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School board, via 4-1 vote, approves $3.5 million in spending cuts

The Sunnyside school administration is still waiting for the final numbers on what they can expect in funds for the 2011-12 school year, but the board of directors went ahead and approved $3.5 million in spending cuts at last night's meeting.

The board approved the cuts by a vote of 4-1, with board director Michelle Perry voting no. Directors Miguel Puente, Rocky Simmons, Lorenzo Garza and Steven Carpenter voted yes.

Sunnyside School Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole said even more cuts could be looming. He told the board of directors that legislators are considering a 1.9 percent cut in salary for certificated positions and a 3 percent salary funding cut for administrators.

The cuts mean the school district will lose 33 positions, but because of attrition and retirements, only 17 employees received pink slips. Of those 17 employees, two are administrators, three are certificated staff and 12 are classified employees.

The budget will lose $1,161,045 in Title 1 ARRA funds. Because of this the school district is eliminating eight classified parapros, stipends, one classified administrator and other programs.

Cuts from the state in special education funds, which total $758,326, will take away another 9.5 classified parapros, 1.5 certificated nurses and supplies and other resources, such as travel.

Total administration cuts total $534,322. This will eliminate one certificated administrative director, one classified skills center mechanic, one classified custodian position, a mentor, reduction in security and cuts in athletics.

The cuts in athletics come from the stipends for 'C' squad coaches.

Teachers will keep their jobs and that's a silver lining to all these cuts. And because of that, classroom sizes will not increase. However, teachers are giving up some things. The overload pay has been suspended. This is extra pay teachers pick up if they have extra students in their classes. Teachers will also lose one supplemental day and another $25,000 in additional cuts is expected.

Perry questioned why so many positions that affect student achievement are being cut. She asked why a psychologist needed to be in every school building when each school has counselors and coaches. She questioned whether the psychologists could double up in order to save positions that affect student achievement.

Cole said there is no mandate on how many psychologists are needed per number of students, but one for each 114 students is recommended.

The board committed to revisiting the budget at its June meeting.

Puente said he has concerns with the cuts, noting this is the third straight year of significant cuts.

"I'm not seeing or hearing leadership from the state level," he said. "What's the impact these cuts are going to have on student achievement?"

The board does have a set of priorities of what positions it would like to see reinstated. The top three priorities are parapros, assessment support staff and certificated staff.

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