Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 4, 2010

School cuts have human faces

One tech faces uncertain future as hours get whittled

by Glenn Wohltmann

Sixteen teachers and 45 classified employees will either be losing their jobs or have their hours cut again under the proposed 2010-11 budget from the Pleasanton Unified School District.

Some of those people who counted on the PUSD for their income are in danger of losing their homes. Others are looking at part-time jobs to make ends meet.

For library assistants and for techs, like Linda Trombadore, it's a waiting game to see how many hours they'll have cut from their schedules and from their pay.

Trombadore and her colleagues are awaiting the final figures from the Community OutReach for Education (CORE) to see who will be cut and whose hours will be reduced. Trombadore already saw the equivalent of 40 full-time days cut from her schedule. She's now looking at losing more hours as well as taking on more responsibilities.

"For next year, they're taking us down to three hours a day, so that's 15 hours (a week), but because they've terminated five techs, they also want us to work two campuses," Trombadore.

She said she left a high-paying job making $130,000 a year to work at PUSD.

"I'm one of those people that has done everything right, I did make a conscious decision, my own doing, to take a 90 percent cut in pay 10 years ago," Tombadour said. "I wanted my son's hours. It was doable for me."

For the upcoming year, she said, she'll likely make about $400 a month from the school district -- not enough to even cover her property tax, she said. Coming from the tech world, one of the careers that's suffered the least in the economy, should be an advantage, she noted, but the 10 years she spent at the school district is a problem.

"I have to get another job, but I don't know who is out there hiring 50-somethings," Trombadore said.

Her home is paid off, which Trombadore counts as a blessing, and she's reluctantly considering taking out a loan against it.

"That's everything, that's my retirement," she pointed out. "Even if I have to take a loan out on my house, I have to prove that I can pay it off."

Trombadore has no problem living small -- with basic cable that runs $15 a month, for instance.

"We go without heat, we never turn on the air conditioner. We turn off lights. We are really on top of that," she said.

Health insurance is going to be a struggle in the upcoming year, Trombadore said.

"Next year, I have to pay half my own benefits," she said. That's on top the cost of having a 15-year-old.

"He should have a computer. I bought him one in sixth grade and he's still using it," Trombadore said.

Aside from doing more with less, Trombadore said, techs are in a position to save the district more money than they're paid, by keeping outdated equipment running.

"I have printers on this campus that are 20 years old, and the reason they work is that we make them work," she said.

She's also written grants, and last year at Walnut Grove Elementary School where she works, she cobbled together an entire lab with donations and old equipment. She's also worried that students won't get the keyboarding classes they need, something she held after school this year.

Trombadore said she has a side business as a glass artist, which helps pay the bills."

Still, next year is a big concern.

"There are days I'm so worried about it I can hardly function, and there are days I think I'll make it happen," she said.

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