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Tough SUSD Staffing Moves Still Leave $3 Million Budget Shortfall

saugus_boardA tongue-in-cheek abbreviation for the basic elements of a primary school curriculum are often referred to as the 3Rs: reading, ’riting, and ’rithmetic.

What became clear at Tuesday night’s Saugus Union School District board meeting is when it comes to the future of elementary education in the SUSD, it’s all about the ‘rithmatic.

As in the numbers don’t add up.

“The district is facing, as you’ve heard, about $6.7 million budget shortfall,” said Richard P. Grove, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel.

Last week teachers took a vote that would allow four forced furlough days meaning teachers would lose four days of pay. Teachers who are already taking money out of their paychecks to buy classroom supplies would have to agree to make even less.

Teachers who are by and large a giving sort (or why would they become teachers) agreed to the furlough days. With the board’s support those days were approved last night.

Superintendent Dr. Joan Lucid reminded parents in attendence that the furlough days were already scheduled as staff development days so students are not missing any additional instruction.

Having teachers give back a portion of their salary solves $1.2 million of the district’s deficit problem. (Ignoring of course the deficit imposed on each teacher’s home budget.)

Then there is the matter of personnel.


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“One of the very few things the board has unilateral control over is it’s staffing. Consequently one of the only things they can do proactively is to reduce the number of staff, or at least issue preliminary notices,” said Grove.

saugus_teachersSince by Education Code the board has to take action and give notice by March 15th, those notices will formally be given tomorrow.

Seventy-four teachers were contacted last Thursday and were told they would likely be receiving RIF (Reduction in Force) notices.

District officials based their calculations of the number of teachers who could be let go based on an increasing staffing ratio of 30-to-1 in primary grades and 31-to-1 in upper grades.

Increasing the number of students per teacher would require 63 fewer teachers district wide. However, the district elected to notify 74 teachers to create a little pad.

One reason for that, according to Grove, is that the district doesn’t know the expected attrition for next year. So far, only two teachers have formally notified them of their retirement.

In addition, some employees on leaves of absence are entitled to return to their jobs but aren’t required to notify the district until March 15 about their return.

Another complication derives from 28 teachers who all have the same seniority date of August 1, 2004. Although a tiebreaker system was approved last night, the board had to notify all the teachers in that band.

Those 74 potential layoffs combined with final notification to 10 teachers on one-year contracts will result in a savings of $2.5 million.

So let’s see: -$6.7 million budget shortfall

+$2.5 in staffing savings

+$1.2 in furlough day pay reductions

= -$3.0 million budget shortfall

“You can see there’s still a fair bit to go. Which since 86% of our district’s budget and most districts’ in California is people. Obviously that’s going to come out of us still next year,” said Grove.

That’s just simple ‘rithmatic.

For a look at last night's entire SUSD agenda, click here.

To sign a petition to create an Education Foundation for the SUSD, click here.

To read earlier coverage by KHTS on the Saugus budget crisis click here and here.