MUS Latest

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   March 8, 2018
MUS kids enjoyed an “Enchanted Evening” at the Hotel Californian, after the MUS campus was evacuated last week during a storm

On March 5, the Montecito Union School Board voted to move forward with expenditure reductions to help mitigate the reduction in revenue expected from the Montecito mudslides. The exact decrease is not yet known, but it could be as high as 13 percent next school year. 

Superintendent Dr. Anthony Ranii recommended three categories of reductions to the board at the February 20 meeting, and the board approved that tentative plan. The three main categories are: 1) administrative, school, and district support reductions, 2) right sizing staff, and 3) reductions to budget items. Each of these categories requires formal actions in order to take effect, which the board took on Monday. 

When Dr. Ranii was hired last year, his contract stated he would receive a 3-percent increase in salary each year. At Dr. Ranii’s request, the board voted to eliminate the contractual raise and reduce the number of contract days (and salary) for the principal, assistant principal, and chief business official/human resources manager. The board plans to consider reductions to the accountant, purchasing, payroll, and office assistant at a future meeting.  

In addition to a reduction in revenue, the school is facing a decrease in student population; enrollment has dropped 20% over the last seven years, and more decline is expected as a consequence of the mudslide. The board voted Monday to “right size” personnel in 2018-19, or to match the staffing levels to the current numbers of students, bringing the number of classrooms from 26 to 22. “Small class sizes will be maintained at historical levels, with a school-wide average of eighteen students per class,” Dr. Ranii said at the meeting. Instructional aides will also be reduced, which will be voted on at a future meeting.

Montecito Union School Superintendent Anthony Ranii and assistant principal Rusty Ito made it an evening to remember for their daughters

If there are fewer classes, MUS can also reduce “specialist” teachers a commensurate amount. Students will still have Spanish, physical education, English learning (for students whose primary language is not English), library, music, and art, but a lower staffing level is required in order to provide the same experiences to students and the same instructional minutes in these categories.  Education Code requires a preliminary decision be made by March 15, but the board must approve final actions by May 15. While the board voted on the preliminary actions this week, more discussions will continue. The board received public input about MUS’s treasured music program, and many members of the public, as well as board members, want to make sure that the reductions do not take away from this program or any of the other specialist areas. 

One letter from a constituent, whose children attended MUS and whose grandchildren are currently enrolled, pleaded with the board to think twice about making cuts to the music program. “I feel so strongly about the need to maintain the music program in something close to its current form, that I am willing to commit $5,000 toward the music program for the 2018-19 school year,” she wrote in a letter to the board. “I know this is a small amount, but perhaps my gift would encourage others to follow suit.” Dr. Ranii has already begun professional dialogue with the music department and has offered the same process for other departments, as he considers whether these reductions are at the right level. The resolution passed Monday establishes a “floor” for these reductions; the board cannot reduce any teaching area below those levels as it considers the final May 15 decision, but the board can lessen or eliminate those reductions as new information and understanding comes to light. Dr. Ranii will continue working with staff members in the specialist areas to consider what changes, if any, to recommend to the board. He will also take additional parent or public comments as he prepares his recommendation. 

Lastly, board members voted to reduce the 2018-19 budget for technology devices, subscriptions, school materials, and consultants. These changes will be formally considered as part of the annual approval of the budget in May and June. For more information about the budget cut resolutions, visit

Last week, the school, along with the vast majority of Montecito residents, was evacuated during a rainstorm that had the potential to cause debris flow. The evacuation orders nearly forced MUS to cancel one of its most beloved events of the school year: the “Enchanted Evening” (formerly known as the Montecito Union School Father-Daughter Dance). The affair, which took place on Friday, March 2, was originally scheduled to be held at the campus, but the PTA was forced to seek another venue. Hotelier Michael Rosenberg graciously opened the ballroom at the Hotel Californian to host the dance, waiving the venue fee and reducing parking fees for guests. “We have learned in these last few months that there are angels all around us, and the Hotel Californian came to our rescue,” said Dr. Ranii, who attended the dance with his own daughter. 


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