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Thursday, 23 May 2013 13:44

052313n4By Jim Knowles

San Leandro Times

A lively scene commenced after school on Friday in front of San Lorenzo High, but this time it was the teachers making the noise.

Teachers in the San Lorenzo Unified School District are clamoring for a raise and pointing a finger at the school board and the superintendent.

They say the district is sitting on a 16 percent reserve fund but not reinstating recent cutbacks and refusing to spend on teachers and other employees.

“Superintendent Byas and the school board are sitting on a huge reserve while raising class size and laying off workers,” said teachers’ union president Donna Pinkney in a speech at the rally.

By holding 16 percent of the budget in reserve, the district is spending just 84 percent on educational programs, said Pinkney, who is a counselor at San Lorenzo High.

The district has cut school librarians, counselors and over 50 teachers, while Superintendent Byas is the seventh highest paid superintendent in the state, Pinkney said.

The teachers want a 5 percent raise. The school district is offering no raise this year, but a 2 percent raise for next year, plus a half percent “bonus” (or off schedule pay that’s just for one year).

State Assemblyman Bill Quirk also spoke at the rally, followed by a few teachers and a student speaker.

Quirk said more state money is available for schools because of Proposition 30 that passed in last November’s election to increase tax money for education.

“There is money for the schools this year,” Quirk told the teachers. “You’ve had years and years of cuts. Now the money is there to reduce class size, keep the buildings clean, and to get counselors back and librarians back.”

But Superintendent Dennis Byas, reached later by phone, replied that no districts in the county are giving a 5 percent raise. He said the highest raise in the county this year is 2 percent and many districts aren’t giving any raises this year.

Byas asked Assistant Superintendent for Businesses Services Lowell Shira to return a call asking about the district’s 16 percent reserve.

Shira said that a 2 percent raise to all employees next year, plus the half percent bonus, would eat up half the the 16 percent surplus over three years.

The San Lorenzo school board has a policy of keeping at least a 6 percent reserve, he said. So the district can’t afford to give the teachers a 5 percent raise.

“But if we get more money from the state we’ll be able to offer more,” Shira said.

The district is planning class-size reductions, going from 28 to 25 in kindergarten and first grade, and from 28 to 27 in second and third grades, Shira said.

San Lorenzo school board president Norman Fobert said that the district’s reserve fund is savings, not ongoing revenue, so the district has to be careful with it.

What money the district gets from Proposition 30 won’t be clear until next year, Fobert said. So next year, when the teachers contract is up, will be the best time to decide on a raise.

Fobert added that the state sometimes takes away money from somewhere else in the budget when new sources of money come in.

“We can’t step out too far on a limb,” Fobert said. “The state is already backing away off some of that. When they give out Proposition 30 money, they could take away money they were giving us before. That’s the way these things work with both the state and federal government.”

CAPTION: San Lorenzo school district teachers rallied in front of San Lorenzo High last Friday after school. The teachers want a 5 percent raise and lower class size.

PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES

 

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