Boos were heard throughout the room as the Castro Valley Unified School District Board voted for budget cuts and 18 layoffs to save $2.4 million in the 2012-13 school year.
In Castro Valley, board members had a meeting on Feb. 23. This meeting was to show the proposed plans for budget cuts in the upcoming year. Many students, teachers, and parents showed up to protest various cuts, such as increasing class size and cutting teachers.
John Green, history teacher at CVHS and Castro Valley Teachers’ Association (CVTA) president, went up in front of the school board to speak out. “Don’t make cuts the kids will never be able to recover from,” said Green.
“Since 90 percent of the budget is in personnel costs, most of the budget options involve layoffs,” wrote Superintendent Jim Negri in his letter about budget cuts.
Many teachers would rather that the board use more of the district’s reserve funds, which it keeps for a “rainy day” when schools need it, before making cuts on schools.
“It’s pouring outside, and Castro Valley schools need that reserve fund as an umbrella,” exclaimed a concerned mother at the meeting.
“There are so many young teachers, I don’t want to see them get laid off,” said Gerry Cox, CVHS history teacher.. “They have so much potential.”
After the rally on March 1 against the cuts there was another board meeting, with many students in attendance, including a big part of the CVHS Leadership class. In the second meeting with the board, twice as many people participated.
“Think of about 30 five-year-olds in a kindergarten class. I don’t even know how they deal with 20,” said Maya Para about increasing elementary class sizes. This caused many laughs in the crowd.
Many people of different ages and places came up to talk to the board. Some were reduced to tears from the situation. Eighteen teachers came with numbers on their shirts, representing the 18 teachers who would be laid off.
A distressed teacher was not able to finish her long speech before the allotted three minutes each person gets were up, but a young CVHS student in the crowd finished it for her, causing glares by the school board.
“You make too much money,” student Austin Bruckner said bluntly to Negri. He questioned how the school board calls itself a team. “Team leaders to me… look out for the majority. Teams receive cuts. Take a cut yourself as you give cuts.”
Then it was the school board members’ turn to explain their side.
“I know it’s not fun to get pink slips, but unfortunately in today’s environment it is needed,” said board member John Barbieri.
“We are just planning for what we will find out in May,” said board member George Granger. The school board has a May 15 deadline for the final budget of the 2012-2013 year.
Then it was the moment the crowd had been waiting for. As the board all voted regretful yeses for the cuts, people booed and walked right out of the room. Some left crying, others throwing up their papers as they walked out.
“Neither the board nor I like taking this action,” Negri explained.