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Updated: Educators discuss school budgets at VIA luncheon

• Morale taking hit, Hart district head says.

Posted: April 16, 2008 12:20 a.m.
Updated: June 17, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Barry Gibbons, College of the Canyon's assistant superintendent/VP of institutional development, technology and online Services, speaks about budget cuts during the monthly VIA luncheon on Tuesday.

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Due to the proposed cuts to education, the Hart district recently had to cut and adjust its budget by 10 percent - or $10.3 million - even though the exact percentage of cuts has not yet been determined at the state level.

"Will that 10 percent really be a 10 percent cut, or a 7 percent cut, or 5 percent? We don't know at this point, but we are ready for the worst case scenario," Jaime Castellanos, superintendent of the William S. Hart Union High School District, said Tuesday. "The hardest thing right now is the uncertainty of the budget."

Castellanos and Barry Gribbons, assistant superintendent/ vice president of institutional development, technology and online services at College of the Canyons, were guest speakers at the monthly luncheon of the Valley Industrial Association.

They discussed the impacts of the proposed state budget cuts to education, and what steps businesses can take to safeguard educational funding.

Another challenge for the Hart district has been keeping up morale, Castellanos said. One student will be added per classroom, the number of resource assistants has been reduced, classified hours have been cut and some employees have been let go, he said.

"We did have to hand out some pink slips," he said. "When you're having to deal with people's livelihoods ... it's a really horrible situation."

California community colleges have been targeted for $292 million in cuts in 2008-09, which means a $1.5 million loss for College of the Canyons.

"My title is kind of long, and I think you're going to see it expand if the budget situation does not improve," Gribbons said. "Many of us are going to have to wear more hats."

Gribbons said COC has not been forced to make any layoffs, but the budget situation "really does create a horrible morale problem" in other community colleges where teachers have been laid off.

However, COC is not cutting any instructional programs at this time. "We're not going to sit back and take the cuts," he said. "We're going to find a way to get the job done."

About 62 percent of Hart district graduates go on to attend COC.

Gribbons said that he and Castellanos were sharing their budget struggles so that the local business community could help by contacting the governor and legislators in Sacramento to remind them of the value of education.

"A lot of you have tremendous contacts up in Sacramento, so it could make a huge difference," Gribbons said. "With your help, I think we can be successful (in reducing the cuts to education)."

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