Teachers Make a Difference, Says MUSD Community

March 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Cuts to teaching positions were supposed to be minimal, so when news broke last week that 235 Montebello Unified teachers had received layoff notices it sent shock waves through the school community, prompting students, parents, alumni and other school employees to take to the street in protest.

The cuts will have a devastating impact on the quality of education students receive, said protesters at campuses across the district last Thursday.

They demanded the school board explain its 11th hour decision to change its plan to shore up a $17 million budget deficit from one that would have seen the layoff of nearly 500 mostly non-teaching positions, to one that now calls for over two-thirds of the layoffs being teachers.

News of the cuts spread quickly on social media, in some cases postings listed names of teachers being laid off, encouraging the community to protest the cuts.

A petition to save the 235 teaching jobs is currently circulating and will be presented to the MUSD board at their next meeting April 6 and to the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). As of Wednesday, the change.org petition had received over 2,200 signatures.

“As a student of a MUSD school, I see how full the classes already are with some having more than 40 students, and can only imagine how much fuller the classes will get with this cut,” wrote Angelo Carrasco, the Bell Gardens High School student who authored the petition.

Under pressure to quickly get district finances in order or risk county education officials sending in someone to oversee their decisions, MUSD board members last month voted 4-1 to layoff close to 500 classified and non-classified employees — including plumbers, attendance technicians, custodians and administrators on special assignment. It was a jump from about 317 positions on the chopping block less than two weeks earlier.

 Parents, students and alumni join Montebello Unified teachers outside district headquarter to protest the layoff of 235 teachers. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)


Parents, students and alumni join Montebello Unified teachers outside district headquarter to protest the layoff of 235 teachers.
(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

That number of layoffs has dropped to 333, but most of the cuts are now to teachers of English, social sciences, art, music, physical education and health. Layoff notices, often referred to as pink slips, were delivered to impacted teachers on March 15, the deadline for MUSD to notify employees of an impending job loss as required under agreements with its bargaining units.

In a statement, the current board blamed previous boards and administrators for MUSD being “on the edge of insolvency if drastic action is not taken.”

“Consequently, the current Board has had to work with staff to minimize the impact to our employees and to ensure the District remains solvent.”

The last minute decision sparked anger across MUSD, which has schools in Montebello, Bell Gardens, Commerce and a small number of campuses in other cities.

Hundreds of students walked out of Bell Gardens High School the next day, including 17-year-old Ceshia Palos Castellanos.

“These teachers are the foundation of our future,” she said. “I want to go to college and I’m scared this will hurt my chances.”

 

About a dozen teachers at Bell Gardens High have received layoff notices, including the school’s beloved band director and the only teacher of the Advance Placement Comparative Government course. These are our mentors, role models, students lamented.

MUSD representative Ricardo Mendez told students layoffs were based on the district’s overall needs and program objectives, not an individual teacher’s performance.

Many teachers noted the pathway programs and the Applied Technology Center were left untouched. Cuts were not based on seniority, a change from past staffing cuts, when it was usually “the last person hired is the first person fired.”

“They are taking away the few aspects of this school that make it worthwhile,” Castellanos’ mother Victoria told EGP in Spanish. “Soon they will only offer the bare minimum,” she complained, not satisfied with Mendez’ effort to reassure the group.

At some schools, nearly half of all teachers received a pink slip, leaving many to wonder what the impact to student-teacher ratio will be.

“They won’t be able to run a school … let alone a district” with this many cuts, said Christine Alcala-Snee, who’s been laid off after 13 years with MUSD.

In neighboring Commerce, about a dozen students from Rosewood Park School held their own protest.

Holding signs and chanting, “Students and teachers here to fight, education is our right,” students said they want to keep their favorite AVID teacher from being laid off.

For young activists like Zoe Garate, 13, someone has to step up to make sure teachers aren’t cut.

“Can’t the city do something? Don’t they have a lot of money?” she asked, referring to the many programs Commerce provides residents at little or no cost.

Amber Cabreros, 13, told EGP she and her classmates wanted to show just how much their education and teachers matter to them. “They respect us for who we are and show us how far we can go,” she said.

Students at Rosewood Park Elementary School in Commerce protest teachers cuts March 16. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Students at Rosewood Park Elementary School in Commerce protest teachers cuts March 16. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Later that afternoon in Montebello, alumni and parents marched with former teachers from the Montebello Teachers Association headquarters to the district office, hoping to “put a face on” the cuts.

“They pushed us to do more, mentored us as we applied for college and kept us out of trouble,” remarked Erendira Zamudio, who graduated from Schurr last year.

Former Montebello High School student presidents Christopher Jimenez and Jennifer Gutierrez regularly attended school board meetings and were shocked to learn of the district’s current financial mess. They blame the board members they once looked up to for not getting help sooner.

“This could have been prevented,” said Gutierrez. “That is why we need more transparency.”

 

These kinds of cuts violate student rights, according to 2nd grade teacher Patricia Meneses, a 17-year district veteran on the verge of losing her job.

“We set the foundation, and what happens when you break the foundation, the house comes down,” she said.

Maria Navarette has two children at Winter Gardens Elementary in East Los Angeles. She told EGP that district officials must realize that parents see the cuts as an attack on their children.

“These are the people who take care of our children from 8 to 3 and who we entrust with their education,” she said in Spanish. “They are the ones that make it possible for our children to obtain a better future.”

