Dry Creek trustees approve layoffs

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein The Press-Tribune
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Grappling with what its superintendent called a fairly catastrophic state budget, the Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District will issue layoff notices to more than two dozen members of its certificated staff “ from teachers to assistant principals. Trustees at a special session Thursday unanimously approved eliminating 21 elementary school teaching positions; four full-time middle school teaching positions; 2.5 assistant principal positions; a fourth/fifth-grade science teacher position; and a technology resource teacher as part of an effort to cut roughly $1.3 million from its budget. This is the first time the district has had to issue intent to layoff (notices), Superintendent Mark Geyer told trustees, who were joined by an audience that included about two dozen teachers, at Quail Glen Elementary School. We've tried to make (the cuts) as far away from the classroom as possible. Having said that, there will be an impact and it will be a negative impact. Like many other districts both locally and around the state, Dry Creek is facing a major financial crunch as it is forced to swallow its share of $4.4 billion in education cuts related to Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneg-ger's budget proposal, which was released in January. In addition, officials said, the district will be hit hard by a drop in enrollment of approximately 150-200 students district-wide next year, which will reduce the amount of state per-pupil funding. Officials stressed the number of layoffs could be trimmed if the state's financial picture improves. Though a final state budget might not be approved until late summer, trustees are required to notify certificated staff of layoffs by March 15 and base fiscal projections on the most recent state budget proposal as-is. Addressing trustees before they voted on the issuance of layoff notices, Jay Pierce, president of the Dry Creek Teachers Association, urged them not to forget the real-life impact of their decision. This is going to be most painful for those who are actually employed in the classroom, he said. They're the ones who have to make a car payment. They're the ones who have to make a mortgage payment, who have to supply what's needed for their kids. For teachers, he offered the advice he told his girls basketball team: be cool and never stop working hard. Still, he said, This decision will be costly. It will also be disruptive. And it's also going to be damaging to morale. Officials said the staff reductions would lead to slightly increased class sizes. But classrooms aren't the only place budget cuts are likely to be felt. Trustees at a recent regular board meeting also approved cuts to district administration and school site budgets, as well as clerk and janitor positions, among other reductions. After the vote, board President Tracy Pittman told teachers that trustees didn't relish their decision. It's difficult to let people go, she said. It's tough for us. But part of our jobs as trustees is to safeguard the community's resources. Dry Creek is not the only local district contemplating layoff notices. Eureka Union School District trustees, who are also dealing with an enrollment decline of hundreds of students, will meet March 11 to vote on a proposal that would hand notices of layoffs to 10 teachers and a school nurse. The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the district office board room, 5455 Eureka Road.