Leadership can be difficult under any circumstances, but the fiscal crisis facing the state and public education has put California school officials in the unenviable position of having to make decisions that are guaranteed to be unpopular and to adversely affect employees. One overwhelming concern for Hesperia Unified that rests heavily on the shoulders of our Board of Trustees and Cabinet is the unprecedented $13 million deficit we are facing for next school year.


Numerous alternatives for cutting the budget were weighed in the balance. The decision was made to avoid additional cuts to programs or services, because our primary focus is to educate children in a safe learning environment. The lion's share of our budget is related to personnel, so that is where we are attempting to counteract the deficit. The strategy is to determine the costs affiliated with each of the three employee groups and ask these groups to develop budget cuts that are proportionate to their part of employee-related expenses.


Many of you are aware that our people have already made financial sacrifices. Classified and Management positions have remained unfilled, and employees in these groups have taken furlough days and experienced layoffs. Over 180 of our teachers went through the layoff process last year. Implementing the RIF was demoralizing for many of our employees. However, other than a negotiated agreement, our options were limited. Unfortunately, the Governor's proposed budget doesn't acknowledge or give credit for any of the reductions we have implemented in past years.


Despite our good faith efforts to reach agreements with all of our employee groups, we have declared impasse with the teachers' union. At the bargaining table, the number of budget-cutting ideas is limited to those that are deemed negotiable. Reducing services and/or programs are not bargainable options. Our classified union is working with the District to finalize an agreement that is admittedly no one's first choice for handling the problem. Management has agreed to additional furlough days, freezes in salary, and a reduction in their benefits cap, although that is not their preference either. Recognizing that teachers, too, have suffered because of layoffs does not mitigate the fact that the debilitating deficit remains the same. The number is $13M, no matter what concessions have been made in the past. And to be perfectly candid, the District does not want to RIF ninety-four (94) teachers this year, as the loss of more teachers will adversely impact classroom sizes and the quality of learning that takes place in the classroom. However, California Education Code mandates that we provide notice to teachers prior to March 15 to protect ourselves legally in the event that we in fact, do need to reduce positions/programs because of finances. In and of itself, the layoff of 94 teachers would not cover the teachers' $8.4M portion of the 10/11 deficit. This means that we are compelled to develop other means of cutting teacher-related costs for next year. All of our employees are being asked to make financial sacrifices, so that we can maintain our exemplary programs to benefit students, and minimize the loss of jobs.


This crisis is not taking place in a bubble. Everyone is having to tighten their belts and learn how to do more with less. We are doing our utmost to keep HUSD from shrinking your checkbooks. However, our community-at-large needs to be aware that, should things continue on this downward financial trend, our next level of cuts will out of necessity begin to encroach on the services we provide to students. As parents, you may be asked to contribute more of your time and/or monies to assist us with your children's educational experiences, whether in or out of the classroom.


The best we can do in our current economy is to make budget cuts as equitably as possible, and ride out the storm. In the meantime, I continue to encourage you to contact your legislators and express your disapproval of the significant cuts that are being made to education in the State of California.