Barring last-minute financial good news from the state, this spring's previously announced teacher layoffs are now official.


The Hesperia Unified School District school board met in a special meeting Monday morning to vote on the findings of Administrative Law Judge Roy W. Hewitt.


On February 23, the board voted to lay off 181.5 full-time-equivalent employee positions -- three of those being part-time positions -- or a total of 185 teachers not coming back for the 2009-2010 school year. (A later agreement ended up rescuing 76 of those jobs, should state monies to the district not further decline.) The teachers losing their jobs requested an evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge, asking him to determine if cause existed to lay them off.


With a few quibbles, Hewitt approved the board's February 23 decision.


"The district's recommendation and the board's decision to reduce or discontinue the services [of the teachers] were neither arbitrary nor capricious," his decision reads in part. "Rather, the recommendation and decision were based on the projected $12-$14 million dollar budget deficit. Thus the board's decision represents a proper exercise of its discretion."


During the April 28 hearings, the HUSD withdrew its layoff of Cottonwood Elementary School teacher Kerrie Lewis, who had worked more than 76 percent of the year as a substitute teacher, bumping her into a higher category of seniority. Seniority was one of the criteria used to determine who would receive the notices, and who would not. The savings created by letting her go will be covered instead by savings created by other teachers retiring, according to the district.


On Monday, fourth grade Mission Crest Elementary School teacher Melanie Gonzalez, who also started her HUSD career as a long-term substitute teacher, asked the board for similar consideration.


"It would be nice to be moved up on that seniority list," she told the board Monday morning. "I enjoy working in this district. I love my school site. I enjoy working with my principal."


"Although this modification does not allow respondent Gonzalez to escape the impact of these lay off proceedings," Hewitt wrote in his decision, "The modification may affect her position on a subsequent rehire/reinstatement list."


In other words, Gonzalez is still laid off, but she joins the front of the line to be rehired later, along with other long-term teachers.


"I don't see that it's beneficial for us to not accept the judge's decision in total," said board vice-president Lee Rogers. "It could be life-changing down the road."


HUSD staff had suggested that the board approve the judge's decision, with the exception of the factual finding that Gonzalez should be regarded as a more senior teacher.


Hesperia Teachers Association President Jim Pace suggested that Gonzalez' case may not be unique in the HUSD. He warned that if the board did not accept Hewitt's decision regarding her, they would conduct a thorough review of all district employees, to see if they should be considered more senior than they are by the district.


The board approved the judge's decision 3-1, including his factual finding concerning Gonzalez, with board member Chris Bentley dissenting. (Board member Anthony Riley did not attend the meeting.)


The next meeting of the HUSD school board will be held on Monday, May 18, at 6 p.m. in the HUSD Educational Support Center Annex, 15576 Main Street.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.