Taking steps to halt district deficit spending, Yosemite Unified School District trustees voted four to one to cut 17 positions including teachers, a counselor and an alternative education principal for the 2018-19 fiscal year, saving the district $1.1 million.
The staff positions that will be cut were announced in an overview, although the board did not want to announce specific personnel, pending those people being officially notified, which was expected to happen this week.
According to Fred Cogan, administrator on special assignment to YUSD from the Madera County Superintendent of School’s Office, affected staff must be notified by March 15.
The cuts were voted on at a special meeting Monday, March 5. Positions to be cut are: five K-8 elementary teachers and one K-8 music teacher. In addition, three alternative education multiple subject teaching positions will be eliminated.
Also on the chopping block are two Yosemite High School physical education positions and one YHS position in each of the core areas including social science, English, science and math.
While 17 positions are being cut, the district does not anticipate laying off 17 employees. Some of those cuts will be mitigated as teachers announce their intentions to retire or find employment outside the district.
In the past month, the board has ratified the retirements of K-8 music teacher Christel Biasell and Yosemite High School lead counselor Stephanie Samuels. An additional retirement, a K-8 Rivergold Elementary School teacher, Phil Wimer, was on the board’s March 5 agenda.
“We want to err on the side of employees to give them time to look for employment,” Cogan said. “We do not want to lose employees. The district is working hard to mitigate layoffs to the smallest number possible without cutting programs.”
Board clerk John Reynolds was the lone dissenting vote. Board president Tammy Loveland and trustees Monika Moulin, Christine Wilder and Stacey Montalto all voted to approve the cuts.
“I hope we have a successful bond election in November,” Reynolds said explaining his dissenting vote.
After the November elections, there could be three new board members seated and Reynolds advocated those elected look at future budgets and make adjustments then, rather than now. He suggested that only five positions be cut for the 2018-19 school year.
“Hope is not a strategy,” Cogan replied. “I hope the revenue stream looks different down the line. I hope I drop the winning dollar in a machine at the casino.”
The district can always rescind layoff notices but there is only one action that gives options,” he added with applause from several in the audience.
“It’s refreshing to have a superintendent in charge that is looking out long term for our district,” Yosemite Teachers’ Association President Gina Hansen-Sedor said after the meeting.
Maureen Chase, a second grade teacher at Coarsegold Elementary School, was at the meeting.
“It’s very disheartening to have all of the turmoil. We trust our administration and board to have fiscal responsibility and when that doesn’t happen, it’s disheartening,” Chase said.
Yosemite High School, Coarsegold and Rivergold Elementary Schools, and a number of smaller schools under the Educational Options Program make up the district. Current district enrollment is just over 1,700. The district employs 199 people including 19 management, 85 teachers and 95 classified (grounds, bus drivers, cutodial).
Although there is not a firm deadline for notification, the trustees will be deciding classified position cuts in the near future.
At the request of the district, a Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) was brought to the district last fall prior to Madera County Superintendent of Schools Cecilia A. Massetti changing the district’s 2017-18 self-certified financial First Interim Report from “Qualified” to “Negative.”
The report, released in February, shows the district spending in excess of $2.3 million over revenue for the 2017-18 fiscal year. A link to the full report can be found at www.yosemiteusd.org.
“The FCMAT report. . .told a very telling tale of the current financial status and what led to this fiscal disaster,” said Anita Johnson, a coordinator of the Community Action Team (CAT), addressing the board during public comments. “Despite our board of trustees telling us publicly over and over again that they had no idea until six months ago that we were in crisis, the report tells a different story.”
“As early as page three of the 45-page report, the experts reference a decline in average daily attendance since 2013-14. That’s five years ago. . .So except for 2016-17, the district was in declining enrollment for several years, yet this board kept rubber stamping the budgets with lack of expenditure reductions.”
The CAT still plans to move forward with a recall of board members Loveland and Wilder.