Cutting Sports, Shorter School Year To Be Discussed

San Leandro Unified School District faces tough choices in preparing a contingency budget for the next school year.

Cutting sports and shortening the school year will be among the ideas discussed at the school board meeting Tuesday night as officials of the San Leandro Unified School District prepare contingency budgets for the next two school years.

The district already expects to cut roughly 20 positions, some teachers, some counselors and the rest miscellaneous personnel.

But School Board President Morgan Mack-Rose said officials needs a contingency plan in case a voters shoot down a school finance initiative proposed by Governor Brown, which is why additional cuts must be considered.

Brown has proposed a half-cent increase in the state sales tax and an income tax increase on indivuals earning over $250,000 ($500,000 for couples).

Should voters fail to approve it, San Leandro Unified expects to see a $3.184 million mid-year cut in its 2012-2013 budget and a $9.73 million decrease in 2013-2014, according to a presentation on the district's home page (see Summary Powerpoint on the top right).

Mack-Rose said because the school year will be underway before the fate of Brown's proposal is known, the district must plan now to make up for the possible shortfall because some school programs can't be cut mid-year.

Nothing has been decided. A shorter school year, for instance, would also require agreement from the San Leandro Teacher's Association (SLTA).

SLTA President Jon Sherr, an economics teacher at San Leandro High School, said he has been monitoring the budget process and is ready to work with the district to make the best of a bad situation. But nothing definite is in the works.

Sherr said teachers have not had a pay raise since the 2007-2008 school year. The union, which is mostly but not all teachers, has seen its ranks shrink from 512 members in 2009 to about 462 at present, he said.

That roughly 10 percent reduction has been accomplished by a series of staggered increases in class size, from 20 students per teacher in 2008 heading to 32 per instructor next year.

So far at least, the reductions have occurred mainly through attrition as job-changers and retirees thinned the union's ranks.

How long that thinning can be continued, especially given possible large cuts ahead, is among the considerations facing district officials. About 90 percent of the district's expenses are for payroll and personell.

San Leandro Unified officials are considering and are in the process of polling a random sample of city voters about their willingness to pass how much of an increase.

A parcel tax to support the schools would need a two-thirds margin to pass. Neighboring communities mulling similar moves have seen .

All of this adds up to a set of moving puzzle piece as board members and district officials meet Tuesday night at City Hall to budget two years in advance.

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Thomas Clarke February 07, 2012 at 04:29 PM
As all of California faces the upcoming Budget Crunch, it is time for the SLUSD to get very serious about the future. So far they have handled it by not replacing retirees, restricting cost of living pay raises and cutting back on some programs. Vote no on all new taxes. Vote no on bond issues and new assessments. Vote no on parcel tax increases. Vote out of office the incumbent leaders in all areas. The time for demanding excellence, high performance, great value and new spiralling minimum requirements. If the union and its membership cannot understand this and act with haste then the members should exit and the union should be decertified, making room for teachers and staff that will perform in these new economic times. It is time to fish or cut bait.
Tom Abate (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 05:46 PM
I was told by Sherr, the union leader, that a starting teacher makes $48,000 a year out of which the individual must pay the full cost of their own health insurance, if they elect to be covered. Does that seem excessive, Thomas?
Rob Rich February 07, 2012 at 06:13 PM
It may be a drop in the bucket, but I sure wish the district valued and encouraged volunteers who are trying to beautify our schools through cleaning, painting, & repairs. In these times of tight budgets there is an untapped resource in the community, yet the district is unwilling, or unable to capitalize on it. Historically volunteers have done great things for our San Leandro schools, but for some reason in the past decade the district has turned its back on us. What is needed is an open, fair, and fully representative process with all stakeholders, including volunteers, teachers, and principals. As it is, the "rules" are constantly changing, becoming increasingly restrictive, without notice or justification, by a group of district staff that meets in private, in what appears to be a concerted attempt to discourage volunteers from even trying to help our schools. Volunteers are not the problem. Our kids deserve better.
Tom Abate (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 07:07 PM
I heard you say that at the joint San Lorenzo/SanLeandro school board confab. If nothing has changed then the district is alienating its most committed supporters at the very time when it most needs help.
Rob Rich February 07, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Yes, it has changed since the joint meeting, but unfortunately for the worse. Last week we were disappointed to learn that Bancroft's proposed Beautification Day (volunteer work day) had been rejected by the district because it included painting. For many years (decades really) painting, power washing, and the use of power tools have all been permitted, in conformance with appropriate safety procedures. One-by-one, over the past decade, the district has literally been taking these tools out our hands without justification. Evidently we can still sweep (with a month's notice, pre-approval by the district, and supervision by at least two district staff at overtime rates).
jeni engler February 24, 2012 at 04:45 AM
Rob, it is not the district administrators and teachers who limit the use of volunteers, but the union contract agreements. In my years as a parent volunteer (since 1990), the restrictions have actually eased up a bit. Years ago there were two annual district-wide Beautification Days. Community groups delivered lunches, all schools were open. Volunteers were stretched between all the campuses, so schools then had their own days to allow for volunteers who had kids at multiple campuses to be at each scheduled day. We used to have to allow any district maintenance/custodial worker to come on a beautification day, with no restrictions on numbers. All who wanted to "work" would be paid. PTA's and other parent groups helped with the added wages for these beautification days. Union contracts have been modified in recent years. Now there are limitations on the number of district employees who can show up for work days. They have to sign up in advance, as well. I believe. As a continuing district volunteer, even with my children out of school, I feel very welcome and appreciated by administration. I do wish there was a bit more freedom for parents to help with deferred maintenance and more skilled work. Union agreements would have to change once again so we could all work cooperatively together. To have a dialog, we would need the classified workers' union on board as well.
Rob Rich February 24, 2012 at 08:38 PM
I applaud the Board for eliminating the rule that allowed unlimited numbers of district staff to work at overtime rates on Beautification Day projects regardless of skill set or need. What I lament is the ever shrinking number of tasks that volunteers are permitted to perform, as evidenced by Bancroft's recent Beautification Day being rejected because of the offer by volunteers to paint, a task that has long been permitted. I agree the problem is not with faculty or school administrators, though both are stakeholders who should be represented in the process. Without clear rules and an open process with representation by all stakeholders we are likely to continue to be subject to unilateral "interpretations" of the collective bargaining agreement at the expense of the best interests of the children.


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