A packed theater, a few tears and an outpouring of support and frustration directed at the Merced Union High School District administration over its proposal to cut 25 teaching positions, characterizes Wednesday's board meeting at Golden Valley High School.
Board members provided a little relief to angry teachers and students by unanimously voting to salvage 2.5 full-time librarian positions and a French teacher. The board also passed a resolution to layoff 22 teachers.
Prior to this decision, school board members reported out of closed session that they voted to eliminate six probationary teachers, five credentialed enrichment teachers and to reassign two school administrators.
For more than a month, the school district has held meetings addressing its budget woes and offered a number of different proposals to stave off a projected $2.5 million deficit in 2011-2012 and $9.4 million budget deficit in the 2012-2013 school year.
The initial proposal called for laying off 10 classroom teachers, two office directors, five counselors and four of the district's five librarians in addition to several other noncredentialed positions.
Wednesday's cuts looked a little different from the earlier proposals.
The board voted to send layoff notices to three Spanish teachers, two physical education teachers, two social science teachers, two special education teachers, four counselors, one auto shop teacher, four enrichment teachers, one AVID teacher and one district administrator.
An early retirement incentive was offered to employees a few weeks ago in hopes of reducing the number of layoffs.
Sheila Whitley, MUHSD California Teachers Association representative, told board members that she knew about 16 to 18 teachers who may agree to take this incentive.
"This should had been done last fall," she said. "This is a much more humane way of trying to solve the district's problems."
Merced High School junior, Brianna Dartas told board members that students' education was not a renewable resource.
Dartas said prior to the meeting, she feared her auto shop class would be cut.
"Not everyone is going to a four year university and not everyone wants to," she told board members during public comment. "Some people want to be auto mechanics and that's OK."
As May 15 nears, the mandatory deadline for layoff notices to be sent to certificated employees, schools districts around the state and throughout Merced County have made tough decisions.
On Tuesday, Merced City School District board of education passed a resolution to send layoff notices to 20 teachers. Six of those teachers are English Learner support teachers and 14 are intervention teachers.
More information on Wednesday's MUHSD meeting and layoffs around the county will follow in Friday's paper.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209)385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.