Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 4, 2011

Layoff notices headed to PUSD employees

Board members hope to salvage some of the jobs

by Glenn Wohltmann

The Pleasanton school board voted Tuesday night to send layoff notices to more than 62 employees, although board members hold out hope that at least some of the jobs can be restored.

Although the pink slips will go to FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) employees, some part-time positions will likely be eliminated as well, meaning that more than 62 workers will receive the notices.

A list of those to be hit by the cuts is not yet available since the workers have yet to receive word themselves.

No one on the board is happy with the cuts and all said they hope that with private fundraising, like last year's CORE (Community OutReach for Education) campaign, the potential for a parcel tax, and the hope that a state tax extension will pass, some of the jobs can be restored.

"We're looking at budget cuts because these are the facts. This is what we've been dealt," said Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi.

The district is making the cuts -- even though some of the jobs may come back -- because state law requires layoff notices to be in the hands of certificated employees by March 15; additional layoffs could come for classified employees too, but the deadline for those cuts is later in the year.

"We can always be adding FTEs at a later date," said Board President Valerie Arkin, something echoed by all the other board members.

Recent board meetings have seen appeals by employees and parents with children in areas slated for cuts, and Tuesday night was no exception. After the board opted to cut 6.4 FTE physical education specialists at elementary schools, parents asked again that restoring those jobs be put at the top of the list.

Among those speaking Tuesday was Kelly French, a graduate of district schools who now has two children at Alisal Elementary. She said P.E. teachers bring a positive morale to the school.

"They're not just playing kickball out there," French told the board. "They are doing a really, really fantastic job of teaching our children."

P.E. specialists and the weekly classroom time they provide will not be eliminated, but the sessions will be cut in half, to once a week.

"There will still be some time provided each week for P.E., music and science specialists," said Cindy Galbo, assistant superintendent of educational services. However, since the state requires a certain number of P.E. hours in elementary school, teachers will have to pick up the slack. She said teachers and principals will have to work together to decide when and how much P.E. will be done every week, and some training will have to be done to ensure teachers can do the job.

The cuts will mean a shortened day once a week for students, to make up for time teachers had for lesson planning -- time they'll now have to fill with P.E.

While elementary P.E. programs are the hardest hit, the cuts will impact every school in the district. English will see 6.2 FTEs cut, math will see a cut of 4.6 FTEs, reading specialists will be cut by 4.5 FTEs, and counselors will see a cut of 2.5 FTEs, to name those with the largest cuts.

"Some would say that we're laying off people to scare the public," said Board Member Jeff Bowser. "That's not the case."

He said the board has tried to keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible, but "we're down to the bone."

"Which arm do I cut off? Which finger do I cut off?" he asked. "We are affecting the lives of 61 people who are facing unemployment."

The discussion about cutting P.E. specialists led to an angry exchange between one speaker, Dan Maslana, and Trevor Knaggs, president of the Association of Pleasanton Teachers (APT). Maslana said the P.E. cuts weren't announced early enough and that people should have been given more time to speak out. He also said teachers should have been polled to see what they thought should be cut.

Knaggs said the idea of a poll violated the fundamental principles of unionism.

"You cannot ask people to vote their colleagues off the island," Knaggs said, clearly upset about the idea, although Maslana claimed that's been standard practice in past years.

The board also held a public hearing about "sunshining" negotiations between the district and the California School Employees Association (CSEA). The CSEA proposes maintaining its current contract as is while the district is looking to discuss wages, hours, leaves of absence and health benefits. No one spoke at the public hearing.

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