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After principals balked at an initial plan distributed Monday to cut school’s individual budgets, San Diego Unified’s financial officials reworked it, and sent principals new estimates for cuts at their individual schools Tuesday.

Principals have no power over whether to cut teaching positions, but will decide this week how to reduce office staff, counselors, nurses, lunch supervisors and classroom supplies for their own schools. The school board is expected to decide next week which programs will be eliminated and how many teachers will receive layoff notices.

“You only have discretion over a small fraction” of your school’s budget, said Bruce McGirr, principal of Grant School. “There’s not a lot of places to cut.”

Exact details were not available, but principals said the new plan attempts to minimize cuts to schools that lack extra resources such as magnet funding or federal dollars for low-income students, instead of imposing an across-the-board cut. For Marie Curie Elementary School, that means a 3 percent cut, instead of a 5 percent cut — a relief for principal Chris Juarez.

“I was having difficulty seeing how we could safely staff a school of almost 600 students,” Juarez said. “It’s still going to be difficult and painful. We still have some deep, deep cuts to make. But it’s within reason, now.”

Budget operations director Gamy Rayburn could not be reached Monday or Tuesday to explain exactly how the cuts were distributed among schools. When San Diego Unified last grappled with major cuts, budget cuts were weighted more heavily toward middle and high schools, and toward elementary schools that still have vice principals. Some elementary schools, such as Curie, already lack those staffers.

Principals are pressed for time: Decisions are due back to the school district on Friday.

“We used to have a month,” McGirr said. “And we thought a month wasn’t enough time.”

The cuts are being made in the wake of state budget problems; San Diego Unified is slicing an estimated $80 million from its budget.

EMILY ALPERT

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