Thousand Oaks school officials, concerned that they were rushed into some last-minute budget cuts two weeks ago, tonight will reconsider plans to eliminate high school assistant librarians and trim the hours of intermediate school janitors.
The board of the Conejo Valley Unified School District will also re-examine the issue of home-to-school bus transportation, which it decided to continue. Board member Bill Henry said it should have been cut out in light of the district's money woes.
Board members Dolores Didio and Dorothy Beaubien said they didn't feel comfortable including some librarians and janitors among $2.1 million in cuts to the $75-million budget, because the employees involved were not notified in advance.
"We really didn't get some of the recommendations until that night, just before the meeting," Didio said. "When I got home, I realized I didn't feel comfortable with what we had done."
As an alternative to cutting the hours of some assistant librarians and janitors, Didio and Beaubien have asked that the board consider scaling back the hours of all janitors by two weeks per year. That would save the same $65,000 as cutting the assistant high school librarians altogether, they said.
"Chances are, it's not going to make it," Didio said. "But at least it's there for us to consider and talk about."
But Henry, opposed to cutting janitors' hours, said he would prefer instead to eliminate busing. Although the district last year began charging parents for the service, the program still drained $130,000 from the general fund.
The board last month decided to lower the fees charged to parents in the hope of attracting more riders and making the program self-supporting. No one knows if the gamble will work, Henry said.
"It really bothers me to put education money into gas or diesel, into yellow buses, when it benefits relatively few people," Henry said.
Supt. Bill Seaver said he would recommend against the changes, because the custodial staff has already been cut back to the minimum and busing could cover its costs, if given another chance.
"It was a difficult job, but the board did the responsible thing at the last budget meeting," Seaver said.
An hour before the last meeting, Seaver altered his budget plan in response to parents who protested a recommendation to eliminate three elementary school reading specialists and to cut the hours of elementary school librarians.
The compromise, adopted by the board, spared two of the three reading specialists and returned nine of the 18 elementary school librarians to five hours per day. The other nine were cut to 3.75 hours per day as originally planned for all 18.
Instead of making those cuts, Seaver's recommendation eliminated assistant librarians at Westlake, Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park high schools and cut back janitors at the two smallest intermediate schools from eight to 3.75 hours per day.
In addition to returning the assistant librarians to five hours per day, Didio and Beaubien have proposed keeping one full-time janitor split between Los Cerritos and Colina intermediate schools, rather than keeping two part-time workers.
"I don't know if that's going to be it," Beaubien said. "We're still pondering what can be done."
However, one full-time janitor would have to be paid health benefits, unlike two part-time janitors, Seaver said.
"That would cost an additional $13,000 without giving us any additional work time, so I don't see any reason to make that change," Seaver said.
Didio and Beaubien said they have not been pressured by anyone to reconsider the cuts.
"I just wanted to see if there isn't a way that we could put back some of the hours for the (assistant librarians)," Beaubien said. "Losing them puts a great deal of pressure on the librarians."
Assistant librarians said they have not organized any effort to lobby the board, although letters have been sent defending the importance of their work, said Linda Friedlander, assistant librarian at Westlake High School.
"It's the students who are going to suffer in the long run," Friedlander said. "They need the reading and research skills that librarians and (assistant librarians) give them."
In the past four years, the district has cut more than $10 million from programs. Still, the budget has grown from $73 million three years ago to $75 million next year because salary and operating costs continue to rise, officials said.
Negotiations on a new three-year teachers contract are under way and administrators have said that any of the budget cuts could be reconsidered if the new contract saves the district money.