Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/20/2010 04:02:49 PM PDT

Area school districts will have to make do with fewer cafeteria workers, custodians and other classified employees during the next school year.

After announcing hundreds of teacher layoffs in recent days, school districts throughout the San Bernardino area are planning to layoff other employees to save money in these tight fiscal times.

And so far, whittling down the number of proposed layoffs has proven a greater challenge than last year when jobs were saved by an influx of federal stimulus funding.

“The first person a student sees every day is a custodian, then it’s the office clerk, followed by the instructional aide, before they even see the teacher,” said Charlie LaChance, labor relations representative for California School Employees Association, CSEA 183, which represents classified employees in San Bernardino schools.

“They always say ‘keep the cuts away from the classroom,’ but these people impact the classroom just as teachers do.”

In San Bernardino, the school board has had to make hard decisions in recent months to close a $30 million budget deficit for the 2010-11 school year.

Originally, district officials proposed laying off 540 of the district’s classified employees, about 25 percent of that work force.

The number shocked both employees and the union, LaChance said.

“The initial number was huge and the reaction was really astonishment, as in who is going to clean schools, cook food and make sure the kids are safe,” she said.

Through negotiations, the number has been lowered. An exact number is not yet available, said LaChance.

“We expect the number to be less, but it will not be as low as last year when, after initially sending out 144 pink slips, only one classified employee was laid off,” she said.

In Fontana, where district officials are also dealing with $30 million in budget cuts for the coming school year, the number of classified employees originally slated to be laid off was 156.

There, too, the district was able to bring back the majority of people who received preliminary layoff notices last year.

This year, maintenance may get hit hard, with as many as 19 custodians being laid off at different school sites, said Richard Bruce, president of United Steelworkers Local 8599, which represents classified workers in the district.

At this time no budget cuts are planned for 2010-11 in the Rialto Unified School District, but that could change once the state adopts a budget, said Phil Urabe, interim assistant superintendent of business services.

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