Denair Unified votes to cut administrative, teaching jobs

naustin@modbee.comFebruary 27, 2014 

— To bring spending back in line, Denair Unified School District has to cut all or parts of 38 teaching jobs for next year, many of which already sit empty. Thursday night, it finished making those cuts.

In a special meeting, the board unanimously approved slashing the equivalent of 19 full-time teaching jobs and one administrative job.

The numbers include reaffirming summer layoffs that are being challenged in court and spots left unfilled this year because of lower-than-expected enrollment. Only about eight full-time jobs’ worth will be new cuts, said former interim Superintendent Walt Hanline.

Hanline said he came back to the district Thursday night to finish what he started, because detailed plans for which classes to cut were in place before Superintendent Aaron Rosander started at the district this month.

Wednesday’s announcement of the special session Thursday caught teachers off guard, said Denair Unified Teachers Association President Barry Cole. “We are still trying to work it all out,” Cole said, but added he believed it was within what the union expected.

Board member Kathi Dunham-Filson said making Thursday night’s cuts was the most difficult vote she’s had since joining the board in December. “For me, this was the hardest,” she said.

There was no public outcry around the vote, however, which she credited to board President Robert Hodges. “Robert has done a really good job of keeping the process very open. He’s done a really good job of making sure everyone understands,” she said.

“We knew layoffs were coming,” said DUTA negotiator Kelly Beard after the meeting.

Positions cut included a dozen one-class-period assignments for junior high and high school classes, and eight elementary classroom teachers. Class numbers will rise to about 24 in primary grades, 30 in fourth and fifth grades, and 32 students in sixth grade through high school, Hanline said. The change puts the district still on the low side of average for the area but will reverse years of unsustainably small classes as state funding dropped.

Thursday’s unanimous vote came in time to meet a state-mandated March 15 notification deadline the district missed by one day last year. Teachers will be told in June if the cuts are final.

The vote also cemented pledges made to end the district’s march toward a state takeover. Denair ran out of cash and reserves around this time last year and required a $1.3 million loan from the Stanislaus County Office of Education to pay the bills.

After more than a year of negotiation struggles, Denair Unified Teachers Association signed a contract with the district in late January, agreeing to an 8 percent salary cut. That, plus $500,000 in additional job cuts Thursday, will seal the deal, said SCOE Deputy Superintendent Don Gatti.

Also at the meeting, interim Chief Operating Officer Doug Cranston discussed changes recommended for the business office. Basic accounting safeguards like separating billing and collection functions needed to be in place, he said. “It could be a risk of mismanagement. It isn’t happening now – we had a clear audit – but you don’t want that to even be a possibility,” he told board members.

After the meeting, Rosander said he is settling in and has been impressed by teachers and board members’ dedication. “I see sunny skies coming,” he said.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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