No layoffs for WCCUSD teachers after board votes down most proposed job cuts
on March 10, 2022
Amid backlash from burnt-out teachers, the West Contra Costa Unified School District board voted against cutting about 93 teachers and 100 other school employee positions during a special meeting Wednesday night.
A resolution to lay off three principals and two assistant principal positions passed with only one no vote, from Trustee Jamela Smith-Folds.
The layoffs were part of $34.8 million in budget cuts intended to address a deficit that likely will prompt the Contra Costa County school superintendent to intervene to sort out the district’s finances and keep it from running out of cash.
Mike Fine, CEO of school finance agency Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team, said the board has kicked its budget problems aside for too long. He cautioned that if the district didn’t make the staff cuts and continued on the same financial path, it would become insolvent by October or November 2023 and fall into the hands of the state.
The deadline to notify teachers that they may lose their jobs is March 15, and in a number of districts in the Bay Area, teachers will be receiving notices, despite pleas from labor unions, parents and students.
“We were called essential workers and heroes, and now you want to fire us,” one teacher told the WCCUSD board Wednesday.
WCCUSD’s proposal would have laid off 93.2 full-time equivalent teaching positions and 107 classified positions, including kitchen workers, janitors and special education aides. The layoffs would not have included tenured teachers, special education teachers or teachers in “hard-to-fill positions,” such as math, science and foreign languages.
The board voted 3-2 against the proposal, with trustees Leslie Reckler and Mister Phillips in favor and Smith-Folds, Demetrio Gonzalez-Hoy and Board President Otheree Christian against it.
Superintendent Kenneth “Chris” Hurst said sending out precautionary notices would not have guaranteed layoffs. But it would have left the option open for the district. He said the number likely would have been lower than expected because of retirements and employees leaving the district.
But some public speakers cautioned that layoff notices would prompt some teachers to leave for other jobs before the process was finalized. More than 300 people attended the meeting, which was held in person and on Zoom. Public speakers called for salary cuts to come from the top — targeting administrators and outside contractors.
“You could release every single management person in the central office, and you wouldn’t get close to $38 million,” said Robert McEntire, interim chief business officer.
One teacher pointed out the district is considering cutting teachers while simultaneously holding hiring fairs for vacant positions.
“I don’t understand, where is the staff to cut?” another teacher asked.
McEntire said some schools are overstaffed, based on the district’s declining enrollment. The district is actively recruiting and trying to retain students, said Associate Superintendent LaResha Martin. She said it also is doing exit interviews to determine why students are leaving the district. Middle schools, she said, are experiencing the biggest declines.
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