Hours at middle school libraries could be cut next fall if the doesn't restore some of the 160.5 non-teaching positions it eliminated at Wednesday’s meeting.
Dressed in black, about 80 school employees attended the Board of Trustees meeting to protest plans – eventually approved by the board after some wrangling – to lay off the employees to give the district maximum flexibility as it tries to close for the 2012-13 year.
“We are asking you to reconsider laying off middle school library media technicians,” said Barbara Luton, a 25-year CUSD employee and the library/media technician for in San Juan Capistrano.
The library is not only a place to support the work teachers do in the classroom, it serves as a “safe haven” for students, Luton said.
“The library is a safe place to go to stay out of gangs and away from bullies,” she said. It’s a place students go to hop on the computer, play chess or do homework after school.
Not having a well-staffed library “will set up the students for failure,” Luton said.
Linda Myers, an instructional materials specialist for the district, said she was worried for the collections if the library is open fewer hours with a reduced staff.
“What will happen with these wonderful collections when there is no one around to watch over them,” she asked.
The nonteaching employees, called classified employees, who spoke acknowledged that the district is facing tough times. Kim Jensen, who works at the library at , drew applause when she said she would prefer pay cuts over staff reductions.
“We’re all stressed out to the max … layoffs should be the last resort,” she said. “What if everybody took a small pay cut. Everybody to the very top? Could it be that simple?”
Trustee Lynn Hatton was moved by the pleas and said she would be willing to save campus supervisors and library technicians. After some discussion, she reduced her save list to the middle school library techs because their elimination was the only one that would mean reduced services.
To preserve the middle school librarians, the district would have had to find about $256,000 elsewhere in the budget to cut, said Jodee Brentlinger, assistant superintendent of personnel services.
However, the motion failed, with trustees Ellen Addonizio, John Alpay, Jack Brick and Sue Palazzo voting against. The board then passed on a 4-3 vote (with Hatton, Addonizio and Palazzo opposed) to send all the layoff notices staff recommended.
Addonizio and Palazzo criticized the district’s efforts to tackle the multimillion-dollar shortfall. Addonizio said the district appeared to be “lurching" from one item to the next without a plan or a budget workshop that she previously requested.
But Superintendent Joseph Farley and other trustees took great exception to that characterization, saying the board had discussed the financial crisis in detail and articulated a plan in closed sessions.
In other news, the trustees:
- Approved a $75-million short-term loan to help CUSD stay solvent because tax revenues don’t flow into district coffers at an even rate
- Settled an “informal dispute resolution case” for an amount not to exceed $75,000 (the item was handled in closed session and no other details were made public)
- Accepted a proposal from the teachers’ union, Capistrano Unified Education Association, to renegotiate limits on meeting hours, the school calendar, decreasing the number of duties elementary teachers perform and changing spring parent conferences
- Approved new books for the district’s pilot forensic science classes, which are available to 11th and 12th graders at .