Los Maestros Hacen La Diferencia, Dice Comunidad de MUSD

March 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Se suponía que los recortes de puestos docentes iban a ser mínimos en el Distrito Escolar Unificado de Montebello. Así que cuando la noticia se dio, la semana pasada, de que 235 maestros resultarán siendo despidos, la comunidad escolar fue sacudida profundamente, impulsando protestas de parte de estudiantes, padres, ex alumnos y miembros del personal escolar.

La reducción tendrá un impacto devastador en la calidad de educación que nuestros estudiantes recibirán, dijeron los protestantes en escuelas a lo largo del distrito, el jueves pasado.

Ellos demandaron que el concejo escolar explique su decisión, en la undécima hora, de cambiar su plan para reforzar su presupuesto con un déficit de $17 millones. El plan previo incluía el despido de casi 500 empleados en posiciones no docentes y ahora más de los dos tercios de despidos requeridos serán de maestros.

La noticia de los recortes se difundió rápidamente por los medios de comunicación social, y en algunos casos las publicaciones listaban los nombres de los maestros que serán despedidos, alentando a la comunidad a que proteste.

Una petición para salvar las 235 posiciones académicas está circulando y será presentada ante el concejo de MUSD en su próxima reunión el 6 de abril en la Oficina de Educación del Condado de Los Ángeles (LACOE por sus siglas en inglés). Desde el miércoles pasado, la petición disponible en change.org, ha recibido más de 2,200 firmas.

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Estudiantes en Escuela Primaria Rosewood Park en Commerce protestan los despidos de maestros el 16 de marzo. Foto de EGP por Nancy Martínez

“Como estudiante de una escuela de MUSD, me doy cuenta de los repletas que están las aulas, algunas hasta con más de 40 estudiantes. Solo puedo imaginarme que más se llenaran con estos recortes”, escribió Ángelo Carrasco, estudiante de la Escuela Secundaria de Bell Gardens y autor de la petición.

Bajo presión de poner las finanzas rápidamente en orden o de quedar en riesgo de ser supervisados por oficiales de educación del condado, los miembros del concejo de MUSD votaron el mes pasado, 4-1, a favor del despido de casi 500 empleados clasificados y no clasificados. Las puestos en este grupo incluyen a plomeros, técnicos de asistencia, guardianes y administradores en asignaciones especiales. Esa decisión fue un salto de la previa decisión de recortar 316 posiciones dos semanas antes.

El número de despidos ha bajado a 333, pero la mayoría de recortes ahora incluyen a maestros de inglés, estudios sociales, arte, música, educación física y salud. Las notificaciones de despidos les fueron entregadas a los maestros el 15 de marzo, coincidiendo con la fecha limite del MUSD para notificarle a las personas afectadas, requerido por el acuerdo llegado con las unidades de negociación.

En una declaración, el concejo actual culpó a los previos miembros del concejo y a los administradores del MUSD por “estar al borde de bancarrota si no se toma acción inmediata”.

“Por ende, el concejo actual ha tenido que trabajar con el personal para minimizar el impacto a nuestros empleados y para asegurarnos de que el Distrito permanezca sin deudas”.

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Padres, estudiantes y alumnos se unen junto a maestros de Montebello Unified afuera de las oficinas centrales del distrito para protestar los despidos de 235 maestros. Foto de EGP por Nancy Martínez.

La decisión de último momento causó enfurecimiento a lo largo de MUSD, el cual tiene escuelas en Montebello, Bell Gardens, Commerce y en otras ciudades.

Cientos de estudiantes salieron de la Escuela Secundaria de Bell Gardens el día siguiente incluyendo a Ceshia Palos Castéllanos, de 17 años.

“Estos maestros son la fundación de nuestro futuro”, ella dijo. “Quiero asistir a la universidad y temo de que esto impacte mis posibilidades”.

Casi una docena de maestros de Bell Gardens High recibieron avisos de despido, incluyendo el apreciado director de banda de la escuela y al único maestro del curso de Colocación Avanzada de Comparativos del Gobierno. Ellos son nuestros mentores y modelos a seguir, lamentaron los estudiantes.

El representante de MUSD, Ricardo Méndez, le dijo a los estudiantes que los despidos se basaban en las necesidades generales del distrito y en los objetivos del programa, no en el desempeño individual de los maestros. Muchos maestros notaron que los programas de trayectorias y el Centro de Tecnología Aplicada quedaron intactos. Los recortes no se basaron en el tiempo de servicio, al contraste de los recortes del personal pasado, cuando por general “la última persona contratada era la primera despedida”.

“Están quitando los pocos aspectos de esta escuela que valen la pena”, le dijo Victoria Castellanos, madre de Ceshia Palos Castellanos, a EGP. “Pronto sólo ofrecerán lo más mínimo”, se quejó, insatisfecha con el esfuerzo de Méndez de tranquilizar al grupo.

En algunas escuelas, casi la mitad de todos los maestros recibieron una notificación de despido, dejando a muchos a preguntarse cómo impactará esto la relación entre estudiante y maestros.

“No podrán dirigir una escuela … y mucho menos un distrito” con tantos recortes, dijo Christine Alcala-Snee, quien ha sido despedida después de trabajar 13 años para MUSD.

En Commerce, cerca de una docena de estudiantes de la escuela Rosewood Park realizaron su propia protesta.

Sosteniendo carteles y gritando “los estudiantes y profesores están aquí para luchar, la educación es nuestro derecho”, los alumnos dijeron que quieren impedir que su profesor favorito de AVID sea despedido.

Para jóvenes activistas como Zoe Garate, de 13 años, alguien tiene que tomar medidas para asegurarse de que los maestros no sean despedidos.

