February 28, 2008

Carlsbad, Calif., School District Takes Step Toward Potential Layoffs

By Philip K. Ireland, North County Times, Escondido, Calif.

Feb. 27--CARLSBAD -- Carlsbad school trustees will consider a resolution Wednesday night that lays the groundwork for potential employee layoffs and the elimination of popular class size reduction programs in elementary schools.

Planning for a worst-case scenario, a Carlsbad Unified School District proposal lists 187 full-time jobs that could be targeted for elimination. Superintendent John Roach said Monday it's unlikely all those positions would fall under the knife.

By law, school officials must notify affected employees about the potential action by March 15 or lose the option for layoffs -- and the budgeting flexibility they provide.

School board trustees will consider the proposal at tonight's meeting in City Council chambers at 1200 Carlsbad Village Drive. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.

As the state budget crisis grows, district officials must prepare for the worst, Roach said. Issuing layoffs notices to meet the state deadline is common and happens almost every year. However, California's fiscal crisis makes this year different.

Citing a projected $14.5 billion budget shortfall over the next 18 months, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a fiscal emergency during his state-of-the-state address Jan. 10. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said last week that the governor's estimate is low, and the deficit could be $16 billion.

Schwarzenegger ordered most state agencies to gird for what he described as a 10 percent reduction in expected state funding. That number was based on what agencies received this year and the increases they expected next year.

Officials in many North County districts said they will get about 2 percent less in state funding next year than they got this year.

Carlsbad school officials said in January that the district would need to cut about $4.5 million from its tentative $80 million 2008-09 budget. The district planned to receive and spend $88 million during this current school year.

Tonight's proposal deals only with "certificated" employees, such as teachers, principals and counselors -- those who are licensed to work in schools by the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing.

Certificated employees who don't get the "non-re-election" notice by March 15 cannot be laid off.

Every principal, assistant principal, program director and counselor, as well as some nurses and teachers, will get layoff notices if trustees approve the resolution. The district employs 566 certificated employees, including 28 administrators.

Teaching positions account for about 80 percent of Carlsbad's proposed cuts. Eliminating the district's class-size reduction programs in kindergarten through third grades -- as well as a similar program in ninth grade -- would cut more than 60 teaching positions.

Torrie Norton, the district's assistant superintendent of personnel, said the elimination of smaller class sizes in the lower grades will affect student learning.

"At the elementary level, we think it will make a difference regarding academic achievement -- in the primary years they are learning to read and (learning) the basic foundations (of knowledge)," Norton said.

However, Norton said the loss of class size reduction in ninth grade would have little effect on student performance.

Eleven teaching positions in English and math could be cut, as well 22 physical education jobs. Various teaching positions in foreign language, dance, art, and theater could also be lost. Classes such as "Study Skills" and "Student Success" that help students do well in school could also be cut.

Laura Bowen, president of the Carlsbad Unified Teachers Association, said Monday she understands Roach's need to prepare for the worst.

"This will allow them the time and flexibility they need to work through the excruciating process of which programs and people they need to cut," Bowen said. "But can they run the schools without these people? No."

Principals and assistant principals in all 14 schools are also face potential cuts, said Roach. Every certificated administrative position in the district would receive the preliminary layoff notices, except the superintendent and assistant superintendents Suzanne O'Connell and Torrie Norton, Roach said.

As assistant superintendent of instruction, O'Connell oversees the educational programs for more than 10,000 students. Norton oversees personnel in the district of about 940 employees. The plan would also eliminate counselors at every school, as well as two librarians and two nurses.

Right now, the district has not estimated how much the cuts would save, Roach said. Wednesday's resolution does not name individual employees.


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Copyright (c) 2008, North County Times, Escondido, Calif.

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