MODESTO — Modesto City Schools board members Monday night approved reducing 36 jobs, but layoff warnings will be sent to only 10 teachers, school nurses and counselors, said head of human resources Craig Rydquist.
Reassigning librarians and instructional coaches who all are certified employees to teaching positions would keep the other 26 jobs, he said. The changes would not save money. Library services would be restructured, with library technicians or PE teachers keeping libraries open for student use.
The board voted 6-1 for the cuts, with board member Ruben Villalobos dissenting. "I just don't think eliminating our K-6 library program ... is the way to go."
Member Amy Neumann said she was very concerned with the reduction of nurses. "They are so valuable," she said. "(They) can be the only contact with good health care that many of our children have." But she said school campuses made the decision to reduce that spending out of special funds they control.
Several nurses rose to speak to the board, noting the reduction means the district has 15 nurses, or about 2,000 students per nurse.
Modesto Teachers Association President Doug Burton protested pulling librarians out of the libraries. "As we head toward the common core, how can the district consider replacing librarians with PE coaches to be serving student education?" he asked.
Elementary librarian Cindy Bender said she knows she'll have a job, but the library program teaches students the basics. Starting next year, students increasingly will be asked to cite references and will need librarians. "We are the obvious partner," she said.
Also Monday, community members and alumni addressed high numbers of suspensions, particularly among minority youth.
Jacq Wilson spoke about the disparity of discipline for black male junior high and high school students, who are suspended at roughly three times the rate of whites. "We agree that you're moving in the right direction," Wilson said, but added that he wants to see more than promises. "We all agree when a kid is out of school, everyone loses."
Board member Sue Zwahlen said she supports alternative measures to suspensions. "We know from all the evidence it does not work," she said.
There's a long way to go, board Vice President Cindy Marks said, but there's been progress in race relations. "It's not the same place it was," Marks said.
The district has been awarded a $200,000 California Endowment grant to implement a peer-to-peer student justice system and support positive interventions to reduce suspensions.