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Oceanside plans to sell schools to cut deficit – UPDATED

"Why does the district need three people to work full time in public relations?”

“In the past seven years they have cut a teacher [from Libby’s staff] every year.”
“In the past seven years they have cut a teacher [from Libby’s staff] every year.”

The march to close and then sell off elementary schools in Oceanside has been compared to the game of musical chairs. Parents with “Save Our Schools” signs are hoping their on-site protests will keep their neighborhood school from being the next school sold off to the highest bidder.

“Libby and Del Rio are 90 percent brown schools.”

The Oceanside Unified School District board of trustees will vote November 2 to approve one of two plans. Each includes putting at least one school into what the district calls “asset management,” which means it would no longer serve as a traditional classroom site and may be sold off to the highest bidder, possibly a developer. The sale would impact other schools which would be forced to absorb the displaced students.

One plan has Ditmar Elementary near Coast Highway to go off the classroom grid. Its students would be moved to Del Rio Elementary on the other side of town. Built in 1946, Ditmar is one of Oceanside’s three oldest elementary schools along with Mission and South Oceanside Elementary. Ditmar stopped being used as a traditional elementary school in 2008 and is now called Surfside Educational Academy hosting some 600 continuation and “independent study” students. Del Rio Elementary students would then be directed to join existing students at Libby Elementary under this plan.

"When I tell other parents that they are thinking about closing Reynolds, they look at me like I five faces."

The other plan calls for Reynolds Elementary in Northeast Oceanside to be mothballed and its students would be divvied up between Del Rio and Libby Elementary.

“We are a lower income neighborhood,” says Julia Sanchez who has children who attend Del Rio Elementary. “Both proposals suck. In the end, either way someone loses out.”

Sanchez says she and her children adore their teachers at Del Rio Elementary. “All the teachers here are awesome. But here we are, getting targeted, booted to another campus.” She says elementary schools in Oceanside’s more affluent neighborhoods aren’t faced with such disruptions or relocations. “No one is talking about doing anything to Ivey Ranch. Those schools never get touched.” Palmquist and South Oceanside Elementary are thought to be two other schools blessed with upscale neighborhood adjacency.

Ditmar stopped being used as a traditional elementary school in 2008 and is now called Surfside Educational Academy.

The Oceanside Unified School District board of trustees has been on a liquidation spree. At its July meeting the five-member board signaled it plans to proceed with the sale of the 14-acre Pacifica Elementary property for $15.8million to Meritage Homes of Scottsdale, Arizona, a prolific home builder which is currently marketing its new home tracts throughout the West. New Meritage homes are listed between $500,000 and $800,000.

Students at Garrison Elementary were told in 2019 they had to give up their classrooms near El Camino Real and Oceanside Boulevard and start studying with students at San Luis Rey Elementary because sink holes made Garrison unusable. The district just announced it will begin the sale of Garrison’s 11 acres to the highest bidder in November.

This year the Oceanside School District sold its Ocean Shores continuation school facility near Oceanside Boulevard and El Camino Real to the city of Oceanside which will remodel it and use it as a live-in homeless facility and as the new home for its code enforcement department. The continuation school students were moved to the Surfside Academy at Ditmar Elementary.

This leaves 16 elementary schools still operating in the Oceanside Unified School District. At its November 7 meeting, the school board will announce which elementary school will be the next to be placed in asset management.

Oceanside’s population has risen by 5% since 2010, from 167,000 to 175,000. But officials at Oceanside Unified School District say their student census is shrinking and that’s why it’s OK to peel off its elementary school property.

But school parent Todd Maddison, who regularly attends school board meetings and closely scrutinizes the district’s budget, wonders if this recent liquidation announcement isn’t a kind of fire sale to help balance the books necessitated by spending and deficits.

Maddison says that in October, the district disclosed that due to new agreements with its labor groups, the district would add $9.5-million to their deficit this year and $6- to $7-million to their deficit each year after due to a 3.75 percent salary increase. He says this follows a previous salary increase from just two years ago of 3 percent.

“Transparent California [a database that tracks pay for government employees and elected officials] said that the total median compensation for Oceanside teachers is $124,688,” says Maddison. “That includes benefits. That is about $30,000 higher than comparably educated San Diego County employees.”

A September 15 letter from the San Diego County Office of Education to Oceanside school Superintendent Julie Vitale said the district will be unable to meet its financial commitments after the 2021-2022 school year and that it is projected to be in the red by more than $8 million in 2022-2023. The county says the district will be $29 million in the hole in 2023-2024. The letter reminded Oceanside Unified that the county superintendent of schools has the authority to require the district to make cuts to remain solvent.

