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    Schools Superintendent describes budget choices

    Finding $2.2 million to cut from Albany Unified School District’s budget, which is almost all spent on personnel, might mean laying off 36 teachers, Superintendent Marla Stephenson said Monday.

    It might mean the end of small classes in first, second, third and ninth grades. It could mean the eliminating electives at the high school and middle school and shortening their school days to only six periods a day. It might mean laying off counselors, librarians, clerical staff, janitors and vice principals. It might mean music is sharply curtailed and performing arts eliminated. Or it could mean all of the above.

    Superintendent Marla Stephenson put all of these items on the table Monday night when she spoke to the parent teacher student association of Albany High School about the budget situation.

    Her presentation was the first of many community talks she hopes to have in coming weeks to explain the budget situation and get feedback from the community about what programs the schools might be able to live without.

    “I’m trying to prepare the district for real layoffs,” Stephenson said, noting she doesn’t want to sugar coat the situation that is quite dire.

    The $2.2 million represents 15 percent of the district’s $35 million budget.

    Deciding what to cut is going to be painful because the school budget is already very tight, classrooms are full and every program seems needed, Stephenson said.

    “This is a very, very messy process,” she said of the budget cutting talks and decision making that will go on for the next couple months.

    The California state government has not yet come to agreement on a budget plan that could close its $42 billion deficit. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democratic legislators and Republican legislators each have their own proposal.

    The governor’s plan would cut $10.8 billion from education and combine the various funds it directs to education into one block grant per district. That could mean many state mandates would fall away. The democrats advocate keeping the various programs that supply programs but slicing money from each one. The Republicans would just plain eliminate some of the funding sources for schools.

    Still, several parents noted there is still time – and good reason – for people to contact their state legislators and the governor’s office and plead for spare education from steep cuts.

    Whoever wins the day in Sacramento, it appears cuts vill be in the neighborhood of $10 billion, Stephenson said, which works out to $2.2 million in cuts from Albany. That in turn works out to a reduction of $305 spent on each per student. California already spends less per student than most other states.

    “What can we do to offset those cuts, what can we do as a community,” one parent asked.

    Parents started brainstorming about what could be done. In addition to pleading with legislators, some parents suggested that families each try to contribute the amount of money the state is taking away. Others suggested the school board tap the expertise in the town to have parents fill in for positions that will be eliminated, such as in teaching electives.

    Article by Barbara Grady-Ayer.


    Future budget forums are scheduled to be as follows:

    Albany High School
    Staff – Tues. Feb. 3, 3:30 pm
    Students – Fri. Feb. 6, Advisory, Little Theater
    Parents – Mon. Feb. 9, 7 pm, Library

    MacGregor School Parent & Student Forum
    Weds. Feb. 11, 1-3 pm. Lobby

    Albany Middle School Parent & Student Forum
    with Supt. Marla Stephenson
    Weds. Feb. 11, 6 pm, Library

    All-Elementary School Forum
    with Supt. Marla Stephenson
    Weds. Feb. 11, 7 pm, Oceanview Multipurpose Room

    Cornell School Forum
    Weds. Feb. 25, 5-6:30 pm, Multipurpose Room

    Marin School Forum
    Thurs. Feb. 12, 7 pm, Multipurpose Room

    Oceanview School Forum
    Thurs. Feb. 26, 6:30 pm, Library

    Click to read related stories on the issue:

    Albany schools will look for ways to cut $2.2 million

    Sen. Hancock defines $ problem, offers solution

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