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Layoff notices to be sent to school employees

Adult education program eliminated
By: Patty McAlpin Lincoln News Messenger Correspondent
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The school board Tuesday night took action to send layoff notices to 30.95 of its 325 certificated employees as part of an effort to cut $5.75 million from the 2012-13 fiscal budget. Overall reductions include eight furlough days for all employees, increased class sizes, classified staffing reductions, no increases in benefit caps and 20 percent reductions to operating budgets. The cuts will impact every school site and department in the district, according to a district report. “We are hopeful we can negotiate with the parties to come up with solutions to minimize impacts to those here,” Western Placer Unified School District board president Damian Armitage told the audience during the special meeting. Among those losing positions at the end of the current school year are 11 elementary school teachers and .5 full-time equivalent-certificated elementary assistant principal administrator positions. This is Tracy Pellegrino’s third year teaching first-grade at Creekside Oaks Elementary School. Pellegrino read a poem by an unknown author titled “Be thankful.” Part of the way through, she started to choke up. Another Creekside Oaks teacher rushed to the podium with a tissue for her. “I’m here to thank you for the opportunity to teach in this district,” Pellegrino said. “I know I was lucky when I was hired in 2009. I go to work remembering why I was hired. I am a highly enthusiastic teacher. I make a difference and deserve the chance to continue to serve.” The board adopted criteria to decide how cuts will be made based on seniority, education and credentials. The adopted cuts wipe out the Adult Education program completely. “I need English to find a better job,” student Abel Balderas said. “I need to help my children in school. I’d like to understand everything they say but can’t. Please don’t cut English class.” Linda Davis said she started the program nine years ago and spends $3,000 of her own money on books and materials. “This program is important to California,” she said. “Seventy percent of the population does not go to college. Half drop out of school. This is the path to technical school. “ School district Superintendent Scott Leaman said he and his staff “are cobbling some ideas together” in hopes of saving the program. Health clerk positions also are eliminated. Twelve Bridges Elementary School health clerk Lori Deschamps said she “knows secretaries used to do the job” but that was in the years when they didn’t have 700 students. “When parents drop off children, they want them to be safe,” Deschamps said. “I’m not more important than anyone else … The staff is overworked. Let me do my job.” School board trustee Paul Carras said, “We may end up putting people out of work now but things can change and bring people back.” Armitage asked Leaman if there is a regulation specifying the board has to put the $750,000 wetlands reserve back next year. “Looks like if you do the math, that’s 12 to 16 teachers,” Armitage said. “That’s my issue.” Leaman responded by saying that the board can change budget assumptions and there is no legal requirement regarding the wetlands reserve. School board trustee Paul Long said there were two years in which the wetlands reserve was used to balance the budget. The school board directed district staff to achieve a balanced budget by the 2013-14 budget year. From 2008-09 to 2011-12, the board approved reductions in the amount of $7.2 million and $1.7 million in other budget reductions. The total unrestricted fund balance used during those fiscal years totaled $14.8 million. The school district is faced with another $7 to $9 million in reductions necessary over the next two fiscal years to achieve a balanced budget. Cuts approved for the 2012-13 fiscal year total $5.75 million. “No one created this budget crisis,” Western Placer Teachers Association President Mike Agrippino said. “The state keeps us in our crisis.” The school district’s Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Joyce Lopes said the governor’s budget assumes new temporary taxes (five years) will be approved by voters this November. If the measure is approved, Lopes said, flat funding will continue. But if not, a $2.4 billion reduction in K-12 funding will translate to a loss of about $370 per average daily attendance (ADA) for the average district. Agrippino and Western Placer Classified Employee Association President Mike Kimbrough said the groups have made many concessions. “It’s possible there will be other concessions,” Kimbrough said. “We will meet in a little over a week.”