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17 pink slips + $400K = Ripon budget reality
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RIPON - Ripon Unified teachers stepped up to the plate in this bad economy opting for cuts that total some $400,000 for their troubled district – knowing some teachers may not have jobs in the next school year.

Ripon Elementary School fifth grade teacher and president of the Ripon Unified School District’s Teachers Association Claire Russell credited the teachers for giving up what represented nearly four per cent of their income where they would normally see an upward cost of living adjustment. She made her remarks during Monday’s Ripon Unified School District board meeting.

The cuts are equivalent to seven days of work: five in classroom days and two in-service days at their individual schools. They also gave up $325 each in stipends and in return saw the hiring of a 28 percent physical education teacher who will service Park View Elementary School for two days each week.  The other elementary schools see two full time physical education teachers rotate through the remaining campuses.

“It was better for us to have some say in what we are giving up,” Russell said.

 The teachers receive 10 sick days each year, but in the new contract seven of those days will be considered personal and confidential days where teachers do not have to give a reason for their absence.

Because of continuing reductions in the California state budget Ripon’s funding is being cut further with a shortfall of $953,322 up from $875,810 in last month’s predictions.  

Due to the continuing uncertainty of funding the trustees were forced “with regret” to issue layoff warning notices to 17 certificated teachers in the elementary and high school classrooms. Board member Ernie Tyhurst excused himself and left the room prior to the trustees’ action, because one of those teachers is his son.  
The layoff notices must be confirmed as truly necessary by May 15 before teachers will be sure of their jobs for the next school year.

“As always, we must prepare for the worst and hope for the best as the state budget develops,” Superintendent Louise Nan said.

Numerous parents – one by one – went to the microphone with monetary support for the school district saying there is a willingness to write checks in support of the schools.  It is less costly to write a check for $1,000 or even $5,000 to the district knowing it will stay in Ripon for local needs than to send a student off to a private school and pay much higher tuition.

Board President Larry Stewart choked up when he told of a parent who called him on the phone wanting to help in the budget squeeze.  Stewart said the man said all of his children had gone on to college and were doing well because of Ripon Schools and he was sending a check for $10,000.
Superintendent Nan told the school board audience that much of that money was going to support student awards and the summer school driver training program that had been axed.  She said it is important to keep the students safe with proper driving instruction.

Speaking as a grandmother Mardee Medeiros told trustees not to count out the grandparents in their budget shortfall.  “You put the word out there and grandparents will help.  A lot of kids going to Ripon Christian are going only because of grandparents,” she said.

Her husband Gary added somewhat quietly from the back of the room that Ripon is one of the few areas that don’t have a community bingo game where a lot of money could be raised for the schools.  He said he is already doing it for the Lions Club.

Superintendent Nan reminded trustees that they have to be prepared for the worse news that may come when the governor presents his budget revision in May.  She noted that many parents of elementary students have come forward with their concerns about the possible elimination of class size reduction and the raising of kindergarten through third grade class sizes to the levels stipulated in the California Education Code.

Adjustments are being considered for the current third grade classes as they move into the fourth grade.  Grade three has limited funding available for class size reduction but the fourth grade does not.

The board is also looking toward the elimination of two overflow classrooms at Colony Oak and Park View elementary schools.  The district is also considering either partially or fully moving out of class size reduction in the next school year starting in August.