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Estudiantes de la Escuela Secundaria de Bell Gardens salieron de clases el 16 de marzo después de enterarse que 333 empleados del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Montebello recibieron notificaciones de despidos. Foto de EGP por Nancy Martínez.

“¿A caso no puede hacer algo la ciudad? “¿Qué no tienen mucho dinero?”, preguntó, refiriéndose a los múltiples programas que Commerce le proporciona a los residentes con poco o sin ningún costo.

Amber Cabreros, de 13 años, le dijo a EGP que junto con sus compañeros de clase querían mostrar lo mucho que su educación y sus profesores les importa. “Nos respetan por lo que somos y nos muestran lo lejos que podemos llegar”, dijo.

Poco después en Montebello, alumnos y padres marcharon a la par de ex maestros de la Asociación de Maestros de Montebello hacia las oficinas centrales del distrito, con la esperanza de “ponerle cara a” los recortes.

“Nos motivaron para alcanzar más, nos guiaron mientras aplicábamos a las universidades y nos mantuvieron fuera de peligro”, comentó Erendira Zamudio, quien se graduó de Schurr el año pasado.

El ex presidentes del cuerpo estudiantil de la Escuela Preparatoria de Montebello, Christopher Jiménez y Jennifer Gutiérrez, han asistido regularmente a las reuniones del concejo escolar y se sorprendieron al enterarse del actual lío financiero del distrito. Ellos culpan a los miembros del consejo, a quienes antes admiraban, por no buscar ayuda antes.

“Esto podría haberse evitado”, dijo Gutiérrez. “Es por eso que necesitamos más transparencia”.

Este tipo de recortes violan los derechos de los estudiantes, de acuerdo a Patricia Meneses, profesora de segundo grado, y una veterana del distrito con 17 años de trabajo, quien ahora está a punto de perder su trabajo.

“Nosotros ponemos los fundamentos, y ¿qué sucede cuando se rompe la fundación?, la casa se derrumba”, ella dijo.

María Navarette tiene dos hijos que asisten a la Escuela Elemental Winter Gardens en el Este de Los Ángeles. Ella le dijo a EGP que los funcionarios del distrito deben darse cuenta de que los padres consideran los recortes como un ataque contra sus hijos.

“Estas son las personas que cuidan a nuestros hijos desde las ocho de la mañana hasta las tres y en quienes confiamos con su educación”, dijo Navarette. “Ellos son quienes hacen posible que nuestros hijos obtengan un futuro mejor”.

Trabajadores Sindicales de MUSD Apuntan Hacia Cupchoy y Cárdenas

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Durante años, el Distrito Escolar Unificado de Montebello era el lugar indicado para aquellos interesado en trabajar en el sistema educativo preescolar hasta la secundaria.

La moral de los empleados se había mantenido bastante alta durante los recortes presupuestarios de la Gran Recesión y el distrito escolar se mantuvo relativamente libre de escándalos; un marcado contraste con algunas de las ciudades en donde están ubicadas las escuelas de MUSD.

Pero mucho ha cambiado en los últimos meses y algunos empleados de MUSD ahora están pidiendo que las cabezas de los jefes empiecen a rodar, comenzando con el revoco de la presidenta de la junta directiva, Lani Cupchoy, y de Benjamín Cárdenas, miembro del directorio.

Los dos recibieron una petición formal de revoco el 2 de marzo en otra reunión acalorada de la junta escolar. Empleados del distrito, padres y estudiantes se hicieron presentes y protestaron contra la reciente decisión de despedir a casi 500 empleados con tal de intentar controlar un déficit presupuestario de $30 millones.

Esta es la primera vez que se lanza una petición de revoco contra un miembro del consejo, o en este caso, contra dos.

“Somos Montebello, una vez que este movimiento se ponga en marcha ustedes no van a ser capaces de desacelerarnos”, dijo el ex miembro del consejo escolar Frank Morales. “Buena suerte en noviembre; nuevos sheriffs llegarán”.

Al principio del día, un grande grupo de estudiantes de la Escuela Secundaria de Montebello salió de clases en solidaridad con los trabajadores que están perdiendo sus trabajos y a la vez desatando una tormenta de cobertura de los medios de comunicación.

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Cientos de estudiantes y empleados de MUSD protestaron contra los despidos el 2 de marzo afuera de las oficinas centrales del distrito. Foto de EGP por Nancy Martínez

Ellos caminaron hacia la sede del distrito donde el organizador de la marcha, Jorge Salazar, le dijo a la junta que lamentarán su decisión de despedir a los trabajadores.

El distrito siempre ha logrado mantenerse fuera de los titulares. Pero ahora, ante un déficit presupuestario de varios millones de dólares, despidos masivos en todo el distrito, acusaciones de mala administración por parte del jefe de operaciones del distrito y con las peticiones de retiro, MUSD está en crisis.

“Los medios no están aquí para mostrar el lado positivo del distrito”, advirtió Lorraine Richards, presidenta del sindicato de maestros, MTA. “Esto es negativo y afectará nuestra inscripción”.

La Asociación de Empleados de la Escuela de California (CSEA, por sus siglas en inglés) aprobó la semana pasada la promesa de llevar la crisis al público.

En una reunión del Concejo de la Ciudad de Pico Rivera -donde Cárdenas es el subdirector de la ciudad- el trabajador de mantenimiento John Nieto le dijo al consejo que los empleados del distrito no confían. Además, pidió que el consejo investigue cómo es fue que Cárdenas consiguió “la posición de buena paga” en su ciudad.

