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Woodside School to trim jobs, cut costs

The Woodside Elementary School District plans to prune next year's budget, a reflection of the belt-tightening facing most districts. Both teaching and administrative positions are being cut back.

Woodside, a one-school K-8 district, is not immune to the troubles plaguing other local basic aid school districts. Property tax revenues are flat, donations to school foundations are down and state budget cuts are taking a toll. On top of that, Woodside has uncertainty about its parcel tax. The annual grant given by the Woodside Education Foundation is expected to drop by $100,000 next year from $1.7 million to $1.6 million, according to estimates by Assistant Superintendent Tim Hanretty.

If voters don't approve Measure C in the special May 5 election, the district will lose another $242,000 in annual revenue when the current parcel tax measure expires in June.

The school board considered a long list of efficiencies and cost-cutting measures proposed by Mr. Hanretty at a special meeting Feb. 24. A number of part-time teaching assignments would be eliminated under the plan approved by the board, including a half-time art teacher and a half-time physical education and health teacher.

Two full-time technology positions would be cut, although they may be reconfigured into a single new position or contracted out. The plan also calls for eliminating a full-time para-educator in special education that will no longer be needed.

Also slated for elimination is the new position of dean. The plan would replace the dean with the old position of assistant principal, but with additional duties. The full-time assistant principal would take on the tasks of the part-time counselor and part-time community specialist Karen Peterson, as those two positions would be eliminated.

"We're having to keep our eye on the administration head count. We're trying to be efficient and trying do the best for our kids," said Karen Werner, the board president.

The board's goal is to try to consolidate many of the district's part-time positions into full-time positions, in order to improve continuity for the students and have a leadership team that's on campus full-time, Ms. Werner said. It's "the notion of developing a team that can work closely together and get to know all our kids," she said.

In another bit of consolidation, the district is going ahead with a plan to change its schedule to a seven-period school day, lengthening class times to 50 minutes each. The board approved the new daily schedule in concept on a 5-0 vote, with Principal Diane Abbati to work out the details.

"We had lot of churning about a seven-period day, but I'm excited that kids will have longer learning blocks. I think every minute counts," Ms. Warner said.

The seven-period schedule will allow for more time for weekly art classes, as well as longer instructional blocks for language arts, she said.

Spanish-language instruction will be expanded into fourth grade under the new schedule. Fifth-grade Spanish instruction will be reduced to twice a week, while it will increase in sixth grade to five times a week.

The results of a school community survey on Spanish instruction presented at the Feb. 24 meeting showed that parents were willing to have a longer school day in order to make time for foreign language instruction. Those who responded to the survey overwhelmingly picked Spanish as the foreign language of choice.

"I think (Ms. Abbati) has creative and thoughtful strategies, without making a longer day. I think we already have one of longest school days," Ms. Werner said.

Comments

Posted by Tim, a resident of Woodside School
on Mar 4, 2009 at 1:23 pm

From what I understand the school's financial person recommended to increase the school's "rainy day fund" which is causing these positions to be cut. Now that the rainy day is here why doesn't the board start using these funds instead of eliminating positions? And I understand that for such a small district it's too top heavy with administration. We do need a Superintend but I don't understand why there needs to be an Assistant Superintendent along with these other administrators. Doesn't it cost the school more for these positions, and if they are thinking of reconfiguring other positions shouldn't they not think about reconfiguring these admin position to something like coordinators? A coordinator can do the same job as these administrators but not on the administrative pay scale. Better to do that then cut positions that directly help our children. Just a thought.


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