and happy culture on our campuses,” she said.
•Tracey Stephens with Ramona High School’s Alliance for Music Education, expressed concern about the reduction in passes parents volunteering with the high school band and color guard receive to be admitted to football games free.
“We raise $60,000 a year to make sure the program has what it needs...uniforms, every sheet of music, every instrument, extra instructors, everything,” she said.
Having what she said is a few hundred dollars worth of ticket sales “causing this much disgruntlement, disenfranchisement amongst our members, it seems kind of silly.”
The adult volunteers wanted 17 passes, they received 11, and, after talking with Principal Chris King, they arrived at 15, she said.
Trustees Bob Stoody and John Rajcic, who each have a CIF pass good for two admissions to sports events, said they would give the parents their passes if they did not receive enough.
The school board’s next meeting will in the district board room, 720 Ninth St., at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17.