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García said employees with contracts who are to be laid off will receive a letter before next spring, telling them they have reached their last year with EPISD.
By Gustavo Reveles Acosta \ El Paso Times Posted: 06/20/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT

EL PASO -- The first round of layoffs in the El Paso Independent School District could come as early as Sept. 1. Superintendent Lorenzo García said his staff has already frozen about 15 administrative positions, a freeze that will save the district about $1 million in salaries. These range from midmanagement to an executive-level associate superintendent. The EPISD needs to cut $18 million during the next two years, García said. Department heads in the central office have been told to begin identifying positions for layoffs. "We are starting to look at at-will employees in central office. That's where we are going to begin," García said. "These are employees with no contracts, and they could be let go probably on September 1." Teachers and other campus professionals who may be identified for layoffs are under contract for the coming school year and cannot be let go until May or June 2011.

Employees whose duties can be performed by others on staff are the most at risk of being laid off, officials said. But García declined to say which departments would be targeted first. A recommendation for layoffs will go before a budget committee on July 20. The committee will review all proposed cuts and join the administration in making recommendations for reductions. School trustees have the final decision. They could adopt a tax rate and a budget by late August. "It's a little too early to tell we're going to cut here or there," García said. "The loss of the (taxincrease) election will force us to look at just about anything, including some cuts at the campus level." Voters in the EPISD on Tuesday overwhelmingly defeated a proposed increase in the property tax. It would have generated more than $36 million in local and state matching money. EPISD officials had said the money would go toward sa laries, construction projects and academic programs.

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The defeat of the referendum, though, prompted school officials to say that no new programs will be developed, and that programs such as fine arts and music could be cut. That comment from García did not go over well with certain parents, some of whom even created a Facebook page aimed at saving EPISD fine arts. "They always go for the arts first," said Noella Martin, the mother of two children in the El Paso High feeder pattern. "Why is it that they never say they're going to cut sports?" Another controversial announcement from the EPISD administration came the day after the election defeat, when García said three elementary schools with small enrollments would again be considered for closing. Houston, Schuster and Zavala are highperforming but low-attendance campuses. García's administration first announced it could close them last year. Parents, teachers and school patrons rallied to keep them open. García honored the public's will, but he now says the need for budget cuts will force him to reconsider his previous decision. He estimated that closing the three schools would save $2 million. "All these are hard decisions and I really will try to do everything possible to keep things on the campuses as normal," he said. "I am not taking

these cuts lightly É especially the personnel reductions." Lucy Clarke, the president of the El Paso Federation of Teachers and Support Personnel, said her office had received many calls from EPISD employees who were fearing for their jobs. "We are taking the layoffs very seriously and we really hope that they can be avoided," she said. "It's our belief that the layoffs are not necessary and we are willing to help the administration identify resources in other areas that will help spare the jobs of the employees." Gustavo Reveles Acosta may be reached at; 546-6133.

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