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Eureka Union School District issues librarians pink slips

Eureka Schools Foundation raising money to help offset district cuts
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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The Eureka Union School District board of trustees voted unanimously to issue pink slips to all district librarians, technology support staff and two music teachers at their March 7 meeting.

Seven librarians are employed by the district. School districts are required to issue layoff notices by a state-mandated deadline of March 15, but may rescind them before the following academic year.

Greenhills Elementary School librarian Anne Casagrande has worked in the district for 17 years. She works 5.2 hours a day and sees each class from her kindergarten through third-grade school half an hour per week. She reads them a story and collaborates with teachers to match curriculum. Because of previous budget cuts, her school’s Parent Teacher Council buys all the books for the library.

“I can’t imagine a school without a library,” Casagrande said. “I can’t imagine another way to encourage, entice and excite students about reading. It will be a sad day indeed when the libraries close.”

Current projections, based on the governor’s January proposed budget, indicate that the district will have a $3.8 million deficit in the 2012-13 school year if voters fail to pass Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax initiatives. The district has cut $4.4 million from its budget since 2009.

"It is our sincere hope that while working with our school foundation these valued programs can continue to be offered," said Board President Kristie Greiss. "It is the role of the board to maintain a balanced budget and keep the district fiscally sound."

The board voted to lower class sizes in an effort to attract students to the district, which "may have a positive net effect," Greiss said.

The board also decided junior high athletics won’t be offered next year unless the Eureka Schools Foundation is able to cover the full cost of this program. The foundation is considering whether it will have the money to step in and pay for librarians, technology staff and music teachers.

“We appreciate the gravity of the cuts the board is making, but we feel that as a community we must respond by saving the programs that are a crucial part of a quality, well-rounded education and part of what separates our district from others in the state,” said foundation President Warren Holt.

The foundation is holding its Annual Giving Campaign, seeking tax-deductible cash donations from local businesses, parents and other community members.

The foundation is providing more than $550,000 for the current school year to cover enrichment programs such as libraries, technology support, music, band, choir, junior high athletics and Spanish language education. They’re also providing $30,000 in grants for a teacher training program.

The foundation needs to raise more than $700,000 to maintain these programs for next year. Last year’s Annual Giving Campaign raised $277,000.

Casagrande said as a librarian she spends countless hours maintaining the library, which includes purchasing materials and re-shelving books.

“I repair books. I clean books. I keep our database up-to-date,” Casagrande said. “I spend time daily seeking out overdue and lost books and other tasks that have to be done to keep a library running.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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To donate to the Eureka Schools Foundation’s Annual Giving Campaign, visit www.eurekaschoolsfoundation.org.