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East schools set to lay off 15

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By Don Pace

The Las Vegas City Schools expects 15 employees to be leaving the district because of retirement or other reasons. But that won’t make up a more than $1 million shortfall in the budget.

The district’s superintendent, Rick Romero, said at a meeting last week that some “good people” will have to be laid off to make ends meet. That cut would affect 15 — four teachers and 11 other staff, he said.

It didn’t appear that the district will be laying off any principals or other top administrators — an idea floated earlier.

Romero said with the budget due at the Public Education Department by May 17, it was time to act.

He told a full board room that the 15 departing employees would bring $849,930 in savings. But he reminded the board and community there was more to cut from the budget.

“What we are looking at meeting, at the very least, is a deficit of over $1.2 million,” Romero said.

Romero said his recommendation doesn’t rise to a reduction in force, a term generally applied to union contracts. 

“I am making a recommendation that we look at a reduction of 15 employees who would provide an additional $525,307. We’re also looking at additional compensation, and at least $63,000 out of athletics,” Romero said.

He said all the employees whose contracts will not be renewed are first- or second-year employees and classified employees who are on “at will contracts.”

“A call I dread to make,” Romeo said.

Romero had told the board earlier that 10 teachers, four other staff members and one administrator were retiring or otherwise leaving the district.

A group of about a dozen people in blue Sierra Vista Elementary School T-shirts gathered to lobby for the school’s principal, Manuel Lucero. Another teacher said Anthony Marquez had been the third principal at Paul D. Henry Elementary during her tenure and that teachers wanted him to stay. And first-year teacher Marcus Gottschalk argued that his job should be preserved. 

“I love teaching,” Gottschalk said. “I want to remain at Las Vegas City Schools.”

School board member Gabriel Lucero said if people could see the budget mandates, they would understand the situation better.

“This isn’t an easy job,” Lucero said.

Board President Ramon “Swoops” Montaño said it was very difficult to cut staff and programs in order to function.

“The word out of Santa Fe is more cuts and more cuts to education. Superintendent Romero has been working on our budget for over a year. He’s received input from the community, and we’ve looked at every single line to see where we can save,” Montaño said.

“This isn’t an agenda item, but for the record, in a crucial situation like this, I think our voices need to be heard. Do we support the superintendent recommendation? I will ask for a roll call,” Montaño said.

The others said they supported the superintendent’s course.

At the beginning of the meeting to discuss the budget, the board closed its doors for a half hour. For the first part, the principals were brought in.

Montaño said the next day that the board spoke about litigation and limited personnel matters, subjects that are allowed to be discussed in private under state law.

He said members didn’t discuss budget issues in the closed meeting, which would have been in violation of state law.