More than 75 Hesperia Unified School District teachers who received pink slips earlier this year may be getting their jobs back.
At Monday's meeting of the HUSD school board, board member Robert Kirk dropped a bombshell at the start of the meeting, indicating his desire to preserve class sizes by rolling back most of the teacher layoffs the board had previously approved.
"School is going to be out in three-plus weeks and I'm thinking about these teachers," Kirk said Tuesday. "They're going to be looking at other jobs. They're going to be thinking about their house payments and moving. They're going to be moving on."
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 actual budget deficit is $13 million. The district is dividing the cuts up among the different employee groups based on what percentage they make up of the total pie. The HUSD is the Victor Valley's single largest employer, with more than 2,000 employees.)
"We don't want to lay these people off," said Kirk. "We don't want to raise class sizes. What are we doing here?"
Kirk and board president Hardy Black have been under tremendous pressure from the Hesperia Teachers Association in recent weeks: The union has taken out full page ads in the Victorville Daily Press telling Hesperia voters to express their concerns to the two board members and Friday night, several dozen teachers and their families picketed out front of Black's Cajon Street home.
"That had absolutely nothing to do with it," said Kirk. "Nothing. Zero. Zip."
The board will meet Friday morning to consider taking back the layoffs. By California law, teachers must be notified by March 15 if their services will not be required for the following school year, so if the board rescinds their February decision, most of the teachers will know they have a guaranteed job for the 2010-2011 school year.
Not all of the teachers will be getting their jobs back. Fourteen of the teachers losing their jobs next year had their salaries paid for by one-time federal funds, and were hired with the understanding that their jobs would go away if more funding would not be forthcoming. Three other teachers had their jobs paid for by state programs that are no longer funded during the state's budget crisis. Also unaffected are the 11 non-teacher employees who have received pink slips, including counselors and district office personnel.
And while teachers celebrated at Monday's meeting, they're still on the hook for their $8.4 million share of the district's budget deficit. (Approximately 90 percent of the district's unrestricted funds go to salaries and benefits. Expenses like schools are paid for out of categorical funds that cannot be used for anything other than their stated purpose.)
"We're staying with the aspect of the fair share," Superintendent Mark McKinney said Tuesday. "The portion hasn't changed. It's just that now the layoff side of it [is] no longer an option. So they'll have to be creative on how they'll get to the $8.4 million. ... It forces all of us to be more creative at the negotiating table."
"I think the board stepped up," said Kirk. "I think the board understood that it needed to happen. We'll see what happens on Friday."
In one of the few other pieces of business conducted Monday night -- the board only got through three out of 13 action items on the agenda -- the board also named the week of May 2 through May 9 "Employee Appreciation Week."
The special meeting of the HUSD school board will be held on Friday, May 7 at 9 a.m. in the HUSD Educational Support Center Annex, 15576 Main Street. 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 email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star