Monday, June 25 , 2018, 2:19 am | Overcast 63º

 
 
 
 

School Budget Cuts Include District’s ‘Toughest’ Administrator

Bud Andrews' position overseeing safety, welfare and attendance will be eliminated and his responsibilities shifted elsewhere

The Santa Barbara school board cut $6 million from the district’s budget last week with a long list of eliminations that included positions, programs and maintenance.

Meet No. 19 on the list: the district’s safety, welfare and attendance administrator.

Bud Andrews definitely has, as he says, a law enforcement feel about him — unlike anyone else in the district office. He is a former Army officer and licensed private investigator, and he keeps his work phone in a leather holster of sorts on his belt.

Appropriately, he is in charge of the newly implemented truancy program, suspensions and expulsions, residency verifications and, occasionally, being present just in case a situation gets out of control.

“I’ve literally been ready to physically restrain somebody,” he said. “Emotions can get heightened … you’re talking about somebody’s children.”

The school board voted to eliminate his position, and his responsibilities are slated to slide onto the plate of Michael Gonzalez, the director of student services and compliance. This year, Andrews volunteered to go to 60 percent of full time, with a salary of about $82,000.

Andrews first came to the district as a part-time administrator and part-time assistant principal. He started working full time in the district office after restructuring left Gonzalez with too much on his plate, he said.

Now, it seems the responsibilities are all switching back.

“How do you go to someone who’s busy and say, not, here’s another task,” Andrews said, “but here’s another job?”

But one part of Andrews’ job — residency verifications — has been passed on to an outside party.

Since the elementary district operates on basic aid funding — from property taxes within the district’s boundaries — it has closed its doors to those who live outside the district. For the past year, a large part of Andrews’ job has been to investigate suspicious enrollments.

“It’s the one position in the district that can pay for itself,” he said. 

He has found eight fraudulent enrollments this year. For each student who is fraudulently enrolled and subsequently sent to his or her home district, the district saves at least $5,000 per year, fiscal services director Meg Jette said.

The district recognizes the value of the investigations and has contracted with a nondistrict private investigator for $10,000 to go through a list of about 150 students to investigate, Jette said. The secondary district will enact the same policy next year, she said.

Besides putting his private-investigator license to use, Andrews oversees the expulsion process and newly implemented truancy program.

Principals recommend a student for expulsion — selling marijuana or having weapons are automatic recommendations for expulsion — and Andrews handles the pre-hearings, meetings and the panel, presents the cases to the school board in closed sessions and places the expelled students in other schools. Students can be expelled or receive suspended expulsions, which are a probation of sorts.

There was no truancy program last year because of a lack of funding, but a new program was implemented in January, though it no longer includes a partnership with the county or the District Attorney’s Office. It’s unclear who — if anyone — will take over the four-step attendance support program next year.

Andrews’ job also requires a good working relationship with local police and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. Both San Marcos and Dos Pueblos high schools have on-site resource deputies. The remaining schools — for both the elementary and secondary districts — have one resource officer from the police department, although he’s recently been on medical leave.

Students who get into serious trouble go through two paths of consequences: the expulsion process and the court system. Even if charges are dropped, the school district goes ahead with the expulsion process.

Andrews said he has been particularly involved lately with the issue of marijuana in schools. He has attended many Ordinance Committee and City Council meetings regarding medical-marijuana dispensaries and said he is “so glad” the ordinance was sent back for further discussion before being adopted.

As well as personally opposing the facilities, he said he’s concerned that city officials “literally completely ignored” the school board’s recommendations regarding dispensaries, which included a buffer zone of 1,000 feet and notification to the school district whenever a new one opens.

School district administrators have confiscated numerous dispensary products from students, including marijuana in pill bottle-like containers and labeled edible products. Edibles are a particular concern because of their discretion.

“I know dope when I see it,” Andrews said. “I can recognize a student under the influence, but then it’s too late.”

Andrews most likely will become an assistant principal or the like, which he accepts, but he insists his position needs to be saved.

“Michael’s job deals with complicated, sensitive, timely issues, and he’s extremely knowledgeable with compliance issues,” he said. “No matter how good he is, he can’t do both jobs.”

Gonzalez’s salary is $136,632, the fifth-highest in the district office. He oversees compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and other regulations. He also oversees compliance with the English Learner Advisory Committee, and organizes the staff in-service training programs, administrative hearing panel and Safe School Plan.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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