Portola Valley School District may lay off classroom aides | May 16, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



Schools - May 16, 2012

Portola Valley School District may lay off classroom aides

by Renee Batti

Thirteen part-time classroom aides may lose their jobs in the next school year as the Portola Valley School District struggles with a financial crisis brought on in part by newly discovered budgeting irregularities that occurred during the tenure of former superintendent Tim Hanretty.

Mr. Hanretty resigned as superintendent in January, and faces three felony counts that include misappropriation of public funds stemming from his employment in the Woodside School District.

The school board on May 9 voted unanimously to send pink slips to the 13 aides, whose combined hours are the equivalent of almost seven full-time positions.

Interim Superintendent Carol Piraino, who recommended the action, and school board President Scott Parker did not return numerous phone calls seeking comment.

The board's action doesn't necessarily mean the layoffs will occur, but the district is required by law to send pink slips to employees by May if it does in fact lay them off at the end of the school year. School districts across the state have sent pink slips to employees by the legal deadline to allow for the option of layoffs as they face tough challenges figuring out ways to balance their budgets.

In the Portola Valley district's case, a projected budget deficit the school board had been working to address for the 2012-13 school year unexpectedly grew by at least $418,000 when auditors late last month found evidence of possible misappropriation of funds from the time Mr. Hanretty served as superintendent.

The auditors, a financial adviser from the San Mateo County Office of Education, and district interim financial officer Mark Bonnett continue to work on sorting through the district's finances, including the effects of Mr. Hanretty's underestimation of employee-benefit costs in the current budget.

The board will hear updates by the investigators at its Wednesday, May 16, meeting, which begins at 4 p.m. with a closed session and continues at 5 p.m. in open session. The meeting will be in the district office annex building at 4575 Alpine Road in Portola Valley.


Posted by Matt Richter, a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on May 26, 2012 at 7:42 am

I went to the last Portola Valley School Board meeting and think that your reporters should attend all in the future. It's easy to tie Tim H. into the mess because of his issues in Woodside, but what I see is that the Board didn't look at the details. One of the large over-runs (~$600k) was from no properly burdening the salary to account for things like Soc Sec contributions and the like. These are formulaic and deterministic! As of the meeting on the May 24th, the books were in such dissary that the Board couldn't say just how bad the problem actually is! Part of what caused this is that much of the district spendingn was not assigned to the proper budget categories, and this has to be unrolled and corrected. At the meeting we were told that the actual books would be corrected, and a final, accurate position would be presented at the June 6th meeting.

Now the represetntative from the county said that they'd be willing to help PVSD over the time it would take to fix the problems as long as the Board was making a good effort to correct the problems. But as a parent of one going into 3rd grade and one goingn into kindergarten at Ormondale, I can't help but feel that whatever caused all this to come to be, there are failures all over the place. The crap has hit the fan, and it's pretty appropriate that all involved get sprayed!

The saddest part is that the bulk of the budget is for salaries (how much is teachers and how much is admin wasn't presented). Because of this fact, the only way to tighten the belt is through personnel changes. The kids are going to be screwed for the lack of excecution of the district governance.

I'm a lead parent in one of the classes, and spend a lot of time helping out. I've been pleasantly surprised to see just how much of an impact the extra houres of adult participation impact childrens progress in the classroom. The loss of staff will surely be felt by the kids, and it will be hard to keep up the pace of learning that the district had offered up to this year.

But it's not just the aides that will be let go. While no decision is final, K-5 spanish may be turned into a for fee after school program. Coaching staff reductions are being discussed, Science Sandy (supports science teaching at Ormondale) won't be back. The art teacher at Corte Madera will have her hours cut back. There is even more to the list of possible actions that could take place, and probably will.

Also, because the district is getting short term loans to stay solvent on paper, there are debt service costs that while nessisary, increase the size of the problem. This is a further burdon that must be born by the children of the district.

I live in Skywood Acres, which is part of Woodside. For reasons unknown to me, my neighborhood is in the PVSD. Before this year, that wasn't a big deal. But PVSD is going to be squeezed for the next 2-4 years to fix this mess. Now I wish that we were going to the Woodside schools.