SAN LEANDRO -- A legal challenge to a parcel tax and unknown state and federal funding levels have left San Leandro schools in the dark as to whether next school year will be a time of plenty or a time of want, district officials told a budget forum Tuesday night.
About 15 people attended the forum, where they were briefed on the different financial scenarios that could impact the district in the next three years.
Up for consideration is pulling back some or all of the $1.32 million in ongoing cuts currently planned for the next two years, including the elimination of middle school counselors and two campus supervisors, increasing kindergarten through third grade class sizes to 32 students and further reducing funding for the music program.
Song Chin-Bendib, associate superintendent of business and operations, said while the governor's new proposed local school funding formula could benefit San Leandro, it's not clear whether it will be adopted or delayed. She also said the March 1 federal sequester budget cuts could result in the loss of Title I funding used by school with high populations of children in low-income homes, and also cuts to special education.
The district stands to lose $12 million it was anticipating over the next five years under a parcel tax passed Nov. 6 that is now facing a legal challenge for taxing commercial and residential units at different rates.
Board members heard from a handful of employees and a college English instructor, who spoke about restoring cuts to the instrumental music program in elementary schools.
Garry Grotke, principal of James Madison Elementary, said time was spent in the past "really trying to pit one program and one service against another and I am not sure that's been helpful for us."
He urged district leadership to "look at the cost of these items and the impact on schools because not all programs should be weighted evenly. Some have a much bigger impact at a less cost."
Mark Hamilton, counselor at San Leandro High, said his burgeoning 500-plus student case load has meant one-on-one student meetings are mainly with "students who are doing very poorly all the time, and I am not really able to help students in the middle to do better and students at the top to find their searches for college and career options, which is heartbreaking."
A technician employed in the district suggested the school board cut a maintenance supervisor and delegate the work to the head custodian to eliminate redundancies.
Since the 2008-09 school year, state funding for the school district has been cut by $12.7 million, or 18 percent, officials said. Unlike recent years, no permanent teachers were issued pink slips this year, only to have them rescinded before the start of the next school year.
Ashly McGlone covers San Leandro, San Lorenzo and the Washington Township Health Care District. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/AshlyReports.