“And what gets me, is the associate superintendent of human resources Todd McAteer who just negotiated the new increase gets to be included on this new increase,” says Maddison. “This raise he negotiated, he gets to keep himself… The board approved all extra bonus raises. The vote was 5-0 on raises for certificated and classified personnel, and 4-1 on the ‘me-too’ raises for the administration.”

Michael Mitchell has two students at Reynolds Elementary. He maintains the district was less than open about its plans to put either Ditmar or Reynolds in “asset management.” “They did it at their September meeting which they held at a special time, 4 pm, when they knew no one would be there.” Unlike recent meetings, that one was not available on Zoom. Or public access station KOCT.

Viviana Gonzales has two children at Reynolds elementary, one of two schools that may be mothballed. “Reynolds covers a big area. It is true the school is not in great condition, but that extra bond money should be invested in remodeling it...I hope more parents get out there and hold signs and send emails to the board. It is not right that they do everything behind closed doors.”

“We didn’t even know they were thinking about closing Reynolds,” says parent Julie Hammer. “It was never part of the discussion. They were always talking about rebuilding or fixing it. When I tell other parents that they are thinking about closing Reynolds, they look at me like I five faces. We were all shocked.” Hammer says Reynolds also serves the neighborhood with needed parkland. “There is no park within walking distance. We used to have this horrible metal playground and they replaced it with a high-end, top-notch playground equipment.”

Libby Elementary will be getting more crowded through consolidation with either plan. If Ditmar goes and Reynolds stays, the district has said Reynolds needs to spend millions to upgrade Reynolds. “Libby and Del Rio are 90 percent brown schools,” says Nataly Sanchez, president of the Libby Elementary Parent Teacher Organization. “In the past seven years they have cut a teacher [from Libby’s staff] every year.”

Sanchez says those cuts have led to a high student-to-teacher ratio and Libby must have combo classes where two grades are taught in the same classroom. “They keep cutting back on teachers, yet they have all these associate superintendents who make $150,000 and $200,000 a year and then they keep getting raises. Why does the district need three people to work full time in public relations?”

“The vote by the board of education on the options to consolidate has been rescheduled for Tuesday, November 2nd at 6 pm,” says district director of communications Donald Bendz. He says the board meeting scheduled for October 27 at 6 pm is when the board will take input from parents about the plans. That meeting is virtual only.

November 3 UPDATE

The Oceanside Unified School District held a special meeting November 2 to vote on just one agenda item: which elementary schools would be closed or consolidated. Concerned parents and their children started protesting two weeks ago in front of the schools to be impacted including Reynolds and Libby Elementary.

School board president Stacy Begin started the meeting by saying she wanted to call off the process that would have taken either Surfside Academy (long known as Ditmar Elementary) or Reynolds Elementary out of commission and possibly put up for sale.

The other four members agreed. The deal to sell off schools was dead.

“We heard you,” said Begin who said the protests and other communication got through to the board and made its members rethink the asset liquidation plan options presented to them by staff.

Begin says that it would simply tap into the $160 million pot of available bond money to “remodel Reynolds and modernize [Ditmar] Surfside.” That money was made available by the passage of Measure W in November of last year. Not discussed was what the OUSD board would do about the looming $8million deficit the district is facing next school year, and an additional $29million in red ink coming the year after that according to the San Diego County office of education.

Most of the 15 speakers who participated in the teleconferenced meeting were thankful their schools were being spared.

“Thank you for listening to us,” said Nataly Sanchez who called in from a protest in front of the school district office on Mission Avenue. That protest was held during the meeting.

But some of those who participated via Zoom were not as nice. Larry Berry, a regular participant at school board meetings complained about, “...the nitwits who want to come in start closing schools.” Todd Maddison pointed to the recent $15,000 annual raise given to district superintendent Julie Vitale as one of the causes of the district’s financial distress.

“At the September meeting there were board members who said they wanted to just get rid of Reynolds Elementary,” says Desirae Metoyer who has two children at Reynolds Elementary. She thinks the parent protests and letters may have made the difference. “It is important to be involved. I’ve always been in the PTO [Parent Teacher Organization] and on various committees. If I go to my principal and tell them ‘I want my child to be in this or that class,’ your voice gets heard.” Metoyer says she and other parents posted on Next Door, wrote HOA property managers, and created Save Our Schools facebook pages on top of their protests. “We called ourselves the sign brigade.”