Nieto sugirió que la contratación de Cárdenas se hizo como un “favor político”.“Es un claro mensaje para el consejo, él trabaja allí y tenemos problemas con él en nuestro distrito”, dijo Lloyd Garrison, presidente del Capítulo 500 de la CSEA.

La decisión de la junta directiva del pasado mes de noviembre de despedir a la superintendente Susana Contreras-Smith y al jefe veterano de negocios Cleve Pell, está atizando más las llamas. La decisión irritó a los miembros de la CSEA, pero fue apoyada por el sindicato de maestros que ya había emitido su propio voto de censura contra Contreras-Smith.

“Su avaricia ha herido a demasiados estudiantes”, le dijo Pell a Cárdenas durante la reunión de la semana pasada. Pell ahora dice que tiene la intención de postularse para el consejo si el revoco se autoriza.

El directorio eligió a Rubén Rojas para reemplazar a Pell, a pesar de haber recibido un voto de censura de los trabajadores sindicales. Rojas ha sido acusado desde entonces de falsificar su currículo, de emplear a conocidos personales, de no adherir a los acuerdos laborales y ahora es culpado por los problemas financieros actuales del distrito.

“Nuestro personal está siendo tratado injustamente por la mala administración del dinero por Rojas”, afirma Santiago López, estudiante de la Escuela Preparatoria de Montebello, diciendo que es Rojas quien debe ser despedido.

Rojas se escabulló de la reunión durante un receso no programado convocado por Cupchoy, tratando de evitar el aluvión de acusaciones y las peticiones de su despido.

“Creo que [Rojas] tiene algo en el tablero”, especuló un profesor que pidió no ser nombrado por miedo a represalias. Él le dijo a EGP que “tiene que ser algo grande, como de la magnitud de Ron Calderón”, refiriéndose a la convicción de corrupción del ex senador de Montebello.

Los legisladores estatales anunciaron la semana pasada que están solicitando una auditoría estatal independiente de las finanzas de MUSD a la luz de la advertencia de la Oficina de Educación del Condado de Los Ángeles de que el distrito está en peligro de no cumplir con sus obligaciones financieras. El distrito se enfrentará a un déficit presupuestario de más de $30 millones durante los próximo dos años.

Para sorpresa de muchos, Chacón, el único miembro del directorio que votó en contra de los recortes, anunció que no buscaría la reelección este otoño por el cargo que ha ocupado durante 24 años.

Él cuestionó si la situación financiera de Montebello Unified es tan grave como Rojas lo ha pintado a ser, diciendo que él continuaría abogando a favor del distrito y de sus estudiantes.

“Esta junta está enfrentando tiempos difíciles”, reconoció Cupchoy, pidiendo que todos sean pacientes y comprensivos. “Las cuestiones presupuestarias no son exclusivas a nuestro distrito, es un problema hereditario”.

Sin embargo, su petición cayó en saco rato ya que varios dijeron que no estarán contentos hasta que los miembros de la junta renuncien o sean revocados, que Rojas sea despedido y que se lance una investigación federal contra la corrupción.

“Esta comunidad está indignada”, dijo Kimberly Cobos, presentándole el aviso de revoco a Cupchoy. “Basta ya. Es suficiente”, dijo, expresando su interés en correr por el asiento de Cupchoy.

“Juntos vamos a retomar nuestro distrito”.

Union Workers Target Cupchoy, Cardenas for Recall

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For years, the Montebello Unified School District was where you wanted to be if you worked in the K-12 education.

Employee morale had remained fairly high during the budget cuts of the Great Recession and the school district was relatively scandal free, a sharp contrast to some of the cities where MUSD schools are located.

But a lot has changed in recent months and some MUSD employees are now calling for heads to roll, starting with the recall of Board President Lani Cupchoy and Board Member Benjamin Cardenas.

The two board members were given formal notice of the intent to recall March 2 yet another heated school board meeting, where once again district employees, parents and students demanded the recent decision to lay off nearly 500 employees to deal with a staggering $30 million budget shortfall be rescinded.

It’s the first time a recall has been launched against a board member, or in this case, two members.

“This is Montebello, once the momentum gets going you guys are not going to be able to slow us down,” former school board member Frank Morales told the board. “Good luck in November, new sheriffs are coming in.”

Earlier in the day, a large group of Montebello High School students walked out of class in a show of support for the workers losing their jobs, in the process setting off a firestorm of media coverage.

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Montebello Unified employees protested alongside students opposing the board’s decision to layoff employees due to a budget cuts. (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

They walked to district headquarters where walkout organizer Jorge Salazar told the board they would regret their decision to layoff workers.

The district has always done a good job of staying out of the headlines. But now, facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit, massive district wide layoffs, accusations of wrong doing by the district’s chief business officer and a recall, MUSD is in crisis mode.

“The media is not here to showcase the positive things going on in the district,” warned Lorraine Richards, president of the teachers’ union, MTA. “It’s negative and will affect our enrollment.”

Ratcheting up the pressure, the California School Employees Association (CSEA) last week made good on its promise to take the turmoil to the public.

At a meeting of the Pico Rivera City Council — where Cardenas is the assistant city manager — maintenance worker John Nieto told the council district employees don’t trust and the council should investigate how he landed the ‘high paying job” in their city.

He suggested Cardenas’ hiring was done as a ‘political favor” to someone.

“It’s a clear message to the council, he works there and we’re having problems with him in our district,” said Lloyd Garrison, president of CSEA Chapter 500.

