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WPUSD continues working to cut budget

Final result to depend on state
By: Liz Kellar The News Messenger
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Wednesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released the revised state budget to address a projected $15.2 billion deficit – but educators remained in the dark as to whether the anticipated $4 billion drop in education spending remains in effect. Left in limbo, the local school district is pressing ahead with its plans to trim $2.6 million from its own 2008-09 budget. “It appears there are promises on some non-specific adjustments to some of the reductions,” Western Placer Unified School District Superintendent Scott Leaman said Wednesday. “But we are going to maintain our same assumptions.” A budget committee formed by Western Placer Unified School District presented its list of recommendations to the board May 6; the board will vote on the recommendations at its next meeting on May 20. The district sent notices of intent to lay off a total of 20.7 full-time employee positions earlier this spring and must send final notices today. Of those, five have already been rescinded, leaving 15 employees’ jobs in the balance. In K-5 science, the district will eliminate 1.7 of 6.3 positions. Other positions on the chopping block include two middle school positions, one kindergarten position and two positions at the fourth-fifth grade level. At the high school level, the district is looking to lay off one of four counselors, one of five Ag Farm positions, 1.5 of four physical education positions and one of four continuation teachers. A half-time art position will be eliminated, leaving one full-time art position. The sole home economics teacher and the sole independent study teacher will be eliminated, as will the principal position at Sheridan Elementary School. Four teacher interns have been released, potentially opening up some positions for other teachers. “We’re in a state of limbo,” Leaman said. “We have to have our budget approved by June, so our reductions must be approved by next week.” Wednesday, Leaman said he didn’t anticipate making any changes to the agenda before the May 20 meeting, and added that he would amend the recommendations during the board meeting if there were any “dramatic changes.” At the May 6 meeting, school board members expressed concern as to the impact of losing one teacher for the Ag Farm program and the loss of the principal position at Sheridan. The principal at Sheridan, Kris Knutson, has seniority and so would be reassigned to a teaching position. The principal position would be a shared position with Phoenix High School. “We used to have shared principalships,” Leaman said. “It’s not that unusual. Between the two schools, there are 180 students. I will meet with the staff at Sheridan to see what presence would be required. I want to nail that down and see that we’re meeting needs as best we can. We want to keep that school open ... I think we’ll keep it open. We just need to find some economies of scale, and one way is by reducing administrative ratios.” Other committee recommendations include increasing class size ratios, eliminating kindergarten aides in classes with two teachers, reducing custodial services by 10 percent, eliminating overtime, raising lunch fees by 25 cents at all school levels, and making changes to the district’s transportation system. At this point, Leaman said, the district is re-evaluating a few options, including the custodial reduction and the elimination of the extremely popular Woodleaf trip. “The independent study position will not be coming back and ROTC is not coming back,” he said. A proposal to reduce the tech department by a half-time position is being researched, he said. The proposal to raise school lunch fees remains on the list, Leaman said, as will the transportation recommendations. The budget committee recommended raising sports transportation fees from $60 to $120 per high school-level sport, allowing for two sports maximum, and eliminating athletic transportation entirely for middle school students. Home-to-school transportation fees could be increased as well, from $180 to $225 for a bus pass, and field trips capped at three per class. The school board will meet at 7 p.m. May 20 at Carlin C. Coppin Elementary School.