News

School board sadly accepts bad scenario

Red ink will lead to pink slips for teachers, others

With a dark and stormy night approaching on Friday the 13th, the PowerPointing was on the wall.

Blocks of color and rows of dollar amounts illustrated the deep budget cuts coming to the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. The school board kept them all in play, with layoff notices to teachers and other certificated employees preeminent.

"We should plan for the worse and hope for the best," said Superintendent Steven Enoch as he briefed the board on the list of 29 cuts at the workshop.

The "worse" means assuming reduced revenue from the state, expiration of the parcel tax, and no concessions from employees.

"The employee groups have not come forward with any concessions," said Trustee Greg Marvel after the meeting. He thinks they are awaiting the results of the parcel tax measure in early May.

"It would not be good to have reserves and ask the voters to approve a parcel tax," Darren Day, president of the San Ramon Education Association, told the board at the Feb. 13 workshop. The association represents teachers and other certificated employees.

The district has $11 million in "unencumbered reserves" to use for any educational purpose. If and how to use it, and other reserves, was an issue.

Marvel had warned of using too much of the $11 million and was adamant about not using any of a state-mandated Economic Uncertainty reserve of 3 percent. Districts might be allowed to use those reserves.

"Use now and pay later," said Board President Bill Clarkson, noting the state would require the district to replace the reserve.

In a reversal, Marvel supported using half of it, as long as some of the unencumbered reserve was kept for unforeseen expenses that come up before the board each year.

"Would you be comfortable with $1 million?" Board Member Rachel Hurd asked Marvel.

"Yes," he said, and the work of the workshop/special board meeting was essentially done, with $1 million kept in reserve and the board instructing Enoch to bring the resolution for massive layoffs of certificated employees to the board Feb. 28.

For the school year 2009-10, the preliminary notices must be delivered by March 15. Other employees must be given at least 45 days notice.

For the year ending in June, revenue loss could be covered by using $7.3 million of the reserve. For 2009-10, $2.5 million of the reserve would be used, depleting all but $1 million of it, resulting in needed reductions of $16 million in 2009-10. The amount of proposed cuts would increase to $21 million in 2010-11.

The cuts range from belt tightening to strangleholds, with the largest cut being $2.5 million by increasing high school class size and the smallest cut being $40,000 to move the Facilities Department to district property.

All 29 changes, including the following, remain under serious consideration:

* larger classes

* some classes may be eliminated

* no crossing guards

* swimming pools not heated in December and January

* no fifth-grade music

* managers forced to take furloughs

* maintenance and custodial service reduced

* no stipends for coaches, band and art instructors

Uncertainties remain such as the state budget, help coming through the state via the federal stimulus package, and the results of the parcel tax election in May. In the cuts was a section called "Other Possible Considerations," which included further increases in class sizes and school closures.

Comments

Posted by Kathy Leonard, a resident of Charlotte Wood Middle School
on Feb 23, 2009 at 8:46 am

I am writing today to express my concerns about the SRVUSD budget cutbacks particularly in the area of counseling. I am the mother of an 8th grade student at Charlotte Wood Middle School and I would like to showcase what I think is a crucial component of the academic success in the SRVUSD.
In the 7th grade the counseling department met with each student individually and completed a very comprehensive review regarding progress toward promotion/graduation from middle school and their goals for career planning as they relate to specific test scores, grades, strengths, challenges, and interests. The students were made aware and given an overview of the proper courses to prepare for college preparatory programs at the high school level. Each student came home with a folder of personal records (containing numerous counselor hand written notes), test scores, conference forms and a compilation of information with reference guides in all areas of education and career planning.
In the 8th grade the counseling department gave a presentation in each student's classroom, and handed out and did some exercises in the booklet "Getting Ready for High School". They also covered HS graduation requirements; information on passing the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), college entrance requirements; types of jobs i.e. minimum wage, trades, college required careers; salary ranges and looked at the website www.cacarrerzone.org that talked about the cost of living. My son came home from school and immediately opened the website and figured out what certain lifestyle choices cost; really opened his eyes! Mine, too!
I cannot even begin to tell you how effective and crucial this information is to my son and all of our students' success. The information was presented in an interesting way and sparked my son's imagination by planting the seed of the all important "future awareness".
Because educational paths and career strategies have become increasingly challenging and complicated, counseling is absolutely key for the future. The years of academics, art, music and physical education that go into making our students unique and ready to take on the world will be wasted if there aren't counselors guiding the students and their families in the right direction for success.

Sincerely,
Kathy Leonard


Posted by Disappointed Taxpayer, a resident of Danville
on Feb 27, 2009 at 9:16 am

It seems the deepest cuts are being made where they will hurt the most and ultimately the students suffer the lifelong consequences.

If they are really serious about making deep cuts, they should look much more broadly than they are now. If you consolidate the closest four school districts, you can get rid of three school boards, three superintendents, three district offices, three sets of district administrations, etc. before you impact the classroom experience of a single student. This is what happens in the business world - consolidate, then get rid of duplication.


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