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School board to vote Tuesday on cutting ESL classes, laying off teachers

District will vote on $5.75 million worth of budget cuts
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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The possibility of eliminating ESL classes and laying off elementary school teachers dominated Tuesday’s school board meeting. The Western Placer Unified School District was originally scheduled to vote on $5.75 million worth of budget cuts that night. But the board’s approval of those budget reductions was postponed to a special meeting at 7 p.m. next Tuesday (Feb. 28) at Lincoln High School ( 790 J St .). “In the process of looking at all items, we are really pressing them to make sure they are the correct items,” said district Superintendent Scott Leaman. “We know when looking at personnel cuts, these are people. It breaks my heart what we are going through.” The public’s comments Tuesday night focused on two proposed budget cuts: eliminating adult education, which includes English as a Second Language and GED classes; and the elimination of three high school teachers, two middle school teachers and 12 elementary school teachers. Eliminating adult education could save $89,865 and the reduction of teaching staff could save $961,875, according to previous News Messenger reports. Through tears, ESL teacher Ramey Dern addressed the board about why the program should stay. “My students are real people with real needs,” Dern said. “They want to learn English because they want to get ahead in their jobs, help their children with school work and be role models for their children.” Dern said her students range from young adults to parents. “Our program is run on such a minimum scale, it couldn’t possibly be worth eliminating. I teach three days a week for two hours, with no benefits,” Dern said. “The TV and VCR we have were donated by me; we have three sets of flash cards and three games. We are getting new students all of the time.” Five ESL students addressed the board. “I need the English classes because it is very important for me to help my kids,” Florina Martinez said. “Please don’t take away the class.” Maria Magdalena Arreas, a current ESL student who is now taking GED classes, said the English classes helped her communicate better. “If I go to the bank or hospital, I can talk to people and I don’t need help,” Arreas said. She also pointed out that residents “want to speak” English. “I’m tired of people outside saying Hispanic people don’t want to learn about this country,” Arreas said. “Right here are people who want to learn and help their kids.” Several parents and teachers on the elementary school level expressed concerns about increased class sizes that would result in laying off teachers. “I do ask you reconsider the proposal of increasing class sizes. We educate them on how to be social, be good friends, open juice boxes and be good students,” said Coreena Whiteside, a fourth-/fifth-grade teacher at Foskett Ranch Elementary School. “If class sizes increased, how would we continue to teach those life skills?” Roseanne Johnson, parent of a Carlin C. Coppin Elementary School student, said she would consider transferring her daughter out of the district if class sizes increased. “To me, it’s not about people losing jobs; it’s about children having the ability to have the best education possible,” Johnson said. “This is absurd and utter nonsense. It would be easier to have higher class sizes in high school because the students need less attention.” Lucy Schmidt, who volunteers at Carlin C. Coppin in a combination classroom, also asked that class sizes not increase. “I was a student in a combination classroom as a first-grader and I remember the chaos,” Schmidt said. “I would hope, with all of the cuts, we can keep classrooms one grade-level at a time.” In other district news, kindergarten registration will start in a couple of weeks. Mary Boyle, the district’s deputy superintendent of educational services, said that kindergarten registration packets will be available at all elementary school sites on March 6. “For the 2012-2013 school year, students need to be five on or before Nov. 1,” Boyle said. “We have 45 to 50 students whose birthdays are between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2 who are no longer eligible.” The age requirement for incoming kindergarten students was set by changes to state law last year, according to Boyle. The state will not be providing funding for transitional kindergarten, said Boyle, so the district will provide information to parents about the district’s preschools. Kindergarten registration packets can be turned in to school sites starting March 13, Boyle said.