Fueling the flames is the school board’s decision last November to fire then Superintendent Susana Contreras-Smith and Chief Business Officer Cleve Pell, a longtime superintendent. The decision angered CSEA members, but was supported by the teachers’ union that had already issued its own vote of no confidence in Contreras-Smith.

“Your greed has hurt too many students,” Pell told Cardenas during last week’s meeting. Pell now says he intends to run for the board if the recall goes through.

The board chose Ruben Rojas to replace Pell, despite his having received a vote of no confidence from union workers.

Rojas has since been accused of falsifying his resume, hiring personal acquaintances, not adhering to labor agreements and is now being blamed for the district’s current financial woes.

“Our staff is being treated unfairly all because of Rojas’ misuse of money,” claims Montebello High School student Santiago Lopez, saying it’s Rojas who should be fired.

Rojas slipped out of the meeting during an unscheduled recess called by Cupchoy, in the process avoiding the barrage of accusations and calls for his firing.

“I think [Rojas] has something on the board,” speculated a teacher who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation, telling EGP “It has to be something big, like Ron Calderon big,” referring to the corruption conviction of the former Montebello senator.

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Hundreds of MUSD students and employees protested layoffs March 2 outside district headquarters. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

State lawmakers announced last week they are requesting an independent state audit of MUSD finances in light of the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s warning that the district is in danger of not meeting its financial obligations and faces a more than $30 million budget deficit over the next two years.

To the surprise of many, Chacon, the only board member to vote against the cuts, announced he would not seek reelection this fall for the position he has held for 24 years.

He questioned whether Montebello Unified’s financial situation is as dire as Rojas has painted it to be, saying he would continue to advocate on behalf of the district and its students.

“This board is facing difficult times,” acknowledged Cupchoy, asking that everyone be patient and understanding. “The budget issues are not unique to our district, it is an inherited problem.”

Her plea fell on deaf ears, with many people saying they won’t be happy until the board members resign or are recalled, Rojas is fired and a federal corruption investigation is launched.

“This community is outraged,” said Kimberly Cobos, presenting Cupchoy with the recall notice targeting her seat. “Enough is enough,” she said, expressing an interest in running for Cupchoy’s seat.

“Together we are going to take back out district.”

Lawmakers Call for State Audit of MUSD

March 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Three local lawmakers are requesting an independent state audit of the Montebello Unified School District, according to a letter addressed to the school board’s president, Lani Cupchoy.

The letter comes on the heels of the school board’s approval of nearly 700 in staffing cuts to deal with an estimated $30 million budget shortfall over the next two years.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education warned the district of the shortfall earlier this year, and advised that failure to take action to reduce the deficit would result in the county office sending in a financial overseer to get district finances in order.

In their tactfully worded letter, Sen. Tony Mendoza and Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia and Ed Chau – who each represents parts of the school district – acknowledged MUSD board members’ “efforts to provide the best services possible for our students,” and added it’s “imperative” state officials and MUSD work together to ensure the education of the district’s 30,000 students is not jeopardized by the looming financial crisis.

“An independent audit may present a solid foundation for MUSD to build upon and develop long-term budget reforms to improve its fiscal standing,” states the letter, which informed the district of the legislators’ intention to ask the state’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) to conduct the financial review.

Montebello Unified School District employees protested proposed layoffs and asked that the district undergo an audit. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Montebello Unified School District employees protested proposed layoffs and asked that the district undergo an audit. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Back in December, following up on a request by Board Member Ben Cardenas, the school board announced plans for a forensic audit of MUSD finances, a decision supported at the time by school employees and parents.

In a statement emailed to EGP Wednesday, Cardenas he is encouraged by the state’s willingness to step in.

“There is no doubt having the state conduct the audit will ensure a thorough and detailed audit, eliminate the potential for fraud and abuse, bring about integrity to the process, and increase public confidence in the outcome,” he said, adding he’s communicated to Garcia the board’s “support for her intent, the process and to offer our partnership and collaboration in conducting the audit.”

Conducting the audit through the state will keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in classrooms and available for other services, the legislators wrote. The state audit would also provide ongoing follow-up reports to the district at no cost.

“While an audit may not solve MUSD’s current budget problems, it can provide insight on how to begin the process of balancing their budget, as well as how to avoid this situation again in the future,” the letter read.

The state’s audit could take 6 months or longer to complete, depending on the scope. Teala Schaff, Garcia’s communications director, told EGP legislators are seeking an expedited audit and will work with stakeholders to determine the scope.

CSEA Chapter 505 President Lloyd Garrison told EGP that while he’s concerned about how long the audit will take, he supports the action.

“We want to get it done right,” he said, adding he’s confident it will reveal discrepancies in vendor contracts approved over the last two years.

“Contracts that would never be signed by most districts,” he claimed.

“Once they look into that they’ll see some practices definitely need to be improved and even terminated,” he added.

In the end, he hopes the audit leads to new contract negotiations and pink slips being rescinded.

“These are uncertain times right now” for us, Garrison said. “But our negotiations will continue no matter who is here, whether it is the state or not.”

JLAC will make a decision on whether to undertake the audit at their next hearing on March 28.

 

Distrito Unificado de Montebello Aprueba Gran Recorte de Trabajos

February 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Unas 500 personas empleadas por el Distrito Escolar Unificado de Montebello serán despedidas como parte del plan para controlar el déficit presupuestario de varios millones de dólares del distrito.

