It's a day of mixed blessings for Hesperia teachers.


In a special meeting Friday morning, the Hesperia Unified School District school board voted to rescind pink slips the district had issued to 77 teachers earlier in the spring.


That's good news for those teachers, but the district is still seeking $8.4 million in cuts in from the teachers union, which will likely mean even deeper cuts in salary and benefits for all teachers than were previously proposed.


The vote followed a surprise announcement at the board's regular meeting Monday night, when board member Robert Kirk announced his desire to preserve class sizes by rolling back most of the teacher layoffs the board had previously approved.


In February, the board voted to lay off 94 teachers, should the district and teachers union not find any other way of cutting $8.4 million from the budget. (The HUSD's total budget deficit is $13 million. The district has divided the cuts up among the different employee groups based on what percentage they make up of the total pie. Approximately 90 percent of the district's non-restricted budget funds is spent on salary and benefits.)


Although the district has come to an agreement with management and non-teaching staff, negotiations between the HUSD and the Hesperia Teachers Association, the union that represents the HUSD's teachers, have been on-again, off-again all year, and broke down again on Wednesday. The HTA has accused the district of not being interested in looking at other potential cost savings.


"They have not moved one iota off of what they are bringing to the table. We have not really had any negotiations; I don't care what you call them," HTA president Tom Kerman said Friday. "Everything we have done has been hamstrung. And I'm going to tell you, hamstrung by this board."


"I put in 26 years in this district and I'm retiring this year," said Sultana High School special education teacher Dick Westerhof. "If I retire next year, I'll make $3,000 less. If I stay in this district, I'll make $10,000 less. I feel like you're forcing a lot of teachers, aside from me, to stop what they love doing."


"Seven years and a masters degree, and I'm wondering if I've got to go get a second job?" Oak Hills High School biology teacher Faysel Bell asked at Friday's meeting. "What are we teaching our kids? Not to go to college, not to waste four years of their life?"


"When times are good, everyone wants their fair share, and a little bit more," said board president Hardy Black, who had been the HTA's lead negotiator back when he was a high school teacher in the district. "When times are bad, no one wants to hear 'fair share.' You cannot spend more than you make. You might find a way to do it as a one-time thing, [but] it cannot endure."


In the end, the board voted in favor of calling back the 77 pink slips on a 3-2 vote, with board members Lee Rogers and Chris Bentley dissenting.


"I've never been in favor of laying off teachers," said Rogers. "I've never been in favor of laying off classified" employees, staff without teaching certificates. "I've never been in favor of laying off management. But sometimes you have to do those things."


"We are in a fiscal crisis," said Bentley. "A couple of years of living high on the hog; it must have been nice for the board to be able to do nice things. I wish you had given some consideration to a rainy day."


Not getting their jobs back are 14 teachers hired for a single year through one-time federal stimulus funds, two ROTC teachers and a Cal SAFE teacher, whose salaries were partially funded through now-unavailable state funds.


California law says teachers must be notified by March 15 if their services will not be needed in the coming year, and with the board's vote on Friday, the district is barred from cutting teacher jobs to close the budget gap for the 2010-2011 school year.


The next regular meeting of the HUSD school board will be held on June 7 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