More cuts loom for PUSD
Board looks to slash more than $3.1 million; CORE funding ends
A snafu with a posted date kept the Pleasanton school board from "sunshining" negotiations with its teacher's union, but the board did hear about yet another round of proposed cuts at its meeting Tuesday.
Sunshining is when each side states the part of the contract they want to discuss, according to Myla Grasso, Pleasanton school district public information officer.
While school funding has yet to be finalized by lawmakers in Sacramento, the Pleasanton board is eyeing $3.1 million in cost-saving measures, including increasing class sizes in both kindergarten through third grade and ninth-grade English and math. Under the proposal, class sizes would go from 25 to 1 for the youngest students and to 32 to 1 for the high school freshmen.
That would save the district $1.3 million in the elementary grades and another $400,000 with the ninth-graders.
This change would mean sacrificing state funding for keeping class sizes low. Currently, the classes are staffed at 25 to 1 and the district would be lose about $800,000, according to Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services.
Another $400,000 in savings could come from cutting one specialist section each week for grades 1 through 5. The proposal would move a teacher preparation period to the end of the day, shortening the day by 45 minutes once a week for those students, with the net effect of losing five full-time employees.
The district is also considering cutting the number of elementary school reading specialists in half, dropping from nine fulltime employees to four and a half, at a savings of $360,000.
Also being considered are:
* Cutting the number of support staff at schools and the district office at a savings of $180,000. The four positions that would be eliminated have not been determined;
* Reducing the number of middle school counselors by one and a half overall, bringing the number of fulltime counselors at each middle school to two and saving $120,000;
* Cutting the work year for management. Currently, management has agreed to eight furlough days over two years; this would bring the total of unpaid days to 11 over a three-year period at a savings of $90,000;
* Eliminating the equivalent of one fulltime high school counselor. That would bring the student-to-counselor ratio at Foothill and Amador Valley high school to about 518 to 1, saving $80,000; and
* Reducing the funding for the Barton Reading Program by $53,000, cutting district funding for the program in half.
The district is also working to get an additional $150,000 in one-time funds from the Regional Occupation Program.
Board members were adamant that these cuts were not necessarily the ones that would be implemented.
"These are just possible solutions," said board Chairwoman Valerie Arkin. "They are not necessarily the ones we are going to take."
However, gearing up for those cuts would clear the way for pink slips to be issued to the employees whose jobs are on the line. By law, the board must issue those to employees by a specific time, depending on whether the employee is a member of the Association of Pleasanton Teachers (APT) or of the California Service Employees Association (CSEA), and preparing for these cuts would provide the time needed.
In addition to funding cuts, the board also learned that jobs restored through the CORE (Community OutReach for Education) campaign will end this year. That means the loss of technology specialists in all grades and a cut in the number of library assistants in elementary and middle schools.
The budget plan also includes spending $5.3 million in reserves, including $2.7 million in one-time federal funding for jobs and $700,000 in state fiscal stabilization funds, along with $1.9 million from the district's undesignated reserves.
It does not include new money that could come in if the parcel tax is passed or from another fundraising campaign such as CORE. It also doesn't include savings that could come from negotiations with employees. The board is expected to discuss the state of the negotiations at its next meeting
On a related note, the board members, Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi and APT President Trevor Knaggs all received emails asking that negotiations between the district and the APT be wrapped up by March 22.
"This will provide the parcel tax voters a clear understanding of whether PUSD will increase salaries or benefits for this employee group," said the email, from Pleasanton Parcel Tax, a group opposed to the parcel tax. That group's website calls for, among other things, 5% cuts in salaries for management and certificated employees like teachers.
Attendance at Tuesday night's meeting was low, possibly due to what Board Member Joan Laursen described as "budget fatigue."
However, Marilyn Palowitch, best known as an Amador Valley High School music booster, expressed her frustration about not being able to get a slot on the board's agenda. Palowitch told the board she has a plan that could save seventh-period music programs, but despite contacting the board more than two weeks ago, had not heard a response.