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Report: No layoffs meant deeper cuts for all teachers

Fact-finding report laid groundwork for eventual agreement between teachers, district

Staff Writer

When the Hesperia Unified school board rescinded the already-announced teacher layoffs at a board meeting in May, teachers in the audience cheered.

According to a report made public on Thursday, maybe they shouldn’t have.

“Had the district implemented even a portion of the layoffs that it proposed in March,” mediator Bonnie Prouty Castrey wrote in a portion of the report, “The reduction to individual employee compensation would have been in the 7 to 8 percent range,” rather than the 14 percent cut the Hesperia Unified School District had been asking for.

The decision to rescind 77 previously announced layoffs made things “significantly more difficult” when it came time to find other ways to close an $8.4 million budget gap.

“She said she disagreed with it philosophically,” said board member Robert Kirk, who originally proposed rolling back the layoffs. “She’s trying to [bring] the two parties together, and it makes her job more difficult if you take that option off the table.”

“It takes away a tool of flexibility,” Hesperia Teachers Association President Tom Kerman said Thursday. “Of course we’re glad that teachers are back.”

Negotiations weren’t going great even before the board took layoffs off the table: The HUSD had already declared negotiations with the HTA were at an impasse in March, and mediators couldn’t get things rolling again in April or May.

As a result, Castrey and her fellow committee members met with representatives of the district and union on June 14 but were unable to reach an agreement. So Castrey and her fellows packed up and she prepared the fact-finding report on the pickle the district and union found themselves in, along with suggestions on how they could get back out. The district and the union received the report on July 19, and by law, the district had to release it within 10 days and did so Thursday morning.

Castrey’s recommendations formed the basis for the deal tentatively agreed to by the district and union on Tuesday, which includes the 1 percent pay cut, furlough days, changes to benefits and automatic pay restoration for teachers if the state’s financial picture improves. In all, it adds up to approximately a 6 percent cut in pay for teachers this year.

Although the board took layoffs off the table, the math spelled out in the tentative agreement and the fact-finding report before that requires attrition to make it work: A quarter of the projected savings generated by the agreement will need to come from retirements or teachers leaving the district for other reasons.

“We’re not intending to lay anybody off, but we have attrition,” Superintendent Mark McKinney said Thursday. “People retire, people leave.”

“When you add up all the specific [cuts] you can do, you come up with a little more than $5 million. Times three years, that’s $15.2 million,” board member Chris Bentley said Thursday. McKinney has said the agreement would mean $21 million in savings over that three-year period. “Attrition in the first year, because we don’t have the [layoffs] available, is extremely difficult, because we have to rely solely on those who retire.”

So although they will not rise as dramatically as they potentially could have if all of the layoffs originally approved in March went through, HUSD class sizes will still rise over the next two school years: They have to, if they agreement between the district and teachers is going to succeed.

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


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