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Delhi Unified to hand out pink slips; Hilmar cuts school days
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The Delhi Unified School District Board of Trustees approved the preliminary layoff of 16.5 full-time certificated teachers during a meeting held on Monday evening.

In addition, two administrative positions scheduled to be vacated will be unfilled. Pink slips will be delivered based upon seniority.

DUSD Superintendent Brian Stephens said the cuts are in response to growing uncertainty over the state budget for education and Governor Jerry Brown’s tax-increase proposal.

In the past five years DUSD has held strong with smaller class sizes than most other districts, maintaining a 20 to 1 student to teacher ratio.  But the budgetary strain has become too much to bear for the small school district.

 “We have had very small class sizes and we haven’t reduced certificated staff in five years; we’ve held out a long time. We feel that if we can reach classroom sizes of 28-30 students then we are doing a good job,” said Stephens. “Really, we are getting back in line with all the other districts.”

If the district failed to make cuts, Stephens said, it would be about $1.4 million in the red next year. In addition to the layoffs, the district will be dipping into its healthy reserves. Stephens said DUSD has 22 percent of the district’s budget in reserves and if Governor Brown’s tax increase fails to reach voters the district will use “most of the reserves,” but remain well above the state-mandated 3 percent to be considered solvent.

Due to the layoffs, no programs like athletics, transportation, libraries or counseling, will be reduced.

With the state budget in flux, Stephens said, some of the layoffs could be rescinded depending on if taxes are increased.

 “I don’t like this, the board does not like this, no one likes this. I’m a parent and we all want smaller class sizes, plenty of school supplies and happy teachers,” he said.

DUSD has recently seen several years of substantial, continued improvement in academic performance. Stephens indicated that he believes the district will continue to perform well academically.

 “We don’t expect there will be any fallback. There is no research that shows class size reduction has much of an impact until you get to the low teens,” he said.

Another Merced County small school district has to make budgetary adjustments. The Hilmar Unified Teachers Association voted to approve the HUSD Board of Trustees’ proposal of six furlough days. The trustees had offered a 3 percent pay cut or six days of furlough (which would equal 3 percent of payroll).

HUTA President Dick Pirsma, an agriculture teacher at Hilmar High School, said that the school year for students will be reduced from 180 days to 175 days and teachers’ total work days will be reduced from 184 days to 178 days.

 “Our goal was to avoid any pink slips, within reason. Historically, HUTA has given furlough days to help balance the budget,” said Pirsma. “We understand this is a difficult time with the economy and the state budget. We are all in this together and it is important we all work together.”

HUTA represents 115 teachers in the HUSD.