Schools - May 19, 2010

Teachers' jobs saved, but district still faces shortfall

by Renee Batti

Teachers and other credentialed staff members of the Menlo Park City School District who received preliminary pink slips in March because of uncertainty over passage of a new parcel tax can shred their notices. At a special May 10 meeting, the school board left intact the positions that were on the chopping block before the May 4 passage of Measure C.

The preliminary layoff notices had been sent to two librarians, an assistant principal, several teachers and other staff, and the district was also poised to reduce hours for several other positions. The cuts would have affected 14 people, and a total of about 11.5 full-time equivalent credentialed staff positions, according to Superintendent Ken Ranella.

Measure C, which is expected to raise about $1.4 million annually, will be used to fund 7.5 of those positions, Mr. Ranella told the board.

Another two positions are expected to be funded by the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation. Foundation co-president Scott Lohmann said a grant of $137,000 to pay for two teachers is expected to be approved by the foundation board on May 27. The money was raised through the foundation's Fund-A-Teacher initiative.

The nonprofit foundation created the initiative in response to the threat of teacher and librarian layoffs, and raised a major portion of the $137,000 sum during its recent auction. The initiative also received a $300 boost from first-grade Brownie Troop 31538 of Oak Knoll School, which donated its spring cookie sales money.

Mr. Ranella said the remaining two full-time equivalent positions will be paid for with funds from Measure A, the district's existing parcel tax.

Although certificated positions were saved, there will be at least one layoff of a classified staff member, and another classified position will be trimmed 50 percent for the next fiscal year, according to the preliminary budget endorsed by the board this week. Mr. Ranella said it's possible that further cuts in classified employees will be made.

The district is still facing a $600,000 to $700,000 deficit for the next fiscal year, said Mr. Ranella, who explained that the draft budget introduced at the meeting will get a work-over before the final version is voted on June 8.

Taking the advice of the county, the district is not counting on any growth in property tax revenue in the next budget, he said.

Board President Jeff Child said after the meeting that the district will "have to get used to finding $500,000 in reductions (each year) in the future if property taxes don't increase."


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