Kettler to close its doors

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Lauren Vane

Kettler Elementary students will be learning their way around new

campuses next fall after the Huntington Beach City School District

Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to close the school because of

declining enrollment, and as part of $2 million in cost-cutting


Still to come is whether teachers and employees will face salary

cuts, a looming decision that had lines of protesters out in force.

The crowd of about 300, though, was silent and Kettler teachers

stood in the back of the room, arm in arm, as they listened to the

board give the 3-2 vote to close their school.

“I’m sad it’s ours,” said Kettler Principal Olivia Gaddini.

Although she hoped that her school would not be chosen, Gaddini

said she understood the district’s difficult financial position and

knew that school closures were necessary.

“This is a tough evening for all of us and it’s a very

disappointing evening for me,” said interim Supt. Duane Dishno.

Dishno advised that Kettler be closed due to declining enrollment

and the pressing need for the district to restore $2 million to its

budget. In addition to approving Dishno’s recommendation, the board

also agreed to close the district offices at the Le Bard site, and

relocate the offices to space at Perry Elementary.

The board will decide at an upcoming meeting whether to sell or

lease the properties, said board President Cathy McGough.

“I’m in favor of this move because I think it’s necessary,” said

trustee Celia Jaffe.

The closure of the school will be effective in the fall. Students,

who this year number more than 500, will be relocated to Smith, Eader

and Peterson elementary schools.

Peterson also faced possible closure.

Community members have known for some time that a decision would

be made regarding school closures. Davis Demographics reported

declining enrollment to the board last year, and a demographics

committee advised that the district close Peterson and Kettler. At a

Feb. 15 board meeting, former Supt. Gary Rutherford recommended

closing two elementary schools, although he did not specify which


Although closing Kettler will save the district $340,000, the

decision would have needed to happen regardless of the budget

situation, said Asst. Supt. David Perry. In a report given last

August, Davis Demographics told the board that the district could

expect a decrease of 770 students over the next seven years, a number

equivalent to at least one school, Dishno said.

Kettler teachers will not lose their jobs due to the closure; they

will be reassigned to other schools, Perry said. However, other staff

positions could face elimination during school consolidation.

The closure of Kettler will help the district climb out of

financial crisis, but additional cost-saving measures have also been

suggested. Before leaving, Rutherford recommended that the board cut

employees’ salaries by 4%, an issue that will be discussed at the

March 15 board meeting.

Teachers and district employees weren’t waiting for that meeting,

however, as they lined the sidewalk in front of the district

headquarters Tuesday night and picketed against the possible salary


“We’re not going to take a pay cut, that’s why we’re here,” said

Julie Austin, a first-grade teacher at Moffett Elementary. “I’m a

single mom, I can’t afford to live in the city and work in the city

if they cut my pay.”

Mary Jane Blakeslee, also a first-grade teacher at Moffett, said

the salary cuts are frightening as she faces retirement.

“With a cut in my pay I’m looking at extending my teaching after

37 years,” Blakeslee said.

There won’t be any extension for Kettler students.

Kettler students were aware of the possible decision to close

their school, Gaddini said. Now that the decision is final, Gaddini

must tell her students that they will have to say goodbye to Kettler.

“We’ll tell them [the students] that they’ll have an adventure of

going to a new school next year,” Gaddini said.

* LAUREN VANE covers education and crime. She can be reached at

(714) 966-4610 or