Berkeley School Board Approves Layoffs, Budget

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Bracing for $3.14 million in state cuts, the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education passed its 2010-11 budget and voted to essentially eliminate the district's low-income childcare program by the end of the summer at a board meeting Wednesday.

The board voted reluctantly but unanimously to approve layoff notices for staff of Berkeley's Excellent Academic Road to Success before and after school program, meaning the program will be eliminated after Aug. 31 unless the state provides more funding for the program, according to District Superintendent Bill Huyett.

The board also approved notices for many classified employees - which include instructional assistants, secretaries, accountants and custodians - affiliated with the program and district preschools.

"We certainly will pull back on layoffs when and where we can," Huyett said at the meeting. "We will continue to work on this, we do value you, we do value your program."

The board will now issue layoff notices to 41.9 full-time equivalent classified positions and 28.43 full-time equivalent positions from Berkeley's Excellent Academic Road to Success and child development programs.

Paula Phillips, president of the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees, said these cuts add to the 57 employees who were laid off in April and May.

"I still feel that (the board) could have done something different," Phillips said. "For my (union) members, it is going to wreak havoc in their reemployment rights."

Zachary Pless, program supervisor of Extended Learning in the district, said the district is "going kind of doomsday" in the program cuts based on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's May Revise, not knowing how the state's final budget will affect its programs.

He added that Berkeley's Excellent Academic Road to Success program is funded through a specific categorical grant from the state.

Pless said the program - which operates 240 days per year - served close to 400 students last summer and will serve 320 students this summer. The program is free for families whose income is less than 40 percent of the state median income.

Huyett said the district is using reserve funds to pay for the program through August, but urged the community to ask the legislature "not to make 'draconian reductions.'"

"It is one thing to make reductions, it is another to eliminate programs," said John Selawsky, a board director, at the meeting.

Another district childcare program, the Links Enrichment, Academics and Recreation to the Needs of Students program, operates only after school during the academic year. The program offers subsidies based on family size and income.

The board also approved the 2010-11 school year budget, which includes $3.19 million in budget reductions and revenue enhancements to meet general fund revenue shortfalls. This budget includes the controversial elimination of district funding for one of the three vice principal positions at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, expected to save the district $107,917 next year.

According to Nancy Riddle, a board director, the position will be preserved through school-specific Berkeley Schools Excellence Project funds, which are generated from a local parcel tax measure to provide class size reduction and enrichment programs.


Contact Sara Johnson at [email protected]

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