No pink-slips at Exeter schools

By Nancy Gutierrez

For many schools the state budget problems leave many educators bracing themselves for the worst on March 15 the deadline for layoff notices.

State law says certificated employees, who include teachers, must be notified of possible layoffs by March 15. In Visalia the number of pink slips came to 15. The Visalia Unified School district is reportedly looking to cut 2.6 million to balance their budget. In the Fresno Unified School District the school board approved a possible 167 layoffs of certificated employees. Their budget deficit is projected at $27.1 million.

The Farmersville Unified School District is looking at possibly cutting 10 positions. Interim superintendent Helen Bauer said many of the notices are for positions funded by grants that have expired. FUSD has a budget deficit of $112,124.

But in the Exeter Union High School District and Exeter Union School District there will be no lay-off announcements even though Business Manager Jihad Hemaidan said both districts have a deficit of close to $100,000.

"These are preliminary projections because there is no final budget from the state," Hemaidan said.

All districts create these preliminary projections many have chosen to approve possible layoffs in case the state mandates further cuts in school funding, however Exeter officials say that is not the approach they are taking.

"The district is taking the approach of reduction through attrition," Hemaidan said. "If teachers retire their position will not be filled."

Superintendent Renee Whitson echoed Hemaidan and said there are no plans to reduce staff with lay-offs.

"We will be deficit spending but we will rely on reserves and cost containment strategies to protect those services that directly effect students," she said.

Both Whitson and Hemaidan said teachers are a necessary component in student education and are needed to continue running educational programs in the district.

Dan Crookham, president of the EUHS teachers Union, said the positions left unfilled from teachers who retired last year caused an increase in class size. He said classes at the high school average 30-31 students per class. The state recommends that class sizes not exceed a specified amount and if they do funding is affected. Crookham said he believes the high school has passed those recommended amounts.

"If the district fired more teachers it would exacerbate and already poor situation," he said.

Hemaidan said the district is looking at reducing non-staff expenditures but did not provide specific areas that would be cut. He said the final budge would not be known until early May. The EUSD and EUHSD board members must adopt a 2003-2004 budget by June 30.

Though Proposition 55 passed March 5 those funds can only be used for new construction or remodernization of school facilities and can not be used in the general fund.

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