La junta directiva del distrito, Montebello Unified, pospuso la votación a principios de mes a causa de la intensa presión recibida por los trabajadores y del público. Una recomendación de recortar 319 empleos fue retrasada para según buscar otras soluciones a la crisis financiera. La decisión para eliminar aún más puestos dejó a muchos cuestionando el por qué en menos de dos semanas el número de puestos programados aumento por casi 150.

“Parece que muy pronto todos seremos despedidos”, dijo Lisa Domínguez decepcionadamente tras el voto del directorio en la reunión del 16 de febrero.

El trabajo de Domínguez de auxiliar de oficina de alto rango no está en peligro. Sin embargo, como parte de la Asociación de Empleados del Estado de California por años, ella conoce a muchos de los empleados clasificados que podrían encontrarse sin trabajo en el otoño.

Montebello Unified está bajo una presión intensa para cerrar un déficit presupuestario de unos estimados $17 millones o se arriesgará a que la Oficina de Educación del Condado de Los Ángeles (LACOE) envíe a alguien para supervisar las finanzas del distrito.

Por casi tres horas, los oradores le pidieron a los miembros de la junta escolar a evitar los despidos, pero al final la junta votó 4-1 a favor. Empleos clasificados y no clasificados en peligro incluyen a los plomeros, técnicos de asistencia, conserjes y administradores en asignaciones especiales.

IMG_3663

El voto cumplió con el plazo del 15 de marzo para notificarle a los empleados afectados como es requerido en los acuerdos de unidad de negociación. Foto de EGP Por Nancy Martínez.

Tom Callison, un carpintero del distrito, dijo que no estaba sorprendido por la decisión del consejo, pero estaba desilusionado con la forma en que el consejo manejó la situación.

“Pensé que al menos se iban a disculpar por lo que tenían que hacer”, se quejó Callison.

La acción de la junta cumplió con la fecha límite del 17 de febrero impuesta por LACOE para presentar un plan de estabilización fiscal y la aprobación de las resoluciones correspondientes.

“Debido a las acciones que se están tomando esta noche ya no sentimos que sea necesario poner un asesor fiscal” en el distrito, dijo el Director Financiero del LACOE Dr. Scott Price.

Price dijo que su equipo de expertos fiscales seguiría brindando asesoría al distrito, pero que no tendría los mismos poderes que un asesor fiscal para rescindir las decisiones del distrito.

Por el otro lado, los empleados de MUSD no estaban tan impresionados.

El presidente del Capítulo 505 de la CSEA, Floyd Garrison, le dijo a los miembros del sindicato que no dejen de tener la esperanza de que todos los empleos se salven.

Los empleados no planean esperar hasta las elecciones de noviembre para luchar, dijo Garrison a EGP.

“No queremos darles ocho meses”, dijo. “Nuestro objetivo es sacar al menos un [miembro del consejo] como ejemplo, pero aun no sabemos quién será”.

Marisol Rivera, secretaria de la escuela y representante regional de la CSEA, dijo que los empleados planean en llevar su indignación a sus vecindarios.

“Tenemos que hacer esas llamadas telefónicas y tocar puertas para hacerles saber lo que está sucediendo en su territorio”, dijo.

Mientras tanto, los empleados dicen que recibirían con agrado al condado y al estado para que examinen las finanzas del distrito. Ellos esperan que se descubran las supuestas discrepancias financieras y que puedan destituir a Ruben Rojas, el Director Financiero quien ellos reclaman falsificó información en su currículo y solicitud de empleo.

Héctor Chacón, Miembro de la Junta y el único voto en contra de los recortes se va a la reelección este noviembre.

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“Revoco” se escuchó poco después que el martillo golpeó, oficialmente confirmando los despidos en el Distrito Escolar de Montebello. Foto de EGP Por Nancy Martínez.

“Sólo debería haber un despido”, dijo Chacón, refiriéndose a Rojas.

Para muchos empleados, su última esperanza es que el Superintendente Anthony J. Martínez, a quien han estado llamando implorándole que “haga lo correcto”, suspenda a Rojas mientras se investigan las acusaciones contra él.

Chacón dijo que no confía en el presupuesto presentado por Rojas, especialmente desde que el déficit sobrepasó los $15 millones en la última reunión del consejo escolar a los $17 millones actuales.

Price dijo que tales incrementos no son inusuales, explicando que los números anteriores se basaban en lo que el distrito esperaba recibir antes de que el gobernador liberara su presupuesto anual.

Simon Rea, Representante de Relaciones Laborales de CSEA, acusó a Rojas por sus declaraciones contradictorias sobre la severidad de la situación financiera del distrito.

“No tiene sentido”, dijo.

De acuerdo a un artículo anterior de Eastern Group Publications [editorial de este periódico], Rea leyó una declaración de Rojas destacando la “fuerte administración fiscal del distrito”. Como resultado un bono escolar fue aprobado por los votantes de $100 millones para uso de Montebello Unified recibiendo una calificación AAA de la Agencia de Calificaciones de Fitch.

El consejero Ben Cárdenas destacó que la junta sinceramente trató de evitar los despidos y conseguir un poco más de tiempo.

Con la ayuda de los expertos fiscales del condado, él dijo que podría ser capaz de rescindir muchos de los despidos que resultarán a finales del año fiscal.

Al aprobar los despidos, hay menos urgencia en salvarlos, contestó Chacón.

Raphael Ramírez, uno de los cuatro plomeros en el distrito y el número 29 en la lista de despidos, le advirtió a la junta que la reducción de los empleos impactará grandemente a los estudiantes.

“Nadie se pone a pensar en cómo sale el agua la llave, hasta que deja de suceder”, él dijo.

