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March 1, 2011 > Hayward Unified School District Board meeting report

Hayward Unified School District Board meeting report

By Robin Michel

Districts are faced with difficult decisions regarding budget priorities. Of the current budget, the district could potentially sweep up to $1.3 million to offset the district's larger budget deficit. The Hayward Adult School brings in approximately $3 million additional funds from grants and employer contracts. These dollars are allocated to specific programs and cannot be used by the district for general purposes. How the programs will be administered will be a topic of discussion this spring.

As Board President Brunner put so well, the adult school is the safety net for our community: for the laid-off workers who need new skills, for the numerous people in our city who have low literacy (math and reading) skills, for the many high school students who have aged-out but not completed their credits for diploma, for parents of children in our district who need English language access and parenting skills, not to mention the many Adult School employees who are passionate about serving their community. We hope that the special election will pass, avoiding additional hardship to the district and adult school. Hayward Adult School is moving ahead and planning classes for a full summer session.

After the Pledge of Allegiance, Hayward Unified School District (HUSD) President Lisa Brunner called for a moment of silence at the February 23 Board of Education meeting in memory of a young teacher who recently died. This somber note foreshadowed later discussion on the recommendation to pass a resolution to reduce the number of certificated employees due to a reduction in particular kinds of service for the 2011-2012 school year.

As required by California Education Code, certificated employees must be notified no later than March 15 of potential layoff, with final notices given by May 15. It is common practice to give Reduction in Forces (RIF) notices, or "pink slips" to staff and then - depending on actual budget reductions that must be made once the state budget is finalized - call the notices back. On the list for the HUSD Board to consider were 84.45 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions funded through the unrestricted fund, which included elementary prep teachers (art, music, PE, library, computer and science), nurses and 20 counseling positions. Funded through categorical, or restricted, funds were another 16.60 FTE positions restricted, including the entire adult education staff, teachers and administrators.

Asked by Trustee Jesus Armas if a teacher could be considered "temporary" having been employed by the District year after year after year (five, ten, fifteen years...), Assistant Superintendent Donna Becnel explained that it is not the employee that is temporary, but the position." The reduction in positions of restricted funding would allow the district the opportunity to restructure, moving an individual from one position to another in order to achieve the desired budget reductions. "I'm having a struggle on the human side," he responded.

During discussion, board members expressed grave concern at the reduction/elimination of counselors with Mr. Armas saying that he would not support the resolution. "It [removal of counselors] is antithetical to what we are doing." Mr. Armas asked that the resolution, minus the counselors, be tabled to the next meeting.

Ms. Brunner asked about the funding for Adult Education, which is categorical funding but currently under Tier III, a category that the state is allowing flexibility in use, meaning that a district could choose to "sweep" it for another purpose. Ms. Brunner pointed out that the adult school has turned over more than $4 million it earns through average daily attendance - or ADA - funds received from the state. If the remaining $1.3 million is swept, she worried that it could jeopardize the $3 million in grants and contracts the adult school receives. She spoke of a visit she recently made to the Hayward Adult School, saying that there are "very few fail safes at this time" and she saw evidence of how critically important services at the adult school are for students and families.

Trustee Maribel Heredia said she would vote for the resolution, "tonight or March 9th" and summed up the situation best when she said, "We are being asked to choose between cutting off our right arm or our left. There are no good choices."

Trustee Armas made a motion to adopt the resolution with the exception of the counselors, which would be brought back with more information at the March 9 meeting. Trustee Luis Reynoso objected to the amendment, saying that he would not value counselors over elementary school prep teachers. The motion passed, 4:1:0. This vote mirrored an earlier one, with the Board passing a resolution in support of placing a revenue extension measure on the June ballot. Governor Jerry Brown's budget proposal calls for a mix of spending cuts and revenues that would come from a 5-year extension of temporary tax increases - if approved by voters - due to expire. The Governor's proposed cuts are from health and human services, with no additional cuts coming from education if voters approve the extension. Although urged by his colleagues to vote unanimously for the resolution to protect additional cuts to public education, Trustee Reynoso said he would not vote for more taxes. President Brunner clarified that this was an extension of revenue measures already in place, and would not create additional taxes.

In public comment before the vote, Mercedes Faraj, Hayward Education Association President, who first quipped that it was apropos she was dressed in pink, given the anticipated amount of "pink slips" teachers could expect, thanked the Board for the resolution to support placing the revenue extension measure on the June ballot, and said that she anticipated HEA was going to pass a resolution of support, as well.

On a brighter note, the Board recognized recent winners from Hayward's First Annual Spelling Bee in which they had approximately 70 spellers nominated in grades 4-6 and 35 students competing in grades 7-9. Sixteen of Hayward's winning students, including top speller Gwendolyn Hostetter, a fifth grader, will now compete at the Alameda County Spelling Bee on March 19, at Canyon Middle School in Castro Valley.

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