Placer Union to cut teaching positions

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Gold Country News Service
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The Placer Union High School District plans to cut the equivalent of eight full-time teaching positions for the 2010-11 school year, District Superintendent Dave Horsey told staff recently. “As much as it pains me to look out at all of you and say this, ultimately it means that some of our colleagues won’t be here next year,” he said. Horsey held an information forum for staff at the Placer High auditorium Feb. 10, spelling out how the district has a $3.3 million budget deficit to deal with due to the governor’s budget proposal and one-time federal stimulus funds that won’t be available again. “Now we face challenges that we didn’t bring on ourselves, but we’re being asked to solve them,” Horsey said. “Don’t kid yourself from thinking education is protected from future cuts.” Horsey said this isn’t the first time the district has had to make cuts. The district has already closed summer school, reduced its maintenance schedule and school-site allocations for supplies and furniture. Class-size reduction has been cut in English 9 and Math 9, where a 20-to-1 student/teacher ratio has been bumped up to 34-to-1, and all other classes are at a 38-to-1 ratio. Some programs were eliminated at the Placer School for Adults, which also experienced a reduction of 13.5 teaching, staff and administrative positions. While the plan is to cut the equivalent of eight full-time teaching positions, Horsey said the district would hand out approximately 45 preliminary layoff notices to teachers next month. Working on master schedules for the 2010-11 school year will help administrators determine which teachers they can hire back, Horsey said, but the district must administer final notices by May 15. “While this number is large, it’s as small as I can strategically make it, and I apologize for the anxiety it may cause,” Horsey said. Staffing isn’t the only area to be impacted by the budget problem. For example, the district is examining the senior project program, weighing its costs and pros and cons, Horsey said. Other cost-cutting measures could include a two-week dead week during the summer, furloughs and the reduction of course offerings, including those with low enrollment, Horsey said. Horsey asked those attending Wednesday’s forum not to feed into the rumor mill and to seek information from their principals and other administrators, himself included. Nothing about the next few months is going to be easy, Horsey said. “It’s going to be heartbreaking at times, it’s going to be maddening at times, it’s going to seem insensitive at times,” he said. Horsey plans on attending staff meetings at each school site over the next month to answer questions. Connie Somers, who teaches English at Del Oro High School, attended last Wednesday’s forum. “I thought it was really informative and I thought that he was making every effort to be supportive and sensitive to everyone’s needs,” she said. Mo Ward, board president, also attended Wednesday’s forum. Ward said the district has avoided teacher layoffs the past two years, but that “this year the crunch is just so hard.” “We have no alternative but to look at doing layoffs,” she said after the meeting. Ward said it’s important to remain transparent. “We really try to work together to make sure everybody is hearing the same message,” she said. It’s also important, Ward said, for the community to be a part of the bigger picture, sharing their concerns and solutions. “I think they’re going to see this and feel this in the next three years,” she said.