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School district employees fear for their jobs

POSTED March 3, 2010 12:32 a.m.
A standing-room-only crowd filled the Turlock High School auditorium Tuesday night for the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting. The majority of those in attendance came to put a face and a voice to the job positions that the board would be considering for possible layoffs.
The agenda items that many voiced concerns about were the recommendations to file notices of termination to district employees, to approve competency standards to look over certain teachers and to approve tie breaking criteria for teachers with equal seniority.
As of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night, the board had yet to vote on those three recommendations.
To find out the board’s decision on filing notices of termination, check the Journal’s Web site today at www.turlockjournal.com.
Other budget recommendations that could potentially affect district employees were discussed at Monday’s Budget Advisory Committee meeting.
The committee had already compiled a list of suggestions to make up the $3.9 million the district was expecting to lose in funding from the state. But, on Monday the committee had to once again look at making tough recommendations to make up for an even larger than anticipated funding gap. Putting more students in the classroom from kindergarten through grade 12 is just one of the five new suggestions added onto the list on Monday.   
Currently, there are a total of 12 suggestions for the Board of Trustees to vote on to balance out the negative district budget for the 2010/2011 school year. The committee has already made enough suggestions to cover the $3.9 million deficit, but now they have to look to cover negotiable money that could fall through, along with potential additional cuts from the state.
“We are looking at options to backup the $1.9 million (negotiable suggestions) then additional cuts if the governor’s budget affects education,” said Sonny Da Marto, Turlock Unified School District superintendent. “Next we need to prioritize our suggestions.”  
The five new recommended suggestions are the elimination of cashing out of the employee health cap for new employees, increasing class sizes from 22 to 30 for kindergarten through third grade, increasing class sizes by one student per class for fourth grade through grade 12, charging transportation fees for athletic and extracurricular activities, and reducing or eliminating school resource officers.    
Committee members grouped together four suggestions into one recommendation — depending on how much money the district needs to balance out the budget — regarding increasing class sizes. The suggestion is to increase class sizes at a minimum of 22 students per teacher to a maximum of 30 students per teacher. This will save the district a minimum of $343,347 to a maximum of $1.9 million. This suggestion will also eliminate 13 to 60 teachers.  
Increasing the class size of grades four through 12 by one student per classroom will save the district $671,450 and eliminate 10 full-time teaching positions, said Lori Decker, TUSD chief financial officer.
Another suggestion that was approved Monday, is eliminating or charging a fee for students in grades seven through 12 for athletic and extra-curricular transportation.
“I hear parents say we can’t cut music, we can’t cut athletics; but this is California and we need to cut something,” said Dana Trevethan, Turlock High School principal.
The amount that would be charged for transportation has not yet been decided, but district staff calculated that if they charged $50 per student who plays sports or participates in extra-curriculars that requires transportation, there would need to be about 1,700 students who would pay the $50 fee to save a minimum of $85,000.
“Most of the kids that play sports in school have played sports before and paid for it,” said Barney Gordon, Parent Teacher Association president.
Even though no one on the committee voted against this suggestion, some made a point that the goal of the committee is to stay as far away from the students as possible when looking at cuts.
“This is a direct hit to kids,” said Dave Kline, Turlock Junior High principal.
With all 12 recommendations laid out, the suggested budget cuts total $5.6 million to $7.2 million, depending on negotiations and a decision on class size increases.
The next budget advisory committee meeting is at 4:30 p.m. on March 8 in the Turlock High School library.  
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.  

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