It's happening in school districts across the state -- people coming together to talk about what no one wants to talk about: Budget cuts.

And even in the smallest districts people are meeting to prepare for a proposed $4.5 billion cut in state education funding overall.

The Walnut Creek School District is no exception. An estimated $1.2 million will probably have to be cut this year and next from the district's $22 million budget.

The final budget and plan for Walnut Creek will be unveiled at the board's meeting March 3.

"It's pretty devastating isn't it?" asked Superintendent Patricia Wool to a group of district employees and board members Monday.

The board held a special meeting with representatives from all district employee groups to get ideas on what to cut.

Ideas ranged from cutting back on the number of coaches to cutting down on copies. But as Wool said at the start of the meeting, the biggest costs at school districts are the people.

"We are 85 percent to 90 percent personnel costs," she said. "I don't think it's possible to cut out erasers and cut $1.5 million."

There are some district positions that will soon be vacant and Wool suggested not filling them.

Others suggestions included raising class size, which would in turn eliminate some teacher positions, cut back on front office positions and cut some custodians.

Dick Weyand, head custodian at Parkmead, made many suggestions including suspending the use of burglar alarms at the schools.


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The alarms can be costly and are only in some of the buildings, he said.

"The cost benefit ratio no where near warrants us having them," Weyand said.

Second grade teacher Shelley Pattison said teachers are concerned that fewer resources will ultimately mean more work. And cuts will be carried "on the backs of teachers," she said.

Already because of declining enrollment in the district, four teachers and two aides are scheduled to be cut from next school year's budget. Those positions may be lost through attrition or retirement. It is unknown at this time.

During the next few weeks, Wool will hold meetings with various officials across the district, including parent groups.

School board members must pass their budgets by June 30 but are required to send notice by March 15 to teachers who could lose their jobs. In order to meet the deadline, many districts, such as Walnut Creek, have started taking action now.

"We will have to do all this work by mid-March and then we will just have to sit with it," Wool said.

Reach Elisabeth Nardi at 952-2617 or enardi@bayareanewsgroup.com.