Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Cary Matsuoka and Assistant Supeintendent of Secondary Education, Shawn Carey.
Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Cary Matsuoka, left, said Tuesday night he wishes his district had the same funding per student as the Goleta Union School District. Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education, Shawn Carey, looks on. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Unified School District is “Latino-dominant” and is “not a high-wealth district,” according to data presented at Tuesday night’s board of trustees meeting.

The district is 60 percent Latino overall, and the nine elementary schools are 73 percent Latino. 

About 58 percent of the district’s 13,480 students are considered socio-economically disadvantaged. 

The district also released details about its state funding per student annually.

The District receives about $12,747 annually per student, which is 1 percent above the state average. 

“The perception of us as a high-wealth setting is that we are a high-wealth district,” Superintendent Cary Matsuoka told the board. “We are right at the state average.”

He grumbled that the Goleta Union School District receives more funding per student, and noted that he recently toured the Goleta district and could see and feel the difference in funding in the classroom.

He said the disparity in the two districts is about $27 million and that Santa Barbara Unified could do much more if it had that money. 

“As our community asks questions about how we spend our money, I want everyone to understand the context in which we work and serve,” said Matsuoka, who added that he was surprised to learn about the district’s demographics. 

His comments sparked responses from board members Kate Ford and Laura Capps, who said that rather than complain about getting less money than Goleta Union, district administrators need to look at schools with similar funding to learn what they are doing. 

“It is a reality how much money we get per pupil,” Capps said. “Let’s pick out some good high-achieving schools and find out what successes are out there.”

Ford said teachers and people in the community are not surprised to know that Santa Barbara is 60 percent Latino and there’s a high rate of poverty in the district.

“For me, data doesn’t mean anything until I take the data and make some decisions,” Ford said. “Are we doing everything we can to make sure students are successful? I want the answer to be ‘yes.’”

Those whose first language was other than English account for 58 percent of the student population in the district’s elementary schools. 

Matsuoka also noted that Santa Barbara County has the highest rate of homelessness, about 14.3 percent, of the 58 counties in the state.

“It’s the conditions of challenged housing,” Matsuoka said. “We all know Santa Barbara is an expensive place.”

He said homelessness doesn’t necessarily mean living in cars, but “a distressed housing environment with three families in a household.”

Solar Power

The Santa Barbara Unified School District is considering a $40 million proposal to install solar energy, battery storage and electrical vehicle charging stations across the district. 

The district is studying a joint power purchase agreement to fund the project. 

The district wants to install underground infrastructure and build out electric vehicle charging stations as the demand increases.

According to the plan, the district would contract with a company that would build and manage the system. The district would buy the electricity from the company for a period of time, about 25 years.

The company would receive money from district payments, and the district hopes to save electricity costs over time. 

Craig Lewis, a resident of Santa Barbara and executive director of nonprofit environmental group Clean Coalition, said at the meeting he supports the district’s direction. 

“I urge the board to move this proposal forward as fast as possible,” Lewis said. “The schools are overdue.

“This is visionary,” Matsuoka said. “This is solar energy on every possible rooftop and parking lot.”

Matsuoka acknowledged the cost.

“This is a lot of money,” Matsuoka said. 

The district plans to put out a request for proposals between January and March of next year to find a company to partner with.

Capps called the proposal “thrilling.”

Superintendent Search

The school district plans to release a request for proposals in anticipation of finding a new superintendent. Current superintendent Matsuoka plans to retire in June 2020.

According to the timeline, the district plans to send a request-for-proposals letter out to search firms on Wednesday, Nov. 13. Proposals from the search firms must be received by 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019.

The board will interview firms on Jan. 14, 2020, and then select a firm to find a new superintendent. 

“This is the most important role this board will play to select the next superintendent,” Capps said.

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