Updated: Fri, Mar 6, 2009, 10:25 am
Uploaded: Thu, Mar 5, 2009, 11:48 am
School district's red ink brings pink slips
Layoff notices for 137 teachers, librarians, counselors
By a unanimous vote Tuesday, the San Ramon Valley school board ordered the elimination and reduction of many programs, resulting in layoff notices for 137 teachers and others such as librarians and counselors who have teaching credentials.
"These are not people on a list, these are friends and neighbors and people we go to church with," said Board President Bill Clarkson.
"None of this matters one iota to anybody getting a layoff notice," said Superintendent Steven Enoch, before his line-by-line briefing on more than 20 areas to be cut as listed on a "Multi-Year General Fund Summary."
The summary is the latest of several documents prepared by Assistant Superintendent, Business, Gary Black. Although it was still bad news, the summary showed lower deficits for the next three years than did its predecessors.
This was accomplished primarily by use of $2 million that was in accounts for "Categoricals," which are state-mandated programs. The state recently gave school districts flexibility in the use of these funds, meaning the district could use the money for any educational purpose.
The downside of this is that the state could change its mind and say, "Put it back."
The flexibility means 137 layoffs in the district instead of the more than 200 previously anticipated. Assistant Superintendent Roberta Silverstein is in charge of sending the notices who said they are not sent out every year. Her task is complicated but the primary guideline is that it be by inverse seniority.
"On March 10 we will come to the board with the actual number of certificated layoff notices," said district spokesman Terry Koehne.
Silverstein said some districts mail their notices, but the San Ramon Valley district will deliver them personally. The deadline for delivering the notifications is March 13, which would have placed a lot of trust in the postal system if they were mailed.
Depending on the parcel tax being voted on May and the state vote on budget cuts, some of these positions may be reinstated.
Koehne estimated that 200 people attended the March 3 meeting in the common room at the San Ramon Valley High School.
Many who spoke urged the board to keep music programs.
"We are killing fifth-grade music," said high school music teacher and band leader Cheryl Yee Glass.
Others who addressed the school board said it's a proven fact that students involved in music do better in school all around, and that the arts is a state-mandated program and funding must stay.
Claudia Schwarz said she helps in the classrooms where her children are taught and asked that the K-3 student-to-teacher ration be set at 22-to-1 rather than the proposed 24-to-1.
Two funding items are critical under the proposed cuts. The unencumbered reserve of $11 million would be depleted over a five-year period starting in 2008-09. Nobody likes that, but, said Enoch, "Desperate times call for desperate measures."
Board members Clarkson, Paul Gardner, Rachel Hurd, Greg Marvel and Ken Mintz, and Enoch all said passing of the long-term parcel tax in May is essential. Each year for the next three years the parcel tax would yield an amount close to the estimated deficit.
Posted by Anonymous,
a resident of Danville
on Mar 9, 2009 at 4:25 pm
I didn't vote for the last parcel tax -- there, I said it. Now let me tell you why. I know a little bit too much about how the money flows in this district, and it isn't always pretty. I have been at countless PTA, Education Fund and Site Council meetings, and have been actively involved in the schools for over 7 years. Often times, I would hear the phrases, "we've always done it this way," "last year, we . . .," or "that won't work because. . . "
I think many parents fear standing up and really being heard because they fear repercussions from the school. Yes, that's right, if you actively and open oppose the status quo, it's not a pretty picture. Why do you think this is submitted anonymously?
I'm all for go along to get along . . . EXCEPT when it comes to my kids and the quality of their education.
At many schools there are private "Education Funds" that parents pay into (around $200-300 PER STUDENT collected at the time of registration). For the most part people see it as a necessary part of the school's landscape. Others balk at paying for "public education." This money goes into a particular school's "pot of money" at the district. Those funds are used to "externally fund" people and programs not covered by the District. If you live in Alamo or Danville, often times this money provides music, art, teacher's aides and other one-time-only expenditures to enhance the educational landscape at that school. Not all schools in the District have the same level of parent support, so your child gets the benefit (or doesn't) based on where they go to school. Further, the District doesn't set specific goals for these private school funds to follow.
In a time when the District is thinking of cutting Music, Art, Sports, PE, Librarians, Counselors, etc., we need to get strategic in our thinking and come up with a long-term plan and then STICK TO IT.
What hasn't been publicized is that the VERY powerful teacher's union won't even come to the table for discussions until after the Parcel Tax election. What hasn't been put on the table (but was rightly suggested by Todd), is a reduction of pay for teachers which would allow them ALL to keep their jobs and KEEP some of the programs currently on the chopping block. I know some teachers would love to explore that option rather than lose their jobs.
While the District has made strides by committing to a citizen's oversight committee for the parcel tax funds and agreeing NOT to spend the money on administrative salaries, what is conspicuously absent is the committment NOT to spend it on Certificated teachers' salaries either.
Did you know that the programs and positions on the chopping block cost the district FAR less than the Certificated Salary teacher. This is because of the salary and benefit package the teachers in our district receive. If memory serves, when attending one of the town forums, teachers' salaries and benefits amount to over 60% of the entire district's annual budget. By cutting a mere 3% from that piece of the budget pie would make up for the revenue lost when the current parcel expires -- plus a little more -- WITHOUT the need for another parcel tax. We have been spending down our reserves for a while now, and the previous parcel tax did not account for increases in years 2 - 5. This means that our district has far less cash reserves in place than it did at the time of the original parcel tax.
There are solutions to be had, but everyone will have to lose their own self-interest in favor of what is best for our children. A pay increase for a teacher, while nice for the teacher, doesn't keep Art in the schools. A teacher's aide, paid for by a schools fund, while a "perk" for the teachers, doesn't keep music in the schools. Yes, yes, I know -- teacher's aide can help by breaking classrooms into smaller focused groups to the benefit of everyone in the class. Would you consider that those struggling in the classroom could be served by "intervention" programs, programs that already have specific dollars designated for their use? Would you consider that not all teacher's use their aides in this way? Did you know that some teachers use their aides to grade their homework, run photocopies, etc. (things which teachers in less-privileged district do on their own)?
The bottom line is that teachers in SRVUSD have it pretty good. They are well-paid, receive good benefits, and have a multitude of parent volunteers at their disposal, many of which contribute thousands of extra dollars to their school through auctions, donations, etc. We have updated textbooks, our kids go to modernized schools.
What the proponents of this parcel tax want you to believe is that we will lose teachers to other districts if we don't stay competitive with our salaries. I think teachers who wanted to leave for more money would have already done so. We have consistently been a bit below the area average when it comes to teachers' salaries. What makes teachers come to the district and stay in the district are all the things I mentioned in my previous paragraph.
Let me close by saying that I am "PRO" education and pro-teacher. What I am against is unfocused spending, lack of strategic planning, and the tight grip of the teacher's union. Should teachers be paid more -- ABSOLUTELY! Should they get more at the expense of valuable programs for our children -- ABSOLUTELY NOT!
I will be voting for the parcel tax, not because I believe in the District's ability to spend and plan wisely, but because the price that our children will pay if it doesn't pass is too high to bear.
I will be watching and if the parcel tax passes, you can bet I will attend every single Board of Trustee's meeting to do my part to ensure that the money is wisely spent. I can't do it alone folks. If anything I have said in this emails rings true for you -- GET INVOLVED!!!!!!!