BVH IB community responds to SUHSD administration after proposed IB funding cuts



International Baccalaureate (IB) coordinator, Jared Phelps speaks in front of the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) board on officials on Jan. 28. He expressed his concern regarding the future of his position at Bonita Vista High.

Carina Muniz, News Editor

Among the announcements made on Jan.13, 2020, it was revealed that the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) is planning to completely eliminate funding for the International Baccalaureate (IB) coordinator position at Bonita Vista High (BVH).

Since 2015, funding for the IB had covered all that was needed for the program. However, previous cuts in allocations made in the 2018-2019 school year have taken a toll on the IB program and current IB Coordinator Jared Phelps. Statements that funding is in consideration for complete elimination has encouraged Phelps to defend the position and program.

“I think something really important for people to know is that this is not the first time that this has happened. Years ago, potentially before I even got here, there was one of these big budget crises and there was talk of the IB program being cut,” Phelps said.

In the previous situation, students, parents and community members wrote letters to the BVH school board and spoke “passionately” about the IB program and its purpose on campus. These actions resulted in the district allowing funding for the program to continue. Similar to that situation, now the funding for the IB Coordinator position is at risk of being completely eliminated in the 2020-2021 school year at BVH.

On Jan. 16, 2020, Phelps sent a letter to SUHSD board members to emphasize the importance of the IB program in BVH and share his concerns about eliminating funding for the IB full-time Coordinator position. Throughout the letter, Phelps includes that without the funding for a full-time IB Coordinator position it would be difficult to maintain the program.

“An IB Diploma Program literally cannot exist without a trained, knowledgeable coordinator at its head. A school without a coordinator would be in violation of the requirements to be an IB World School and its status as an IB school would be revoked,” Phelps wrote. “Eliminating funding for a full-time coordinator will destroy the excellence of the IB Program and its capacity to serve a greater community at [BVH].”

Among the statements made in the letter, Phelps added a list of his responsibilities “as stated in [BVH’s] 2017 IB Self-Study.” Moreover, Phelps also added a list of “roles that the IB Coordinator has come to assume and are implied in the job.”

“The letter is really, I believe, a defense of the coordinator position [and] why we need to have a coordinator at our site. I try to write it in such a way that it would make sense to educational professionals, superintendent, teachers, budget analysts and a Board of Directors,” Phelps said. “But also something understood by students, parents [and] community members, so that everyone is able to read the same letter and get the same sense of what’s happening, and the urgency of our action on that matter.”

Phelps has set up a social media campaign ranging across multiple social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, to allow students and teachers to be aware of this new issue. On the “Save IB at BVHS” Facebook Page, Phelps encouraged viewers to S.A.V.E: Share his page, Attend the board meeting happening on Jan. 27. 2020, Voice your support and Educate yourself on the IB. As a result of this campaign, Phelps has already received recognition and support from students, teachers and staff at BVH.

“The IB program was one of, if not my absolute favorite things about attending BVHS. So much work went into making it a good program, and I fully believe that the work deserves to be funded, so students can continue to get the full aid they need to grow,” BVH alumni Emma Rand commented on the “Save IB at BVHS” Facebook Page.

Rand graduated from BVH in the 2017- 2018 school year after participating in the IB program and successfully earned her IB Diploma.

“I saw a post from Mr. Phelps on Facebook and from there went on to check the ‘Save IB at BVHS’ Facebook page to try to learn more about the situation,” Rand said. “Looking through it reminded me of how much the IB program brought to my life and really made me want to speak out to help save the program via helping support the person who runs it.”

Rand also plans on sending the district members a letter about her experiences in the IB, as well as her beliefs as to why the program should remain, to help advocate for the program.

“Work deserves fair compensation, especially when it’s as important (both academically and emotionally) as that of the IB Coordinator, who has a significant hand in the futures of the students in the program,” Rand said.

Kara Barragan
IB student and junior Faith Talamantez stands midsentence at the podium in the SUHSD board room. Talamantez used the time allotted to her to express why she believes the IB program is important.

Like others among the BVH community, senior IB president Timothy Tucker finds this situation to be “unfortunate” and “sad.” In order to help support Phelps and the program, Tucker is participating in student outreach and getting more people involved with the campaign and with the movement.

“I think it’s unfortunate that they proposed these budget cuts and they don’t really understand the repercussions of those actions,” Tucker said. “We can play a part in supporting the district and understanding the repercussions by showing our support [for the IB] and by coming together as a community.”

In his letter, Phelps mentions that eliminating the IB coordinator position would destroy many components of the IB program as well as “destroy authentic learning and holistic growth opportunities afforded to students in the IB Program at [BVH].” Similarly, principal Roman Del Rosario, Ed.D, said the IB Coordinator position is an important asset to the BVH community due to the number of responsibilities and time it takes to run the IB program and ensure its success. Phelps also works to ensure that the IB program continues to be offered at BVH.

“I think there are very few people, myself included, that fully understands the whole scope of what Mr. Phelps does, and I’m in his list of many duties. I do understand more than most of the volume of work that he does, and I just feel tragic that we’re in this situationthat this is being considered because this program is a legacy [in BVH],” Del Rosario said.

As an advocate for the IB program, Del Rosario is working towards a solution to subsidize the program in order for Phelps to earn more allocation. One of the solutions Del Rosario is working on is filling classes to the max amount of students in order to clear classes and use those allocations for Phelps.

“I think [the IB program is] something that the district really needs to think about [in terms of] this expression: sometimes it’s penny wise and pound foolish. What seems like a good idea, in the long run, is not really a good idea. I’m hoping that they see that about this program,” Del Rosario said.

What once used to be a 1.2 allocation—a full-time paying job—has now diminished to 0.6, which means the district now only pays half the amount it takes to fund the IB program and its resources. As a result of this, Phelps must teach two IB math classes in order to make up for the salary that was cut. As of now, Phelps and his supporters plan to protest for the IB coordinator position to remain fully funded and share the letters sent by students, teachers and alumni at the upcoming SUHSD meeting on Monday, Jan. 27.

“I wish that students didn’t have to worry about this. I wish that students could know that all of the programs that they have come to expect will be offered by the school will be offered,” Phelps said. “But the reality is that the cat’s out of the bag, and this knowledge is public. I think it’s important that students, parents and community members know what is potentially being cut so that they can advocate for those things.”


Updated 01/27/2020