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Cuts hit home for Hart

Projecting a $40 million shortfall, administrators say budget crisis could get worse before getting

Posted: February 15, 2009 1:02 a.m.
Updated: February 15, 2009 6:00 a.m.
 
Last summer, administrators at the William S. Hart Union High School District predicted their budget shortfall through June 30, 2011, would be $6 million.

That estimate has since swelled to $40 million.

“It’s extremely depressing and frustrating because we don’t know the exact target,” said Susan Guthrie, the district’s chief financial officer. “The longer that the state takes to come with a solution, the worse it gets because they’re not bringing in any revenues.

“We’re going to investigate whether it will be a combination of pay cuts, furlough days, benefit caps, layoffs and program reductions to deal with the $32.5 million shortfall,” Guthrie said.

There was already one furlough day which was originally a staff development day.

Canyon High School Principal Bob Messina said it’s too early for assumptions.

“The key thing is, no one knows,” he said. “We won’t know until the budget gets approved and the board of education gets together to find ways of reaching the budget wherever that might be.”

Hart district schools are known throughout the state as some of the top programs in all areas, Saugus High School Principal Bill Bolde said.

“If there are some cuts in these areas, they would not be received well by our community but we all have to realize that $30 million is a lot of money to make up,” he said. “Everything is on the table for negotiations between district-level administration and union leaders.”

Tracy Kane, a tenured English teacher at West Ranch High School, said the staff was asked to come up with a list of suggested programs that could be cut to relieve the financial stress.

“Deciding on which programs should be cut has the potential of setting up teachers against one another and makes it seem like we are saying that some teachers’ programs are less important than others,” Kane said.

On March 15, about 100 probationary and temporary teachers in the district will be given pink slips, which means their contracts might not be renewed.

“I understand that (the district) has to give the pink slips, but they still need to think about cutting the programs first before cutting the teachers,” Kane said. “The programs may make school more enjoyable, but our first job as teachers is to educate.”

Aaron Worby, a second-year U.S. History teacher, said the layoffs could force many teachers into other careers or out of state.

“I’m worried about my job because even if I lose my job, I might not get one in another district because all of California is experiencing the budget cuts,” she said.

Hart High Principal Collyn Nielsen said the pink slips will affect professional development.

“I feel very frustrated. Through no fault of their own, there are teachers who are doing a fantastic job, but because they are first or second-year teachers, they must go through this process,” Nielsen said. “It really has a powerful affect on the morale on campus. That is what concerns me the most.”

Reach the reporter at vlovato@the-signal.com.

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