Parents, teachers, and staff packed into the Walnut Creek School Board chambers Monday night to voice concerns about the proposed $1 million in cuts the district says it must make to stay solvent over the next few years. They were especially concerned about the loss of one particular position: one of two vice principals at Walnut Creek Intermediate.
Those who spoke talked about how Bridget Vorhees, the vice principal whose job was at stake, provides an absolutely vital function at the school. Like her counterpart, Kevin Honey, Vorhees doesn't just take care of discipline. She gets to know students, and provides the kind of counseling and support that some kids need to "stop from going down the wrong path," some parents said.
Having two vice principals at the 1,120-student campus is essential to maintaining a safe environment for all kids, teachers and staff. In an e-mail sent out to parents, PTA president Liz Bettis said "one VP is simply not enough to handle potential problems effectively. We are so fortunate as our VPs at WCI know our students by name even if they are not in their part of the alphabet."
Another parent, said, "Everyone one of those kids will suffer next year without the second vice principal.
The five school board members all expressed deep regret at having to make this kind of cut. "I'm frustrated that we even have to consider it," said Arthur Clarke. He said the district, like all other districts throughout the state in this tough budget times, is facing more than a rainy day kind of situation--which would allow it to get by by dipping into the district's rainy day fund. "This is a monsoon. It is been going on for two years, and it is likely to last two more years."
Superintendent Patty Wool said the district has to make these cuts now; the district is "deficit spending" in the amount of $1 million a year. In a couple years, it could become insolvent, and the state would have to step in and take over.
Board member Katie Pena became emotional and began to cry: "This is so painful, and it hurts so much to make these kinds of cuts."
Despite acknowledging the pain, board members unanimously voted to eliminate Vorhees' job. Another painful cut was the tech support position.
The board also approved still other cuts on a list devised by a Budget Review Committee: two days of furloughs for teachers, reductions in hours and pay for special education teachers, and cutting one coach’s position. With these cuts class sizes would go to: grades K-3, 25:1; grades 4-5, 28:1; and cap the middle school core classes at 32:1.
Board member Barbara Pennington called these sorts of cuts "criminal," while Dan Walden said: "I take no pleasure in doing what we need to do."