Dulles Elementary gets 3 years to improve enrollment

NORWALK - Dulles Elementary will remain open at least three more years after a last-minute reprieve from the Norwalk-La Mirada board of education Tuesday.The school board saved the school from closure after hearing new projected budget figures but stipulated that the school hire a full-time principal. Dulles, located in La Mirada, currently shares a principal with Foster Road Elementary. School district officials notified parents last month that it intended to close Dulles in June due to declining enrollment numbers. The school has 268 students - about half its capacity - and maintaining the campus is difficult and expensive, said superintendent Dr. Ruth Perez. Dulles students would have been transferred to La Pluma and Eastwood elementary schools. But district officials received positive news last week when Gov. Jerry Brown released his proposed 2013-14 budget, which calls for the first increase in educational funding in five years, thanks in large part to the passage of Prop. 30 in November. Based on the new information, Perez recommended the board wait "another year or two to allow Dulles to rebuild itself." Board member Darryl Adams said the school should remain open at least three years to give the new principal enough time to improve its enrollment numbers. A three-year commitment will also take parents "off an emotional roller coaster," said Adams, noting that the school district has threatened to close Dulles in the past. "Dulles has more lives than a cat," Adams quipped. Hundreds of parents packed the school board meeting in support of Dulles and erupted in applause after the unanimous 7-0 vote. "Now it's time to bring up those enrollment numbers," supporter Mary Bielemeyer wrote on the Norwalk Business Call's Facebook page. "Dulles is a wonderful little school tucked into (a) great neighborhood. Hoping to see lots of new faces next year so we can prove that Dulles was worth saving. I am proud of the Dulles community!" According to Estuardo Santillan, the school district's assistant superintendent of business services, Norwalk-La Mirada Unified expects to receive from the state $18 million more than originally anticipated in three years, even when factoring in a cost of living increase for teachers. He cautioned, however, that the spending plan still requires approval from legislators later this spring and is susceptible to factors such as the economy and rising healthcare costs. Board members Ana Valencia and Margarita Rios were cautious about the budget figures but said they were pulling for Dulles. "There are no guarantees with numbers," Rios said. "But if we're making the commitment to keep one school open, we're committing to keep all schools open, whether that's in Norwalk or La Mirada." Perez, the superintendent, said parents will be involved in selecting the new principal. She also encouraged parents to recruit more students to Dulles. Local parents said they were already working on ways to help the school long-term. "We will try our very best to get a principal that works well with us parents," a Facebook page named Save Dulles posted Tuesday night. "We will then increase enrollment at Dulles through different avenues. And in three years, the board will not even consider closing it." Nearly 2,000 people signed a petition to keep Dulles open, parents said.

********** Published: January 24, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 41