SALIDA -- As they received hugs and thank-you gifts from students Friday, teachers at Salida schools also learned of unwelcome end-of-the-year presents from the district office: layoff notices.
Teachers who thought they escaped layoffs in March got a rude awakening Friday, the last day of school, when Salida Union School District trustees held a special meeting and voted 3-1 to hand out 13 more notices. Trustee Lamoine Blocher voted no, and Trustee Dennis Thompson was absent.
Superintendent Doug Baughn said the district is reeling from declining student enrollment and drastic cuts in state funding. Not only is the 3,000-student district enrolling nearly 200 fewer students compared with last year, but per-pupil funding from the state will drop by 3.4 percent for 2009-10, he said.
"On June 4, we thought we had a balanced budget," Baughn said, but after a meeting with county education officials he realized the district would have to make more cuts. Without them, the district would be in the hole by $645,000 for 2009-10 and $1.4 million in 2010-11, he said.
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At tonight's regular board meeting, trustees will discuss negotiating pay cuts and work furloughs with the district's unions. If those strategies are approved, officials could rescind some of the layoff notices, Baughn said.
"This affects everyone, and it affects the students more than everybody else," said Tom Wright, who is co-president of the Salida Teachers Association and a second-grade teacher at Dena Boer Elementary School.
Typically, district officials must notify teachers by March 15 if they might be laid off the next school year. But state law allows for a rarely used second deadline of Aug. 15. Baughn said the special board meeting was necessary so staff could notify the state's administrative hearing division by Monday.
The way Friday's meeting happened riled teachers and parents, who are upset that district officials waited so long to deliver the news.
Baughn said he understands the frustration.
"It's horrible. These are employees who have been with the district for 10 years," he said. "We took six to eight weeks of planning and review done for the March notices and condensed it into three days."
In March, 19 teachers, counselors and psychologists received notices that they might be laid off for the 2009-10 school year. Coupled with the latest proposed layoffs, Salida Union would lose 25 percent of its teachers.
That means class sizes of 30 students for every teacher in kindergarten through third grade and a 33-to-1 student to teacher ratio in upper grades for the next school year. Officials also plan combination classes, in which students from different grades are in the same room, taught by the same teacher.
Salida Middle School's dean of students also is on the chopping block as the district looks for more areas to cut.
As the recession continues and politicians hammer out a state budget, school districts are hoarding cash. Salida Union was so low on cash flow that when payments from the state were delayed, trustees in April approved a $4.5 million loan through the county office of education.
Layoff notices have been given to 80 classified employees -- bus drivers, teacher aides, custodians, secretaries and cafeteria workers -- to reduce work hours for some and eliminate the positions of others.
If funding and student enrollment continues to plunge, district officials could look into closing a school for the 2010-11 school year, Baughn said.
Tonight's meeting starts at 7 in the Salida Middle School library, 5041 Toomes Road.
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2339.