‘We’re cutting bone’
SCHOOL BOARDMEMBER CAM HAWING listens to a question during last Thursday’s special board meeting to deal with the proposed $2.6 million in cuts facing Valley schools.
Time is running out as the Sonoma Valley Unified School District board will be getting the proposed list of nearly $2.6 million in cuts prior to its December board meeting.
At a special meeting Thursday night, boardmember Cam Hawing held up the unprioritized list that contains more than $5 million in cuts and told the crowd that there’s not much room.
“When you take the $2.6 million we need to cut along with the $1.5 million we may have to cut and add in the $1 million we’re getting in savings from the solar, that’s everything on this list,” he said.
Hawing was referring to the possibility of having to make another $1.5 million in cuts if the state doesn’t reach revenue projections by the middle of December. If the state doesn’t make its revenue goals, it triggers automatic cuts for education – cuts that Deputy Superintendent Justin Frese estimated would cost the district another $1.5 million.
Later in the meeting, another board member, Dan Gustafson said, “We’ve cut before. Now, we’re cutting bone.”
The board fielded comments and questions from more than a dozen of the 60 or so people who showed up for the meeting. It was the latest in a half-dozen public sessions the district has scheduled since September in an effort to try to reach as many people as possible with the details of an increasingly grim decision.
School administrators, including principals and directors, are set to meet sometime this week to hammer out an initial proposal for the board’s Dec. 13 meeting.
The cuts will come at a special meeting in January at a time and place to be determined.
Superintendent Louann Carlomagno said so far the district has 11 pages of community feedback that will end up on the district’s website.
Carlomagno said the state won’t come close to meeting its revenue projection mark by Dec. 10. “The governor has to make a decision (about the trigger cuts),” she said. “It’s up in the air. But we don’t anticipate making additional cuts now. We may get some redevelopment money.”
If the district is in line for redevelopment money, it won’t find out until the state Supreme Court renders a decision sometime in January on a suit brought by the California Redevelopment Association. The district straddles two redevelopment areas, the City of Sonoma’s and the Springs Redevelopment Area.
People were asking where items such as class-size reduction fell on the list of cuts, and Carlomagno said that no decisions had been made. “As a former elementary school principal, it pains me to even put this (class-size reduction) on the list,” she said.
In response to another question, Frese said the $1 million in PG&E rebates and energy savings are already in the budget. If not for that $1 million, the cuts would be that much deeper.
Another question was raised about the proposed $150,000 cut in special education. Frese said that 20 percent of the district’s budget is for special education and the area the district might look at is special education transportation.
Nanci Mathison, director of student services, said there are 592 students who fall under special education.
Brandy Melendy, a Dunbar teacher, said her fear was that the un-prioritized list is actually prioritized. Frese assured her that most of the list came from the cut list two years ago.
Melendy then asked about the 2 percent raises the teachers gave up in 2009 and wanted to know why there were no administrator salary cuts on the list. Carlomagno said she would add administrator salary cuts to the list.
Joanna Greenslade, a parent, said that class-size reduction is something she hopes the district won’t consider. And she also put in a plug to keep athletics, saying that a coach told her that athletics keeps many kids in school. “These are kids who will come to school that day so they can play,” she said. “That’s extremely important.”
LeAnn Knuthson, an academic coordinator, said the board has difficult decisions to make. “I wouldn’t want that job,” she said. “We’ve gotten used to doing more with less. Cuts will force us to do even more with less. The students are our clients. No matter how far we try to keep the cuts away from the classroom, it will affect the classroom.”
After almost two hours, the board had a chance to react.
“I’m still listening,” said board President Nicole Ducarroz. “We still have more meetings. What can we do differently? What haven’t we thought of?” she asked.
Boardmember Helen Marsh said the board is mindful of voices not often heard. “All cuts affect the classroom,” she said. “We have to look at which cuts will have the least negative impact.”
Boardmember Gary DeSmet said even when cuts are decided, the next question will be how to implement them. “Sacramento’s not going to help us and we’re not getting any help from the feds,” he said. “I’m hoping for a community awakening.”
And Hawing, holding up the list of cuts, said with the possibility of another $1.5 million in cuts and without the solar savings, the cuts would eat up the entire list. “This is going to be painful,” he added.