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No teacher cuts slated this new school year

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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As schools across the state lay off teachers and, in worst-case scenarios, cut schools, we’re not. That’s thanks to creative thinking by Western Placer Unified School District staff, even though $1,941,200 was trimmed from the 2010-2011 school year starting July 1. Proposed cuts that the district’s budget committee considered these past few months included job losses, salary reductions, employee furloughs, summer-school elimination, reducing computers and printers for students and staff, and bus-route changes. “We looked at over 100 items since January,” said district Superintendent Scott Leaman this week. “We tried to balance those reserves in these tough economic times with the least impacts on students, programming and employees.” When asked by The News Messenger in mid-March if job and salary reductions are possible solutions, Leaman said, “most definitely” and “82 percent of the budget is in people.” Yet both jobs and salaries remain safe for the next fiscal year, according to Leaman. Recommended transportation cuts, saving $380,500, include dropping a route and having all ages on buses instead of separate buses for kindergarteners to fifth-graders and for sixth- to 12th-graders; busing special-education students in-house instead of through a contracted agency and no longer transporting high-schoolers who live within 4.9 miles of the school. A management cut, saving $35,000, is to hire a director instead of an assistant superintendent, to replace retiring assistant superintendent of personnel Bob Noyes. To save $160,000, the district recommends adding no new teachers this year although two new positions were recommended by a traditional staffing ratio. In addition, while the district annually sets aside $250,000 for a new school, that will not be done this year. Transferring into the district’s General Fund will be $300,000 from new technology monies and $100,000 from restricted funds. Other proposed savings come from eliminating general summer school for first through 12th grades while the state-mandated special education and credit-recovery high schools remain open. “Much of why we saved jobs this year is linked to the claim that we received last year,” Leaman said. “We received $18 million in one-time money.” He’s referring to the state claim centering on property-tax allocations for five years to Horizon Charter Schools, which had 2,500 students from out of the district’s boundaries being supported by property tax from within district boundaries. “Also thanks are due to the district all pulling together and the budget committee coming together and providing input for this recommendation,” Leaman said. “We’re very pleased that we’re impacting our students, employees and programs minimally.” And yet the public isn’t cheering this news that was to be shared by the school district’s staff at a public budget presentation, “Making it work during tough times,” on April 28. Not one community member showed up to the meeting advertised through city e-blasts and the district’s Web site. Which is weird, considering that about 125 community members showed up at the second of four workshops held the week before. It’s too bad that the community didn’t attend the April 28 meeting because no lay-offs and no school closures are “good” budget news in a depressing year for city and school budgets across the state. So we wanted to share the news that would have been mentioned at the April 28 meeting, if anyone had shown up. “I think it’s amazing for the students. We’re able to serve students as we have in the past,” Leaman said. He quickly pointed out, though, that the next few years will not be easy on the district’s budget. “We’re pleased our recommendation next year will minimally impact the students and employees. However, there will be additional cuts in the future; it’s an ongoing process.” But for the time being, it’s good to reflect on the best possible budget outcome for the new year. “More school districts than not will face elimination of teacher positions due to state budget cuts,” said Mike Myslinski, California Teachers Association spokesman. “On March 15, schools had to issue pink slips and more than 26,000 pink slips were issued for teachers alone, statewide. Deadline is May 15 to make the final decision about these teaching jobs. We expect there to be thousands of teachers laid off. That’s good news for your school district.”