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Santa Rosa schools OK budget cuts

By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa City Schools trustees Wednesday night cut two days from the 2011-12 school year, eliminated six librarian positions and slashed office support across the district to reach its $3 million budget-reduction goal.

Trustees also moved to strike deeper into its anticipated $83 million budget for next year by targeting an additional $5 million in cuts should a handful of statewide tax extensions either fail to make the ballot or be rejected by voters in June.

That includes cutting six days from the 2011-12 calendar, increasing class sizes at the middle school level from 28 to 30 students and eliminating seven full time teaching positions to save the district $420,000.

“We made a choice tonight. It’s not a choice I like, it’s not a choice I relish,” said trustee Laura Gonzalez as she urged members of the audience to lobby for the tax extensions. “If this is what you want, then you need to help us as well.”

The district this year has three fewer instructional days than usual as a money saving measure.

If the taxes expire, three additional classroom days will be cut next budget year along with one professional development day.

Despite scores of people turning out in support, an eleventh-hour move that saved the district’s six librarian positions never surfaced Wednesday and the jobs were eliminated. The board followed that vote with a decision to spend $100,000 for one district-wide librarian position to oversee support staff at each school library site.

Not good enough, said Maria Carrillo High School librarian Sonja Bedford.

“You don’t have school libraries without teacher librarians,” she said. “If this is a financial problem, let’s talk about the possibility of another furlough day.”

But teachers union president Andy Brennan said the 900 unions members already are facing the possibility of a six-day cut if the taxes fail.

“It comes down to a difficult situation of looking out for everyone,” he said. “Some people can take a pay cut and some people can’t. It was hard to sell it to the wider membership, especially with the six (days).”

All six current teacher librarians are scheduled to return to the classroom and are not expected to lose their jobs.

Trustee Bill Carle gave librarians, and the support counselors cut last month, a glimmer of hope with a follow-up motion that would tap one-time federal stimulus money for a one-year reprieve. But reinstatement is contingent on the tax extensions passing in June.

The two furlough days — scheduled for the Monday and Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving — represent a 1 percent pay cut on average for teachers. Support staff and administrators will take a commensurate cut.

The district also cut four full-time office staff positions from middle and high schools, reduced district office clerical staff by 3.4 positions and cut district office administration by 1.4 jobs. Combined, those will save $431,000.

The only cheering Wednesday night came when the board voted to spend $35,400 to reinstate a previously cut position of early college magnet coordinator at Piner High School.

For weeks, Piner boosters have lobbied the board to reinstate the position, noting that no other magnet program in the district is run without a faculty advisor.

The board also voted to allot $35,000 for a curriculum resource assistant at Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts.





8 Responses to “Santa Rosa schools OK budget cuts”

  1. Maybe solution says:

    Many in private industry have seen their salaries and benefits reduced in order to help save their jobs and companies.

    Could our schools do the same, or parents do as they are trying in Los Angeles, to create their own charter schools without the salaries and benefits of the union schools?

    There are a lot of excellent laid off and credentialed teachers we could staff some of our empty schools with. Look at the salaries and benefits of our nonprofits compared to that of the unionized public work force. When it comes to our children let’s start looking at alternatives.

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  2. Ken S. says:

    More days off for the teachers???? That’s without pay, you understand this, right?

    If union people on the board were acting like your stereotype of union people, they wouldn’t cut salaries or get rid of teachers (librarians).

    Manage a budget crisis? Note the word “crisis.” What’s your suggestion for doing this correctly?

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  3. Michelle says:

    Instead of turning Thanksgiving week into another long break just a few weeks before the winter break, school should start later in the summer.

    Going back to starting school after Labor Day would reduce air conditioning costs in late August and put our schools on schedule with enrichment programs offered all over the country. June is (in general) a cold lousy month for vacation here and enrichment classes are not offered nationally because most other schools are not out yet. Our students and teachers can’t attend those held in August because of our early start dates.

    If the budget causes us to dumb down our learning opportunity, at least make it possible for motivated students to enrich themselves elsewhere.

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  4. James Bennett says:

    Part of Agenda21 is ‘dumbing down’our children.Plenty of money for redevelopment though.

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  5. Mary says:

    These so called cuts would be credible if the salaries of the teachers were cut substantially and not just increase class size and cut teaching days. But this is what happens when the teachers union put union people on the Board. More days off for the teachers, library staff cuts and who pays?

    The students, parents and taxpayers who fund this whole mess. The Board has failed to manage this budget crisis from the get go. They were aware last year of the crisis but the stimulus money came through and they were saved by Obama for another year.

    The end result of all of this will be a continuing slide to the bottom. And the Board continues to plod on. What a shame for our community.

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  6. Lets be Reasonable says:

    Hey, instead of just letting these taxes expire, why don’t we cut all taxes and close the schools altogether – then you’ll have plenty of money to feed your kids. I’m sure they could probably get a job at McDonalds when they grow up…

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  7. Frank says:

    let the taxes expire, i need to put food on the table for my kids

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  8. michael says:

    The thing that i wonder with cuts to teachers pay and work days (and therefore pay again) is that , does anybody making these decisions remember that teachers go to either as much or almost as much undergraduate, postgraduate, etc. schooling as counselors, doctors, etc. and have loans they have to pay back? Seems to me the decisions are being made without even considering that they have to pay them back.

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