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Critics Decry District's Plan for 33 Layoffs : Schools: Possibility of cutting counselors and librarians draws angry response. Board members say layoff notices were a precaution prior to budget deliberations.

March 26, 1992|RICHARD WINTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

PASADENA — Parents, teachers and students angrily objected Tuesday to steps taken by the school district that might lead to the layoff of 33 counselors and librarians to cut up to $2 million from the 1992-93 budget.

More than 100 people attended an emotionally charged Board of Education meeting Tuesday to protest the potential layoffs, made public last week, when the district sent notices to 26 counselors and seven librarians advising that they may be laid off to balance the $73.4-million budget.

Supt. Philip Linscomb said the notices were sent to comply with state law requiring that staff be told by March 15 if they may be laid off. He said notices were not sent to teachers because teacher layoffs are unlikely. However, the teaching staff could be reduced by attrition, he said.

Board members defended the layoff notices as a necessary precaution as the district enters difficult budget deliberations and said it is not certain that the layoffs will be needed.

"We haven't made a decision," board member George Padilla said. "This allows us all the options."

But the audience strongly opposed any staff layoffs.

"It would be an absolute catastrophe to cut out the counselors and librarians," said Nada Ronning, a 13-year parent-volunteer.

Students and teachers expressed fears that if counselors are cut, students would no longer get help with problems and planning for their future education.

"Counselors humanize the schools," said Barbara Younker, a Washington Middle School teacher. "With violence in the streets and problems at home, our children need an ally in the schools."

Speakers also questioned what good a library would be without a librarian. "It takes more than a body on a stool to create an environment," Younker said.

Others said an absence of counselors would mean more disciplinary problems. Chuck Malouf, a teacher at John Muir High School, predicted that dropouts and vandalism would rise, costing the district more money.

"Where is the order going to come from?" asked Tracy White, John Muir High School student board member. "(Schools) only have one principal. The janitors can't discipline children."

Stories of counselors' good deeds echoed throughout the meeting. "My son had an operation two days before school," said parent Christine Ramsey with tears in her eyes. "If it hadn't been for his counselor, he wouldn't be in school now."

Pasadena High School students, who presented a petition with 500 signatures, warned that their school's acclaimed program mixing academic and occupational studies would suffer.

Some speakers demanded cuts at district headquarters. "What about Hudson Avenue? What about the fat up here," protested Howard Storr, a Muir parent.

Counselors with seniority could bump shorter-tenured teachers under the local labor contract, reducing savings.

"They're going to take $40,000-to-$50,000 counselors and put them into the classroom," said Tim Price, president of the Pasadena High PTA.

Linscomb blamed the loss of predicted income on a bleak state budget, declining lottery revenues, falling interest rates on cash holdings and a slower money flow from the state. An initial 1992-93 budget indicated that expenditures exceed income with reserves short of the state-mandated level by at least $1.2 million.

Linscomb warned that "the longer the economy in California has a downturn, the worse it gets."

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