Teachers, nurses and other community members reasoned and pleaded with Lodi Unified's budget advisory committee Wednesday night at the district office to reconsider some of the options it has proposed to account for its expected $8.2 million reduction in funding.
Last week, Lodi Unified School District released a list of options suggesting where it might make cuts. Those options included eliminating the class-size reduction program at the third-grade level, making deep cuts to transportation and doing away with senior projects.
Members of a crowd of approximately 45 people opposed just about every option proposed on the list.
Claudine Stanbridge, third-grade teacher at Heritage Elementary School, said erasing class-size reduction at the third-grade level would be a huge mistake for the district.
Currently, classes at the primary grade levels have approximately 20 students. That number could shoot up to 31 if the board decides to go through with the cut.
Stanbridge said studies show that students are more engaged academically and socially in smaller class sizes and that teachers have more opportunity to reach out to troubled students.
Stanbridge was also the only speaker who offered alternative ideas to the district, including cutting the associate superintendent position, reducing energy consumption and charging an athletic participation fee.
Half a dozen white-coated school nurses came to the meeting to speak out against cutting five full-time positions out of their 15-member staff.
"Losing our nurses would be catastrophic," said Marty Marshall, a credentialed school nurse, who oversees nine schools.
- Michael Self, spokesman for the Stockton Builders Exchange, talking about his fear that the district will cut construction classes.
"It's not only going to be devastating to our school, it's going
to be devastating to our community."
- Steve Jordan, staff member at Liberty High School, about possibly losing a teacher and a librarian at the school.
"This is just unacceptable, because the kids never get the cuts
- Susan Heberle, teacher at Tokay High School.
"Senior year, our classes don't just disappear."
- Jennylee Beckham, Lodi High School senior, opposing senior projects.
"It's not meant to be a road block. It's meant to be an
- Jennifer Cassel, Bear Creek High School senior project coordinator, supporting senior projects.
"Make your legacy taking care of children. This is your
- Ron Heberle, community member and husband of teacher Susan Heberle, speaking to the budget advisory committee.
"This committee is really anguished over these cuts."
- Wayne West, chairman for the Superintendent's Budget Advisory Committee.
The nurses serve roughly 30,000 students in Lodi Unified's 350-square-mile attendance area, 18.4 percent of which require some type of intervention, such as medication management.
Nurses also do screening to detect problems such as scoliosis.
"We can't just say we don't have the funds to provide nursing services to students," Marshall said. "And students don't check their health concerns at the door."
Ivan Tunnell, an elementary school counselor, said the $540,256 the district might cut from elementary counseling amounts to approximately six full-time counselors.
Those counselors, he said, offer crisis counseling to students, small group counseling for students dealing with problems from divorce to anger management, parent and staff education and support, as well as a number of other services.
Tunnell said in 20 years, Lodi Unified has cut the number of elementary counselors, while it has expanded the number of schools by 10.
"We're basically just putting out fires," Tunnell said about his colleagues' inability to offer adequate prevention services.
Carol Bratton, a veteran bus driver for Lodi Unified, painted a grim picture of what might happen if the proposed cuts to the transportation department ended up in the final budget.
Among the safety concerns Bratton listed were high school students driving on Highway 12, students walking along Eight Mile Road and other students trying to find a way to cross Highway 99.
"I can't put a price tag on safety for any child," Bratton said.
There was one speaker who spoke out in favor of a cut.
Lodi High Junior Jennylee Beckham, 17, said she would go along with eliminating senior projects.
Beckham said senior projects are an added burden to an already busy year for seniors.
She said some people even faint because of the stress. Others don't take the project seriously enough for it to serve its purpose.
"If students don't have passion … what's the point?," Beckham asked.
But just as soon as Beckham sat down, Jennifer Cassel, senior project coordinator at Bear Creek High School, stood up to make her case for the projects.
Cassel said she has seen students get jobs as a result of doing the projects and make contacts that they keep well into college.
"I think a senior project is what a student makes of it," she said.