The Eastern Sierra Unified School District is in a budget pinch again this year, but this time it hasn’t taken the community by surprise, and it’s due to state funding news, not District overspending. With Governor Jerry Brown’s unsuccessful attempt at a special election that would have allowed voters to decide whether or not to extend taxes and therefore allow fewer cuts in California, school districts must now prepare for the worst. For ESUSD this means finding ways to trim at least $500,000 from its budget.
In February, the ESUSD Board made the controversial decision to pink slip every certificated position in the District to make sure it was prepared for anything the state might do down the road. In past weeks, pink slips for all but 8.5 of these teaching positions have been rescinded. The Board has been holding workshops in the last month to hear the community’s cost-cutting scenarios, and to vet the ideas proposed by ESUSD Superintendent Don Clark and Mono County Office of Education, which include the layoffs and closing of High Desert Academy.
“Strong communication is important, we don’t want to repeat last year,” said Board member Margie Beaver.
At the April 21 workshop, Board members pledged to try and keep cuts as far from the classroom as they could. Beaver even suggested the Board look at cutting or reducing the health benefits and mileage reimbursements that members receive.
“We’re going to cut teachers last here,” said Board member Matt Baumann. With the May 15 state mandated decision date approaching, Board members will have to find other avenues, fast.
“This is a tough conversation and it will be hard work to successfully keep cuts out of the classroom,” said member Gabe Segura.
A final workshop is scheduled for May 5 at 6 p.m. at the District office in Bridgeport. The Board will vote on teacher layoffs at a special meeting, tentatively scheduled for May 9.