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Students protest program cuts

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AV program students mobilize to save CTE Media Pathway before district makes Certified Employee layoff decisions

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates. 

The PRJUSD is voting on a resolution to cut certified and classified employees within the district during Tuesday night’s March 10 meeting. CTE Media Pathway teacher Michael Whitman is one of two certified employees being considered for layoff, impacting students enrolled in future Audio, Video and Intro production classes. The cut upsets the dual enrollment video program which has grown in enrollment since 2000.

Video students created posters to prepare for a staged protest prior to the board meeting.

Whitman is a first year teacher on temporary contract who took over the Video Production and Intro to Multimedia Journalism classes after former teacher John Rucker moved out of state with his family. 

The AV students rallied together to make signs and wear there new white AV shirts to be worn at the district office.

“Nobody told us about it,” said Whitman, who was uninformed about his position being cut until being approached by CTE department chair Denise Conte who heard from a fellow coworker that the cut was embedded into the March 10 board meeting agenda.

Whitman said he is the least paid teacher in the district and has waived health benefits this year that would typically cost the district an estimated $11,000 per month.

The cut comes at odds with student interest. Two sections of students have signed up for IMJ for the year ahead. Next year’s numbers have risen to nine students for Daily Video Announcements, 20 for AV2 and eight for Advanced Video Practicum. The intro class (Intro to Multimedia Journalism) has seen a decrease in numbers, with two periods being able to be filled by students rather than 3 periods per next year enrollment numbers. 

Michael Whitman (pictured above) is one of two certified employees to be considered for layoffs among district budget cuts.

AV Production students rallied for the meeting. Earlier, they cheered as Daily Video Announcement (DVA) producer Kalina Pritchett rushed into the production studio with a box of white shirts with an AV logo imprinted on them at the end of the school day on Tuesday. The idea of the shirts was proposed by Haylee Dye who arranged for 75 shirts to be printed by March 10 to show unity at the board meeting. To pay for the shirts, the students used AV club funding.

Students rallied together a week before to plan a protest prior to the meeting. They created posters with phrases such as “Save Our Teacher,” “We matter,” and “Think of the students.” 

Prior to the board meeting DVA students went to the Flamson and Lewis middle school sites to talk to students enrolled in media classes. The high school students spoke to the middle schoolers during the school day to gather support in order to save the program for their future at the high school. 

Students in the 6th period AV2 program expressed that they believed that the media CTE pathway is a critical part of PRHS offered classes. One student said that they took the class with the hopes of “making it into the film industry” and 13 out of 20 students in class said they were planning or considering a career in video or media production. Video and graphics curriculum is one of the dual enrolled programs with Cuesta College. 

Future classes being considered for cuts are French 1, AP Physics and AP Calculus BC at the high school level. 

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