Berkeley Unified Faced With Last-Minute Cuts

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Facing an additional last-minute loss of half a million dollars in estimated revenue, Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett presented proposed budget cuts for next fiscal year at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting.

Due to a total reduction of $3.14 million in the district's 2010-11 general fund revenue, Huyett presented $3.16 million in budget reductions and revenue enhancements to the board. These include the elimination of a middle school vice principal position, shorter adult education classes and the introduction of a staff furlough day.

"We're starting to have these really tough (cuts)," Huyett said at the meeting.

Huyett said in an interview Friday that the district was forced to incorporate an additional $470,000 in cuts into their 2010-11 budget after learning May 19 that the School Services of California - the agency charged with interpreting state budget data - had miscalculated the district's average daily attendance revenue.

According to a district document presented at the meeting, fees for the elderly, adults with disabilities and life-long learning adult education programs will double and class meeting times will be shortened.

In addition, Huyett introduced the possibility of a staff development day furlough, which would save $300,000 according to the district document.

"There is not something that is being cut that isn't going to hurt," said district spokesperson Mark Coplan.

Huyett also proposed eliminating one of the three vice principal positions at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, a cut that would save the district $107,917 next year. Longfellow Middle School and Willard Middle School, the other middle schools in the district, each have one vice principal.

"That was a place that we have extra," Coplan said. "Is it an extra that we value? Of course it is. But that is a luxury, not a need."

Jason Lustig, the principal of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle school, said though responsibilities of a vice principal "certainly can be done with less people," he is concerned about the equity of cutting a vice principal from only one of the middle schools.

Many teachers and parents opposed the elimination of the vice principal due to concerns about a vice principal's importance in closing the school's achievement gap.

"A vice principal position is a relationship position," said Sophie Hahn, a chair on the Berkeley Commission on the Status of Women, at the meeting. "These people are at the frontline for closing the achievement gap."

Liz Arnett, a teacher at the middle school, called cutting a vice principal a "nuclear option" that will have "exponential effects."

"If you can avoid this cut, this is the one to avoid," she said.

According to Huyett, he recommended the elimination of the vice principal position despite the Superintendent Budget Advisory Committee's recommendation to use all the one-time money to fund many of next year's programs and staff.

Huyett said he recommends the district fix half the revenue shortfall with one-time money and the other half with staff cuts.

"Normally you don't pay for staff using one-time money, because what do you do after that?" Coplan said.

The board is scheduled to approve the preliminary budget at their June 9 meeting and approve the final budget on June 23.


Contact Sara Johnson at [email protected]

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