‘Huge Disconnect’: Trustees Delay Decision on Teacher Job Cuts in Central Unified - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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‘Huge Disconnect’: Trustees Delay Decision on Teacher Job Cuts in Central Unified

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Ten Central Unified School District teacher jobs are being targeted for possible elimination by Superintendent Andy Alvarado, who says the district needs to make cuts now to counter a project budget deficit down the road.

Such “course corrections” ideally would occur each year, based on a review of the district’s educational needs, Alvarado told GV Wire℠ Tuesday afternoon.

He acknowledged that no such corrections occurred last year or the year before.

After more than an hour of public comment from students, teachers, parents, and community members at Tuesday evening’s board meeting, the trustees voted to postpone voting on the job-cutting resolution that would set the stage for the possible elimination of the positions of five social science teachers, two Spanish teachers, a PE/dance teacher, drama teacher, and business teacher, all secondary school jobs.

Trustee Jeremy Mehling, noting an apparent “huge disconnect” between the administration and community, moved to delay the vote until the Feb. 23 board meeting so that the district can schedule a town hall meeting with the community to talk about the proposed job cuts. The motion passed 6-1, with Trustee Phillip Cervantes voting against it.

Deadline to Notify Teachers About Layoffs

Under state law, districts have a deadline of mid-March to notify teachers that their positions are being eliminated.

But the resolution is only a preliminary notification, and it may still be rescinded later depending on student registrations for classes, Alvarado said.

With the board-approved reduction in the number of units needed to graduate from 280 to 230, there are fewer social studies sections being taught and the social studies teaching jobs are overstaffed, the superintendent said.

The position cuts are not due to a “looming budget crisis,” Alvarado said.

However, the district is required to prepare three-year budgets, and based on current projections was facing a $4 million budget deficit in year 3, and the current proposal would address that deficit, he said.

Retirement Incentives Offered

Central clearly has been trimming its costs as of late. The district offered retirement incentives to employees to cut future costs, the only Fresno-area district to do so recently.

About three dozen teachers took advantage of the retirement package, said Judee Martinez, president of the Central Unified Teachers Association. And now the district is talking about trimming more jobs, even though she says it has a “hefty” reserves fund of $42 million and has gotten federal CARES Act funds to aid its finances during the coronavirus pandemic.

Central teachers have hoped that with the opening of the new Justin Garza High School this fall, the district could take steps to lower class sizes that now average 38 students per teacher, Martinez said.

With only two high school sites previously, there wasn’t sufficient classroom space available, but the new high school will add classrooms and could have resulted in some smaller classes, she said.

Keeping the 10 teaching positions wouldn’t “solve all of it, but it’s a start,” Martinez said.

Even with the proposed job cuts, the district would still be overstaffed in social studies teachers, district officials said at Tuesday’s board meeting.

As for the reserves, the district is mandated by the state to have a 3% reserve, and board policy requires a 5% reserve, Alvarado said.

If the reserve falls below 3%, the district risks a state takeover, he said.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email