In the annual meeting between the Goleta City Council and Santa Barbara Unified School District, both entities emphasized the importance of being more engaged with their communities on their own, and together through more collaborative efforts. 

Every year, the two groups meet to catch up on the city and its two SBUSD schools — Goleta Valley Junior High and Dos Pueblos High School.

Superintendent Dave Cash talked about the district’s strategic plan with specific goals and action steps for the next three years to make students more ready for life, college and careers.

“I believe that there are multiple pathways for student success … really what we want are happy, productive people when they leave school,” he said. “Not everyone needs to go to Harvard University and get a BA. We want some to do that, of course, but not everybody needs to do that.”

The entire community will benefit from eliminating the achievement gap as well, he said.

“We have to be firmly committed to that because nothing good is going to happen for our community until every student who leaves our system becomes a productive member of our community,” Cash said.

He said implementing the new Common Core Standards will be a big part of that, since it focuses more on critical thinking and problem solving than knowledge acquisition.

“It’s a change in education that’s really being led by teachers because the greatest impact is going to occur in the classroom,” Cash said.

The strategic plan also has goals for transparency, accessibility and reaching out to families.

“Schools should be the centers of these neighborhoods,” he said.

The new truancy program is embracing this wider approach, too, with disciplining habitual and chronic truant students. The process had intervention steps that incorporate a student’s parents, teachers, administrators, community groups and counselors, not just a District Attorney’s Office representative.

Truancy rates across the county spiked 48 percent when the former program was axed in 2008 due to budget cuts, and a version of that program came back earlier this year.

SBUSD has only been using the program and the School Attendance Review Boards for 2½ months, but pupil services director Marlin Sumpter rates it a success so far. Chronic truants are still having problems, but habitual truants — who are late or absent less often — show improvement, he added in a report to the meeting.

The school resource officer for Dos Pueblos, Deputy George Hedricks of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, also weighed in on the campus’ discipline.

Most importantly, he said, he has created strong relationships with the school staff, students, parents and residents of the neighborhood.

“Walking around the campus is the biggest thing I do,” Hedricks said. “With that, I’ve found that an SRO wears many caps: I’m a mentor, a counselor, I do sports coaching (baseball) and, when I have to be, a disciplinarian.”

Dos Pueblos and other schools have started implementing drug dogs, and though alcohol, marijuana and tobacco are issues, the success of the dogs is questionable.

The students are “pretty savvy,” he said. Though the dogs definitely are a deterrent to bring drugs on campus, students tend to get around the rules by keeping contraband in their cars and parking their cars off campus, where they can’t be searched, he said.

With two new members on the district’s board since last year, Goleta City Manager Dan Singer briefly went over the city’s finances.

The Board of Education asked specifically about the revenue neutrality agreement with Santa Barbara County and the future of redevelopment in Old Town — both sore subjects with the City of Goleta right now.

The agreement with the county — negotiated when Goleta incorporated — gives away half of the city’s property taxes and a portion of its sales tax revenues in perpetuity, which puts them at a big disadvantage, Singer said.

Goleta used to give even more, but the “mitigation period” ended 10 years in, last July.

“In our case, we have what’s largely considered the worst RNA,” Singer said.

The idea behind such agreements is to make counties “whole” in revenues when cities incorporate, but a financial analysis found that figure to be $3.5 million. By choosing to use major tax percentages instead of that number, the city had to pay $5.1 million just in its first year, which grew over time to more than $8 million per year, Singer added.

“It leaves us at a significant disadvantage in terms of services to our residents and visitors,” he said. “The city expects overall revenue to be $20 million this year … think what the city could do with $25 million.”

School board member Pedro Paz asked about the plans for revitalizing Old Town Goleta without the Redevelopment Agency, which is a question council members have been dealing with since the RDA was dissolved last year.

Councilmen Michael Bennett and Jim Farr will be tackling the issue as part of their work in the Economic Development Committee, and will report back to council regularly.

“Now we have to use citywide funds instead of funds just for that particular district,” Mayor Roger Aceves said. “It’s a question of prioritization; we all ran on the goal of revitalizing Old Town so that is still our highest priority, but we still certainly have some challenges.”

Another blow came as recently as Tuesday: The California Department of Finance denied just over $18 million in funding necessary to finish the San Jose Creek restoration project, which could impact the ability to finish the project this year as planned.

The state is disputing more than $18 million, $14 million of which is related to redevelopment bond proceeds.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.