OUSD plans staffing cuts
by Bret Bradigan
Dealing with dropping enrollment has become the theme of recent
Ojai Unified School District board meetings, as Superintendent
Van Riley said Tuesday that he has a target of $2.2 million -
nearly 10 percent of the district budget - to cut by June.
He also reported that nine teaching positions will be lost. Six
of those positions will be lost through leaves, transfers and
retirements, while three elementary school teachers will be informed
by March 15 that their services are no longer required. Riley
said the teachers were screened through a scale of priorities
based on district needs - including teachers with master's degrees,
bachelor's degrees in English or mathematics, have taught in
other areas than elementary classrooms, having supplemental credentials,
and, all other things being equal, using the highest Social Security
numbers to determine seniority.
"We came up with the criteria we felt was important,"
With six board meetings to go before presenting his budget cut
plan, Riley said the emphasis would be on keeping those cuts
as far as possible from the classroom, and to gather as many
ideas and suggestions from as many sources as possible. He mentioned
that he had twice met with the Ojai Federation of Teachers and
the California School Employees Association about the budget
cuts, as well as the modified calendar issue that polarized the
"I want to make sure that every employee understands the
impact of the budget situation," he said. Riley will present
an update to the board at the March 19 meeting, and ask for further
direction. Guidance will also be sought from the community as
the process proceeds.
The real hard work begins in May, when the governor's budget
plans come out, with his education budget that will give the
district actual dollar amount to plan with. Then the budget cut
proposal will be submitted to the board in June for approval.
The key, as evidenced by the community concern over the calendar
issue, is to seek as much consensus as possible about what and
where the cuts need to be made. "We're certainly not trying
to hide anything," he said. "A lot needs to happen
between now and then."
A projected enrollment decline of 189 students, mostly in elementary
grades, has prompted these budget-cut plans. Ventura Unified
School District's strict ban against interdistrict transfer cut
off 120 students from the district this year, mostly from Oak
View, though 60 students sought, and were granted, waivers.
In other budget news, Danielle Pusatere, the district's director
of fiscal services, presented, as required by state law, interim
financial reports and a budget revision for the halfway mark
of the 2001-02 school year. According to Pusatere, the district
is running within budget "almost to the penny." With
pay raises and other expenses, and with $77,000 lost due to decreased
enrollment, and more money coming in from grants and paid-off
loans, the district is about $22,000 in the black.
The district also received good news from Assistant Superintendent
Jim Berube, who announced that, in partnership with the Ojai
Rotary Clubs and the Los Angeles Times, nearly $7,600 had been
raised to buy 2,218 new books for the school libraries with the
Reading by 9 program.
"They arrived just in time for Dr. Seuss' birthday,"
on March 2, he said.
Newest board member Bob Unruhe called for a review of the district's
reading programs. "Reading is the most important thing we
do," he said. "I'd like to see the programs laid out
in front of us."
Berube also updated the board on the test of emergency communications
with the district's new handheld two-way radios. He said that
all the school came in "loud and clear," except for
the sporadic signal from Mira Monte, which is hidden behind Krotona
Hill. The devices worked fine on the school buses, he said. "We
can communicate with our buses, wherever they are."
The meeting began with an appeal for action by two parents against
an elementary school teacher, about the "irreversible damage
done, not only to our daughter, but also to other students."
They presented the board with a petition, police report, and
letters of complaint from other parents.
The meeting ended with a preview of the busy agenda for the March
19 meeting, which will include updates and presentations on the
budget, calendar issue, special education, and the progress of
the stadium and track project at Nordhoff High School, which,
through the diligence of teacher Mike Krumpschmidt and funded
by a special wetlands grant, will fix the field's chronic drainage
problems and restore the natural wetlands to adjacent Ojai Meadows
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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