The Modesto City Schools Board of Education on Monday night took up several issues to slash spending, including closing an elementary school and consolidating administrative jobs.
The gravity of the board's discussions and decisions was evident as many staff who usually leave after their presentations stayed through most of the meeting.
Trustees, staff and consultants spent an hour discussing the 2010-11 budget and how much and where to make spending cuts. The cuts — at least $25 million — will be so deep that officials need to protect programs that are the most cost-effective.
"You need to decide what is urgent and what is doable with the resources you have," said Jannelle Kubinec with School Services of California, a financial advising and lobbying group for schools.
Trustees approved Superintendent Arturo Flores' plan to reorganize the district office to consolidate jobs and save money. The vote was 7-0, with trustees expressing their desire to see additional cuts from the administration.
Union leaders called the reorganization a shell game, saying the estimated $2.3 million in savings first presented in January was misleading because many positions were vacant or being paid through different funds. The tweaked plan presented Monday would save about $2 million, according to the district.
Nine of the 38 positions up for elimination are vacant. The plan would create eight positions.
Barney Hale of the Modesto Teachers Association took issue with some of the numbers, saying officials should only count new savings, which he estimated at $1.2 million. Hale said almost twice as much should be slashed from administration.
"I think you need to pass this proposal, but it doesn't go far enough," Hale told trustees.
Flores agreed with Hale, saying he plans on further cuts.
Leaders from the district's classified employees union urged trustees to reject the proposal, also saying the plan doesn't trim enough from the district office, which has the least direct impact on students.
Stan Trevena, president of the managers union, stated the district was not top-heavy and encouraged the unions to work together.
The state average of students to administrators is 249-to-1, said Trevena, citing state data. Modesto City Schools' is 330-to-1.
"Management represents less than 10 percent of the district's payroll. You can't get to $25 million in cuts just by cutting from administration," said Trevena, the district's director of information and technology services.
Discussion on other items went late, including talks on closing Pearson Elementary.
Modesto City Schools would be the third district in Stanislaus County to close a school. Stanislaus Union and Empire Union districts closed one each for this school year; Salida Union is considering an elementary school closure for next school year.
Next to the district office in west Modesto, Pearson Elementary enrolls 280 students in kindergarten and first grades, according to 2008-09 data. It's one of the district's smallest campuses.
Students would attend Franklin Elementary School, half a mile away. About 670 students in grades two through six attend Franklin.
The cost to combine the schools is about $12,000. The average cost of running an elementary school is about $400,000, but Pearson is smaller, so savings likely would be less.
Discussion about starting a dual-language program started late in the meeting and after The Bee's deadline.
Also, trustees did not report after a closed session, so it's not known if they appointed a new associate superintendent of curriculum to fill a vacancy.