The San Leandro Unified School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to issue lay off notices that could cut the equivalent of 53 full-time positions to meet a possible $2.54 million budget shortfall if state funding falls next year.
Parents, teachers, students and community members expressed anger and frustration over the cuts that threaten art, music and sports programs.
But board members said they had no choice. They have to plan budgets in advance and right now their budget for next year is based on the assumption that voters will approve tax increases proposed by Governor Jerry Brown.
The new cuts could be rescinded by May 15 if the school district gets assurances of sufficient state funding or if the local teachers union agrees with administrators to lower costs in other ways, board members said.
Some students and community members urged the board to use its reserve funds instead of making the cuts.
But board president Morgan Mack-Rose said that was not feasible.
“We only have a surplus of three percent, which is not even worth a month of salaries,” she said
Emotions ran high
The cuts caused a group of San Leandro students to take drastic action.
“I have attended San Leandro school’s all my life and have participated in many of the programs being cut,” said Veronica, a San Leandro High Senior. “But tomorrow morning, I will begin my hunger strike,” Veronica said during the meeting.
“I want to show that like our schools, my body can’t survive with just the bare minimum,” she concluded.
Three other San Leandro High students their plans to participate in the hunger strike.
Jamie Turrintine, current senior and associated body student president was among the dozens of outraged students protesting cuts to sports programs.
“I got a scholarship to pay for 75 percent of my college tuition for all four years at Holy Names University. I wouldn’t have gotten that scholarship if we didn’t have sports and other students won’t have the same opportunity either,” Turrintine said.
Parents echoed this outrage during the meeting and many urged the board not to make the cuts.
San Leandro resident Fred Reichert said although he hasn’t been in school for dedcades, he understands the emotion felt by the students who will be directly affected by the cuts.
“This would be devastating,” Riker said, “just devastating.”
“Those are the kinds of programs that kept me interested and in school. I want you to think really long and hard before cutting,” he said.
Frustration has been mounting because of the increasing number of positions axed by the board over several years.
Some 58 positions have been cut over the past couple of years, increasing many class sizes in San Leandro. Another 20 reductions were recently approved in order to save the district over $1.43 million.
The new possible cuts would come on top of those.
School board members echoed audience sentiment by advising the public to write to Ellen Corbett, San Leandro’s State Senate Representative to ask her to get more funding for local schools.
“The frustration here may be misdirected,” said City Councilmember Jim Prola, who spoke for himself and not on behalf of the city. “Instead of pointing fingers at each other or at the board, the fingers should be pointed at Sacramento.”
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