Julie Giuilioni | School Board Candidate

PHOTO: Steven Lawrence | SouthPasadenan.com | Julie Giulioni at Nexusplex studios in South Pasadena

Name: Julie Giulioni

Address: La France Ave. South Pasadena

How Long Have You Lived Here: This time, I’ve lived in South Pasadena since 1996; but I grew up in town, living on Brent and Lyndon from 1965 to 1978 while attending Marengo, South Pasadena Junior High, and South Pasadena High School.

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Occupation: Author, Consultant, Instructional Designer, Speaker

Work History: See the separate resume provided.

Education: I hold a BA in Management.

Family Status: Married to Peter Giulioni with two grown children, both of whom attended South Pasadena schools.

Please explain what you do for a living and how that work may benefit you as an elected official?

Given my background in consulting, instructional design, training and facilitation, I’ve developed the capacity to listen deeply and curiously, understand complex issues, balance stakeholder needs and priorities, communicate generously and effectively and build consensus to support sustainable change. These are core competencies for an effective school board member.

Why are you running for office?

I care deeply for our community and am grateful for all that SPUSD schools have done for me personally and for my family. I was honored to be elected five years ago to this board and have worked tirelessly on behalf of our students, families, schools and community. We have some very important work in process; and I look forward an opportunity to work toward continuing it.

What are the three biggest issues facing the South Pasadena Unified School District Board?                                                                                               

Remaining financially stable – California ranks 41st nationally in educational spending; and South Pasadena is among the lowest 10 percent of California school districts in terms for per student funding. Compounding the revenue challenge are escalating increases in our mandated STRS and PERS contributions for retirement benefits. The board’s long-standing goal of a balanced budget was realized this year. Continuing to live within our means under these circumstances will present ongoing challenges.  To address this:

  • We must continue to advocate for appropriate educational funding. During my time as president of the board, we founded a coalition of similarly-challenged local districts. Together, we have contracted a firm to help us promote our funding agenda in Sacramento and Washington DC.
  • We must proactively seek out all appropriate sources of funding. We have applied for and been awarded Career Technical Education and Arts Advancement grants; and we’ve submitted a state matching bond funds application.
  • We must continue to find and exploit economies and creative opportunities to reduce expenses without undermining student services. For instance, we’ve reduced our water and electricity use through conservation and timers. We used Proposition 39 funds to replace much of the lighting at SPHS and the SPMS gym with LED fixtures that have already proven to be more energy and cost effective.
  • We must continue to look for ways to reduce payments to outside service providers by offering training and preparation to our own personnel. Recently, we replaced Non-Public Agency, Applied Behavior Analysis, Behavior Interventionists with employees who were trained and certified to perform the same services, leading to greater continuity of care and cost savings.
  • We must explore the potential for cost savings through activating our solar capabilities.
  • We must continue to partner effectively with stakeholder groups like SPEF, PTA, Boosters and our community who so generously augment state funds, allowing us to offer far more than we could without their contributions.

Supporting continued student success – Based upon the last standardized test scores (CAASPP), SPUSD ranks 5th in the state. This is a remarkable achievement that speaks to the commitment of everyone in the district and that we can be proud of. But, test scores are just one data point when considering student success. We need to develop consensus around a broader definition of student achievement/success, one that tracks and incorporates the social and emotional well-being of students as well as academics. To address this:

  • We must continue to invest in programs and personnel to support student well-being. This year, we added a full-time School Social Work and Child Welfare Counselor and increased our counseling investment district-wide. And, we increased the number of students receiving direct support from Train-Your-Brain.
  • We must continue our work at the high school with Stanford’s Project Success program, effectively implement our new multi-cultural English course at SPUSD, continue our school-wide reading initiatives focused on social justice issues and leverage the various character-building programs available at the elementary and middle schools.
  • We must mine and analyze the data available to us and continue to enhance the lines of communication to support students in need.

Retaining top talent – Throughout SPUSD, we are blessed with extraordinarily gifted educators and administrators. The level of education, experience, and passion our employees bring to the work they do is remarkable and is reflected in the achievement of our students. Although today’s salaries are competitive, I worry about the growing funding differentials between us and other local districts that receive considerably more money – and their ability to pay higher wages in the future. To address this:

  • We must take the financially-related actions noted above to optimize income and robustly managing expenses.
  • We must continue to cultivate a culture of respect, collaboration, inclusion, and appreciation that will make SPUSD not just a destination district for families/students but also an employer of choice for educational professionals.

How would you assess the performance of the School Board? What is the Board getting right, what is it getting wrong?                                                                   

I’ve been proud to serve on the board for the past five years with some remarkable colleagues with different backgrounds and different ideas – but all of whom share a deep commitment to doing the right thing for our students. From where I sit, it feels like we’re getting many things right: offering a rich, relevant curriculum that meets student needs and helps them to realize their full potential; balancing the budget without making cuts that affect students or their achievement; investing in personnel and programs to support the social and emotional well-being of students; and being exceptional stewards of our community’s investment in Measure SP by managing multiple construction projects on-time and on-budget. So, we’re doing a lot right. That said, I do believe we owe it to our students and the community to continue to raise the bar for ourselves and to always strive to do more in service of student achievement, wellbeing, safety and fiscal stewardship. (Note: See the separate Achievements document for a more expansive list of what we’ve gotten right.)

