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Who Gets Cut by the School District Cuts?

Librarians and special education aides are not the only ones affected.

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?”

Gaia Renee Vacek April 11, 2011 at 03:11 PM
I am alway astounded that it's positions that affect students that are cut, while administrative positions remain unchanged. Cutting special education and library hits those students that may lack home resources. I'm sure cuts can be made in the district offices and administration before hitting the schools.
"The Black Panther of Poetry" April 11, 2011 at 08:50 PM
I am curious that during all these cuts; did they manage to cut and or demote Vice Principal Ron Wheat. I HOPE SO!!!
Rich Tatro April 11, 2011 at 09:39 PM
The problem with BUSD is they are teacher not business people and the schools systems are run like business these days. I have a news flash for BUSD as well as the teachers union; good people lose their jobs everyday in the real world. I would suggest figuring out what the TRUE needs are for the students and prioritize backwards from there. I believe you guys spent $100,000.00 on trying to get bond on my property taxes you already have 5 on there, how many jobs or hours would that saved. Why not try something different like financial responsibility! Rich Tatro
Jenny Bledsoe April 12, 2011 at 02:56 AM
It's interesting that the District has 18% in its reserve fund for a "rainy day", when the requirement is that it needs 3%. THERE IS $5.9 MILLION dollars sitting in the reserve fund that belongs to our kids and their education. This includes money that the Federal gov't gave to school districts at the beginning of the year that our School Board put away in the reserve. This money belongs to our kids. Instead of laying off 27 teachers and increasing class size again, when it is clearly proven that class size improves a child's learning, why don't we release $1.2 million from the reserve, retain the 27 teachers who were pink slipped and keep class size low? That will still leave $4.7 million dollars in reserve- way above what is legally required. The School Board is at fault for not considering this option and looking only at cuts that can be made to both teaching and non-teaching positions in the District. I agree with comments above that the District financial mangement is sub-par and find it very interesting that the District finance officer took a pay increase last summer along with the Superintendant (who did give hers back in the end) and the District could afford an $80,000 a year nutritionist to work on healthier school menu options. I know my child's school still has fish sticks, pizza and hot dogs on the menu- not very healthy options for our 80K. The School Board needs to be held accountable for their actions- explain why the reserve money is not being released???
Mark Pipkin April 12, 2011 at 06:53 PM
I would very much like to see a complete accounting of the administration costs. What exactly are they administering and is this layer of management absolutely necessary? I would venture that very competent people could be found - laid off from the private sector, say - would would be willing to fill these positions for substantially lower pay. Never mind things like healthcare and pensions. These folks need to realize that they money is just not there and not going to be there in the future to pay for these bloated salaries and benefits and organizational redundancies. I just love the $80K nutritionist. I see absolutely no evidence of ANY result from this position with the school lunches and junk that is allowed to be handed out in school or sold by the PTG. $80K for a nutritionist plus benefits! This salary is completely disconnected from the reality in the world outside of the bureaucracy.
Karen LaRiviere April 12, 2011 at 09:12 PM
The Director of Food Services that was hired last fall is paid for out of "categorical funds" not the general fund and is basically "self-funded." The whole point of hiring him was to improve the overall food delivery to all students (Nutrikids - which Valero paid for), remodel the BHS cafeteria to get more kids to eat on campus and hopefully be able to close that campus at lunch time and capture more kids on Free and Reduced Lunch which is free money from the Feds. 90 students were buying lunch 18 months ago with 1600 students at the high school. They are getting close to 300 per day now. The quality of the food is still an issue and still needs to be improved but his cost does not take away from classrooms. As for the bloated Administration - School Services in Sacramento has repeatedly stated that BUSD is VERY lean in the administrative positions. People forget that there are over 300 employees in the district - teachers, secretaries, custodians, aides, librarians, computer techs, etc. They all need supervision and there are only 4.5 actual "Administrators" - Superintendent, Director of Finance, HR, Curriculum (part-time) and Special Ed. Between labor contracts, and administration of everything involved with running a "business" as well as federal and state regulations that school districts are responsible for, that work cannot be done by just anyone. If just one thing falls through the cracks and the district is sued it will make the salary of Admin look like a drop.
Karen LaRiviere April 12, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Following up on my previous post - the BHS cafeteria remodel is also being funded by Valero. There are additional "Administrators" if you count Principals, but with close to 5,000 students that THEY are responsible for, it's not as if those schools could run without some leadership. The high school tried that in the past and they are still trying to correct the mess that was made. As for the $60,000+ that was spent asking the good citizens of Benicia if they could part with $4.80 a month, that would have gone a long way towards keeping those teachers from getting pink slips. Unfortunately, the minority of a couple hundred people kept that from happening and I don't think anyone anticipated asking $58 A YEAR wouldn't pass. The Board stated last Thursday that they will probably have no choice but to use monies from the reserve because they have to make over $3 million in cuts and even with all the pink slips they are still short of that goal. Getting rid of 1 or 2 Administrators isn't going to solve this budget problem. The district is already getting considerably less money from the state than they did 5 years ago. The parcel tax would have gone a long way to backfilling those state cuts but unfortunately some folks had other priorities.
