The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s School Board approved the lay-off of 92 certificated employees on February 18 due to the impact of California’s state budget crisis on the district’s budget. However, some of these lay-offs may not have to be made if the special temporary parcel tax is approved by the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu by a special mail-in ballot on May 25.
Another factor that could reduce the number of lay-offs according to the District Assistant Superintendent, Michael Matthews, is if the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association (SMMCTA) ratifies their tentative contract with the district, which contains a new early retirement incentive.
This Board vote was based on the need to satisfy state law that employees need to be notified by March 15 if they are not going to be working for the district during the next calendar year. The district’s Human Resources department will now prepare a list of specific employees based on seniority who will receive lay-off notices for the Board to approve at their March 4 Board meeting.
The district’s elementary schools would be hit hardest by the cuts. If implemented full time 42 equivalent elementary teaching positions would be lost and 10 in elementary music instruction. Three full-time nursing positions would also be lost as well as six in secondary counseling services.
Those from the community who spoke were opposed to the cuts in the elementary music program. Education activist Zina Josephs noted that if the cuts were made to the elementary music program, children of parents who can’t afford private lessons would suffer. She also mentioned the importance of music education in enhancing a child’s ability in math and science. She stressed that music education “is not just fluff, it’s not extra-curricular, it’s part of the core academic curriculum.”
The President of SMMCTA, Harry Keiley, told the Board his organization opposed the cuts because the “budget assumptions [they are based upon] are too conservative so the lay-offs are excessive.”
Two of the seven Board members voted against the lay-offs. Board member Ralph Mechur wanted to delay the vote until the next Board meeting. Board member Oscar De la Torre worried that if they approved the lay-offs that night that would be averted later “people will begin to look elsewhere and morale would be affected.”
Before the vote, the District’s Chief Financial Officer, Janice Maez, emphasized that the Governor’s budget is recommending a cut for the 2010-2011 academic year of at least $201 per student which would translate into a total loss of $2.2 million in revenue to the district. Her office is predicting that the district will be facing a $12 million deficit for the 2010-2011 academic school year so even if the new parcel tax passes the Board will still have to make significant budget cuts.
Finalized lay-offs would be made on June 18 when the Board adopts its 2010-2011 budget.
The tentative agreements between the district and its two unions were also discussed. Both SMMCTA and the Services Employees Union (SEIU) Local 99 have tentatively agreed to have their work year reduced by five unpaid furlough days during the 2009-210 and 2010-2011 school years. Both of the unions’ membership will vote before the March 4 Board meeting on whether to ratify these agreements. The Board will then vote on whether to approve the contracts at their March 4 Board meeting.
Also discussed were the compensation agreements for the district’s management and the Superintendent as recommended by District staff. They recommended that the work year for management, supervisory, and confidential employees be reduced by five unpaid furlough days for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years and that they forgo salary increases. Also suggested was reducing during the same school years the total compensation for Senior Management and the Superintendent by six work-days, reducing the Superintendent’s housing allowance by 10 percent, and waving his performance bonus. The Board will vote on whether to approve these recommendations also on March 4.
Board members also approved a contract amendment for the district’s contract with R.L. Binder Architecture & Planning to provide services for siting study concepts for the development of the Civic Center Joint Use Project at Santa Monica High School. The total amount of the contract amendment is $170,950 which brings the total contract total to $7,000,804.
Also approved by the Board was the continuance of the district’s current interdistrict permit policy for the 2010-2011 school year.