PITTSBURG -- With heavy hearts and after reiterating they didn't want to do it, the Pittsburg Unified School District board made preliminary decisions Wednesday to cut $5.2 million from next year's budget, which could force the layoffs of more than 100 people.

The board is expected to make final decisions at its next meeting, on Feb. 27.

"This is not us not listening to you," Trustee Laura Canciamilla said of the district's requirement -- like all California districts -- to prepare for drastic cuts to help fill a $14.5 billion hole in the state budget next year. "This is us planning. ... Please know that."

The cuts proposed in Pittsburg would pare more than $1 million in classified jobs, including groundskeepers, crossing guards and custodians; vice principals from almost every school; and a quarter-million dollars in athletics, including coaches and transportation.

They would include doing away with class-size reduction, which, when taken with other potential cuts, could lead to layoffs of 65 teachers, estimated Iris Contreras, president of the Pittsburg Education Association.

"Any decision that is made impacts everyone - teachers, students, everyone," she said after the meeting.

One teacher called class-size reduction the most significant and helpful change of her career.


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Allowing class sizes to grow, she told the board, would lead kids to be treated like cattle and would lead test scores to sink because students no longer would receive the individual attention they need.

Contreras's counterpart in the classified employees union, Joe Coniglio, told the board again that his colleagues "cannot afford any more cuts." Kids will notice a difference in the quality of their schools, he said, if a janitor or groundskeeper isn't there to maintain it.

Later, Superintendent Barbara Wilson explored aloud the often-mentioned logic of making cuts furthest away from kids. But those jobs, too, are essential, she pointed out: People would notice, for example, if a payroll clerk were missing.

Willie Mims, representing the Black Political Association, told the board he hoped "the cuts that you make won't hurt too many people."

"Hopefully," he said, "there's some money that's somewhere else that's not in this document."

Wilson said ultimate decisions about cuts might not come from Sacramento until September or October, after lawmakers spend the summer fighting about it.

She underscored the importance of contacting local legislators to let them know Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget proposal is not fair for education.

Wilson also addressed rumors that the school district is hiding money, in part because it is moving ahead with building two new schools, Marina Vista Elementary and Rancho Medanos Junior High. At last week's meeting, she explained that the money for those schools cannot be used to alleviate the cuts the district is being asked to prepare to make.

If anyone knows of extra money, Wilson said, "show it to me. I'd be happy to use it."