Novato is forced to consider job cuts

February 10, 2009 11:55:51 PM PST
The state budget crisis is having a direct impact here at home. The Novato Unified School District is now looking at drastic measures like laying off dozens of employees and even closing one of its schools.

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Librarian Monique Etchevers pleaded with the Novato Unified School Board to save her job.

"The library is not static. It's dynamic, it's ongoing, it moves, and it evolves, and the librarian is the one who takes the library in that direction," said Etchevers.

The school board is considering eliminating as many as 75 staff positions, from librarians to clerks to teachers. School board members say it's a painful process.

"It is the worst part of probably our job as board members, that we have to make these decisions that are devastating to our district," said Debbie Butler, the school board president.

The new school year doesn't begin until the fall, but the district must consider cutting staff now in order to warn employees layoffs could be coming. Novato's problems are a direct result of what's going on in Sacramento. The district is at the mercy of how quickly the governor and legislative leaders can cut a deal.

"They're spending time arguing with each other instead of giving us some direction on what we need to do. And once we know what to do, we will do it. But in the meantime, we're in this limbo and it makes us have to make broader cuts," said Jan La Torre-Derby, the Novato Unified School District superintendent.

The school board is even considering closing one of three middle schools and sports is in danger too. Eliminating athletics would save the district more than $400,000.

"It would be pretty bad. I mean, I might even consider leaving the school. I mean, seriously," said Ben Friedman, a San Marin High School student.

The president of Novato's teacher's union urged everyone to apply the pressure.

"We need to make phone calls, we need to make people aware that we're suffering because of inaction of the people we pay a great deal of money to. If that money could go back into schools we'd be way ahead," said Joe Morgan, from the Novato Federation of Teachers.

The school board has only a few weeks to decide how many staff positions to eliminate. They plan to vote on February 24th.

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