Budget cuts impact daily student and teacher life

Martha Fishburne

In Feb. 2019, the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) board passed a budget reductions proposal for the 2019-2020 school year, predicted to save $2.84 million. TUHSD is a Basic Aid district, meaning it receives most of its funding from property taxes rather than from the state. Unfortunately, that funding does not correspond accurately with the large influx of new students. 

The effects of these cuts at Redwood are now visible in the larger class sizes, fewer teachers and classified staff and decreased funding to some aspects of student resources. 

AP Biology and Living Earth teacher Amy Mastromonaco finds that one of the biggest difficulties is the larger class sizes. 

Overcrowding in classes caused by the recent budget cuts

“I still don’t know all my students’ names, and I would like to get to know them better on a one-on-one level but I don’t have the time. I also am not able to give such great feedback because time is of the essence,” Mastromonaco said.

Kristi Perani, a Physics in the Universe teacher, also faces these challenges. This year, Perani is currently teaching in a classroom that was originally not intended for her subject so it lacks many components needed for a science class, including a prep room, adequate outlets for labs and a demonstration table. 

“Now I have 34 kids and it’s harder… I’ve fortunately been able to get some TA’s, but still I have to make sure the kids are helping each other more because it’s harder for me to get around to every kid,” Perani said.

Jennifer Kenny-Baum, the Wellness Coordinator for the Redwood Wellness Center, also recognizes that as enrollment rates rise over the next couple of years and the TUHSD budget remains the same, the Wellness Center staff may have a harder time meeting the needs of an increased student population.

“[The staff is] not growing, and I think that’s a real challenge for a lot of people in their positions,” Kenny-Baum said. “Maybe you had 1,800 students and now there’s 2,100. Whatever the large growth might be, there’s that many more students who are going to have that many more needs and we don’t have the ability to grow with them.” 

Cuts to support staff have also been made, limiting resources and valuable workspace for students on campus. 

Principal David Sondheim agrees that the budget cuts will have some immediate effects on students and faculty at Redwood and the long term impact will not be known until budget cuts have been in place for a while. 

“I think time will tell as to what the impact on students will be,” Sondheim said. “They’ll certainly see more students in their classes. We have larger class sizes than we’ve had before. Beyond that, some services students may want—whether it’s changing classes or getting transcripts, stuff like that may take a little longer than it would have before.” 

However, Kenny-Baum also recognizes the importance of student feedback. 

“Student input really matters in the process. One of the things that made a real difference for us was students who heard about the initial cuts and got involved… and I really think that is in part what turned people’s ideas around,” Kenny-Baum said.