Sylvan schools to cut 50 positions

Layoffs at other districts expected in coming weeks

February 9, 2010 

The Sylvan Union Board of Education on Tuesday night approved a plan to lay off 50 employees for the next school year.

In an effort to slash spending by $5 million, Modesto's second-largest school district will increase class sizes and lay off 36 elementary teachers.

Other layoffs include two music teachers, two art teachers, the district's last elementary school librarian, two counselors, the last elementary vice principal, four instructional facilitators and two resource specialists.

Known as certificated employees, they must be notified by March 15 that they may be laid off for next school year. Actual layoff notices go out in May. Classified employees, such as bus drivers and secretaries, can be laid off as late as this summer.

Over the next several weeks, other districts will follow suit, sending out notices of possible layoffs to teachers, counselors and managers by March to cut costs for the third consecutive year.

Superintendent John Halverson said the layoffs will force further consolidation of job duties.

For example, because there no longer will be assistant principals at the district's 10 elementary campuses, district office administrators will be asked to lend a hand at the schools, he said.

With about 50 people in the audience, two parents spoke at Tuesday's meeting, one urging trustees to communicate more with the public and keep small class sizes.

"By having 32 students per class in (kindergarten through third grade), I believe we're setting our kids up for failure," said Tina Hansen, a Crossroads Elementary parent. "My priority is keeping teachers sane in their classrooms and letting them reach all their students, and they can't do that with 32 kids."

John Walker, a Mary Ann Sanders Elementary dad, said trustees should be thinking outside the box. If every family in the district recycled and earned $30 a month, Walker estimated the district could get $1.2 million a year.

He also suggested the district run a second Fourth of July fireworks booth. Trustee Cynthia Lindsey took the idea further, wondering aloud if the district could set up a booth at each school and hold a friendly competition to see which site could sell the most fireworks.

Other trustees thanked the community for suggestions and asked staff, parents and the public for patience.

"We recognize that anything we reduce is going to hurt kids," said trustee Terriann Zeek, adding that the district is coping with budget reductions imposed by state politicians and fueled by the crumbling economy.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339. Read Hatfield's blog at thehive.modbee.com/ExtraCredit.

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