Almanac

Schools - March 17, 2010

Portola Valley school board OKs cuts

by Andrea Gemmet

The Portola Valley School District is going to have to make do without a librarian or an educational technology coordinator. The board voted 4-0, with Judy Mendelsohn absent, at its March 10 meeting to lay off both positions as part of a series of anticipated budget cuts to close an estimated $550,000 shortfall in the coming school year.

At the meeting, the board also cut back by 40 percent the hours of its director of special education, and trimmed a night custodian's hours by 25 percent.

Like many other local school districts, Portola Valley is facing the double-whammy of flat property tax revenues and big cuts in state funding. Measure D, a $168 annual parcel tax on the May 4 ballot, is expected to raise $345,000 per year for its four-year term. If it passes, Portola Valley could escape the worst of the budget cuts, although $200,000 in expenses would still need to be trimmed.

Far bigger cuts were proposed by district staff, including laying off all of the district's para-educator/classroom aides. After much discussion, board members chose to postpone a decision on layoffs of certified staff, said Superintendent Anne Campbell.

"Over the past two years, we've made $1 million in cuts, but we've kept them on the periphery," Ms. Campbell told The Almanac. "We've managed so far to avoid having to do large-scale layoffs, like Redwood City has, but it's starting to hit (educational) programs."

Teachers, or certificated staff, must be notified of pending layoffs by March 15, with final layoff notices due by May 15. Classified staff can be laid off with far less lead time, giving the board some wiggle room as it searches for other ways to plug the projected budget shortfall.

"(The board members) did decide that they need to be very fiscally careful, but want to maintain optionality over the next few months," Ms. Campbell said.

The librarian at Corte Madera, who has a teaching certificate and seniority, will be offered a classroom teaching position, Ms. Campbell said.

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