The Lucia Mar school district’s leaders have sometimes congratulated themselves for their foresight last year in cutting $9 million from the 2009-2010 budget.
On May 11, the district’s board of trustees laid off 73 teachers and nearly all of the district’s counselors to cut $5 million from next year’s budget.
It’s a process akin to Mary Stuart’s execution in 1587. It took two chops, as well, to sever the Queen of Scots’ head. Mary’s dignity remained intact: she made “very small noise or none at all,” according to an eyewitness.
Dignity is not restricted to royals. Arroyo Grande High School counselors (all of whom lost their jobs) were, just before the board meeting, working after hours in aprons to serve barbecue to parents and students at the school’s academic awards banquet.
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It wouldn’t be totally fair to blame the board for such a surreal moment that night. They, and we, live in a world of surrealized priorities.
• Five days earlier, the U.S. Navy announced the purchase of 124 F-18 fighters at just under $50 million each. The F-18 gives the United States a significant edge in Cold War air superiority, if we were, in fact, still fighting the Cold War. Three hours of flight time in an F-18 would pay for one veteran science teacher next year at Paulding Middle School in Arroyo Grande.
• While the board voted to lay off those teachers, that night’s Yankees versus Tigers game was rained out. But the next day, Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez went 2 for 5 with 2 RBIs. A-Rod earned $322,225 for those five plate appearances, enough to pay for the education of two third-grade classes next year at Oceano Elementary School.
• On May 11, British Petroleum’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill continued unabated, but BP’s profits were $93 million that day, or twice the projected budget for the entire district next year.
This month, in South County schools, computer equipment is breaking down and can’t be replaced, a skeleton crew of custodians has five minutes cleanup time per classroom, teachers increasingly buy their own supplies and run weekend tutorials without pay, administrators’ disciplinary case loads are double what they were a year ago and classes are being cut from next year’s curriculum.
One month ago, Yankee Stadium celebrated opening day with an F-18 flyover.
Jim Gregory is a teacher at Arroyo Grande High School.