School cuts ‘March’ along |

School cuts ‘March’ along

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Eighth-grade students at South Tahoe Middle School Tyler Lastri, left, and Terra Verebely mix up a batch of chili Thursday during home economics class. Three of the six classes offered at the school may be cut to meet the district's budget.

The process began three months ago, when Beth Delacour asked teachers to verify dates of employment and education. Next month, some of those same teachers will be released as part of budget cuts.

Delacour, the human resources director for Lake Tahoe Unified School District, submitted a list of detailed proposed staff cuts expected to be approved Friday morning by the school board.

State law dictates teachers must be notified of job losses by March 15.

While this year doesn’t have the numbers of last school year, or the newness of years prior, the layoffs are expected to reach those who have worked for the district a dozen years.

Declining enrollment forced the district to cut staff and programs since the 1996-97 school year, when the pupil population peaked at nearly 6,000. Next school year enrollment is projected at 4,631 students.

Two elementary schools and class-size reduction were included in cuts made for this year.

In early January Delacour scrutinized enrollment figures with Chief Financial Officer Michael Curran. Requests went out to the heads of school sites on what classes lagged in students and if they could be consolidated.

As a result, the district’s staffing level for next school year is slated at a 2-1 teacher-student ratio. The ratio is a negotiated item between the district and teachers’ union.

At the elementary level, Bijou Community and Sierra House schools are expected to lose three teachers each while Tahoe Valley will lose two.

“This time of year is always a challenge before the March 15 date because we try to function at school sites as a team,” said Jim Watson, principal of Sierra House. “When you know all your team members might not be back it has a terrible emotional impact on the school. At this point, until we really know who the folks are, everyone is wondering is it me?”

According to Delacour’s draft of cuts for next year, special education teachers took one of the biggest hits. Six are expected to lose their jobs or hours.

Some good news is four instructors submitted leave of absences for next school year, meaning some fired teachers could fill in.

“We can always add back,” Delacour said.

School Safety Coordinator Lisa Huard is expected to lose her full-time position, which will save the district $85,500 in money designated for that purpose.

Huard’s projects include countering substance abuse by students. She orchestrates the Drug Store Project, a day that focuses on drug prevention for seventh-graders, and Every 15 Minutes, which illustrates the horrors of drunken driving for high schoolers.

The hope is to obtain grant money to fund that position. If that’s not feasible then the duties will be distributed.

Lisa McDaniel is also on the list. As the instructor of home economics at South Tahoe Middle School, McDaniel faces the loss of three of the six classes she teaches.

Every 12 weeks, 150 students are assigned to McDaniel’s class, at the end of a wing built in 2000 with state facilities bond and Measure C money. The home economics course is part of a batch of electives that includes art and computers.

Students have cooked strombolli, baked ziti, waffles from scratch and chocolate banana cream pie. Besides making pizza for his sisters, eighth-grader Sergio Aldana has learned how to read recipes and measure ingredients. The class, one of his favorites along with science, has helped his math comprehension as well, he said.

“It’s teaching me how to cook so when I get older I can cook for my kids and stuff,” he said.

– E-mail William Ferchland at

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