Tuesday May 17 2011
Schools eye cutting 159 positions
By: Laura Newell Telegraph staff writer
District has to reduce expenditures by $24 million
Last week at the May 5 school board meeting, the Folsom Cordova Unified School District board voted 4-1 in favor of teacher layoffs and the initial resolution for classified layoffs. According to Stephen Nichols, district public information officer, 76 certified staff personnel would be cut, including teachers, counselors, administrators and other staff with credentials. “We need to reduce expenditures by $24 million, which represents reduction by 18 percent,” Nichols said. The May 5 approval also included the initial layoff of 83 positions in classified staff, including librarians, bus drivers, school secretaries and others classified staff, said Nichols. “Savings from these layoffs will be a drop in the bucket from what we need to cut,” Nichols said. “We must cut at least $12 million from the 2011/2012 school year. That number has grown exponentially because of the changing projections from the state.” Nichols said the layoffs would directly impact classrooms. “Class sizes will go up — they’ve been going up,” Nichols said. “We are very, very concerned about where we will stand as a school district with these cuts.” The cuts also have teachers concerned for students’ education. Jennifer Lane, 59, of Folsom has taught with the district for 27 years and will retire at the end of this academic year. She teaches third grade. “Nobody knows how bad it will be until a few years from now,” Lane said. “They will not get the guidance that they need for future school years. When these kids get to junior high school and do not have the (early foundation) education needed for later years, people will be shocked to see how these cuts have negatively impacted the students. It’s going to become an eye opener a few years from now.” She said teachers discuss this issue regularly and are very nervous for the future of young students. “Three years ago, they raised third grade classes from 20 children to 30 children, including autistic children,” Lane said. “I used to be able to touch base with kids five times per hour, but now we have to be more conscious to call on every student at least once during the day. We want them to feel acknowledged and important in the classroom.” She said these layoffs would only have negative impacts on the students. “It’s detrimental for these kids,” Lane said. “If we are going to keep up with the rest of the world, this needs to end. We are stepping on our children.” She said with the cuts in teachers, the education is not slowing down with continual higher standards for academics. “I realized that as a veteran teacher, there are times that I sit down and think this is too much. I’m retiring because they need someone who is more resilient,” said Lane. “They are putting more pressure on the students with less guidance. … Today the curriculum is going so fast no one is mastering anything, especially in math. The term is called spiraling. We work it, but don’t stay with it long enough to master it.” She said with the classified layoffs, teachers would be even more impacted by picking up the extra work like cleaning classrooms with the loss of janitorial staff. “I’m scared for my colleagues that I’m leaving behind,” Lane said. “When services are cut, teachers have to step up and do the additional work. It’s overload.” Zak Ford, school board member, voted against the final resolution for layoffs at the last board meeting. “My votes were what I would call ‘votes made on principle,’” said Ford. “While I am fully aware that it is impossible to balance a budget without huge layoffs, I believe there are inequities that should be addressed between administration and teachers/classified and also between the communities the district represents.” Ford said multiple concerns led to his no vote. “We have sent approximately 150 full time equivalent layoff notices to teachers and classified staff and less than five notices to administrators. While I know they make up a much smaller percentage of our costs, I believe there could have been more cuts there,” Ford said. “Also, while our classified support staffs have dwindled over the last few years, I do not feel the number of managers/directors of those staffs have been reduced accordingly.” Nichols said cuts to administration were also looked into for budget saving measures. “Yes, we have looked at cutting administration,” Nichols said. “We used to have seven assistant superintendents and now we have two. This cut occurred this year. Administration staff are working together to function creatively with smaller staff as well.” Nichols said administration also took six furlough days. “Our administration budget is less than two percent of our general fund,” Nichols said. “It was so difficult to have to go through these layoffs over the past few years. For administration, it is a gravity that weighs on us.” Ford said other concerns lead to his vote including the 4X4 schedule at Vista Del Lago. “I would love to keep the 4X4 schedule … however, we need to work more on it becoming cost neutral,” Ford said. “The … schedule currently costs the district an extra $200,000 a year. It costs us three extra teaching positions and teachers there get 90 minutes prep time everyday (twice as much as some secondary schools). The way it is presently structured, it is not fair to the teachers, classified employees and/or students throughout the rest of Folsom and district wide.” He also believes the closure of Folsom Lake High will save costs. “There is room on Folsom High’s campus for the students currently attending Folsom Lake High (our Folsom high school for kids behind in credits),” Ford said. “Closing Folsom Lake and putting that program on FHS’s campus could save us approximately $100 to $150,000 a year with administration costs.” Ford said these students are not a threat to Folsom High students — they are just kids who are behind with their credits. “I know these changes would not solve the problem,” he said. “However, they indicate to me some inequities that I believe need to be addressed first.” For more information, visit fcusd.org.