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Schools Cut Staff, but Teachers Fare Better


In a continuing effort to slash costs in the financially strapped Laguna Beach Unified School District, the school board voted 4 to 0 in closed session late Tuesday to cut 17 jobs, mostly clerical workers and instructional aides.

The move will reduce the district's clerical staff by more than 30%, assuming the jobs are not reinstated later in the budget process. Ten instructional aides are scheduled to lose their jobs.

However, school officials now say they expect to lay off fewer teachers than projected earlier. In March, the district sent possible layoff notices to 33 teachers, and estimated that about 24 instructors would actually lose their jobs.

The exact number is expected to be announced during a special meeting tonight, following a closed session. Legally, the district must give teachers final notice by Monday.

The school district has struggled with a variety of fiscal woes in recent years, including losses caused by the 1993 fire and the county's 1994 bankruptcy. The more worrisome problem, however, is a drop in property tax revenue, Supt. Paul M. Possemato said.

The 1995-96 budget was $13.4 million. The spending cap for the coming year will be $11.7 million.

Parents and teachers have paid close attention to the belt-cinching, balking at the prospect of losing teachers, seeing class sizes swell or losing prized enrichment programs, including art and music classes.

The community has rallied to raise money for the schools and formed a support team to analyze the district's financial situation and to help define priorities to minimize the effect on classrooms.

Tuesday night's meeting was moved to the Laguna Beach High School library to accommodate the overflow crowd of about 150 people. Tonight's session will also be held there. The public hearing will likely begin about 7:30 p.m., after the closed session.

Board member Kathryn A. Turner was not present for the closed session vote Tuesday night.

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