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A sea of pink slips

What do the preliminary lay-off notices mean for Auburn area schools?
By: Melody Stone Journal staff writer
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The delivery of pink slips by Auburn-area school districts has parents, teachers and students nervous about the future of education. Dave Horsey, superintendent of Placer Union High School District, said the district gave out 26 preliminary lay-off notices. California law requires schools to issue the cautionary notices before March 15. Many schools have already issued pink slips. “We don’t have an intention or perceived need to go beyond that,” Horsey said. “It’s a very unsettling situation for three months.” In three months school districts should have an idea of the state’s budget, next year’s enrollment, and what positions will actually be eliminated. “There are still quite a few unknowns,” Auburn Elementary School Principal Sam Schug said. “I have some serious concerns about the budget coming from the state and the budget here in the district.” Michele Schuetz, Auburn Union School District superintendent, said the proposed cuts mean larger class sizes and less support for the students and teachers. "What the state is doing with the cuts in education is horrific,” Schuetz said. "Our district is having severe financial hardships." Schuetz is striving to be pro-active and prepared for whatever budget comes down from Sacramento. "There is no way we can keep these cuts away from school sites,” Schuetz said. Foresthill Union District Superintendent Jim Roberts acts as a principal and the superintendent and he may step into a teaching position next year as well. Roberts and the school board are also looking at closing the elementary school and consolidating the students onto one campus. "Everything is virtually on the table,” Roberts said. Impacts on electives Many school districts are making cuts to programs not required for graduation, such as agriculture and other electives. Shannon Spears, agriculture science teacher and Future Farmers of America adviser at Placer High School, she said she wasn’t shocked when her pink slip came. “I kind of had a feeling it was coming,” Spears said. “But it doesn’t make it feel any better.” Spears said she’s worried about the loss of hands-on, life-skills classes at the high school level. “(The district) keeps cutting programs that give kids skills for when they get out of high school,” Spears said. “I hate that it’s happening.” Student Haley Casbeer, has taken many agriculture classes in her three at years Placer High School. She’s currently enrolled in Spears’ floral design class. “It teaches you about all kinds of flowers,” Casbeer said while preparing flower planters. “It’s really hands-on.” She said the class gives a good basis for working in the floral industry and is both fun and challenging. Foresthill parent Erik Waldrop said if the Placer High agriculture program is completely cut, he’s going to take his daughters to Del Oro High School so they can continue participating in Future Farmers of America. “I have seen kids with no direction in life and no sense of self-worth gain respect for themselves and others,” Waldrop said about the Future Farmers program, via e-mail. School district officials don’t feel great about the cuts needed to balance their possible budgets either. “I’m feeling pretty bad,” Horsey said. “We didn’t get into education to be making these kinds of cuts to our students.” Horsey said even in the worst-case scenario Placer High agriculture won’t be cut entirely, just downsized. He anticipated a reduction of two class section across the district. This means there will be less opportunity to take the classes students may want and the class sizes will be larger. “There’s a pretty good parity of reductions. Some courses are required for graduation and some are electives,” Horsey said. The question he asks is how far can you reduce and still allow a student to get a diploma. He said they aren’t making massive “whole-sale” cuts, but instead strategically and surgically reducing in each master schedule. On the upside Some local school districts are not facing lay-offs at all. “We run pretty conservatively so we don’t have a lot of extra staff on hire,” said Kathleen Daugherty, Newcastle Elementary School District superintendent. The district has some temporary staff they may let go if needed, she added. Schug doesn’t know how the budget will look but he’s optimistic. “I have magnificent staff who are doing wonderful things with limited resources,” he said. “My charge and the charge of my teachers is still to provide education to the students of Auburn whether the budget is horrible or not.” What is a pink slip? A pink slip is preliminary lay-off or reduction notification. The state requires school districts to inform teachers of possible lay-offs by March 15. Once the schools receive a concrete budget and revenue estimates the pink slips may be rescinded. By the numbers: Below are the number of pinks slips issued by district as of Wednesday. 26 - Placer Union High School District 23 - Placer Hills Union School District 19 and 9 temporary teachers - Auburn Union Elementary School District 7- Foresthill Union School District 0 - Ackerman Charter District 0 - Newcastle Elementary School District