Parents of Farallone View Elementary School students got the chance to voice their concerns over impending changes to the school at a community meeting last night. Held in Montara at the school's campus, the meeting turned out about seventy parents, along with a handful of Farallone View teachers, three school board members and the superintendent and assistant superintendent of the .
Organized in response to an announcement two weeks ago that the school’s principal, Pamela Gire, would be receiving a layoff notice this month, the meeting provided a forum for a community still in shock to ask questions and begin to organize to work toward a solution.
Farallone View PTO president Wendy Padua, who helped organize the meeting, said that some parents have been discussing concerns and goals amongst each other on a Google discussion forum since learning about Gire's layoff. While many have expressed alarm at the inconsistency in leadership at the school -- with five different principals taking the helm in the past six years -- she stressed the importance of looking at the change as an opportunity rather than a setback.
“For the last six years, we didn’t know ahead of time that a lack of consistency would take place,” she said to the crowd, explaining that, with extra time to prepare for the next school year, parents and staff can come together to work on what they want the mission and vision of the school to be.
With Gire gone next year, assistant superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Schuck will step in to fill the role of principal at Farallone View. Having worked as an elementary school principal in Southern California, Schuck seemed like the logical choice, according to superintendent Robert Gaskill.
Gaskill said that Schuck will continue to perform her duties as assistant superintendent while overseeing Farallone View.
“We’re trying to look at how to reorganize and redistribute responsibilities within the district,” Schuck said. "The three of us – John [Moseley, Cabrillo Unified School Board president], Rob and I – are going to make sure that there will always be one of us here [on the school site].”
After giving a PowerPoint presentation explaining the reasons that layoff notices had to be given out this month, Gaskill addressed attendees, saying that the challenges the district as a whole is facing will make creativity and cooperation among school communities more necessary than ever.
“Organizations change when one of two things happen,” he said. “Either there is a great opportunity … or when faced with a challenge or conflict. This will be a time to reinvent ourselves and create a new mission.”
Farallone View finds itself needing to rework its current administrative system as a result of a $1.5 million structural deficit in the district’s budget. As Gaskill explained during his presentation, shortfalls have trickled down to school districts across the state because of California’s overall budget crisis. While measures like Gov. Jerry Brown’s current proposal to put a five-year extension on some current tax increases could prevent the school budget crisis from getting worse, Gaskill said that if the measure fails, Cabrillo, as well as districts all over the state, could expect a few more years of drastic cutbacks.
“If the state government coughs, school districts across California catch cold,” he told the crowd.
Many parents in attendance voiced frustration with the uncertainty and lack of continuity at Farallone View over the past few years, saying that it has contributed to a diminished sense of community at the school. Padua presented a case to keep a unified vision by creating a core of parents and staff that work together toward common goals like maintaining a connection with students and providing an effective leadership base.
“We need these qualities to transcend whoever the person in office is,” she said, adding that having a united school community will help guide them through the transition.
While Gaskill, Schuck and Moseley expressed that they all would be working closely with the Farallone View community to ensure a smooth transition and to help see that parent goals are followed through on, parent reactions were mixed following the meeting.
“I’m all apprehension right now, cautiously optimistic,” said parent of three current and former Farallone View students Janine Barger. “I like the idea of the voice coming from the community.”
Barger said that she will be participating in parent discussions as to the future of the school, but said that it is hard for many working parents to dedicate as much time as they would like – a sentiment expressed by others during the meeting.
Fellow parent Valerie Dubois said that she did feel that some of her concerns were somewhat alleviated after hearing from district staff, especially after hearing Schuck address the crowd. “I was reassured that it was a person being cut and not the role of principal being cut,” she said, in reference to the district’s expressed commitment of support.
While talk of the school’s future was the main topic, Farallone View teacher Diana Purucker also voiced sadness on seeing not only Gire go, but also at the loss of a total of ten teachers from other schools in the district.
“A lot of teachers are excited about the possibilities, but we’re also sad to see people go,” Purucker said. “There’s a sense of excitement and a sense of loss.”
She also said that she and other teachers were hopeful about what can be accomplished during the time of change. “If anyone can make something of this opportunity, this community can, and the district sounds excited about us reinventing ourselves.”