Last week during the South Pasadena Unified School District Board meeting, Superintendent Geoff Yantz presented a summary of the District’s 2017-2018 progress toward its strategic plan goals. Four years ago, the overarching goals, along with detailed objectives, were developed and approved by the school board. In the time since the goals were developed, District administrators have made instructional, curricular, financial and facilities decisions with these ideals in mind. The goals are to enable greater achievement for all students, offer state-of-the-art curriculum and instruction, achieve financial strength and sustainability, and provide facilities that support educational excellence.
Within the first two goals – enabling greater achievement and offering state-of-the-art curriculum – the District has added more than 30 units of study or electives at the elementary, middle and high school levels in order to provide students with more engaging, relevant experiences. After extensive research including review of the Los Angeles County and San Gabriel Valley economic forecasts and parent and student surveys, the District determined that targeting five sectors aligning with State economic needs and student interest – Design, Visual, Media, and Performing Arts; Biomedical Sciences; Engineering; Computer Science and Business/Finance – would be most beneficial for students.
The elementary schools added units of study in these areas while the middle school added courses such as broadcast journalism, dance, orchestra, vocal music, medical detectives, engineering, and culinary science. With the South Pasadena Educational Foundation’s (SPEF) assistance, the middle school also added a new engineering lab for hands-on student experiences.
“There continues to be an upswing in the number of courses offered to South Pasadena students. We are fortunate to have a stable economy that is allowing us to grow our programs, meet the changing needs of our students and offer a very rich curriculum,” said Superintendent Yantz.
At the high school, the arts pathway now includes AP Photography and Dance levels 1, 2, and 3. The biomedical sciences pathway features a series of courses for students at four different levels of study along with sports medicine class. Within the computer science and engineering sectors, the SPHS added Engineering Design & Development to its existing courses and is investigating adding two more engineering courses within the next school year. Supporting all five sectors of study, the District created a high school internship program which offers students the opportunity to work at local businesses for course credit.
In the financial area – achieving financial strength and sustainability – District administrators have reduced expenses while making necessary improvements. In fact, the District currently holds a solid financial position, eliminating the operational deficit of previous years. However, California still ranks at the bottom of public school funding when compared to states across the nation causing many high-performing districts, like South Pasadena, to rely on revenue generated through local sources. SPEF, Booster Clubs, PTSA and facility use/rental income account for about 8-10% of the total budget. These incredibly supportive organizations along with voter support of Measure S and Measure SP allow the District to develop high-quality programming and facilities with a top-notch teaching staff.
“Our administrators have balanced the budget while adding programs and improving curriculum and instruction,” said Board Member Dr. Suzie Abajian. “I am extremely proud of the great strides that we continue to make in these areas.”
The school facilities on all campuses continue to improve. Samples of recent projects include replacing aging lights with LED lighting in all classrooms at the high school and in the middle school and high school gymnasiums. Not only are the classrooms brighter, but the District is saving money by using more efficient lighting solutions. Stadium lights on the high school football field also were replaced, and improvements were made to the SPHS baseball field.
Administrators also worked tirelessly to gain insurance reimbursements for the replacement of the middle school gymnasium floor and roof. Measure SP provided funds to repair and replace the HVAC and roof at Marengo and to complete the hard court and field project at SPMS. The new SPHS STEM Building will be completed in January 2019 and planners are simultaneously working on projects for the SPMS old gymnasium, which will include a black box theater, robotics and art lab, and the SPHS athletics and physical education facility.
“The facilities work is remarkable,” said Board Member Julie Giulioni. “In less than two years, we have made so many positive changes. It’s a great testament to the team’s adherence to the strategic goals and just plain hard work by our employees and their partners.”
Superintendent Yantz’s presentation to the board last week was designed as a brief progress report to date, focusing on highlights under each strategic plan goal over the past four years. For a more comprehensive report of 2017-2018 accomplishments and future plans for 2018-2019, please refer to the Strategic Plan Study Session presentation posted on the spusd.net website. Click here to access the presentation.
About South Pasadena Unified School District
Established in 1886, the South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) serves approximately 4,800 students within five schools including three elementary schools, one middle school and one comprehensive high school in South Pasadena, California. Nestled in the West San Gabriel Valley, SPUSD has earned a reputation for providing high quality public education, attracting families who value challenging academic programs and outstanding teachers. Consistently recognized for superior performance, SPUSD students earn honors at the local, state and national level. The District draws vital support from parents and community members through the South Pasadena Educational Foundation, local PTAs and booster clubs.