SKUSD layoffs

UNITED TEACHERS — Southern Kern Unified School District teachers wear red, not because their district is broke, but in support of public education at Wednesday’s School Board meeting, where trustees discussed budget cuts.

ROSAMOND — South­ern Kern Unified School Dis­trict’s governing Board voted 3-2 Wednesday night to table a proposed re­duction in force for about 25 teachers, and a second res­olution to lay off a clas­sified administrator, for at least one week to gather more information.

The district is $5.2 mil­lion in debt and the gov­ern­ing Board will need to make about $4 mil­lion in cuts this year, ad­min­istrators said. The pro­posed reduction in per­son­nel would take the district from 90% of its budget in salary and benefits to 80%.

One of the ways to do that is to cut personnel costs. The board met at Ro­sa­mond Elementary School to accommodate the large crowd of teachers and staff mem­bers who filled the school’s cafeteria.

Rosamond Teachers As­so­­ci­ation President Jim Quell­man urged the gov­ern­ing board members to table the reduction in force resolution.

“The first rec­om­men­da­tion given to the board by the district for rec­om­mend­ed reductions was barely more than a week ago. Ten days is clearly not enough time for the Board to give con­sideration to over $4 million in reductions of pro­grams and personnel,” Quell­man said.

Quellman questioned the validity of reductions pre­sented to the Board.

“One common thread in every meeting I have at­tended is there being personnel reduced at every site except the district office,” Quellman said.

He added some district of­fice po­sitions listed as re­duc­tions were not filled prior to the 2018-19 fis­cal year.

Quellman suggested the dis­trict make $2.6 million in cuts next year.  If most of the $2.6 million is on­go­ing cuts, meaning cuts in per­son­nel, that carries over into the next year, which equals $5.2 mil­lion. He added he checked with the district’s fiscal advisors from the county who con­firmed the approach is vi­able.

The educator said the dis­trict does need to reduce several teach­ing positions to maximize the class size limits. He estimated the dis­trict can reduce about 20 to 22 teaching positions without cutting important programs.

Teacher John Fer­ran­di­ni, one of six people who ad­dressed the Board about the cuts, also asked the Board to postpone its de­cis­ion.

“I want to know what the Board is going to do. I want to demand of this Board that you do something to make sure that this does not happen a fourth time in my career in this district,” Ferrandini said.

Chief Business Officer Arik Av­an­esyans said the dis­trict bor­rowed $1.8 mil­lion from Kern Coun­ty Su­per­intendent of Schools last year to help with their cash flow. That puts the dis­trict $3.6 mil­lion in the red including the money borrowed from the county. The district will need to borrow anoth­er $1.2 mil­lion or $1.4 mil­lion this year to make its cash flow.

Board President Mario Gu­tier­rez acknowledged at the start of the meeting that they should have made some of the cuts last year, but that by the time it was dis­cov­ered it was too late.

“The people who started the prob­lem will no longer be here and are no longer here,” Gutierrez said.

After listening to the teach­ers, students, and others who ad­dressed the Board, Gutierrez said they have not stopped look­ing at options. He said the reduction in force for teach­ers is time-sensitive. By state law the district has until March 15 to issue lay­off notices for teachers and other credentialed staff who might need to be laid off at the end of the school year.

“These cuts are going to be necessary. Hopefully we can come up with some op­tions to save a lot of programs,” Gutierrez said.

Board member Jim Bend­er motioned to table the resolutions.

“I believe with some things that brought up to­night that I would like to discuss more,” Bender said.

Board member Carol Rob­in­son seconded Bend­er’s motion. Bend­er, Rob­in­son, and Board Clerk Linda Brandts voted to table the res­o­lu­tion with Gutierrez and Vice President Yolanda Sanchez dis­sent­ing.

“I know there’s going to have to be cuts, but I want to make sure we make the right one,” Bender said.

The Board also voted 3-2 along the same lines to table the resolution to ap­prove laying off a clas­sif­ied administrative po­si­tion.

“It’s one position let’s table it,” Bender said.

The Board in closed ses­sion approved the non-renewal of 36 probationary teachers who do not have their complete teaching credentials.

The Board is expected to re­consider the layoff res­o­lutions at its next meeting on Feb. 13.

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