Rhyme, reason to school cuts?

School district employees disagree with recommendations in a consultant’s report to cut personnel, wages or hours and believe the suggestions would adversely affect the district.
Among the report’s recommendations to save the Gilroy Unified School District more than $70,000 are cutting the number of maintenance personnel by two employees, changing the salary schedule for preschool teachers based on their training and having bus drivers work three-hour days instead of six-hour days.
The recommendations regarding maintenance and bus drivers are estimated to save the district between $60,000 and $70,000, but no estimate for the savings from the preschool teachers is given.
Joe Di Geronimo, a consultant from Trident Enterprises the board hired for three months to be the interim administrator for fiscal services, completed the report in two weeks, and acknowledged that it was not completely thorough.
“That report was based on initial input and documentation, and was not an in-depth study into those issues,” he said. “I was on a limited two-week block to earmark some potential savings. If the board wanted to pursue (the suggestions), they would have to be studied in-depth.”
The board has not taken any action on the recommendations.
Di Geronimo’s report suggests reducing costs by changing the salary schedule at the preschool level to reflect the training that preschool teachers need.
Preschool teachers need two years of training to earn the permit necessary to teach preschool, but the report said that they are getting paid the same as other teaching staff, who have a bachelor’s degree, plus at least one year of college to get their credential.
But the service preschool teachers provide is essential to children’s development, according to Connie Espinosa, the preschool teacher for Mt. Madonna High School.
“All the latest research shows that early intervention is really critical,” she said.
Espinosa said teachers are not just teaching children, but parents as well.
“We’re the first ones to work with parents to teach them how to become advocates for their children,” she said.
At Mt. Madonna, the preschool also serves as a lab for GUST) students taking child development classes.
Susie Law, a site supervisor and teacher for GUSD’s preschool program, which serves a maximum of 140 students, said many of the preschool teachers have their bachelor’s degrees or are working toward them.
“It (changing the salary schedule) would send a message to people in the community that they don’t value their preschool teachers or view them as professionals,” she said. “We are professionals. We are continuing our education.”
Also, the preschool is funded by the state, so changing the salary schedule would have little effect, if any, on the district’s general fund, Law said. Also, Law said the district automatically takes 20 percent of the state funding for administrative costs.
“Currently, they’re not operating hi the red,” Di Geronimo said of the preschool, but believes changing the schedule would he a precaution to prevent operation at a deficit.
Cutting maintenance personnel would make maintaining the district’s buildings difficult, according to Marc Gonzalez, a skilled tradesworker , with the district.
“There’s not enough people,” he said. “I don’t think we can do the jobs with more portables coming online and with a new school coming online. We’re not maintaining anyway.”
Gonzalez is responsible for painting out graffiti, and despite the report, he is not worried about his job.
“l’m the only painter,” he said. “The district has a priority on anti-graffiti.”
The report suggests creating a priority-routing system to allocate work work and supplying workers with state-of-the-art equipment.
“1 used to drive a 1968 Ford, and it’s the best-running truck in the fleet,” Gonzalez said.
However, maintenance personnel already have a work-order system, but it is hard to keep up with, according to Gonzalez. lie, along with the other maintenance personnel, including groundskeepers, moves from school to school responding to calls that are mainly for emergencies.
Also, once a month the maintenance department helps teachers in the year-round, multi-track schools move from one classroom to another to prepare for the next track to come online. And with Antonio Del Buono Elementary School scheduled to open in July 2000, that need will increase.
The board has not discussed the report yet, according to Trustee Jim Rogers, and any recommendations will need to be weighed heavily.
“Personally, 1 don’t think it’s feasible to cut maintenance,” he said. “I don’t think the board will just blindly follow his suggestions.”
The district is also expecting to place more than 20 new
portable buildings throughout the district for the 1999-00 school year. Gonzalez does not think that Di Geronimo’s report was as informed or accurate as it could have been.
“I think it’s false information,” lie said. “I think they talked to the wrong people. I never saw the guy come and ask me what I do.”
The report also points to bus drivers as an area to save money. It recommends reducing the number of hours some work from six to three a day, which would keep the district from having to pay benefits or for the extra hours, a cost savings of about $30,000.
Bus drivers said the reduction in hours would not let them finish the work they have, and the lack of benefits would send them to other jobs.
“There would be no Incentive for drivers to work here because they would lose their benefits,” said Stuart Ilults, a bus driver and mechanic. “There’s no possible way they can take the routes and make them three hours a day.”
The report also suggested that reducing the hours the drivers work would cut down on them being paid for “dead time” or time when they are not work-in g.
No driver is paid for “dead time,” according to Tony Taormino, director of transportation.
“They punch in,” he said. “They do not get paid unless they are working.”
Bus drivers are respcable for a 15-minute safety inspection of their busses, which is required by law. They also must keep their busses clean and attend a required in-service of 10 hours each year.
“It would be practically impossible to get bus drivers for three hours,” Taormino said.
Debating Cuts
Report Change pre-school salary schedule to reflect training, reducing costs.
GUSD Employees: Lowering pay would have no effect because state funds preschool.
Bus Drivers
Report Consider hiring bus drivers for 3-hours in some circumstances to eliminate -dead time” payroll costs.
Employees: Three hours is not enough time to complete routes and it would make it difficult to hire and retain employees

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