Karen LaRiviere April 12, 2011 at 10:28 PM
Rich, those taxes on your property tax bill are BONDS. They paid for the expansion of BHS, BMS, modernization of Semple, Farmar and Henderson. Not one penny of that money can, by law, go to the students, teachers or classrooms. That money is only for capital projects and improvements. The parcel tax on the other hand, which was about $60,000 to place on the ballot, would have raised $600,000 per year for 5 years at a cost of $4.80 per month to the residents if it had passed. The state has cut funding to BUSD about $500 per student or more in the last 5 years with the next round of cuts to total an additional $500-700. BUSD has always been the lowest funded school district in the state and the parcel tax would have gone a long way to preventing some of these cuts that are being forced on the district by the state now. There really isn't any "bloat" in the district when you realize that there are over 300 employees and close to 5,000 students. I think you'd have a hard time finding a corporation with 5,300 employees and only 4.5 "managers/supervisors" or 14.5 if you count the principals at the 7 district schools.
Rich Tatro April 13, 2011 at 03:33 AM
Karen, it’s clear you have been taught all the right answers. Isn't funny that the money is always in the wrong coffers and the law says we can't touch. I noticed you side stepped the $100,000.00 BUSD blew trying to get the parcel tax passed when the voter had voted down the parcel tax twice before. Let’s keep it real as long as we're on the topic, the second time the parcel tax was voted down about two weeks after the election there was an article in the Times Herald that the BUSD had uncovered an accounting error and the BUSD really had a surplus. I think that the community has lost it faith and confidents in the people running the district. I’m not sure which part of the district you work in but my point is simple what the district has been doing is not working we need to do something different.
Karen LaRiviere April 13, 2011 at 04:29 AM
No Rich, I haven't been taught all the right answers, I've just been involved in what's been going on for the last 12 years on Site Council, Budget Advisory Committee, PTG, etc. and don't rely on "heresay." I didn't "sidestep" the money that you feel was blown trying to get folks to part with $4.80 a month. It wasn't $100,000 - it was closer to $60,000. Private funds and donations covered some of the campaign costs, same as in the previous parcel tax campaigns. After the parcel tax was defeated the 2nd time, the school district received 1 time money from the federal government for "mandated costs" that covered costs the district had incurred for special education and other programs the government said had to be provided but didn't pay for for over 5 years. It was about $5 million. Unfortunately, a former board member absolutely hated the superintendent at the time, and ran her out of the district at a cost to the district of $180,000, and made it sound like she had been hiding money. That was not the case, it was money that was owed and part of the current "reserve" is still some of that money. The district has been very frugal with its funds because they never know how much $$ they will be getting from 1 year to the next from Sac but it's been about $700 - $1000 less per student from 5 years ago or almost that same $5 million from a few years ago. The district is at the mercy of Sacramento and I think they've done a pretty good job in the last 4-5 years in horrible times.
Karen LaRiviere April 13, 2011 at 04:34 AM
Rich, I ran out of space, but you don't think what the district has been doing is working and that something different needs to be done - What do you propose? My point during the parcel tax campaign was that if your boss kept cutting your paycheck every week and some weeks didn't pay you at all and you still had all your same bills to pay, what would you do? You might get a second job (parcel tax) or cut your expenses. Unfortunately at some point you would run out of things that you could cut and still survive. Same as the school district - and every other school district in this ridiculous state because of the way they are funded but I am curious what you think should be done because they could use all the good ideas they can get.
