In a letter to Foothill High School students, parents and alumni, the school's principal John Dwyer said he had anticipated that his New Year's message would be one of hope and optimism for new resolutions and fresh starts.
"However, without doubt, the most pressing and serious issue on all of our minds is the impact of the state budget crisis on our schools," he wrote. "The worsening financial situation has impacted state revenue and increased California's budget deficit, a problem that can no longer be ignored or passed from one year to the next."
Dwyer's message follows:
As K-12 education represents about 40 percent of the state's budget, any reduction at the state level is passed directly to our schools. The governor's proposal to balance the state budget would strip our district of $8.7 million in the next 18 months with more cuts and reductions over a longer period. This is disastrous for our Pleasanton schools. Cuts and slowdowns we have made in past years pale in comparison to what we have before us now.
Our school district leadership team of Superintendent John Casey and the assistant superintendents has formulated a list of possible reductions that could be implemented to balance our budget in response to the governor's proposal.
For Foothill High School, the list of possible cuts could include:
• Eliminating class-size reduction at the 9th-grade level, going from 20 to 35 students with a loss of more than four teachers
• Loss of more than two counselors, including 9th-grade at-risk counseling. Our student-counselor ratio would increase to 600:1.
• Reduction of teachers for augmentation periods, affecting scheduling flexibility and increasing class size
• Dramatic reductions in student support services such as remedial reading
• Elimination of coaching stipends and support for our athletic director
• Elimination of high school lunch activity support
• School campus monitor hours reduced
• Library assistant layoffs
• Loss of office assistants
• Layoff of custodians
• District cuts to administration that will impact our leadership team
• A 20 percent reduction in site discretionary funds
This list of possible reductions is being evaluated by a budget advisory committee made up of teachers, classified staff, administrators, parents and students. Through consultation and discussion, this group will prioritize the list of possible cuts and make recommendations to our school board for actual reductions that will have the least impact. There is no doubt that these reductions in actual funds will come at the expense of quality staff and critical programs in our district. Layoffs of teachers, administrators and classified personnel along with the elimination of programs that have positively impacted student performance will be unavoidable.
We are proud to currently rank in the top 10 districts in the state. We have recently been identified as one of the top 400 schools in the nation and hold "National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence" status. We have achieved all this as a result of the team of people we have put together and the resources and support that we have created and generated. This has been no accident. This group of people and arrangement of programs have been carefully selected, crafted and nurtured over the years to build the district and the Foothill High School that you see today.
I want you to consider for a moment what this situation means for our students, our staff and our Foothill community. Consider what our school might look like without 10 or more of our current teaching staff of 125. How big will our class sizes be? What will our school look like with a huge reduction in our classified staff of office assistants, custodians, health clerks, library assistants, cafeteria workers and special education aides? How will we be able to provide the same cutting-edge, world-class education and care for our students? A very different picture of our Blue Ribbon High School emerges with this proposal to cut $8.7 million from our district's budget.
Of course, we will do the best we can with what we are given to provide the best possible education for our students. However, the reality of this situation is that the high level of education and care of students that we have all come to expect from our school will simply not be possible in the way that we are accustomed. Our class sizes will increase, our resources will diminish, our hard-working staff will be overburdened and our ability to meet the needs of our students will be compromised. There may even be questions about our ability to maintain a safe and secure campus. I am not exaggerating when I say that the proposed funding cuts will devastate our school. We will not easily recover from this.
To raise awareness and create community regarding this critical issue, Dr. Casey is holding an open forum at Foothill High School on Wednesday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. in our multipurpose room. Dr. Casey will discuss these points at the forum. I strongly encourage you to attend so that you may become informed and help us seek solutions to a deepening crisis that will have a direct and profound effect on everyone connected with Foothill.
I am asking that you do all you can to help us in confronting and addressing this issue. I am reaching out and calling for your support. Without our combined efforts, we will see a very different Foothill suffering unimaginably difficult times for several years to come. We cannot risk compromising the education and future of our children. We need to come together as a community to meet this challenge.
I will continue to pass on information about our budget situation and the possible impact on our students and school. At this time, I would like to also express my sincerest thanks and gratitude to those who have already mobilized support in our community and are active in the process of raising awareness and seeking solutions. Additionally, many thanks to those who continue to donate their time, energy and support for the students and staff of Foothill in many ways as we negotiate these difficult times. While we remain hopeful that the situation will improve, we must seriously consider and prepare for the darkest possibilities that confront us. As always, do not hesitate to e-mail me if you have questions, concerns or suggestions.
What you can do:
• Attend our AABC meetings. Dates and times are advertised in our twice monthly Talon Talk electronic newsletter. Our next meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in room C-6.
• Attend Pleasanton school board meetings on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month at 7 p.m. at the district office, 4665 Bernal Ave.
• Keep updated by logging on to the district's budget web page at: www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us/BusinessServices/Budget
• Visit the budget FAQ page on the school district web site: http://www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us/BusinessServices/Budget/BudgetFAQs.cfm
• E-mail your questions and suggestions to email@example.com
• Advocate for our schools by contacting our state legislators and expressing your concerns.
• Contact members of our Pleasanton school board with your concerns and suggestions.
• Support and get involved in community ideas that you believe may contribute to a solution. For example, the school board is discussing whether to pursue a parcel tax initiative. Contact Joan Laursen, PTA Council president 462-7994 or firstname.lastname@example.org if this is something that you would like to support.