Parents, staff, administrators work together at high school district to deal with budget cuts.
Hart district officials are finding the governor’s
suggestions for dealing with budget shortfall a bitter pill, but are asking
parents and staff to work together in finding a solution.
Cutting the school year by 5 days, mandatory days off and
hiring and purchasing freezes are some of the measures that may help the
district get over any shortfall in state funding. District administrators are
focused on maintaining the schools high academic achievement despite budget
cuts that could top $30 million.
Superintendent Jaime Castellanos outlined some of the
proposals in a letter sent Thursday to all district staff members.
“It is a well known fact that California
ranks fourth from the bottom (47th among 50 states) in per pupil spending and
the current budget cuts will most certainly push us to the bottom ranking,”
Castellanos explained. “Once again, we find ourselves wasting valuable time
dealing with yet another crisis instead of focusing our energies on our mission
of providing a quality education for every student.”
He called a proposal by the Governor to cut the school year
by five days “short-sighted and insulting.” He noted that even though the
proposal would cut student instructional time, schools will still be held
accountable for ensuring student success on state-mandated testing with five
days less of instruction.
“This past year, for the first time in our district’s
history, we achieved a State API ranking of 804, placing us No. 1 in the state
for union high school districts with 10,000 or more students,” Castellanos’
message continued. “Our critical
challenge as a district in light of the dire budget situation will be to
maintain the integrity of our educational program despite the loss of critical
He noted that the district administration, Governing Board
and union representatives have been working together to deal with anticipated
cuts of $29.5 million from the Hart District’s general fund budget of $175
million. Those cuts, representing 15 percent of the district’s budget over the
next two and one-half years, is in addition to some $8 million the district
already cut from its budget going into the 2008-09 school year.
In order to meet the budget cutbacks, the district has
instituted a hiring freeze and will process only those purchases essential to
operations. A furlough day for all staff tentatively scheduled for Feb. 13 will
be instituted. The work year will be shortened by one day for all
administrators and classified staff, with no substitutes approved to cover
furlough days when classified employees schedule their non-work, non-paid day.
Castellanos has been meeting with the district’s parent
groups to help parents understand the enormity of the budget crisis and its
impact on student achievement. He asked parents to contact state legislators by
letter, phone and e-mail, demanding that they resolve the crisis and not place
the burden on the backs of students.
“Our students deserve better than this,” Castellanos said.
“They only come through our doors once, and they deserve the best educational
experience we can offer, with the necessary resources to support it.”
Castellanos acknowledged the fear, anger and frustration
growing among Hart District staff members and parents, and called for all
constituencies to work together to deal with the budget crisis. “It will be a difficult
journey, but the only way for us to overcome this difficult challenge is to
work collaboratively and to communicate in an open and honest manner,” the