Vitale says more details about the improvements to the Surfside/Ditmar and Reynolds campuses would be outlined at the board’s November 9 meeting.

“We’re going to start paying attention to what cuts they are going to make because that’s a lot of money they are going to have to cut,” says Sanchez.

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“In the past seven years they have cut a teacher [from Libby’s staff] every year.”
“In the past seven years they have cut a teacher [from Libby’s staff] every year.”

The march to close and then sell off elementary schools in Oceanside has been compared to the game of musical chairs. Parents with “Save Our Schools” signs are hoping their on-site protests will keep their neighborhood school from being the next school sold off to the highest bidder.

“Libby and Del Rio are 90 percent brown schools.”

The Oceanside Unified School District board of trustees will vote November 2 to approve one of two plans. Each includes putting at least one school into what the district calls “asset management,” which means it would no longer serve as a traditional classroom site and may be sold off to the highest bidder, possibly a developer. The sale would impact other schools which would be forced to absorb the displaced students.

One plan has Ditmar Elementary near Coast Highway to go off the classroom grid. Its students would be moved to Del Rio Elementary on the other side of town. Built in 1946, Ditmar is one of Oceanside’s three oldest elementary schools along with Mission and South Oceanside Elementary. Ditmar stopped being used as a traditional elementary school in 2008 and is now called Surfside Educational Academy hosting some 600 continuation and “independent study” students. Del Rio Elementary students would then be directed to join existing students at Libby Elementary under this plan.

"When I tell other parents that they are thinking about closing Reynolds, they look at me like I five faces."

The other plan calls for Reynolds Elementary in Northeast Oceanside to be mothballed and its students would be divvied up between Del Rio and Libby Elementary.

“We are a lower income neighborhood,” says Julia Sanchez who has children who attend Del Rio Elementary. “Both proposals suck. In the end, either way someone loses out.”

Sanchez says she and her children adore their teachers at Del Rio Elementary. “All the teachers here are awesome. But here we are, getting targeted, booted to another campus.” She says elementary schools in Oceanside’s more affluent neighborhoods aren’t faced with such disruptions or relocations. “No one is talking about doing anything to Ivey Ranch. Those schools never get touched.” Palmquist and South Oceanside Elementary are thought to be two other schools blessed with upscale neighborhood adjacency.

Ditmar stopped being used as a traditional elementary school in 2008 and is now called Surfside Educational Academy.

The Oceanside Unified School District board of trustees has been on a liquidation spree. At its July meeting the five-member board signaled it plans to proceed with the sale of the 14-acre Pacifica Elementary property for $15.8million to Meritage Homes of Scottsdale, Arizona, a prolific home builder which is currently marketing its new home tracts throughout the West. New Meritage homes are listed between $500,000 and $800,000.

Students at Garrison Elementary were told in 2019 they had to give up their classrooms near El Camino Real and Oceanside Boulevard and start studying with students at San Luis Rey Elementary because sink holes made Garrison unusable. The district just announced it will begin the sale of Garrison’s 11 acres to the highest bidder in November.

This year the Oceanside School District sold its Ocean Shores continuation school facility near Oceanside Boulevard and El Camino Real to the city of Oceanside which will remodel it and use it as a live-in homeless facility and as the new home for its code enforcement department. The continuation school students were moved to the Surfside Academy at Ditmar Elementary.

This leaves 16 elementary schools still operating in the Oceanside Unified School District. At its November 7 meeting, the school board will announce which elementary school will be the next to be placed in asset management.

Oceanside’s population has risen by 5% since 2010, from 167,000 to 175,000. But officials at Oceanside Unified School District say their student census is shrinking and that’s why it’s OK to peel off its elementary school property.

But school parent Todd Maddison, who regularly attends school board meetings and closely scrutinizes the district’s budget, wonders if this recent liquidation announcement isn’t a kind of fire sale to help balance the books necessitated by spending and deficits.

Maddison says that in October, the district disclosed that due to new agreements with its labor groups, the district would add $9.5-million to their deficit this year and $6- to $7-million to their deficit each year after due to a 3.75 percent salary increase. He says this follows a previous salary increase from just two years ago of 3 percent.

“Transparent California [a database that tracks pay for government employees and elected officials] said that the total median compensation for Oceanside teachers is $124,688,” says Maddison. “That includes benefits. That is about $30,000 higher than comparably educated San Diego County employees.”

