Parents protest plan to cut vice principals to balance budget

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SAN DIEGO – Angry parents hearing that budget cuts will lead to the firing of at least a dozen vice principals across the district packed Tuesday night’s San Diego Unified School board meeting.

“We heard from our principal that our vice principal is going to be cut next year,” said Jennifer Leader, principal of the Family Faculty Association at Miramar Ranch Elementary.

Leader said she learned at least 12 vice principal positions would be cut across the district.

In a letter to parents on February 2, Miramar Ranch Elementary School Principal Peggy Crane said the district anticipates a $124 million budget shortfall and there will be "cuts at the central office and to centralized support services."

"We have also faced reduced funding for our health tech, our librarian, and our noon duty supervision," Crane wrote. "Most importantly, all but two elementary schools, including ours, have lost funding for Vice Principal positions. That means that our beloved Mrs. Robinson will leave us at the end of this school year."

One concerned parent, Mary Corbett, called the cuts dangerous.

“That would leave our school with no administrator if there was an emergency,” said Corbett, who called the role of a vice principal vital.

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The vice principal is the second in command at the school, often sharing the governing duties with the principal, Corbett explained. The vice principal has the ability to step in when a substitute teacher is not able, and is usually responsible for disciplinary actions.

Corbett and half a dozen other parents voiced concerns to the board.

“I don’t even think they looked at me, they were just dead-pan. I don’t think they cared,” said Corbett.

FOX 5 reached out to the district and was told that nothing is definite regarding any budget cuts. The district sent the following statement from Superintendent Cindy Marten, which was also posted on the district’s Facebook page:

Across our district, parents and schools are meeting to find creative solutions to help us close the $124 million budget shortfall we face in 2017-18. That process will continue until the Board meeting on February 21, when we present our budget.

Even before then, I want to assure parents and students of the following:

1. Students learn best in small class settings, and San Diego Unified has some of the lowest class sizes in the state. The District is committed to not increasing core class sizes – a commitment we intend to keep. (switched around a bit)

2. We will cut from the top first. Before we ask schools to do more, we will cut central office staff.

3. Students will continue to have access to our amazing International Baccalaureate (IB), dual-language, arts and other vital programs that help them develop as complete individuals.

4. We will treat our teachers and classified staff with the dignity and respect they deserve. Where layoffs are necessary, we will work to make their transition smooth.

5. We will look at creative financial solutions, such as early retirement options for long-time educators.

6. Finally, the cuts we make now will improve the long-term financial stability of the district, so families understand they can count on their schools for the future.

In the meantime, let me reassure all families that we are funded through the end of this year, and all of the talk about changes relate only to the school year that starts in the fall.

Finally, we will continue to keep parents informed. From the start, we have been open about the challenges we face. We have repeatedly updated the board and the public on the situation, and we will continue to do so.

Corbett said the district’s statement claiming nothing is definite is not true.

“That’s not what we heard. Our principal told us specifically that our vice principal position has been cut,” said Corbett.

FOX 5 also sent a message on Twitter to board member John Lee Evans who responded, “Schools must live within money state gives us. Priority is the classroom teacher to minimize effect on kids.”

Leader said the Family Faculty Association at her school is even willing to raise money to pay for a vice principal, but the district has already rejected that effort.

“It’s very sad that we can even, even if could pay for a second administrator, that we’re not even allowed to,” said Leader.

FOX 5 requests for on-camera interviews with district officials were denied Tuesday night. Superintendent Cindy Marten was invited to appear on the FOX 5 Morning News on Wednesday to discuss the budget cuts, but she declined citing "multiple conflicts."