The repealing of the utility user tax or UUT is on the November ballot, and, if passed, would require significant cuts to the services provided to South Pasadena residents. What is your stance on this repeal effort and why?                                 

I will be voting No on Measure N in November. Our city faces many of the same economic pressures that SPUSD experiences (in terms of flat funding and escalating mandated expenses.) The elimination of the UUT would result in an immediate and devastating 12 percent cut to the budget. That’s well over $3 million of services that will no longer be available within our community. School-related cuts top the list: crossing guards and our beloved school resources officer. But, that’s just the beginning. Our community – children, seniors, and everyone in between – will be affected if this revenue source disappears, changing the complexion and quality of life in our charming town.

According to the South Pasadena Unified School District: In June of 2009 voters within the South Pasadena Unified School District boundary approved Measure S. Measure S authorized the district to levy a special parcel tax upon parcels within district boundaries for four years beginning with 2009-10. In February 2018, South Pasadena voters approved a seven-year extension through the 2024-25 year. The purpose of the parcel tax is to augment the less-than sufficient funds provided by the state and protect the quality of education in South Pasadena. What is your take on how the Measure S funds are being implemented and managed by the SPUSD Board?                                                                           

When our community generously agrees to increasing local taxes to help fund our schools, the board takes on a moral and legal obligation to ensure that those funds are used as intended. By law, we must generate annual audits and form a citizens’ oversight committee charged with reviewing all expenditures and reporting back to the board each year. In the time I’ve been on the board, these reports have consistently reflected that spending is absolutely aligned with what voters intended. All meeting agendas, minutes, audits and reports are available for the public to review at SPUSD.net.

The Board of Education recently approved a $49 million budget, which includes new additional revenues from the state, but much of that that new money is being consumed by retirement pension programs benefiting full and part-time educators in the district. What are your priorities for spending in the Board budget, what Board expenses could be reduced?                                                     

I am proud that while on the board, we’ve gone from deficit spending to a balanced budget. Given the unpredictable nature of school funding and the fact that we are a small district, this remains a priority for me.

As your question establishes, much of the new money that SPUSD received this year will go toward retirement benefits; specifically, we saw a $420,000 increase on this line year-over-year. Our district is mandated to make these payments to the state boards responsible for managing public employee pension funds. And it’s important to note that this expense will continue to increase as STRS will grow from 14.43 percent in 2017/18 to 19.1 percent in 2020-21 and PERS from 15.53 percent to 23 percent in the same time frame.

See previous response to addressing financial challenges for additional information.

The Board of Education has recently taken on a lot of criticism for passing a mandatory hall policy imposed on high school freshman and sophomores. What is your opinion about the policy? What is your opinion about how the Board handled the decision and implemented it? What, if anything, would you change?         

First, let me say that I was delighted to see that so many people attended a school board meeting during the summer to share their experiences and concerns. I was also delighted (and grateful) that staff almost immediately went to work creating a rapid response plan that addressed many of the issues raised. This “triage’”approach in the short-term will allow the administration to work on this issue thoughtfully and collaboratively in the months to come. Upon reflection, I believe this experience serves to highlight the genuine receptivity and respect that the board and administrators bring to their work. It reinforces that we are committed to listening and working through issues to meet the needs of our students.

Second, by way of background, let me share a couple of points:

  • Most high school schedules are based upon a six-period day; SPHS has traditionally offered seven to allow for greater scheduling options/flexibility.
  • Budgets and staffing levels have traditionally been based upon students enrolling in six classes and a study hall (or home study.)
  • Over the years, the six class/one study hall standard has been inconsistently applied, leaving many families with the mistaken impression that a schedule with seven classes is the norm.
  • This past year, the SPHS administration implemented greater rigor and aligned its scheduling practices with the six class/one study hall standard. Despite attempts to proactively communicate about the change, many students and families were surprised and disappointed. Their feedback was taken seriously and acted upon immediately as noted above.
  • The administration will be working through this issue thoughtfully and collaboratively in the months to come. I look forward to a set of recommendations that will be student-centric and fiscally prudent and a communication/implementation plan that will ensure understanding among all stakeholders.

How much money have you raised in your campaign? Please include today’s date.

$0 – As with my first campaign, I’ll engage in no fundraising – instead relying upon a grassroots approach and word of mouth – which feels more appropriate and authentic for our small community. (Anyone wishing to make donations will be directed toward the PTAs, SPEF, and/or Boosters – all groups that can make terrific use of the funds.) I’ll also try to be a friend to the planet by keeping my marketing collateral to a minimum

What do you want us to know about your opponent(s)?                                      

Our schools and students are fortunate that the other candidates care so deeply about education in South Pasadena and are willing to step up to this important role.

Why should voters vote for you?                                                                       

Past performance is generally the best predictor of future performance. I have a two-decade-plus record of service to our schools through countless volunteer leadership roles at Marengo, SPMS, SPHS and SPEF. Over the years, I’ve contributed to raising millions of dollars in funds for and engaging thousands of parents in our schools. For the past five years, I’ve served as a SPUSD board member, one of which as board president. During that time, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to govern a public school district, which will only make me more effective in a second term. So, if I’m fortunate enough to be re-elected, I’m prepared to continue doing what I’ve done for 20+ years in terms of performance and service to our schools.

Is there anything else you would like to add, or that you would like the public to know about your vision and candidacy?

Thank you for this opportunity and for the work you do to keep our community connected and in-the-know.