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Downsizing district staff saves $800K
More layoff notices, district office reorganization, and early retirement may add MUSD budget saving
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In order to address a $23.5 million shortfall, the Manteca Unified school board agreed with more precautionary layoffs at Tuesday’s meeting.

Included were psychologists and Regional Occupational Program instructors, bringing the total to those in certificated positions to 261.

“The layoffs only address the positions and not the people,” Don Halseth said.

He, too, was part of the restructuring plan at the district office, moving from assistant superintendent of personnel services to the assistant superintendent to Superintendent Jason Messer.

Halseth, in his new role, will oversee the departments of operations, certificated personnel and classified personnel.

John McKillip is the senior director of students services and special education. His new responsibilities could include the department of compensatory education along with the new position of coordinator of compensatory education.

Senior director of business services - another newly created position, according to Messer - will oversee departments of fiscal services, risk management, and facilities.

Chery Meeker, senior director of elementary education, will be in charge of the principals at the 20 elementary school sites along with school readiness.

Bob Lee, director of secondary education, will handle the principals at Manteca High, Lathrop High, East Union High, Sierra High and Weston Ranch High.

The district is hoping to find savings by doing away with the positions of assistant superintendent of educational services (Messer’s previous job); assistant superintendent of business services (vacated since Michael Dodge retired in December); director of special education; director of maintenance; coordinator of testing and assessment; facilities planning supervisor; secretary to the administrator of year-round education and enrollment; and the clerk of intervention programs.

Messer indicated that reorganization - effective as early as March 15 - would downsize six administrators, in turn, providing savings of $800,000 as specified under Level I cuts and an additional $200,000 plus.

As for the layoffs, Halseth noted the move at this point is precautionary and won’t be finalized by the state Department of Education until May.

“So we still have time to fix it,” he said. “And the way we can do that is through negotiations and early retirements.”

Trustees unanimously approved to take part in the Public Agency Retirement Services to supplementary retirement plan. PARS is based out of Irvine and is the third largest early retirement service planner in the state, according to representative Reggie Smith.

Manteca Unified has 513 eligible employees, certified and classified.

Certificated employees, in order to qualify for the early retirement plan, must be age 55 with five years of service in the district, or age 50 with 30 years of service.

Classified employees must at least 50 with five years of district service.

Those in non-management positions would receive 75 percent of their final pay with several options of receiving or investing in their retirement funds.

Administrators can also receive 75 percent of their final pay but with a cap not exceeding $77,153.

“We’re looking to build a savings (for the district),” Messer said. “But we won’t know the amount until everyone jumps in.”

The 40-day period for enrollment begins immediately through April 28.

“We’re planning to meet with all those who are eligible,” Smith said.

The early retirement plan could save about 100 teaching positions for kindergarten- through- third-grade class-size reduction plan. Currently at 20-to-1, students to teacher ratio, the new class-size reduction program could soon be increased to a 22-to-1 ratio.

Meanwhile, Messer said that four of the five employee groups have agreed to take the 5 percent pay cuts to go along with 3 percent in reductions.

The Manteca Educators Association opted to reopen negotiations for the 2008-09 school year.

A rally to raise awareness to public education funding is planned for Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. at the intersection of Union Road and Yosemite Avenue by the teachers union.