Montebello Unified Approves Deep Job Cuts

February 23, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

Nearly 500 Montebello Unified School District employees will receive pink slips as part of plan to deal with the district’s multi-million dollar budget deficit.

Under intense pressure from workers and the public, the Montebello Unified school board earlier in the month postponed voting on a recommendation to cut 319 jobs, saying they wanted more time to look for other solutions to the district’s looming financial crisis. The decision to cut even more positions left many questioning why in less than two weeks the number of jobs slated for cuts grew by nearly 150.

“Looks like soon we’ll all be getting laid off,” said a disappointed Lisa Dominguez following the board’s vote at its Feb. 16 meeting.

Although Dominguez’s job title is not listed on the approved resolutions, as a longtime senior office assistant and member of the California State Employees Association, she knows many of the classified employees who could find themselves without a job come fall.

Montebello Unified is under intense pressure to close an estimated $17 million budget deficit or risk the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) sending in someone to oversee district finances.

The Montebello Unified School Board voted to approved districtwide layoffs and reductions during the Feb. 16 meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The Montebello Unified School Board voted to approved districtwide layoffs and reductions during the Feb. 16 meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

For nearly three hours, speakers pleaded with school board members to save their jobs, but in the end the board voted 4-1 to approve laying off classified and non-classified employees ­­– including plumbers, attendance technicians, custodians and administrators on special assignment.

Tom Callison, a district carpenter, said he was not surprised by the board’s decision, but was dis-appointed in the way they handled the situation.

“I thought they should have at least apologized for what they had to do,” Callison complained.

The board’s action met LACOE’s Feb. 17 deadline to submit a fiscal stabilization plan and the ap-proval of corresponding resolutions, while at the same time complying with its March 15 deadline to notify impacted employees as required in bargaining unit agreements.

“Because of the actions you’re taking tonight we no longer feel it necessary to put a fiscal advisor” at the district, said LACOE’s Chief Financial Officer Dr. Scott Price.

Price said their team of fiscal experts would still provide the district with advice, but would not have the same powers as a fiscal advisor to rescind district decisions.

MUSD employees on the other hand were not as impressed.

“Recall” was heard soon after the gavel hit making the layoffs official.

CSEA Chapter 505 President Lloyd Garrison told union members to not give up hope that every job would be saved.

Employees do not plan to wait until the November election to fight back, Garrison told EGP.

“We don’t want to give them 8 months,” he said. “Our goal is to get at least one [board member] out as an example, we just don’t know who that will be.”

Marisol Rivera, a school secretary and CSEA regional representative said employees plan to take their outrage to their neighbors.

“We need to make those phone calls and knock on doors to let them know what is going on in their backyard,” she said.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

In the meantime, employees say they welcome the county and state looking into district finances. They hope they will uncover alleged financial discrepancies and to oust Chief Financial Officer Ruben Rojas, who they claim falsified information on his resume and job application.

Board Member Hector Chacon, the lone vote against the cuts is up for reelection in November. He too blames Rojas for the district’s current financial woes.

“There should only be one layoff,” Chacon said, referring to Rojas.

For many employees, their last hope is Superintendent Anthony J. Martinez, who they have been calling on to “do the right thing” and to put Rojas on leave while accusations against him are investigated.

“Why not take the time … if the allegations are not true, provide that proof to the public,” Callison said.

Chacon said he does not trust the budget presented by Rojas, especially since the deficit grew from $15 million at the last school board meeting to $17 million now.

Price said such increases aren’t unusual, explaining that earlier numbers were based on what the district expected to receive before the governor released his annual budget.

CSEA Labor Relations Representative Simon Rea called out Rojas for his contradictory statements over the severity of the district’s financial situation.

“It doesn’t add up,” he said.

Citing a previous article by Eastern Group Publications [publisher of this newspaper], Rea read a statement by Rojas highlighting the “strong fiscal management of the district” that has resulted in Montebello Unified’s $100 million voter-approved school bond receiving a AAA rating from the Fitch Ratings Agency.

Board Member Ben Cardenas stressed the board made a sincere attempt to avoid layoffs and to buy a little more time.

“Given the current timeline we came up with fiscal scenarios to ensure we minimized layoffs, especially in the classroom,” Cardenas said.

With the help of the county’s fiscal experts, he said they might be able to rescind many of the pink slips going out by the end of the fiscal year.

By approving the layoffs, there’s less urgency to save jobs, countered Chacon.

Raphael Ramirez, one of four plumbers in the district and number 29 on the list of layoffs, warned the board that cutting their jobs will have a major impact on students.

“Nobody thinks about how water comes out of the faucet, until it doesn’t,” he said.

Update: Feb. 24, 2017 10:45 a.m. clarified original statement that Lisa Dominguez’ job was not in jeopardy.

MUSD Workers Get One Month Reprieve

January 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Custodians, bus drivers, secretaries and cafeteria workers in the Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) successfully persuaded school board members to temporarily delay action on proposed job cuts and to try to find another away around the district’s looming budget crisis.

“We are the ones at schools before the class lights come on and the ones there way after the lights go off,” Marisol Rivera, a school secretary and regional representative with the California School Employees Association (CSEA) Chapter 505, told EGP during a raucous protest rally before the Jan.19 school board meeting.

Lea este artículo en español: Trabajadores de MUSD Reciben un Mes de Aplazamiento

MUSD is facing a $15 million budget deficit next year and district staff proposed laying-off 319 certificated administrators and classified – or non-teaching – employees to save money.

