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Lucia Mar and Paso Robles districts plan to send out more than 100 layoff notices

Board members for the Lucia Mar and Paso Robles school districts voted Tuesday to issue layoff notices to more than 100 teachers.

The votes — which in Paso Robles prompted tears from at-times emotional board members — came as districts throughout San Luis Obispo County face significant cuts in state funding, which has been hit hard by the ongoing economic downturn.

The cuts could mean unpleasant new realities for students, including larger class sizes and reductions in noncore programs such as sports and other extracurricular activities.

Lucia Mar

The Lucia Mar Unified School District board voted 6-1 during a subdued meeting to cut more than 70 positions — almost 50 of them teachers — and issue layoff notices to 83 employees to help close a $5 million budget gap in next year’s budget.

Three full-time classified management positions, plus three that are now vacant, will also be cut.

“The cuts and layoffs proposed here tonight are devastating to our children, our colleagues and our community,” said Kevin Statom, president of the Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association and a math teacher at Arroyo Grande High School. “… I think the situation for our district, at least in part, has to be local.”

Board member Georgie O’Connor voted against the cuts.

Lucia Mar’s current general fund budget — which pays for most operations — is about $52 million, but it’s projected to drop to $47 million in the 2010-11 year.

However, the final number of layoffs could be less as the district is notified of resignations, retirements, and other employee changes in the next two months.

Teaching positions slated for layoffs include high school English, social studies and physical education; middle school English, math and science; 16 elementary positions and 12.5 “intervention” positions. The cuts also include six high school regional occupational program teaching positions, 8.9 counselor positions and one special education teacher.

The cuts to the administrative staff include three area administrators, an at-risk program coordinator, and a staff development coordinator.

The classified management cuts affect a food services director, a theater manager and an assistant technology director.

Final layoff notices must be issued by May 15.

Paso Robles

Paso Robles Public Schools board members were emotional, and at times teary-eyed, as they announced they will send layoff notices to 52 teachers this month.

That number — 13 more than the previous highest projection — was deemed necessary, board members said, to balance next year’s budget.

While the news will be unsettling to the educators who receive pink slips, the notices aren’t necessarily final.

Before announcing the cuts, board members said they had no other options.

“If you think this isn’t killing us, you’re crazy,” board member Jeanne Dugger told the small audience. “We’re just trying to save you from an even worse fate.”

Administrators and school board members will continue to seek ways to balance the budget, but state law requires the district to give notice to teachers 45 days before the end of the school year. So even if there’s a possibility they might get laid off, they must be notified by March 15.

Board members said they have lost sleep at the thought of having to lay off teachers.

“I remember, as a teacher myself, getting a pink slip,” said W. Jay Packer. “It was a difficult time.”

How much the school board will need to cut will ultimately depend on how the state’s budget looks when it’s unveiled this summer. Most of the district’s funding comes from the state, which has experienced its own economic downturn.

Right now, the district is projecting that it needs to cut $7.4 million from its budget. The layoffs of two administrative positions were also announced.

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