A September 15 letter from the San Diego County Office of Education to Oceanside school Superintendent Julie Vitale said the district will be unable to meet its financial commitments after the 2021-2022 school year and that it is projected to be in the red by more than $8 million in 2022-2023. The county says the district will be $29 million in the hole in 2023-2024. The letter reminded Oceanside Unified that the county superintendent of schools has the authority to require the district to make cuts to remain solvent.

“And what gets me, is the associate superintendent of human resources Todd McAteer who just negotiated the new increase gets to be included on this new increase,” says Maddison. “This raise he negotiated, he gets to keep himself… The board approved all extra bonus raises. The vote was 5-0 on raises for certificated and classified personnel, and 4-1 on the ‘me-too’ raises for the administration.”

Michael Mitchell has two students at Reynolds Elementary. He maintains the district was less than open about its plans to put either Ditmar or Reynolds in “asset management.” “They did it at their September meeting which they held at a special time, 4 pm, when they knew no one would be there.” Unlike recent meetings, that one was not available on Zoom. Or public access station KOCT.

Viviana Gonzales has two children at Reynolds elementary, one of two schools that may be mothballed. “Reynolds covers a big area. It is true the school is not in great condition, but that extra bond money should be invested in remodeling it...I hope more parents get out there and hold signs and send emails to the board. It is not right that they do everything behind closed doors.”

“We didn’t even know they were thinking about closing Reynolds,” says parent Julie Hammer. “It was never part of the discussion. They were always talking about rebuilding or fixing it. When I tell other parents that they are thinking about closing Reynolds, they look at me like I five faces. We were all shocked.” Hammer says Reynolds also serves the neighborhood with needed parkland. “There is no park within walking distance. We used to have this horrible metal playground and they replaced it with a high-end, top-notch playground equipment.”

Libby Elementary will be getting more crowded through consolidation with either plan. If Ditmar goes and Reynolds stays, the district has said Reynolds needs to spend millions to upgrade Reynolds. “Libby and Del Rio are 90 percent brown schools,” says Nataly Sanchez, president of the Libby Elementary Parent Teacher Organization. “In the past seven years they have cut a teacher [from Libby’s staff] every year.”

Sanchez says those cuts have led to a high student-to-teacher ratio and Libby must have combo classes where two grades are taught in the same classroom. “They keep cutting back on teachers, yet they have all these associate superintendents who make $150,000 and $200,000 a year and then they keep getting raises. Why does the district need three people to work full time in public relations?”

“The vote by the board of education on the options to consolidate has been rescheduled for Tuesday, November 2nd at 6 pm,” says district director of communications Donald Bendz. He says the board meeting scheduled for October 27 at 6 pm is when the board will take input from parents about the plans. That meeting is virtual only.

November 3 UPDATE

The Oceanside Unified School District held a special meeting November 2 to vote on just one agenda item: which elementary schools would be closed or consolidated. Concerned parents and their children started protesting two weeks ago in front of the schools to be impacted including Reynolds and Libby Elementary.

School board president Stacy Begin started the meeting by saying she wanted to call off the process that would have taken either Surfside Academy (long known as Ditmar Elementary) or Reynolds Elementary out of commission and possibly put up for sale.

The other four members agreed. The deal to sell off schools was dead.

“We heard you,” said Begin who said the protests and other communication got through to the board and made its members rethink the asset liquidation plan options presented to them by staff.

Begin says that it would simply tap into the $160 million pot of available bond money to “remodel Reynolds and modernize [Ditmar] Surfside.” That money was made available by the passage of Measure W in November of last year. Not discussed was what the OUSD board would do about the looming $8million deficit the district is facing next school year, and an additional $29million in red ink coming the year after that according to the San Diego County office of education.

Most of the 15 speakers who participated in the teleconferenced meeting were thankful their schools were being spared.

“Thank you for listening to us,” said Nataly Sanchez who called in from a protest in front of the school district office on Mission Avenue. That protest was held during the meeting.

But some of those who participated via Zoom were not as nice. Larry Berry, a regular participant at school board meetings complained about, “...the nitwits who want to come in start closing schools.” Todd Maddison pointed to the recent $15,000 annual raise given to district superintendent Julie Vitale as one of the causes of the district’s financial distress.

