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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