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Valley Forum: School Board should approve proposed cuts

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Editor’s note: Following last week’s Valley Forum submission by current and former educators of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District (“Cuts Must Start at District Office,” March 2) – which took the district’s proposed budget cuts to task for, according to the piece, cutting 22 classroom teachers, while including no administration positions at the district office in the cuts – district Superintendent Charles Young submitted the following in response.

We are now down to the final lap in the race to put this district back on a trajectory that starts with financial solvency and carries us through the next five years. It is based on reduced expenditures – upon which the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees will be acting March 6 – and conservatively projected increased revenue.

If we had accomplished that financial result by, as some have argued, disregarding the impact on teachers and especially students, it would have been a hollow achievement. At every step of that process, all of us engaged in that effort had the possible effect of our decisions on the educational process first and foremost in our minds.

Working out the details of position reductions in a way to minimize the number of teachers who would be terminated as a result of the necessary cuts.

We have been aided in both those areas by District Office staff, site leadership, the Finance Committee, individual Trustees, parents and other community members.

They all deserve great thanks for those contributions. I want to make some comments about the effect the budget cuts will have on the educational process in the district:

We have managed to produce the required cuts in expenditures we at first expected to be spread over the next two years, in just one year. No more cuts will be required in 2019/20. Indeed, we should be able to begin making judicious restorations where justified.

Due to incentivized retirement, resignations, leaves, non-appointment’s of temporary staff, etc., we have managed to reduce the number of certified staff positions eliminated from an early estimate of 26 to 16.5. The actual number of teachers who will receive notice of possible termination will likely be as few as one or two and possibly none.

The number of combo courses that will be required, rather than being increased as many have argued, will be decreased.

No programs are being eliminated or having their support reduced sufficiently to put them in jeopardy. After making cuts and examining potential difficulties we reduced or added back teaching positions to a number of programs, including Dual Immersion, and Freshman Teams.

While the method of allocating funds available for expenditure by site administrators has been changed, the amount of those funds has been reduced very little, if any, given the fact that staff previously hired against those funds will now be now be hired on District-controlled funds.

Between the adoption of this year’s budget and that proposed for next year, the net staff in the District Office has been cut by a net of 4.1 full-time employees.

While there will be an increase in the student/teacher ratio and, therefore, some increase in class sizes the average increase will be on the order of one additional student per course.

We are keeping the Elementary Academic Coordinator positions but changing their responsibilities to focus on interventions for students.

One additional point, the Valley of the Moon Teachers Association, some teachers, parents and others argue that all of the cuts are being taken from teaching positions with no cuts at the District Office. This is patently untrue, when one includes the cuts already made this year and those proposed for next year.

Between cuts and additions made this year, and cuts for next year, the overall reduction is 4.1 full-time employees. For the certificated staff the net 16.5 cuts being proposed (14 full-time teaching positions) netted against the increases that were approved this year is a smaller percentage than that of the District Office.

Furthermore, the positions that have been proposed to be cut at the District Office by the VMTA are critical to the future ability of the district to implement programs that are common to all sites without which the improvements in the educational process we all desire would be very difficult if not impossible.

I recommend the board of trustees approves our proposed cuts.

Charles Young is the interim Superintendent of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.