By Amanda Godfrey
and Chandler Beon
The Mirror Staff
“Look at the number of kids who are in anything. Whenever they graduate, during the graduation ceremony,
I say, ‘raise your hand or stand up if you were a part of anything.’ Almost every kid stands up.”
Where Does the Money Go?
Running Van Nuys High School is expensive and complicated. Here’s how the money gets spent.
Programs, sports, food, faculty.
They all require money to function and build a stable school environment for students to learn and grow.
Jerseys for a sports team, upgraded computers for a class, or a program like JROTC are all available due to the different funds offered to the school through LAUSD, the state and federal programs.
With over 200 workers and 2600 students, Van Nuys High School uses an immense ammount of money to support the school – over $12 million dollars.
Principal Yolanda Gardea and school administrators manage these finances, making sure not to overdraw and overspend. There are also certain guidelines for spending money from each of the different funds.
A school-site council and a school-based management committee, which consists of students, teachers, and parents, ensure the school’s money is properly spent. Expenditures are distributed to these councils for discussion and are available to the public through the LAUSD website.
Partly responsible for tracking all expenses, Assistant Principal Marc Strassner also assists the principal, making sure the school does not overspend.
“Every now and then, Mr. Strassner would sit me down and say ‘Okay, you just okayed $30,000 of whatever’ and makes sure to keep me in check,” explained Ms. Gardea.
Title I money, overseen by Athletics Director Dan Levy, is federally funded money and has very strict regulations, so it is typically used to pay employees. About 95% of the school budget overall is for payroll.
General funds and Targeted Student Population (TSP) funds are more flexible and are spent on any needs. Most of the money that isn’t used one year for the general fund rolls over to the next.
In her first year as principal, the 2013-14 school year, Ms. Gardea used rolled over general funds to purchase new laptops for all teachers.
“I bought all of the teachers a new laptop, bought LCD projectors, upgraded all their technology because they hadn’t had anything new in 8 or 9 years. They were using really old stuff.”
She encourages teachers to ask for supplies and necessities for their program or classroom. She emphasizes that students should not be charged for things and that teachers shouldn’t be using their own money to support their program.
“JROTC this last year, I found out, that the Sergeant and Colonel were paying out of their own pocket for awards, so I reimbursed them and chastised them not to do that again. I’m trying my best to give the kids what they need,” Ms. Gardea said.
The TSP funds, earmarked for English language learner programs, are handled by Bilingual Coordinator Emma Martinez. This money was recently used to purchase chromebook carts that will soon appear in classrooms. Hundred of thousands of dollars were also used to upgrade most of the computer labs in the school.
Ms. Gardea also decided to spend some of the general funds to make a new promotional video in order to attract new students.
“The district has been sending many kids to charter schools and private schools so I recently had a video made. That costed a lot of money and it was professionally done by an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker.”
Other sources contribute to the funds used to run the school. Other forms of business allow the school to amass money for the students.
Van Nuys High School earns money from the filming of shows and commercial advertisements. The school uses these filming funds to supply any items that the students can keep, which is something that the other funding sources do not allow.
“If I wanted to be able to buy sweatsuits for the football team and have them be able to keep them, then I am able to do it with the other money,” explained Ms. Gardea.
Even though the school administration adequately manages most funding needs, there is a way students can help make more money for the school.
“Coming to school everyday and every period. That’s how we generate money. And when kids are absent, they don’t realize, even for a period, that it takes money away from the school,” Ms. Gardea said.
LAUSD currently has a 96% attendance rate. Raising the percentage up by a single percentage point could potentially add another $60 million to the district budget.
Students can also assist funding the school by simply taking advantage of Breakfast in the Classroom every day. For every student served, which is now over 70% of the student body, the school earns a small amount.
The money generated by Breakfast in the Classroom is allocated to the school’s leadership program, the Associated Student Body, which uses the funds to plan and hold events and dances for the students.
Most of the events, equipment, and programs for Van Nuys High School students tap into the school’s financial reserves.
Ms. Gardea hopes that understanding the school’s financial information will help students gain a new perspective on the school’s operation.
“They might realize when they’re 25 years old, ‘Wow I went to a really great school. I blew it, I should’ve taken an advantage of everything there.’”
But, she believes most of the students appreciate and take advantage of the programs and activities that Van Nuys High School has to offer.
“Look at the number of kids who are in anything. Whenever they graduate, during the graduation ceremony, I say, ‘stand up if you were a part of anything.’ Almost every kid stands up,” she said.
Ms. Gardea hopes to distribute all the funds to every part of the school to support it.
“I just try to give them the best school I possibly can. Through my actions, I show that I care and if people care to watch, then good.”