School trustees OK eliminating seven administrative posts

By Sarah Sapeda

City News Service

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education voted 3-2 in a special meeting to cut seven administrative positions at Crawford, San Diego, Kearney Mesa and Lincoln high schools to save $1.2 million.

Those four schools have a lower student to administrator ratio than other schools in the district, said Nellie Meyer, deputy superintendent of academics.

Board President Richard Barrera and member John Lee Evans voted against the measure Thursday.

One position being cut is funded by grants and will be restored if grants can be found.

The board previously voted to cut about 10 other administrative positions, mostly vice principals, Meyer said.

Chief Financial Officer Ron Little also presented several budget scenarios to the board during the meeting which showed projected deficits of between $50 million and more than $200 million.

"We need to find a longer term solution, rather than just having a fix right at this moment, so we don't turn around and do exactly the same thing

next year,'' Evans said.

The best-case scenario included tax extensions approved at the state level and no restorations, Little said. Even in the best case, the district will face a $24.6 million deficit in the 2012-13 school year and a more than $122.6 million deficit in 2014.

The worst case scenario was an "all cuts budget" without tax extensions, which showed low voter support in recent polls, and which anticipated a more than $78.7 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year, expected to balloon to more than $203 million by 2014.

Board member Scott Barnett proposed a tentative solution to spend the anticipated $32 million in funds from Gov. Jerry Brown's revised May budget proposal, yet to be passed, to rescind some layoffs for certified and classified staff and to provide continuing health care coverage through Sept. 30, 2011, for those who are laid off.

This would come in exchange for continued five-day furloughs through 2014 and employees forgoing annual raises for salary increases only when the district has increases in revenue, and altogether forgoing raises in the 2012-13 school year.

The board recently called for district employees to forgo raises to save jobs and were met with opposition from labor unions. The salary increases were estimated to cost $12 million next year, and $22 million in the 2012-13 school year.

"It's hard, personally and politically, to ask them for more sacrifices,'' Barrera said. "I have a lot of confidence in the ability of the unions and this district leadership to come together and find solutions.''

The motion also called for the board to consider closing or consolidating five to 10 schools for the 2012-13 school year, with additional closures possible the following year.

Barnett also proposed eliminating year-round schooling, expanding advertising in schools, exploring alternate health benefit plans with labor unions and initiating a health care management fee for retirees.

"Even if this doesn't work out, we've showed Sacramento and we've showed Washington that we are willing to at least as leaders come together and suggest something that we're not comfortable with, but we think is going to find a solution,'' Barnett said.

Little also presented the board with data on costs of restoring smaller class sizes. Restoring class sizes to 24 students to each teacher in kindergarten through third grade was estimated to cause a $53.6 million shortfall by 2012-13.

Reducing class sizes to 20 students per teacher was estimated to cost the district $97 million in the 2012-13 school year and more than $236 million by 2014, and will require 500 to 1,500 more layoffs to balance the deficit.

Raising the ratio to 29.5 students would save the district $18.4 million.

The San Diego County Office of Education advised the board to plan for ongoing reductions and to set aside a reserve until a budget is set.

Hundreds of teachers and staff face layoffs and the board also discussed cutting the number of area superintendents from eight to six, estimated to save $2 million.

Parents, staff and students spoke against the budget cuts, including Bill Freeman, president of the teachers union, who called the scenarios presented "doom and gloom,'' and urged the board to think about the the kids and their future.

More than 100 people attended the meeting at the Eugene Brucker Educational Center, some to protest the cuts who wore shirts printed with "Together we are STRONGER'' and held up signs during the meeting.

   
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