At , school trustees voted to reduce the hours and in some cases the positions of 90 classified employees. While there is plenty of empathy for employees, students and families will be hard hit as well.
“Voting to cut services that directly affect children every day is a serious issue that shouldn't be made in a hasty fashion,” said Nikki Lintc, a special-education assistant. She asked the board to vote "no" or postpone the cuts, saying, “The list calls for cuts and layoffs of 90 positions, which I prefer to call people.”
Proposed reductionswere announced only a few days prior to Thursday's meeting. “There has not been enough time to explain how and why the cuts will affect the quality of education,” said Lintc. "You really should think about using part of the $5.9 million reserve before making any more cuts.”
High school special-education assistant Kathy DeMartile told the board, “It hurts my pocketbook, but it hurts my heart more.” She pointed out that 43 of the 90 cuts are special-education positions that could affect 160 students.
Although that's less than 10 percent of the student body, fewer special-education aides could put a strain on teachers and the general student population because special-education students can be disruptive without individual aides.
Karen LaRiverie, a high-school parent, volunteer and member of , said, “I think they (the board) still have their work cut out for them."
“Year after year, people get pink slips. You really don't know if this is the year that it will go through. How do you pay your bills doing that?”
Benicia High library media manager Dorothy Hanson could have her hours cut by 25 percent. “It was pretty devastating,” she said.
Hanson said she was surprised to receive notice that her position was affected. “This is the first time since 2003 that I received that kind of notice. I was under the impression that I was under the general fund. Maybe they did in fact change my funding source but I was totally unaware of that.”
A 20-year veteran at Benicia High School, Hanson voluntarily took on the textbook management program, which is not part of her job. She and volunteers physically bar-coded 8,000 textbooks, saving the district thousands of dollars in lost books. “If I am cut by one day a week, I don't know when I am going to do it. As it is, I work in excess of my 40 hours every week.”
Hanson's reduction in hours means the library would be closed one day a week. She estimates that 60 to 70 students use the library during lunch and 30 to 40 before and after school. Many students come for access to technology and computers that they don't have at home.
“Having a library is an essential element,” she said. When Hanson told students that the library may not be open at lunch next year, their reactions were, “How can that be? Where am I going to go?”