Friday, March 14, 2008

jobs cut, but more importantly, student demonstration averted

Fewer cuts at WUSD
By Sam Bhagwat
of The Valley Mirror

Still bleeding, but not so badly.

The result from Thursday’s school board meeting: Willows High is keeping a threatened counselor position, an act that averted a planned student demonstration. But funding cuts will still mean four fewer full-time positions in Willows Unified next year.

Gone are a high school keyboarding position, six periods of instruction at Willows High in areas like creative woods and weight training, and one teaching position each at Murdock Elementary and Willows Intermediate School.

Additional cuts were averted when the teachers’ union gave around $150,000 budgeted for classsroom use, back to the district to avoid layoffs. The money allowed the district to avoid cutting the counseling position at Willows High and to keep third grade classrooms at 20-to-1 teacher-to-student ratios.

“It’s a perfect example of cooperation,” said teacher’s union president Mike Dennis. “We’re all in the same boat.”

“I know it sounds cornbally,” he added. “But it’s true.”

The agreement may have prevented a demonstration at Willows High, where students planned to walk out of school to nearby Memorial Hall at 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon to protest the planned elimination of counselor Tom Bryant.

The administration got wind of the plans, and vice-principal Jerry Smith, in charge of discipline, called the organizers into his office Thursday morning.

Mr. Smith said that he showed the students the new plans to keep the counseling position, as well as telling them that “truancy is truancy,” no matter whether from skipping school or planning a demonstration.

After that, the demonstration was called off.

While each piece of news traveled at various speeds around the school, no students were seen walking out, or gathering in Memorial Hall, at the scheduled time.

Presumably well-informed student body president Alex Ballew said she heard of the plan around 8 a.m. and that it had been called off around 10:45 a.m. Meanwhile, an anonymous caller told the MIRROR of the meeting at 12:15 p.m., and called back at 12:30 p.m. to tell us it was off. Neither planned to participate.

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