TUHSD community protests journalism and Team cuts at board meeting

At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10, the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) board meeting room was packed with over 200 members of the TUHSD community, ready to fight for their future.

On Tuesday, March 3, voters in San Anselmo, Larkspur, and Marin voted against Measure B. The proposed parcel tax of $455 annually for ten years would support the TUHSD budget and maintain the quality of district high schools. 

However, Measure B’s failure to pass forced TUHSD board members to look to cut school programs. Team, a one-year academic and exploratory program open for juniors at Tamiscal High School, and the TUHSD journalism programs, Tam’s The Tam News, Redwood’s The Redwood Bark, and Drake’s own Jolly Roger would be deeply affected.

The release periods for all three newspapers hang in the balance. Each program has one release period, necessary to create print issues. During the release periods, advisers and students prepare the issue and consult with each other. The release periods also allow paste-up, the final process of laying out an issue, to be possible.

“…the truth of the matter is that The Redwood Bark wouldn’t be The Bark without that (release) period… What we’re losing is time and resources,” Redwood Bark Editor-in-Chief Drake Goodman said to the board members at the March 10 meeting.

At the meeting, the school board members voted to provisionally cut these programs to save the district money. These cuts are not final- only provisional. The final, ratifying vote is set for May 15.

Corbett Elsin, the TUHSD Chief Financial Officer, gave a presentation at the meeting to the school board. He informed the board and community of TUHSD’s current budget. Unfortunately, according to Elsin, the budget is already suffering, and projections for the 2020-2021 school year state that the TUHSD district will have a $1.3 million deficit. 

If the parcel tax isn’t renewed, the deficit will decrease to $226,000 for the 2021-2022 school year. However, it will increase to $17.1 million for the 2022-2023 school year. 

Elsin proposed immediate cuts: suspending the Team program at Tamiscal High School, limiting elective choices throughout the district, limiting students to a seven-period school day, suspending the Global Studies release period throughout the district, and suspending the Journalism release periods at Tam, Redwood, and Drake. These cuts would save the district an estimated $406,000. Elsin stated that this is only the beginning of a series of budget cuts and promised to explore further options with a fiscal advisory committee. 

When asked by a board member if targeting release periods is an effective way to cut costs, Eslin replied with, “A release period is like the cost of a class. The average cost of a class or a release period is $30,000 a year So, if that’s a direction the board would like us to look into, we can certainly bring that back as well.”

Ryo Weng, senior and Editor-in-Chief of The Bark, argues that the district is cutting the wrong release period. Weng believes it would be beneficial to look into cutting leadership release periods, rather than journalism. 

“From personal experience, I have been involved in student government and leadership all four years at Redwood, and I’ve been to the leadership release periods three times in my four years. Once to pick up keys for the student store, once to return the keys to the student store, and once to find out if I won an ASB election… From my first hand experience, the journalism release period is a much more beneficial time for students and is essential for the program compared to the other release periods in my other classes.” Weng said.

Many other concerned community members passionately protested these program cuts at the board meeting. Over 200 students, teachers, parents, and other members of the TUHSD community held signs, delivered zealous speeches, and stood united against these drastic measures. 

“I had no plan to live past high school. Now look where I am: happy, active, and having the will to live. This is all due to Team…Who knows how many more lives will be saved by this program,” Team student Hudson Guerro said.

Another Team student, Selena Valdivia, argued for the future of this influential program. “Team has taught me to be more open minded, and to appreciate everything and everyone around me. It has given life a new purpose for me…It would be an injustice to our community to deprive future generations from all this program has taught and shown me,” Valdivia said.

There were so many in attendance that the county fire marshall ordered a headcount, and moved almost half the attendees outside to appease fire codes. 

“The fact that so many people remained at the meeting despite having to stand outside and listen through speakers demonstrates how important these issues are to the community,” Drake student trustee Matty Daragh-Ford said.

The astounding attendance from students, staff, parents, and concerned community members have shown that Team, The Redwood Bark, The Tam News, and The Jolly Roger are influential to TUHSD schools and students. Although the board has already voted to make these cuts provisionally, the protest from the TUHSD community has just begun.