Rich Tatro April 13, 2011 at 07:24 PM
Karen, I think social media is great but the one drawback is you can’t see the other person’s body language and sometime the way a person expresses themselves in writing is miss-understood because there is no personal contact. So I want to state my point clearly. I’m not saying that anyone in BUSD is wrong, bad or intentionally done anything to harm BUSD I have no desire to blame anyone. I am simply saying that if the BUSD has been dealing with these problems for the last 12 years and they haven’t gotten any better than we need to do something different! I am about solving the problems not assigning blame! I understand completely how hard it is to make ends meet with reduced hours and some teachers losing their jobs. I am a small business owners and I run a commission based company that deals with the general public with all kinds of occupations I have a front row seat on people struggling. That was my point you folks think you’re the only ones going through economic hard time when the rest of us have been dealing with that stress for at least the last 3 years. Part 1
Rich Tatro April 13, 2011 at 07:57 PM
What I do in my business and my personal life is try and take an objective view of whatever hurdle I’m trying to overcome. The good news is by doing this I accept responsibility for what I can change. The older I get I find increasingly harder to change my own behavior and I am under no illusion that I can change anybody else’s behavior. So what would I do about the problems with BUSD? 1. I think BUSD has an image problem and they need to repair that with the community. Whether they know it or want to believe it their image is we know best just give us more money. The message from the community isn’t we don’t want to support school; it’s that times are tough and we’re tired of throwing good money after bad. 2. Prioritize, what is the point of the K-12 school system? I believe it is to educate our children some they can grow up to be responsible and productive members of society. So how many students do we have in the district? How many are out of district transfers? Does it cost more to have the transfers in our district than the state is paying us? How many teachers do we NEED to properly educate the children? 3. Make a plan of action; we already know that there is not enough money to go around. Let me restate that I believe there is enough money to go around its just stuck in the wrong coffers. Part 2
Rich Tatro April 13, 2011 at 08:04 PM
We didn’t get in this trouble overnight and we should not expect to get out of it overnight. If you would take the time to review your post you would see that you’re trying to defend the un-defendable the results speak for themselves. So let’s start a knew we have a lot of really smart people in this community I know would like to help solve the problem they just want to know it’s not going to be business as usual. To the Patch community I'm sorry for the excess post
Karen LaRiviere April 13, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Rich I applaud your passion and you are certainly right on the money with the district's image problem. That's been a problem for years along with terrible communication with the community. I think sometimes we want big organizations to be all things to all people and you are also correct in that the purpose of the K-12 system is to education our kids to be responsible, productive adults. Unfortunately, over the years there have been far too many cooks in the kitchen stirring a pot of what they think is best and what we're and our kids are left with is a smelly pot of slop. The school district has held community budget forums several times a year for the last few years. The one they held this year for suggestions on what to do had about 20 people, 15 of them were "old-timers" and not too many new ideas came out of the meeting. Everyone thinks all that needs to be done is "cut the fat" but there is no fat left. I heard a teenager on the radio today who was rightfully angry because his generation has been short-changed by all the tax-cutting, Prop 13 adults and he had a point. Before Prop 13 California had the best roads, colleges, schools. We were truly the golden state. Now, we are fighting to stay off the bottom with Mississippi now. There's no question that something had to be done to keep old folks from losing their homes but corporations don't need property tax breaks but that's the way things are and we have to deal with it. Part 1
Robert Livesay April 14, 2011 at 02:07 AM
I am sorry Karen prop 13 is not the problem. Old folks were not going to lose ther homes. Why do corporations not need tax breaks? Explain that one to me, maybe you can convince me. The real problem is to much PC. Cut that garbage out and you will have very good schools. What is wrong with english only in our schools. Is it not a privilege to be in America. Did prop 13 cause the housing downfall, NO. Remember proberty taxes are based on selling price. No one complained when houses were selling at inflated prices. The school districts took the money gladly. My feeling is there was bad management of the funds. Not enough put away for a rainy day. How come when I went to school the norm was 30/40 class size. We seemed to get a fine education and made the country what it is today. I do not doubt there is a need for more money. But who is going to manage it properly? Tell me who it will be. Again you will need to convince me. Remember I am the one that wants the city to give the schools at one million dollars. Do the deserve it? You tell me. I will gladly listen. Bob Livesay
Karen LaRiviere April 14, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Bob, When Prop 13 was put in place it fundamentally changed the way the school districts were funded by forcing them to get all their money from Sacramento. Prop 13 limited property tax revenues based on what values were back in the late 70's. Schools are funded based on an arcane formula so that even when home prices skyrocketed, the schools did not see a fraction of that money. Making matters worse, when Prop 13 passed, Benicia was considered a "rural district" so our calculations are exceptionally low, to the point that Benicia is THE LOWEST FUNDED SCHOOL DISTRICT IN THE STATE (Ed-Data). Several of us have met with local State legislators to try and rectify this problem, but we don't have lobbyists and lawyers like LA Unified, SF Unified, or Oakland so we just get steamrolled. Another prize of Prop 13 was that it prevented local districts from being able to pass any kind of parcel tax that would go directly to the classrooms with less than 2/3 of a vote. So year after year, Benicia has to wait to find out what Sacto is going to dole out and hope that it's enough. BEF has stepped in in the last 6 years to plug a few holes, but the whole community benefits from good schools and it's primarily parents contributing to BEF. If the parcel tax had passed, there would have been community oversight, but we will just need to muddle along.

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