Friday, March 11, 2011

From the Superintendent: Layoff Notices Were "Most Difficult Decision in History"

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Bill KowbaOn Thursday night, our Board of Education faced one of the most difficult decisions in the history of our district. The Board has the heavy responsibility to ensure the fiscal viability of our district, which during this unprecedented budget crisis requires decisions that are both tremendously challenging and necessary.

Living up to that responsibility, the Board made the painful decision to notify more than 1,500 dedicated employees, both certificated and classified, that their jobs may have to be eliminated on July 1 or the start of the 2011-12 school year in September.

The Education Code requires all school districts to notify certificated staff by March 15 that they might not be offered a contract for the following school year. And while the Education Code requires a 45-day notice for classified staff, the Board decided to notify classified staff at the same time as their certificated colleagues. It is important to remember that these are preliminary notices and not actual layoffs.

Over the next few months, the Board of Education, district leadership, fellow employees, union groups, parents, and community supporters will be focusing all of our efforts on developing a final budget that can save as many jobs as possible. This collaborative work will include urging our representatives in Sacramento to put Gov. Brown’s tax package on the June ballot so that Californians will have an opportunity to vote on measures that could provide much needed additional funding for our schools.

In the meantime, we must plan for best- and worst-case scenarios. Since there is no guarantee that the legislature will even place a measure on the June ballot or that it will gain voter approval, we must continue working to remain fiscally solvent and plan for budget reductions that include staff layoffs. It is my commitment to focus all of my energies on developing a final budget that minimizes staff reductions and to continue our strong advocacy for more education funding at the state and federal levels.

This is a tumultuous time for all of us. There is not a person on our staff who has not, in some way, been impacted by this deep, ongoing economic downturn. California’s budget crisis has forced us to make tough choices; trade-offs that were unthinkable just a few years ago. It has also created an atmosphere of uncertainty as we wait anxiously for critical information and prepare for a number of alternative scenarios. We will continue to keep all employees and the public informed as we move towards June when the Board of Education must approve the final 2011-12 budget.

Please know that I deeply appreciate the work of all employees and their unwavering commitment to do what’s best for our students, even as we face the most unsettling of circumstances.

Bill Kowba, Superintendent
Bill Kowba