Golden Valley High School still does.
This was a small victory for teachers and students at Wednesday night's Merced Union High School District board meeting. Board members voted to save a French teacher and to also keep intact the district's library program.
District officials had proposed to cut 25 teaching positions because of budget cuts and declining enrollment. The board passed a resolution to cut 22 positions in areas where the district was overstaffed.
A dozen Golden Valley High School French Club students dressed in red, white and blue shirts with the slogan "Got French?" splayed across the front, stood up and gave their support to their French teacher Lily Gordon. Gordon was notified by the district that she may be laid off.
French club member Kong Moua, a Golden Valley High School senior, said he had been shy through most of high school, but joining the club empowered him to join other clubs and activities in the future.
"When I joined, I realized what a mistake I made years ago by not joining sooner," he said. "I wish I could go back in time."
Buhach Colony High School and Livingston High School no longer have French programs. Atwater High School may not have one next year.
Receiving a pink slip does not necessarily mean a teacher is released, but legally, school districts must send teachers layoff notices by March 15. Districts may retain as many pink-slipped teachers as they can for the next year, but need to plan for the most layoffs now.
For weeks now, teachers have made comments at board meetings that these budget cuts are unnecessary because the school district has millions of unrestricted money in several funds.
According to the district's budget report, the district began the school year with a $12.6 million balance. Of that money, $2.5 million was placed in an economic uncertainty reserve and another $2.5 million was ear-marked for specific areas; $5.4 million was placed in Fund 17, a fund slated for budget stabilization and post-retirement employee benefits.
Fund 17 has a total of $16.8 million.
According to Dianne Hockersmith, MUHSD chief business officer, $4 million is designated for budget stabilization and the rest is for retirement.
During Wednesday's meeting, MUHSD California Teachers Association president Sheila Whitley asked board members why that money is in Fund 17 when Fund 20 is the fund designated for post-retiree benefits.
"If this is truly in our retirement money then it should be in an irrevocable trust," she said. "This is not a way that is legally saving for retirement."
According to California School Services, an organization that provides legislative and fiscal information for school districts, money for retirement can be placed in Fund 20 or in an irrevocable trust, otherwise a district can't claim that it's designated for retirement.
Paul Chambers, the CTA representative for Merced and Mariposa counties, said the district wants to appear virtuous and poor.
"It is not virtuous in Merced County to be adding to the county's unemployment rates," he said. "All the while sitting on Merced taxpayer cash."
Hockersmith recommended to board members near the end of Wednesday's meeting that the $12 million in Fund 17 slated for post-retirement benefits for employees be transferred to Fund 20.
Hockersmith said the public has argued that the district should use some of this money to save jobs, but she said the district needs to save money during these uncertain times because there's no telling when these financial problems will end.
"The state keeps taking money away from us and that comes from the unrestricted general fund," she said. "If we don't save as much unrestricted funds, that bottom line will deplete. That one-time money is gone."
Whitley also told board members she took issue with how layoff meetings were conducted.
When employees met with the district officials to discuss their potential layoffs, they were denied union representation by the district.
Weingarten Rights allow employees to have union representation during investigatory and disciplinary interviews.
According to Raynee Daley, MUHSD assistant superintendent of human resources, this was not a violation because the meetings were not related to discipline issues.
Weingarten Rights may be expanded under the Education Employee Relation Act, Chambers said.
The district's CTA will file an unfair labor practice complaint with the Public Employee Relation Board for not allowing a union representative in these meetings, Chambers said.
"They are within their rights to file a complaint," Daley said. "We have not behaved in an unfair manner. We value our teachers and we are sad we are in a position of declining enrollment."
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209) 385-2907 or firstname.lastname@example.org.