The Hesperia Unified School District school board voted Wednesday to deny a request by one of its unions to let members leave their health plan.


The board met in a special meeting during the workday on Wednesday to consider a request from the HUSD chapter of the California School Employees Association -- which represents the district's non-teacher, non-management employees. The CSEA was asking to be let out of their medical benefit plan, which is currently provided by the Southern California School Employee Benefits Association. The CSEA was attempting to cut costs -- the union and the HUSD are negotiating to find ways to close the CSEA's $2.9 million portion of the district's $13 million deficit.


School boards must notify the SCSEBA 90 days from the end of the plan year if an employee group does not intend to participate in the benefit plan in the next school year. Wednesday's school board meeting was one day before the April 1 deadline.


Several CSEA members, including former president Jean Campbell, disputed the results of the election, saying that there were ballot irregularities and improper campaigning for one of the options at the voting place.


"Given the problems with this election, I encourage the school board to do everything in their power to block this injustice," said Campbell.


"A proposal did come in late," said current CSEA president Ruth Ter Keurst. "I'm really sorry that people were confused. What I'm even sorry about is that they didn't contact me directly."


But despite the irregularities and confusion, she said, the board should respect the will of the members.


"Change is hard for everybody," said Ter Keurst. "We just want to have a win-win situation with the HUSD and employees."


But board members expressed their collective unease with the way the CSEA had presented their request.


"A rock and a hard place is about the only way I can describe this thing," said board member Chris Bentley. "To me, this is a collective bargaining agreement."


"In practical terms, everything gets blamed on the board," said board president Hardy Black. "It's not the board making the decision. We're just going along with whatever CSEA wants to do."


In the end, the board voted against CSEA's request by a 1-3 margin, with only Black supporting the measure. Board member Lee Rogers was in attendance via speakerphone from Chino. Board member Anthony Riley was absent, and attending a political fund-raiser for Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt at the time.


The next regular meeting of the HUSD school board will be held on April 5 at 6 p.m. in the HUSD Educational Support Center Annex, 15576 Main Street.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star