Sunnyside to cut 18 teachers, close resource, wellness center

2013-02-14T00:00:00Z 2014-10-24T10:11:58Z Sunnyside to cut 18 teachers, close resource, wellness centerJamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 14, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Sunnyside Unified School District governing board voted Tuesday night to cut 18 teachers and shut down its Family Resource and Wellness Center. Eliminating that many teaching positions will increase class sizes at grade levels throughout the district.

The two moves were among many the board took in an effort to close its budget gap. Others included eliminating dropout recovery teachers and coordinators, and reducing overtime pay for off-duty police officers by 25 percent.

The reductions and elimination of positions will save the district almost $3 million.

Sunnyside is facing a budget deficit ranging between $3.2 million and $4.6 million. The number depends on whether the district receives $1.4 million in inflationary funding from the state.

State lawmakers stopped giving school districts money for inflation in 2010, but the Court of Appeals ruled that the state owes the money to the districts.

Tuesday's vote was just the first round of cuts for Sunnyside, which will still probably cut another $1 million. The board postponed votes on eliminating 13 physical education teachers, along with middle school truancy officers and library clerks, among other positions, until its Feb. 26 meeting. The board also will decide then whether to close Ocotillo Early Learning Center and discontinue other programs.

Class sizes will increase from 24 to 25 students per class in kindergarten and first grade, and 27 to 29 in second through fifth grades. Freshman class sizes will rise from 25 to 30 students in each class. Classes in 10th through 12th grades already have 30 students.

The class sizes posed the biggest concern, but the board ultimately decided to vote for the size increases.

"I realize we have to make certain cuts, but, as an educator, you know class sizes are really detrimental to academics," said member Eva Carrillo Dong.

Board member Daniel Hernandez Jr. expressed concern about the Family Resource and Wellness Center, wanting reassurance that its clothing and food bank programs would move to another location.

Hundreds of people attended the meeting. The board allowed about two hours for teachers, parents and students to speak in support of their jobs and programs. Speakers opposed cuts to elementary school physical education, teacher pay and the proposed closure of Ocotillo Early Learning Center, challenging the board to protect those programs.

The district's Interest-Based Bargaining Group, which represents all employee groups, presented its budget cut recommendations, including proposals to eliminate ninth-grade sports and reduce central office costs. The board also will vote on those Feb. 26.

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4115. On Twitter: @JamarYounger

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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