The Sonoma Valley Unified School District’s agenda for the coming year looks rather daunting – cut $2 million from the budget now and maybe another $1 million later and hire a permanent district superintendent.
And it’s only January.
But Britta Johnson, who was elected school board president in December, isn’t ruffled.
“We’ve got to put the district on good, secure financial footing,” Johnson said. “And I think we’ve got the right people in place.”
Interim Superintendent Chuck Young – former longtime chancellor at the University of California Los Angeles – balanced the budget every year he was at UCLA, and the district recently hired Petaluma resident Bruce Abbott as associate superintendent of business services.
The board, which got a look at the proposed cuts last week, will have to make $2 million in cuts at its next meeting on Jan. 16.
“This will be the first step in ensuring the long-term (financial) health of the district,” Johnson said.
She was appointed to the board in March 2015 when Helen Marsh stepped down, and ran unopposed in 2016.
While she’s been on the board less than three years, her connection with the district goes back more than a decade.
In 2013, she was a co-creator – with Megan Kaplan and Laura Stanfield – and project manager of the district’s IChoose campaign that features banners with SVHS grads and included a billboard, newspaper ads, school brochures and public service shorts at the local cinema; was creator, co-chair and project manager of the Love Our Libraries project in 2005 and 2006 which raised funds to keep the district’s libraries open during a budget cutback; planned and executed the website redesign for Sonoma Valley High in 2010, and did the same for Altimira and Adele Harrison middle schools in 2012. And from 2001 to 2012, she was the creator and chair of Prestwood Direct, the elementary school’s fundraising campaign.
“The IChoose campaign was about finding success through more than one pathway,” she said. “It put faces out into the community. These are great kids from great families and its finding success in our schools.”
She is a strong proponent of public education.
“I believe in public schools,” she said. “They’re the fabric of our community.”
As the district gets its budget woes straightened out, it’ll also be looking for a superintendent. According to the timetable, the district could hire a superintendent late this spring and have the new hire start the first of July.
“We have great people who will help attract a superintendent,” she said. “I can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t want to work here.”
The board hired Leadership Associates, a search firm it used in 2008.
“They put together a great proposal,” Johnson said. “But if we don’t find someone we like, we won’t make an offer.”
She’s impressed with the main recruiter, Rich Thome, who is a native Spanish speaker. “We want to make sure we’re thoughtful in getting input from the Latino community.”
The firm will go out and recruit and look for someone who isn’t necessarily in the job market. Over the course of the search, the firm will meet with the board, district staff and stakeholders.
“And there’s going to be a survey on the district website in both English and Spanish,” she added.
Britta Johnson balances the demands of serving as a SVUSD board trustee with her long-time, full-time job as a sales rep with the Harward-based Laboratory Equipment Company.