CONCORD — The Mt. Diablo school board on Tuesday unanimously agreed to cut nearly $4.9 million from special education over three years and to lay off 200 teachers because of state budget reductions.
But the board tabled more than $3.5 million in cuts that would have reduced the hours of special education assistants, after assistant superintendent Mildred Browne said she needed more time to evaluate the results of an internal employee audit. Concord High special-education teacher Jeanne Lilley urged the board not to reduce special education aides in the district's severely handicapped program.
"My two assistants are spread very thin," she said. "For safety, I request that you maintain the hours of our paraprofessionals."
The special education cuts include reducing summer school from six weeks to four, reducing contracts with outside schools and service providers and eliminating an administrative position. In addition, 24 resource specialist teacher positions for those who currently assist students not in special education may be cut to save $1.7 million a year, unless the board adds them back to the general education budget in June, Superintendent Steven Lawrence said.
Northgate High parent Joseph Lyons said he opposed the layoff of the school's instrumental music instructor who has taught award-winning groups for 13 years, including a jazz band that will perform Monday at Yoshi's in Oakland. He said some families with children in band might leave if the teacher is not there next year.
Trustee Gary Eberhart said laying off so many educators was "tragic," but he blamed legislators for failing to adequately fund education.
"When the funds are continually cut," he said, "we have to make layoffs."
Eberhart said the board is hoping unions will agree to $9.8 million a year in cuts that include furlough days and reduced benefits. The teachers union has not begun negotiations because it must discuss survey results with its members, union President Mike Noce said.
Lawrence said the governor's revised budget, to be released Friday, could include lower revenues than anticipated, making more cuts necessary. In light of this, trustees tabled a proposal to reorganize district office administration.
However, the board agreed to eliminate the position of assistant superintendent for administrative services, effective in September, and to reinstate the position of assistant superintendent of personnel, which trustees had previously voted to eliminate this summer. Both administrators in these positions intend to retire by September.
Earlier in the meeting, the board reviewed restructuring plans for four of the district's lowest achieving campuses: Bel Air, Rio Vista and Shores Acres elementary schools in Bay Point and Glenbrook Middle School in Concord. The schools expect to apply for a combined nearly $2 million in federal School Improvement Grants that would enable them to reform the campuses. Reform efforts include lengthening the school day, offering summer school, improving instruction and creating better learning environments on campus. Trustees will vote on the plans May 25.
The board also heard from several members of a coalition of nonunion contractors who oppose the district's Measure C facilities bond. The speakers contend the board would approve a Project Labor Agreement that could prevent nonunion contractors from bidding on jobs, if the measure passes.
Trustee Gary Eberhart said the district wants to ensure that contractors do quality work and complete it on time. He criticized the opposition movement, saying many speakers were from outside the district.
Details about Mt. Diablo school district special education cuts, layoffs, district office reorganization and plans for low-achieving schools are available by calling 925-682-8000, ext. 4010, or visiting http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on May 11.