Cal Unified looks at cutting teachers

Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat

The Calaveras Unified School District Board of Trustees on Saturday voted to authorize some layoffs but to take music and sports off the list of cuts to be made to reach a county-assigned deadline of reining in about $2 million in overspending by Sept. 8.

The district has been overspending for a number of years, has seen continued enrollment drops and made recent errors in calculating state funding.

This summer, the Calaveras County Office of Education stepped in and cited education code law that says if the district doesn't approve a plan for cuts for the 2015-2016 school year by Sept. 8, the county or state could take over and force cuts.

The district administration came up with a two-phase list of cuts totalling about $2 million which would take effect in the 2015-2016 year, unless alternative savings or revenues are found.

The first phase called for a handful of layoffs and the second called for the elimination of sports and music classes districtwide and consolidation of the district's smallest schools - Mokelumne Hill, Rail Road Flat and West Point elementary schools. Two would close.

The possibility of sports and music being eliminated for the district - which has more than 3,100 students spread over nine schools - prompted about 300 people to attend the board's Tuesday meeting and spend the majority of a five-hour meeting asking the board to reconsider.

The board made a few decisions at a special meeting Saturday that it had held off on at Tuesday's regular meeting. About 100 people attended.

First, it voted unanimously to reduce board member health benefits from the level teachers get to the level received by classified employees - maintenance, cafeteria and other staff. That move should save about $20,000.

Several audience members asked the board to instead perform their duties with no compensation, or to adopt the new policy with pay but donate their pay to the district during this hard time.

But Kyle Harvey, classified union representative who has pushed for the board to get reduced benefits, thanked the board and said they "have come a long way on this issue."

Next, the board voted 4-1 to remove sports and music from the list of proposed cuts, after hearing hours of testimony from students and adults on Tuesday and Saturday calling the programs critical.

For the complete story, see the Aug. 25, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.

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