School layoffs begin as budget hits home

Budget reductions have begun to take their toll on local students, programs and staff, nearly a month after the state Legislature approved over $8 billion in cuts to public education.

Earlier this week the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, and the Los Altos and Mountain View Whisman elementary school districts, passed budgets for the remainder of the school year, transferring funds and dipping into reserves as they prepare for millions in cuts through 2010.

The Los Altos district also sent out pink slips to 45 employees, and the high school district decided to mail preliminary notices to its full-time Adult School teachers, warning they could be laid off before the start of the 2009-10 school year.

Among the state budget cuts are more than $1 billion over the next 17 months from special programs, such as arts and English language programs. Locally this means $2 million from the high school district through 2010, mostly in adult education cuts; and $500,000 from LASD, although trustees there already decided to slash over $2 million to prepare for more cutbacks in upcoming years.

But the Mountain View Whisman School District faces the largest cut of all: $2.6 million through 2010. As a revenue limit district, it receives most of its funding from the state, unlike the other two districts which rely on local property taxes for funding.

Administrators say these numbers are still uncertain as they wait for California voters to approve some of the budget decisions in a special election in May. The state will also receive additional funds from the federal stimulus package, but administrators still do not know how much of this funding the local schools will receive.

MVLA pink slips

At their meeting on Monday, high school district trustees voted to send out pink slips for the next school year to all Adult School full-time teachers, putting them on notice that they could be laid off within the year.

The district faces $2 million in reductions over the next 17 months, and approximately $1.3 million of this will come from the Adult School, which offers re-training, English language instruction and also General Education Development (GED) programs for students who have not finished their high school education. Those cuts comprise about 20 percent of the Adult School's budget.

While most districts send out pink slips to let teachers know they will be laid off, the high school district is using pink slips as a preliminary warning that some of the 29 full-time permanent teachers could lose their positions, administrators said. Trustees will not make final cuts until later this spring.

Director Laura Stefanski and district administrators are looking to reduce classes offered in the spring and increase some fees and class sizes. But, she said, "Everything is on the table."

Trustees govern both the high schools and the Adult School, but funding for the two programs comes from different sources. The high schools rely on property taxes, while the state pays for most of the Adult School programs.

Superintendent Barry Groves said the high schools would be spared major cuts if budget proposals are passed by California voters in May. The district currently is transferring funds in order to keep programs running, and administrators will also use money the district did not spend this year.

MV Whisman in bind

The budget cuts leave the Mountain View elementary district short $2.6 million for the next 17 months. The district will not receive money for special programs or $1.8 million of daily attendance money, funds normally given to revenue limit districts for each student attending the schools. And it will not be allotted cost of living adjustments as prices rise for health care and benefits.

The district will rely on its parcel tax, parent donations and reserves to make it through the year, and special programs, such as music and art, will be reduced depending on budgets allotted from the state.

Administrators say there will be no layoffs of full-time teachers this spring. Chief financial officer Craig Goldman said the district has a list of top priorities with core academics, district initiatives and extracurricular activities at the top.

This spring, trustees also must pass a budget for next year, and Goldman said the district will once again rely on reserves. Trustees could also transfer unused money and talk with the Parcel Tax Oversight Committee and Mountain View Educational Foundation about using funding for different programs than before to fill the budget gap.

The district has not yet decided about layoffs for certified staff.

LASD fires 45

Forty-five employees in the Los Altos School District will be let go this spring as the district tries to deal with over $2 million in cuts through the 2010-11 school year, administrators decided last week.

The district, which serves hundreds of Mountain View residents, will make cuts totaling $2.3 million over the next two years, including $500,000 from special programs and $800,000 in one-time cuts. Board members decided on the cost-cutting measures during their March 2 meeting.

Los Altos schools will see $500,000 in reductions through 2010 significantly less than expected. But, assistant superintendent for business services Randy Kenyon said, the board is now preparing for 2010-11, when the schools could face millions in cuts.

"It's not just a one-year problem," Kenyon said.

The trustees cut employees and budgets in the physical education departments, libraries, science programs and district office staff. The district will transfer money from unused funds and will "restructure" certain programs, such as English language development and summer school, saving the schools a projected half-million dollars.

Administrators said pink slips will be sent out to certificated staff by March 15, and to classified staff by mid-April.


Posted by concerned, a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2009 at 6:26 pm


Posted by concerned, a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 12, 2009 at 6:30 pm

is this really the time to be spending 2 million for renovation of preschool for the pact program.

Posted by One more time, a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm

This is the LOS ALTOS school district thatis sending out 45 pink slips -- NOT Mountain View Whisman.

Posted by Mum, a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2009 at 5:01 pm

One more time - your wrong

Posted by concerned, a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 13, 2009 at 5:10 pm


But the Mountain View Whisman School District faces the largest cut of all: $2.6 million through 2010. As a revenue limit district, it receives most of its funding from the state, unlike the other two districts which rely on local property taxes for funding.

