Hart District lays off 22 classified positions, discusses possible model for fall 2020

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In light of budget scares due to state funding being impacted by COVID-19, the William S. Hart Union High School District approved 22 “reduction in force” notices, or RIFs, for district classified staff during a special Wednesday morning meeting.

District staff said some of the positions included in the RIFs were vacant already, and could be phased out without anyone being let go, but Michael Vierra, assistant superintendent of human resources for the district, could not say the exact number of people that would be laid off.

“We have cut the budget of the administrative staff and it’s not only, even though this is the only one on our agenda, we’re also looking at teachers and we’re also looking at administrators,” said Board President Lina Storli. “It’s not just the classified staff that’s going to take the hit of this horrific time we’re in and the lack of budget that we have.” 

Pre-COVID-19, the district was spending $10 million to $14 million a year in deficit spending over a three-year period, and would eventually deplete the district’s entire reserves unless the district spending trajectory changed, according to Ralph Peschek, chief business officer for the district. Then, following COVID-19 and the state shifting its focus to pandemic spending, the May revised numbers showed the district to be, in year three, at negative $72 million. 

These cuts to the classified staff would save the district approximately $1 million a year, according to Peschek.

The positions that will either be dissolved or laid off include a carpenter, a contract specialist, an electrician, groundskeepers, campus supervisors, custodians and maintenance workers, office assistants, an office manager, a plumber, a secretary and a warehouse worker.

The RIF notices will become effective Aug. 31.

So called “golden handshakes,” or deals that financially incentivize staff to retire earlier than they would have originally planned in order to save the district money, would not be distributed to these employees, according to district staff.

Over 65 district staff members submitted comments to the meeting to show their opposition to the cuts, generally asking for the board to wait on issuing RIFs until after Gov. Gavin Newsom approved or denied the state budget later this month.

The board voted 5-0 in favor of the layoffs.

The board is expected to discuss later in the meeting how school will look in the fall for Hart District students, and whether the district will be staying with the 100% distance learning model, or reopening school campuses entirely for traditional classroom learning, or doing a blended model of those first two options.

To watch the live virtual meeting, visit https://youtu.be/hsNO1pyi8hE.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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