Massive school layoffs
February 26, 2003
The Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously to cut $2.7 million in staff support to counter money lost from declining enrollment coupled with the unknown outcome of a state budget crisis.
Almost 70 classified employees will lose their jobs or work reduced hours, while 21 teachers will be given dismissal notices for next year. Nearly 50 instructional aides, part of classified staff not associated with special education or campus security, will lose their job.
“We got slammed,” said Joy Rothschild, chief negotiator and vice president of California School Employees Association.
Rothschild and Becky Fortier, president of the association, visited schools Tuesday to let one-third of their members — custodians, library aides, office assistants and the like — know they would be looking for new jobs next year.
“It’s like somebody died,” Fortier said about the mood among the classified staff.
Four out of five physical education specialists will also be eliminated to save $205,000. Teachers will be responsible for instructing physical education, as well as kindergarten teachers who will likely be teaching half the time next year.
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“The teachers are very good at teaching but (physical education) specialists, that’s what they do,” said Carry Loomis, PTA president of Meyers Elementary School.
Only positions, not names, were listed for elimination next year.
Board President Lennie Schwartz said efforts will be made to find jobs at other school districts for those who are fired. He later added the five board members decided to relinquish their benefits for next school year.
Teachers who will be dismissed include 10 from the elementary level and two each at the middle and high school levels. In addition, one music teacher and two ninth-grade teachers will be out of a job.
The two ninth-grade teachers are part of the Class Size Reduction program that will be eliminated at the high school.
CSR from kindergarten through third grade was untouched for next year, but could be eliminated if enrollment continues to drop.
As part of the plan for the upcoming years, the district is looking at possibly closing a school, introducing a parcel tax to South Lake Tahoe voters and enticing a charter or magnet school to open to lure students lost to alternative education.
Over the past five years, more than 630 students have left the district.
“The board and leadership tried to preserve programs even though there was a loss of positions and hours to the programs,” said Superintendent Diane Scheerhorn.
Prior to the vote, Scheerhorn and various education officials provided their analysis of the student decline, reserve amount, position reductions and future construction plans which will be funded by restricted bond money.
Steve Morales, district facilities director, said plans to retrofit Al Tahoe and Tahoe Valley elementary schools and the modernization of either Meyers or Sierra House remain on course.
But audience members who packed the multipurpose room of South Tahoe Middle School concentrated on the cuts. They included:
n $210,000 — five custodians
n $50,000 — three elementary office assistants
n $90,000 — unnamed administrative position
n $32,500 — resource officer at South Tahoe Middle School
n $132,000 — reduction of library aide hours
n $14,800 — reduced mileage
The district looked at $265,800 in areas including saving energy, closing about 30 portables, increasing facility fees charged to outside groups, eliminating providing bottled water, freezing overtime and terminating elementary choral programs. Two percent, or $700,000, of the reserve will be used to offset the deficit — the maximum amount allowed by the state.
Revenue-generating fees for student participation in sports and music were listed at a ballpark $25,000 while charging parents for transportation was at $100,000.
In addition, child care may be instituted to increase revenue, along with moving the district office on the corner of Al Tahoe and Lake Tahoe boulevards and leasing the property to a public entity for about $7,000 a month.
Labor negotiators will meet at the district office to discuss an early retirement incentive for employees.
Board Member Wendy David was the first to address the audience. She held optimism that the future could be bring forth more students, and more money.
“This is a one-year plan,” she said. “My hope is that in working with the community, we can begin to build back and to continue to maintain our commitment to the education (of) all children in our school district.”
David may hold that hope, but if Tuesday night was any indication when audience members were filing out before the vote was reached, it may not be shared by many.
— E-mail William Ferchland at email@example.com