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8% pay cut for all school workers
Will bargaining groups go for plan to keep Manteca Unified afloat?
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The Manteca Unified School District won’t be eliminating class size reduction, high school transportation nor close Lathrop High.

At least for now.

In order to achieve their goal of reducing about $23 million from the 2009-10 budget — included is $9.5 million in mid-year cuts necessary for parts of this year and all of the following — the board of trustees, instead, opted to take their chances at the bargaining table.

All employees from throughout the district will be asked to take a 3 percent cut in addition to the 5 percent proposed by acting Superintendent Jason Messer’s mid-year reduction plan.

Workers ranging from the top administrators to certified and classified staff would also be losing money with 10 fewer work days, going from a calendar of 180 days down to 170 days, with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger’s plan of reducing five days to all state employees factoring into the plan.

In addition, the district could lose two school psychologists.
“This district is for our kids,” Trustee Vern Gebhardt said.

His colleague, Wendy King, agreed.

“Our job is educating kids and not an employment agency,” she said.

Messer indicated that requesting representatives of the respective unions to have their employees take an 8 percent pay cuts will be a tough task.”It’s going to be very challenging to negotiate,” he said.

Trustees will still have the option of using items from the mid-year reduction plan as a backup if negotiations fail.

Board President Michael Seelye extended public comments on the matter from the standard 20 minutes to an hour.

Many who spoke in the crowded board room pleaded to maintain the 20-to-1 class-size reduction already in place — at stake were 116 kindergarten- through- third-grade instructors — and high school busing.

Bus driver Sandi Larson had safety concerns and passed out letters from students on her route to preserve district transportation.

Several parents including Paul Shelton and Rose Carranza, if need be, said they would be willing to pay $1 a day for their student to ride the bus rather than see this service eliminated.

Ken Johnson, president of the Manteca Educators Association, and his fellow teachers wore black arm bands as a show of solidarity.

“It’s a sad day for school districts throughout California,” he said, blaming the powers that be in Sacramento rather than the local school board for the budget crisis.

Trustees, in previous meetings, gave their OK to Level I and Level II totaling about $13 million or $1 million shy of their $14 million in savings for next year.

In addition, the board passed a resolution to reduce or discontinue the 10 vice principal positions, four high VPs, and several district office positions listed on the Level I reduction plan.

Some in these positions could be reassigned back to the classroom rather than lose their jobs, according to Don Halseth, assistant superintendent of personnel.

By state law, teachers have until March 15 to receive notification about their job.

The district is also required to have budget in place for the following school year by June 30.