Budget woes rock Morgan Hill middle schools


The budget woes in Sacramento have trickled down to Morgan Hill
many times before, but this budget has put Elizabeth Tran’s younger
sister in a funk.
The budget woes in Sacramento have trickled down to Morgan Hill many times before, but this budget has put Elizabeth Tran’s younger sister in a funk.

“When I told my sister there might not be sports, she was really bummed,” said Tran, 13, an eighth-grade high jumper at Martin Murphy Middle School.

The elimination of after-school sports at Morgan Hill Unified’s two middle schools is just a fraction of what has not been reduced, though it is still up for consideration.

Middle-school students don’t often shy from postulating, especially when it’s going to cut into something they care about. Near the few rows of bleachers at Los Paseos Park one afternoon in May where Martin Murphy Middle School’s track team practices after school, a throng of teens had a lot to say about the district considering the elimination of their coaches’ stipends, while also commenting on the end of their graduation ceremony – which was approved by the school board May 10.

Maddie Miller, 14, also Martin Murphy’s student body president, said just days before, she was getting fitted for her graduation cap and gown when she first learned of the elimination of eighth-grade promotion ceremonies.

“My ASB teacher said, ‘We won’t have to do this next year,’ she told me. It’s pretty sad,” Miller said.

Nearby, overhearing Miller’s comment, seventh-grader Shannon Hoyle’s jaw hit the grass.

“That’s so unfair,” she said quietly.

Miller said not walking at graduation is the usual punishment for students who didn’t make the grade or have behavior issues. She didn’t understand why every student would face that punishment; “You work this hard so you can be recognized for your hard work. And now the hard work won’t be recognized in front of your peers,” Miller said.

Giving MHUSD insight as to what a final 2011-12 budget will look like, was the release of Gov. Jerry Brown’s May 16 budget revise that detailed a $6.6 billion jump in tax revenue and a plan that still bets on the state legislature passing Brown’s proposed tax extensions. Funding could stay at the 2010-11 levels instead of taking another dip.

With several unknowns remaining in the complicated domain of education funding, MHUSD is anticipating a cut of $350 per student per year, which is already factored into the district’s current budget scenario that took a $1.26 million reduction in mid-May. Yet, because of lost enrollment, about $200,000 for 143 students, increased costs for special education and other considerations before a late June deadline, the school district is looking at an additional $580,000 to cut in 2011-12.

For every dollar taken away from the district’s budget, someone is affected – such as Annalicia Anaya, an athlete at Martin Murphy Middle School who pleaded with the school board not to eliminate after-school sports. “They helped me grow as a student. Now I want to go to college,” she said.

Hundreds of stipends for extra duty jobs – such as GATE coordinator, band teacher and head and assistant coaches – make up the $500,000 MHUSD spends each year to keep extra-curricular programs and athletics afloat. The district has noted that nothing recommended by the budget committee is off the table.

Jim Carrillo, Martin Murphy father and track/cross country coach, said he understood the district is facing tough decisions, but he didn’t know of anyone who coaches middle school for the money. Carrillo coaches his two daughters, who attend Murphy, along with a team of mothers, fathers and dedicated community members.

“It’s low enough to the point where what coaches get paid is not why they do it,” Carrillo said. “Compensation is not a decision-maker. It covers gas. But for the amount of time … sometimes I put hours into planning for the day … if you look at the hourly rate, it’s a few pennies.”

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