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Parents seek answers

School board members continue to look for other ways to save money.

May 27, 2010|By Max Zimbert

GLENDALE — The uncertainty next year surrounding primary-grade class sizes, the fate of 77 teachers who might lose their jobs and the fiscal state of Glendale Unified have propelled parent Myra Goethals to become more active and outspoken.

Tuesday was the third time the mother of two kindergartners at Valley View Elementary School had seen the Board of Education in action, but she still hasn't seen results.

"My biggest issue is, I want it resolved," she said. "For the sake of everyone involved, make a decision . . . so we can all prepare."

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Board members continue to try to look for ways to save jobs, instructing staff to prepare scenarios by mid-June in which kindergarten and first-grade class sizes hover near 25 students to each teacher, and second- and third-grade classes are up to 30 students.

Driving the district's deficit is declining enrollment, coupled with cuts to state reimbursement and contractual pay raises and health benefits for employees, officials said.

"If we want to protect jobs, we all have to take a bite at this; we all have to share the pain," board President Greg Krikorian said.

District officials said they've been cutting for seven years, and might have avoided changes to the classroom if the state hadn't cut public education by $17 billion the last two years.

State education funding could be slashed another $2.4 billion this year.

When combing the January budget proposal and the May revision, district officials project losing $22.5 million during the next three years.

School districts must have balanced budgets for three consecutive years.

"We had our budget in pretty good shape until this came along," Chief Financial Officer Eva Lueck said.

The district also suffered from declining enrollment during the 1990s, and Glendale Teachers Assn.

President Tami Carlson said she questioned whether the district staffing mirrors those similar circumstances.

"Have we really gone back down to the levels, or are we still bloated as far as administration and additional personnel are concerned?" she said. "It could be a red herring."

Facilities and support staff, a slice of the district's entire workforce, numbered 88 employees in the late '90s, but will be 55 this fall, district officials said.

"We need to make sure our principals are aware of how drastically we've reduced our staff because I can see work orders piling up fast," said board member Mary Boger.

District officials on Tuesday also elaborated on strong year-end balances projected through 2011, which have been criticized by some parents and teachers.

"One-time money, it's what we're living on," Lueck said. "Once it's used, it's gone."

As they prepare to adopt a new three-year budget in June, board members have pivoted to 2012-13, where the deficit is projected to be more than $32 million.

"We're laying a big bet on what's happening in the third year out," board member Christine Walters said. "One of the problems is if you bet wrong . . . the cuts we make later will be more severe than the cuts we're proposing now. Could we stomach that?"

Goethals, one of the almost two dozen parents at the meeting, wasn't sure.

"Information is powerful," she said. "I'm not sure why there aren't more parents standing up for their children."

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