Berkeley Unified School District proposes layoffs to meet $1.8 million budget reduction

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Although Malcolm X Elementary School Vice Principal Candyce Cannon’s job is tentatively safe, other Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, employees’ jobs are still in jeopardy because of proposed staff layoffs for the 2018-19 academic year.

The BUSD board is facing an $1.8 million budget reduction goal and has proposed layoffs to staff, including the vice principal of Malcolm X Elementary. During a Feb. 7 board meeting, Cannon’s layoff was removed from budget recommendations amid community outcry.

Other potential reductions that have been identified in the form of layoffs include three safety officers at Berkeley High School, or BHS, a behavioral specialist position and a “roving custodian” position. The board has already approved the removal of one full-time employee from the teaching staff.

At the meeting, the board identified cuts up to about $1.6 million, leaving roughly $200,000 in cuts that still need to be decided. BUSD spokesperson Charles Burress said in an email that BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans and staff initially recommended Cannon and BHS Dean of Attendance Allen Boltz for layoff.

Evans announced that he would be removing Cannon from his budget cut recommendations after an influx of student, parent and staff support for the administrator at the meeting. Among those who spoke against the layoff at the meeting was Ariana Braga, a second grade teacher at Malcolm X Elementary.

“How do I assess a second grader that does not yet speak English with report card season coming up? What about the child that does not pass their dental or vision screening? How do I get their needs met?” Braga asked at the meeting. “In every single one of these cases, I’ve gone to my VP because they were so accessible to me.”

“All of today’s meetings require an administrator,” Cannon said in an email, remarking on the volume of meetings that were filling up her schedule. “Which is why a (vice principal) at Malcolm X is vital!”

At the Feb. 7 meeting, the board also identified potential budget reductions in cuts of $50,000 in legal fees and $75,000 in consulting fees. Proposed reductions to school services also include $15,000 from the school’s Gifted and Talented Education program.

The finalization of the budget reductions is scheduled to take place at the Feb. 21 board meeting.

Cade Johnson is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @cadejohnson98.