School staff cuts come as a surprise to parents, staff |

School staff cuts come as a surprise to parents, staff

Jo Rafferty

MARKLEEVILLE – One of California’s distinguished schools is in danger of losing some key players, according to a teachers’ union official.

“We have a championship team,” said district teacher Joe Voss, a member of the Alpine County Teachers Association, of proposed layoffs at Diamond Valley School. “We’re overbudget, so let’s get rid of the quarterback and the star runningback.”

Parents, teachers and administrators at the school were taken by surprise Tuesday when they heard about an Alpine County School District Board meeting taking place that night concerning the layoff of five district staff members, including two full-time teachers and Diamond Valley’s principal.

About 60 people, many with less than a few hours’ notice, attended the meeting regarding the school with 87 children currently enrolled.

“The public was adamant about making sure they were there and making their opinions heard,” said Voss, who is on the negotiating and bargaining team for the county.

District Superintendent Jim Parsons said the potential cuts are due to a $240,000 deficit, but some parents and teachers see it as a retaliation.

California law requires that school staff members be notified by March 15 if there is a chance they will be laid off. The final decision on layoffs won’t be made until the May 15 board meeting.

Parsons said a lot of the problem is the declining enrollment at Diamond Valley, a kindergarten- through eighth-grade school.

“We’ve been one of those places caught with declining enrollment,” said Parsons. “The school was staffed for 130 kids, and we now have 87.”

With a budget that’s $240,000 in the hole, Parsons said the district can’t afford to keep on all of its six full-time teachers and the principal.

“When I first got to this district there was no principal,” said Parsons. “Now we have a principal running a school of 87 kids. It was either the principal or a teacher.”

The Diamond Valley School staff, who will be noticed following the board’s decision on Tuesday, are: principal Katy Hadley; first-grade teacher Robin McCully; sixth- through eighth-grade Spanish and technology teacher and librarian Rita Lovell; and an American Indian Education Reading Program instructor Deirdre Wallace. In addition, the district would lose one of two teachers at Bear Valley High School, Stephanie Bowen.

The reading program as well as a library media position would be cut altogether, according to Voss.

“You simply cannot run a school without a principal, kindergarten teacher, library-media teacher and technology teacher,” said parent Chris Branscombe. “This is our children’s education, not to mention the livelihood of those who have chosen to spend their career guiding our children to a better future.”

Parsons, who is in his 17th year as superintendent, said he thinks that once the budget is worked out funding should be available to keep some of the staff.

“I’m pretty certain not all these people will be laid off by the time the budget is worked,” said Parsons. “My guess is one or two people may lose their jobs out of the five.”

The average teachers salary in similar districts begins at $36,720 and tops out at $57,429, he said.

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