“At the September meeting there were board members who said they wanted to just get rid of Reynolds Elementary,” says Desirae Metoyer who has two children at Reynolds Elementary. She thinks the parent protests and letters may have made the difference. “It is important to be involved. I’ve always been in the PTO [Parent Teacher Organization] and on various committees. If I go to my principal and tell them ‘I want my child to be in this or that class,’ your voice gets heard.” Metoyer says she and other parents posted on Next Door, wrote HOA property managers, and created Save Our Schools facebook pages on top of their protests. “We called ourselves the sign brigade.”

Vitale says more details about the improvements to the Surfside/Ditmar and Reynolds campuses would be outlined at the board’s November 9 meeting.

“We’re going to start paying attention to what cuts they are going to make because that’s a lot of money they are going to have to cut,” says Sanchez.

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8

Special thanks to Oceanside historian Kristi Hawthorne, whose data is always invaluable.

Oct. 26, 2021

Whatever happened to education in California? From ranking highly in the US to rock bottom unless you live in an affluent suburb. Selling schools to the highest bidder is absurd. I believe a smart, motivated child will learn regardless, but not all kids fall into that category. The children who need the most help will be affected, and it's sad. Kids in California schools deserve better, especially the amount of taxes we pay to fund the schools. Something needs to change. I hope the parents continue to fight in Oceanside, as well as throughout the state.

Oct. 26, 2021

Apparently, in some districts, it is more important to have three full-time PR/communications people on district payroll even as you cut back on teachers and force kids and teachers to endure "combo" (two-grades-in-one) classes. The one bright spot here is that all the parents I spoke to say teacher quality is outstanding.

Oct. 26, 2021

Let's see. They need one person to write glowing news releases, the second to provide "content" for the website, and the third to be a spokesperson on TV. Duh!

Oct. 26, 2021

Teaching like nursing is a calling, and their reward is the results that happen. Yes, California needs the best education that it once offered. The $billions spent for the boondoggle high-speed rail project could have been better spent on education!

Oct. 29, 2021

You may thank the teachers unions and school boards. They have become misguided, corrupt, bureaucracies, without accountability. In the real world poor performing schools would be allowed to fail (and poor performing teachers could be fired), and successful schools would be allowed to flourish and duplicate, triplicate, etc. Allowing parents access to take tax (our) money dedicated to their student and choose the school of their choice would be a great start to righting this sinking ship. Otherwise, we can continue to do the same thing (burn the people's money, and let the children fail) over and over and hope for a different result. IMnotsoHO, that would be truly insane...

Nov. 1, 2021

That school district is amazing, as in amazingly poorly run. Um, I worked in the district some years ago on two different occasions, as a teacher, and just wondered how the district could be so fouled up, and yet it--somehow--managed to have some well-motivated and effective teachers. The boards over the years have hired and backed some remarkably bad superintendents--such as the nameless one who served from 1997 to 2007. No matter what happens there, the board will likely back up the "supe" regardless of what is going on.

As to whether they can close and dispose of those school sites depends upon whether the growth of population brings a new burst of kids needing schools. Given the uncertainties of that matter, there should be a plan for accommodating a boom of school age population. With all the housing growth we are experiencing in No County, there has to be a growth in kids too. If OUSD sells off all those locations, it might just find itself short of space in just a few years and be required to find new locations that just aren't there, and then pay through the nose for space that isn't even adequate.

In recent years, Vista built six new elementary schools, and no sooner than they were open, found itself with too many. Since then two have been closed and converted. That district also built a third high school that opened just when HS enrollment peaked, and now doesn't really "need" it at all. So there's this practice of being short of space, overbuilding, closing schools and then needing them again. When the sites are sold off, they are gone for good. I'd suggest. even though nobody asked me, that they cool it on selling properties until they can be very sure they won't be needed again soon. Will that ever happen? Fuhgedabouddit.

Oct. 26, 2021

As of Tuesday evening's school board meeting, those closure plans were unanimously rejected. The board members "listened" to the parents and to a lesser degree the teaching staff. I am surprised to say the least! While some of the closures and consolidations might have made good sense, the slash-and-burn approach proposed by the supe went too far. And since the proposals came right from district staff, bureaucrats reporting to the supe, it is a huge smackdown for her. Yet the reports in the Light News didn't seem to indicate that she got any criticism from the board. Strange stuff for sure.

In the not-so-old days the OUSD board would rubber stamp just about anything that the supe proposed, ceding its authority to the hired help strongman/woman, and just blow off any and all concerns. I reiterate that this change of heart is a real shocker.

Nov. 5, 2021

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