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Classified Staff Cuts Hit Riverbank Schools
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Seeking savings of at least $400,000 in next year's budget, Riverbank Unified School District trustees took a slash at classified staff during their April 27 meeting and cut health clerk, campus monitor, clerk typist and bus driver positions but saved the jobs of three library clerks.

The proposed cuts affected seven people working the equivalent of 5.219 fulltime positions so most of those affected retained at least some of their working hours.

Trustees decided to retain the librarians at Cardozo Middle School, California Avenue and Mesa Verde Elementary schools following a plea by Cardozo librarian Jackie George and several of her students on the importance of school libraries.

"The library is open to use by students at Cardozo for a reason," said seventh grader Anthony Soriano. "I know Mrs. George is there to encourage us to read, read, read. Many of us students have projects and research papers that may require books or online information such as Wikipedia. The library is a great source to many students of all grades ... I would hate to see the library closed down and books in boxes ..."

Calling her the "public face of the whole district," trustees also failed to act on cutting back the secretary/receptionist job at the district office. A motion to reduce her hours from fulltime to .8 died for lack of a second.

Charged with making recommendations to trim the budget, the new business manager Ken Strangfeld said he had aimed to achieve savings of $229,000 with all the proposed cuts but the library clerks whom the trustees retained had represented $98,000 of those savings.

"I have to go to the county and plead with what I've got," Strangfeld said. "I've been laid off myself (in Eureka). I know what it feels like. But I cannot do my job without support."

Interim Superintendent Daryl Camp added the district's next financial report to the county was due on June 1 and by running current deficits of $1.2 million a year, the district would be in serious financial trouble within three years.

"You have a daunting task," County Office of Education Superintendent of Business Don Gatti told the board. "But you must look for every dime. You need savings of $400,000. That's the low end. You probably need $700,000. I encourage you to act now."

Cardozo School Principal Kim Newton reminded trustees they have a duty to be financially responsible. Nobody wants anybody to lose their job. But they must face up to tough decisions, she said.

Trustees at a previous meeting acknowledged it was too late this year to make cuts in certificated staff because they must be served pink slips by mid-March but classified staff layoffs require only 45 days notice.

California School Employees Association local chapter leader Diana Gonzalez, however, felt the district was picking on classified employees.

"This is the fourth year in a row that the CSEA has been hit," she said. "These employees all have families. It's not right. We should look at the confidential staff also."

"It is premature to talk about layoffs. We should consider other areas," added another CSEA member Nancy Ferguson.

Camp noted trustees already have taken serious steps toward making economic concessions among the district's administrative staff.

Compensated as the interim superintendent, Camp is paid a salary below that of his predecessor Superintendent Ken Geisick and is operating without an assistant superintendent, he noted.

Other administrators who recently came on board also are working for less than their predecessors, he added. They include Strangfeld who has replaced retired business manager Karolyn Crisp and Darlene Ribeiro who has temporarily replaced human resources director Norma Gonzalez, who left the district for another job.