Education

Modesto school district approves more cuts

Modesto City Schools trustees tackled many issues Monday night, including more cuts to employees, salaries and workdays.

Trustees also heard from Debbe Bailey, deputy superintendent of business services, who was placed on paid administrative leave April 27.

Before the board adjourned to closed session, Bailey and her attorney spoke about her removal from job duties.

Bailey said later there were some "philosophical differences" on how to manage the district's finances. She did not elaborate.

Superintendent Arturo Flores placed her on leave. He won't comment on the move, citing confidentiality laws.

Items settled Monday night:

— Trustees approved starting a program this fall aimed at accelerating instruction for the district's 2,300 junior high and high school students who are learning English. Officials hope the English Language Instructional Program will help students learn basic as well as academic English faster and improve test scores.

— Seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders will start the classes this fall, expanding each year through 12th grade. Most efforts will focus on students who primarily speak Spanish, but officials say there are schoolchildren whose first language is Khmer, Iraqi, Lao or Punjabi.

— Administrators presented an hourlong update on the district's progress toward meeting goals in its strategic plan. Average student scores on math and English school tests were up and down, but officials noted improvements in research and teacher and administrator training that they hope will translate to better teaching and learning and higher test scores.

— In an effort to cut about $12 million from the 2009-10 budget, trustees approved further reductions in employee positions and salaries.

The board Monday supported an agreement with the classified employees that will reduce pay by 1 percent and require three-day furloughs starting July 1.

The reductions will trim $1.3 million from next year's budget. Classified employee union members vote on the agreement this week.

The meeting continued past The Bee's press deadline, and a similar agreement with the managers union had yet to be discussed.

Other issues trustees had yet to discuss late Monday:

— Two proposals to reduce the positions or hours of 10 classified managers, such as high school student activity directors, and 60 classified employees, including library assistants, classroom aides, bus drivers, custodians and secretaries. The measures would cut about $2.3 million.

— Student trustee Thalia Soto urged trustees to keep student activity directors, who make student life lively for thousands of high school students.

— Twenty-five students attended the meeting to show their support for the administrators.

— Rescinding a resolution to lay off teachers after the Modesto Teachers Association and district officials agreed to wage cuts, furloughs and an early retirement incentive for longtime teachers. The reductions will cut an estimated $7 million from the 2009-10 budget.

Be staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.

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