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Saugus hit with layoffs

Castaic hopes to reduce cuts with bailout funding

Posted: March 12, 2009 1:32 a.m.
Updated: March 12, 2009 4:30 a.m.
Saugus school board members have agreed to cut 35 full-time teachers and increase class sizes for kindergarten through third grades.

"It's with a very heavy heart that we do this," Saugus Unified School District board President Judy Umeck said following the unanimous vote in favor of the layoffs late Tuesday night.

Teachers and administrators from the district's 15 elementary schools packed the board room to listen to the cuts the district will make to meet budget shortfalls.

Despite the layoff notices agreed to Tuesday night, district officials hope generous retirement packages will encourage "senior teachers" to leave the district, reducing the number of actual layoffs.

"It's really the saddest moment I can remember in all of my years at the district," Joan Oxman, president of the Saugus Union School District Teachers Association, told the board.

The layoffs, which will take effect during the 2009-10 school year, will save the district $1.6 million. Putting 22 or 23 students in a classroom saves the district $1.3 million.

The outlook appeared sunnier for the Castaic district, which is hopeful that federal stimulus money may reduce the number of teachers laid off.

The Castaic school board already approved sending 39 pink slips to full-time employees. Twenty-eight of the notices were for teachers, counselors and a psychologist.

But the Castaic district's projected shortfall for the 2009-10 fiscal year is about $1 million, instead of $2 million it originally projected.

"It's a better picture by far," Superintendent James Gibson said Wednesday.

The Castaic School District is still figuring out how much federal stimulus money could benefit its special education and Title I programs, Gibson said.

And it also hopes that early retirement of "senior teachers" could save some jobs.

Perhaps only seven or eight teachers will actually have to be let go, he said - "Maybe even less than that."

Gibson credits the reduced shortfall to the state budget that was actually finalized, which still provides a loss of revenue but much less than the governor's proposed budget.

But the possibility of laying off more classified employees remains as the district continues to plan for the 2009-10 fiscal budget.
"We have plenty of time for that part of the discussion," Gibson said.


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