Wednesday, September 09, 2009


“The reasoning I was  given had to do with funding for the "New Schools".  I was told (today) that New  School budgets were not factored into the general funding equation beforehand . . .”

A Message to the Westchester High School Community from Principal Bruce L. Mims

Sent by  e-mail Tuesday Sept. 8, 2009

Good Evening Members of the Westchester High School Community:
On the eve of welcoming in a new school year filled with such promise, I must  also inform you that I have brought an ongoing and evolving situation to the  attention of our Governance Council--one that is currently poised to have a  detrimental impact on the health, safety, and security of our greater  school-wide learning community as a whole. 

Despite our enduring persistence and  our collective endeavor to weather the (many) maelstroms, and collaborate in an  effort to bring the school to a threshold where sound data-driven decisions can  be advanced and implemented, we are faced with a serious dilemma that pertains  to Per Pupil Funding.  On one hand, Per Pupil Funding (PPF) in general is an  empowering opportunity for school sites and stakeholders to take collective  responsibility for discretionary allocations that have a direct impact on the  school-wide learning community in general, because it truly puts the power and  responsibility for data-driven decisions in the hands of entities on the campus  who will ultimately assume accountability for the outcome(s) of those decisions.   On the other hand, however, it can also put a low-performing underachieving  school in further peril, if certain components of the PPF equation are also not  in sync as it relates to the campus-e.g., ADA, the total number of students  enrolled, amount of PPF allotment (i.e., in this case $911.00 allotment per  student).

Frankly, our unique situation here at Westchester High School put us in an  extremely precarious (if not "no-win") situation right now, whether we went  forward with our participation in PPF or elected to "opt-out" and remain with  norm-based funding.  On one hand, our ADA was woefully low, which basically cost  us approximately $127,000.00; nevertheless, in the long run, we all saw the  "silver lining" down-the-road for us as it relates to increasing our ADA by  decreasing our chronic truancy and dropout rates, and generally focusing our  efforts on making data-driven decisions.  On the other hand, however, if we  decided to stay with norm-based funding, we faced the possibility of losing  additional clerical staff, an administrator, an counseling positions, and  building and grounds positions as well.  

Given that we only received a 40 percent threshold allotment of Title I  funding-as well as the fact we were (re) entering Program Improvement (Year I),  we had little choice but to try and keep our "cuts" as far away from the  classroom as possible, while aligning our decisions and resources with our (old)  Single Plan for Student Achievement-while creating justifications that were  aligned with the current data as evidenced by their learning outcomes (e.g., CST  results, CAHSEE pass rate, ADA, and dropout rate).  In short, any decision we  made here at the site would involve entail reverberating consequences.   Nevertheless, our dialogue and discussions in the School Site Council meetings  we attained discretionary and categorical allocations that were appropriately  aligned with student-based needs-relative to their learning outcomes and Program  Improvement.  
Needless to say, additional central office mandated reductions to buildings and grounds personnel, and now their most-recent decision to reduce our campus  safety Officers by 1 position have made our PPF decisions reverberate even more  as it relates to our staffing; whereas, the actual building and grounds  (norm-based) reductions nearly doubled the projected reductions when we  finalized our PPF budget.  Meanwhile, we made PPF allocations to retain our  current campus safety positions based upon projected norms and giving  consideration to our site-based needs.  However, I received notification from  Local District 3 last Friday afternoon we will be losing another full-time  campus safety position (reducing our norm positions to 2). The reasoning I was  given had to do with funding for the "New Schools".  I was told (today) that New  School budgets were not factored into the general funding equation beforehand;  therefore, additional district-wide reductions were necessary to fund the New  School needs, one of them being campus safety; and, therefore, we would be  losing an additional campus safety position--regardless of the fact we had  already finalized our site-based allocations based upon the staffing levels we  reasonably anticipated we would have at our disposal (while the New School  budget dilemma was unbeknownst to us or any other school-wide community).   

Unfortunately the 2 current situations have put us in a quandary we can neither  ignore nor delay; and, although the District has heaped the responsibility for  funding critical support areas upon the school, we unfortunately have extremely  limited resources within the context of PPF, and very restrictive guidelines for  allocation of Title I funds.  Thus, we are faced with a difficult dilemma  relative to PPF that compels us to collaborate and revisit our original  allocations at this critical crossroads in our endeavor to improve student  programs and learning outcomes.  Moreover, our Governance Council must now come  together very shortly and collectively make some tough decisions:  how do we  reduce services that directly affect students and their learning outcomes, such  as administrative leadership, counseling staff, clerical support, library  coverage (i.e., domains that fall under the scope of PPF) to provide20for an  additional campus safety and building and grounds personnel?  Or do we leave our  allocations as is and try to do the best we can, with what we have, where we are  right now and try to lobby for additional support or relief, given the  uncontrollable events that have transpired that detrimentally affect our  school-wide community?

In retrospect, we earnestly devoted our PPF and our (40 percent threshold) Title  I monies just to acquire the student-based services and personnel essential to  directly address the outcomes that resulted in our Program Improvement status,  while stabilizing the existing services and essential personnel-that would have  been decimated or relatively impossible to sustain through norm-based funding.   Interestingly, 2 of our personnel were acquired through Title I funding (i.e.,  PSA and DPA counselors) to address our Dropout and Truancy issues conveyed to me  directly by the Superintendent in a letter, dated June 12, 2009 (CCd to the  Board of Education, James Morris, Dr. Elliot, and Mr. Del Cueto).  In that  letter, he conveyed to me his expectation of decreasing our dropout rate by 5  percent during the 2009-2010 school year.  Overall, I believe we, as a  collective group, endeavored to make the best possible (student) outcomes and  needs-based budgetary decisions possible-given the realities and constraints of  every hand that has been dealt to us.
As for the implications of our decisions relative to Per Pupil Funding, I would  be remiss  if I did not highlight the fact that ALL would have been solved if we  would have received more than a mere 14 percent of the total monies allotted per  pupil (i.e., approx $6,200.00); whereas, an additional $150.00 PPF allotment (in  addition to the $911.00 we actually received in the current PPF formula ) would  be the difference between adequate campus safety AND building and grounds  staffing -taking total reduction in force into consideration as well-and the  inadequacies we currently face in those 2 critical areas--among others. 

Indeed, we are trying to make the best of this situation; I know the  Superintendent and others want us to be successful in our efforts to improve  instruction and outcomes for all our students.  However, converging factors  beyond our direct control make our challenges as it pertains to campus safety,  building and grounds, and other critical support areas relative to our campus  seemingly insurmountable; and, we are in need of more support than we can afford  without directly (and detrimentally) affecting students and the classrooms-as it  pertains to their learning outcomes.  In summation, I have endeavored, as the  Superintendent  has stated himself, to facilitate the process of keeping our  current financial situation (i.e., "cuts") as far away from students and their  classrooms as humanly, economically, and realistically possible.

I sincerely regret having to convey this news to the Governance Council, or  members of our greater school-wide learning  community and stakeholders at the  start of what promises to be a "breakout" year for us at Westchester High  School.  Nevertheless, I am confident that our earnest dialogue, collective  efforts, and collaboration will elicit a solution to this situation that will  reflect what is in the best interests of our students; as well, as our entire  school-wide learning community as a whole.  


Bruce L. Mims, Ed.D.
Principal, Westchester High School

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