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Hart district sends potential layoff notices to 95 certificated employees

Posted: March 16, 2009 7:00 p.m.
Updated: March 13, 2009 6:00 p.m.
The Wm. S. Hart Union High School District mailed notices of potential layoffs to 95 certificated employees this week, fulfilling a legal obligation to notify employees whose jobs could be affected by a possible "reduction in force" due to the current State budget crisis.

"The notice does not mean you will be laid off at the end of this school year," a cover letter from Governing Board President Steve Sturgeon reminded the affected teachers. "From the inception of the budget crisis, the Governing Board's intention is to not lay off any employee of the District because of budget issues."

The Hart District is currently facing a projected shortfall of more than $24 million over the next two years and will be recommending cuts in programs, administration, operating expenses and salaries and/or benefits for all employees of the district.

With more than 85 percent of the district's budget tied to salaries and benefits, many of the budget-cutting measures recommended must be negotiated with employee unions.

Another factor which could influence the probability of actual layoffs is the slate of propositions which will go before voters in a special election May 19. The State's ability to balance its own budget relies on passage of the ballot measures, which in turn impacts the amount of money that local school districts can expect to receive from the State.

The Hart District had originally projected that it would need to send more than 180 "possible Reduction in Force" notices by the March 15 deadline in order to deal with a budget shortfall that could approach as much as $40 million over the next several years.

The current target of $24 million in cuts is based on a careful analysis of the recently passed State budget, which still contains a number of uncertainties.

"Our hope is not to have any employees lose jobs," said Rochelle Neal, assistant superintendent of human resources. "It will depend on negotiations and what happens with the May elections."

This week's notices went to 14 counselors and 82 teachers, based on seniority in the district. The subject matter breakdown for teachers includes 24 math teachers, 17 social science, 19 English, eight science, six elective and eight physical education.

The Hart District is currently preparing for the worst-case scenario and is hoping that final results from the State will be something less drastic, according to Superintendent Jaime Castellanos.

He added that the district is working with its employee unions to negotiate a contract that ensures fiscal stability over the next two years and distributes any financial sacrifices proportionately across all employees.

"Our objectives include retaining the academic opportunities afforded the children of this District," Sturgeon reaffirmed in his letter to teachers. "We as a community have worked hard for many years to create one of the best learning environments in the State. We intend to continue to make it better."


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