Posted by Sandy, a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 13, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Our teachers are getting pink slips, our poorest preschool children are displaced and one has to wonder why? Mike said it best: "Why when we are facing such deep budget cuts, are we allocating 2 MILLION DOLLARS in upgrades for PACT? (oh that's right, PACT needs a garden) And I still want to know where all the operational funds are coming from, did the district find some extra money?" TRAGIC!!!

Posted by One more time, a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2009 at 11:57 am

Sandy, MVWSD is not pink-slipping teachers this year. Maybe next year. The pink slips are in Los Altos School District and the MVLA High School District Adult School.

Education budgets are the most convoluted thing imaginable, full of restrictions beyond the control of the district administration. If the $2M that is being used to renovate space for PACT cannot by law be used for anything else to offset the budget cuts from the state (most likely true), then why does it make more sense to leave the $2M just sitting in some building fund and have Castro be overcrowded?

And I know everyone will say that that's what the district gets for being "stupid" enough to close Slater, but consider that the main problem here is the same one that lots of districts face now. Since they are always scrambling with budget issues, they don't have the flexibility of keeping schools open during enrollment dips. This happens to other district (Los Altos and Bullis, for example; and Palo Alto I believe had to spend a bunch of money a few years back to buy back a campus that they sold to the city back in the 70's or 80's so they could open a third middle school). Pre-Prop 13, the school districts probably had fewer students since the population here was lower, but they had lots more small school sites. They had the budget flexibility & spending authority to weather the ebbs and flows of enrollment. Now they don't, they have to spend as the state dictates, and react to whatever their enrollment and budget look like 3 years out, and if either changes unexpectedly, they are toast. And they did have demographic studies done before closing Slater, and none of them predicted the current enrollment bump.

Blame the adminstrators all you want, the problem is our broken educational finance system and screwy property tax system in California.

Posted by Mike, a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 16, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Actually, one more time, the California and Federal government are in the process of passing legislation to okay school districts "reallocating" funds because we are in a uniquely devastating economic crisis. What if this goes through and instead of using our funds for the basic educational needs of all our children and teachers, we spend our money on a choice program??????? We should definitely get answers to this before the new garden plots are ordered. For once could we please have some foresight??

Posted by A PARENT, a resident of Castro City
on Mar 17, 2009 at 11:36 am

wouldnt it be wise to spread pact teachers so all students benefit rather than give into pact. At the cost of 2 million. I feel all the kids would be better off than the pact kids having a garden. Come on people. We need to keep teachers not cater to a few pact parents.

Posted by One more time, a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Mike, that may be true, but Castro will still be overcrowded, which has been a big problem for them. Someone has to move. Would people be happier if the district spent the $2M to move someone other than PACT? Seems like people just hate PACT, which I just don't get. They don't take any more day-to-day resources than any other group; they raise their own money for their special programs like Arts Focus, and the reason they are being selected to move is that they are a self-contained unit and it's less disruptive to the school community as a whole. They actually have special legal status under the Ed Code as an "alternative school"-- so they are, in effect a school by themselves, they just don't have their own principal. And no--I do not have nor have I ever had kids in PACT, so I'm not just defending "my" program.

And note to "Mum" -- read the story again, it's LASD and MVLA High School districts pink-slipping right now. MVWSD might need to, but I have not heard that they have pink-slipped any teachers as of yet. There was the possibility of pink-slipping some classified staff (secretaries, clerks, etc.).

Posted by A Concerned Parent, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 17, 2009 at 2:30 pm

There is a school board meeting on March 23rd at 7 p.m. for Mountain View Los Altos High School District.

1299 Bryant Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94040

We need to advocate for our kids and the school programs. I plan on being there and I hope some of you are there as well.

Posted by Long Time MV Tax Payer, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 17, 2009 at 6:09 pm

The article stated that MV elementary district administrators said there will be no layoffs of full time teachers. Unfortunately that flatly was not true.

Within the past few weeks, the district terminated a dozen or so teachers who are up for tenure. These were teachers who gave their heart and soul to our kids, schools and the community over the past years. Many of these teachers have been receiving great reviews right up to the time of termination. The district refused to give any reasons and casually destroyed the teaching career of those valuable teachers who will never be able to teach in Mountain View district again.

In today's economic turmoil, we do understand the budgetary difficulties and that the district may not be able to retain all its teachers without assistance. However, the way the elementary school district used and discarded these teachers was simply WRONG. These are the same educators who we have entrusted to teach our children the difference between right and wrong?!

Maybe the district should be laying off the administrators and save the teachers.

Posted by Sue, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Why when there is a budgetary crises does the state pick on the teachers all the time, while the state legislature are the ones who don't know how to budget the money in the first place?

Along with them and the governor they are the ones who created the mess. Why aren't their jobs cut? Why aren't they made to sacrifice like the rest of us? People put up with the crap going on in Sacramento all the time and don't get angry enough. They all should be made to step down.

Posted by Long Time MV Tax Payer, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 19, 2009 at 8:11 pm

I have just read the article "Parents up in arms over 'abusive' teacher". The Stephanie Totter in the article is the same administrator who have just destroyed the teaching career of a dozen or so valuable teachers in the MV elementary district. She obviously has a different perspective on the kind of teacher who is a "good match" for MV district. It certainly is not the well being of our children.

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