As nearby school districts considered cutting as many as 300 teachers, Ramona Unified School District trustees OK’d sending 20 preliminary layoff notices to cover 11 full-time teaching jobs.
“This in no uncertain terms sucks to have to vote for this, but it is a necessity,” Trustee Dan Lopez said in a special school board meeting Monday evening.
The proposed layoffs are among cuts the district proposes to meet projected $6.1 million in state cuts for Ramona schools in the next 16 months: $1.6 million in the 2008-09 school year that will end June 30 and $4.5 million in 2009-10.
Lopez commended district staff for keeping cuts in personnel as low as possible.
“As you look across the county, there are a lot of districts that are doing blanket pink slips over this week...and our (district staff) leadership has taken the different tack of crunching the numbers and making a concerted effort to make this number as small as it possibly can be.”
Poway school board Monday night approved cutting 314 teaching jobs, the highest reported among North County districts.
Of the 20 preliminary layoff notices in Ramona, 15 will go to probationary and permanent teachers and five to temporary teachers.
State education code requires teachers receive initial layoff notices by March 15—March 13 this year because March 15 is a Sunday. Final layoff notices will be on May 1.
Last year, final notices went to 13 Ramona teachers. All were rehired, some after the school year started, Superintendent Dr. Robert Graeff said. Whether that will happen again is uncertain.
Conditions this year are exacerbated by the state, national and world economy, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Joe Annicharico said.
Six of the 11 full-time equivalent (FTE) teacher layoffs will be in the elementary schools. Others include two in high school math, one high English, one secondary special education, .8 foreign language (high school American sign language) and .2 secondary vocal music.
Temporary teachers receiving preliminary notices are three part-time Title I teachers for low-achievers and two early start kindergarten teachers.
Layoffs could have been the equivalent of 26.98 jobs, Annicharico said, but the district’s early retirement incentive of $6,000 a year for five years resulted in 17 retirements that will take effect at the end of the school year.
District staff two months ago started working on budget revisions based on the worsening state budget and what it might mean to Ramona. The budget reduction plan presented to Ramona trustees last month came the same day the state Legislature approved a budget conditioned on ballot measures in a special state election on May 19. The updated budget reduction plan presented Monday night focused on changes resulting from approval of the state budget.
“Much could change with the May special state elections and the final details of the federal stimulus law,” Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann said.
Among cost-saving measures, the Ramona district will defer maintenance, eliminate two elementary school bus routes, reduce board member travel, re-assign district vehicles, eliminate textbook allocations, reduce watering and start other energy-saving measures, reduce supply budgets by 30 percent, reduce secondary stipends, and cut the transportation director, an assistant principal, a custodian and one school secretary.
At the same time, costs are increasing. An example is the additional $1.4 million the district expects to spend on employee salaries and health care benefits.
Ramona is entering its eighth year of declining enrollment, a factor that affects district income. Projected enrollment for 2009-10 is 6,435 students, a decline of 167.
Class size of 20 students per teacher in kindergarten through grade 3 will go to 21 per teacher, and class size reductions in ninth-grade English and math will be dropped, a fact that did not please Ramona High School student Jackson Rath.
“Class size reduction has extremely positive outcomes for the school, and whoever wants to get rid of it, in my opinion to save money, is just a cheapskate,” he said, reading from a handwritten, two-page endorsement of smaller classes he had prepared for the board meeting. “...I may be just a student, but I can assure you that it does make a big difference.”
“It’s a really sad day for Ramona,” said Trustee Rodger Dohm, this year’s board president. “...It could have been far more reaching. I just want you to know that we really have thought about the students and the staff in the decisions that we make...We want to do what we feel is the right thing, which is focusing on kids learning and also on staff, because we realize our staff is providing an environment of instruction for our kids to learn.”