The proposal comes following notification by the Los Angels County Office of Education (LACOE) that its analysis of MUSD’s finances concluded the school district is in danger of not meeting its financial obligations for the next two school years. They gave the district until Feb. 17 to submit a detailed fiscal stabilization plan or risk the county sending in an overseer.

MUSD must identify $15 million in cuts for the 2017-18 school year and an additional $16.4 million for 2018-19, without touching a penny from its reserve account that has fallen just below the state-mandated 3 percent minimum saving requirement.

News of the potential cuts did not sit well with the approximately 100 employees, parents and some alumni at the protest rally before last week’s board meeting where the layoffs were on the agenda.

“I’m here to put a face to a name on that list,” 54-year-old attendance and pupil data coordinator, Rene Infusino, told board members.

Marisol Rivera rallies hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees during a rally Jan. 19. (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

Marisol Rivera rallies hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees during a rally Jan. 19. (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

Infusino’s husband Marcello, 57, has worked for the district for nearly 40 years and is currently the print shop operations coordinator. Ironically, he printed the very agenda that called for eliminating his position.

“You’re wiping out an entire family,” he said, pleading with board members to save his job.

He and his wife both losing their jobs would be a huge hardship, Marcello told EGP, explaining he has a mortgage and student loans to pay and two children in college.

During the 2010-2011 school year, MUSD had $44 million in reserves. The fund has since dwindled to less than $10 million.

“Where did all the money go?” demanded Jerry Perez, a district bus driver.

“Why don’t the higher ups get cuts?” he said, punctuating the view of many at the meeting.

Perez, still wearing his uniform, told EGP he blames the board and Chief Business Officer Ruben Rojas for the district’s financial mess.

The worker’s union, CSEA, has passed a “vote of no confidence” in Rojas and accused him of hiring personal acquaintances, lowering district morale and pushing through questionable and expensive labor contracts and falsifying documents on his job application.

“How is it that he’s still employed while our people are getting cut,” said Rivera in disbelief.

Rivera says cutting classified workers will hurt students.

“We are the maintenance workers that make sure the AC works, the bus drivers that get them to school, the clerical [workers] that deal with parents and the health assistants that handle sick children,” she said.

CSEA Labor Relations Representative Simon Rea disputes district claims of having less money due to falling enrollment, saying revenue has actually increased in recent years.

Hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees protest proposed cuts Jan. 19. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees protest proposed cuts Jan. 19. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

He suggested MUSD take a closer look at its professional consulting services and other higher paid positions instead of classified staff, who he says are underpaid and overworked, comparing them to the oil that keeps the parts of a car from breaking down.

LACOE Chief Financial Officer Scott Price reminded the board that MUSD has been living beyond its means for years, refusing to make cuts despite warnings from the county about its structural deficit.

“If you keep going in the same direction you are going to reach zero percent [of reserves] by the end of next year,” Price warned.

Board Member Ben Cardenas asked Price if it seemed plausible the district could find a fiscal solution not requiring layoffs.

“I do not see how you can do that without making cuts in personnel,” responded Price.

Longtime Board Member Hector Chacon called the proposed layoffs the “lazy way out.”

“Cuts have always been the last resort, not the first resort,” Chacon said before asking his colleagues to continue the item until the Feb.16 meeting to give the board time to exhaust all other options.

He suggested the district consider borrowing money to avoid layoffs, take a closer look at contracts proposed by Rojas, freeze promotions, ask unions to consider a 2 percent pay cut and even proposed MUSD sell off its district headquarters and move their offices to the Laguna Nueva School site. Others suggested furlough days.

While many in the audience were pleased to hear Chacon say he would not support cuts, they were also frustrated that Chacon, who’s been on the board for decades and is up for reelection, failed to act on past opportunities to prevent the fiscal fallout facing the district today.

“They should have done that years ago,” someone in the audience said.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“He is all talk,” said another.

If the school board ultimately approves layoffs, the district must deliver pink slips to impacted employees by March 15 to comply with the terms of agreements with its bargaining units.

“Is it possible we come up with multiple scenarios? Yes, it is possible will we find these in the prescribed time, that’s open to interpretation,” said Cardenas.

If the district fails to adopt a plan to stabilize its finances, the county is likely to send in a fiscal advisor to ensure steps are taken to shore up MUSD’s budget.

The prospect of county oversight – particularly over spending – appealed to many in the audience who had complained about Rojas.

In response to those complaints, Chacon asked staff to include on the board’s next meeting agenda discussion of whether Rojas should be placed on paid administrative leave while claims against him are investigated.

The district began hosting informational meetings on their fiscal stabilization plan Wednesday and will hold three more meetings over the next two weeks.

An earlier version of this story was published at www.EGPNews.com

Trabajadores de MUSD Reciben un Mes de Aplazamiento

January 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los trabajadores de mantenimiento y de la cafetería, los conductores de autobuses juntamente con las secretarias del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Montebello (MUSD) lograron persuadir a los miembros de la junta escolar a temporalmente retrasar los recortes de empleo propuestos y de tratar de encontrar otras alternativas a la crisis presupuestaria.

Marisol Rivera, una secretaria de la escuela y representante regional del Capítulo 505 de la Asociación de Empleados Escolares de California (CSEA), le dijo a EGP durante una conferencia de prensa: “Somos los que estamos en las escuelas antes de que las luces se enciendan y los que permanecemos cuando se apagan” durante una protesta estruendosa antes de la reunión del consejo escolar del 19 de enero.

Read this article in English: MUSD Workers Get One Month Reprieve

MUSD se enfrentará a un déficit presupuestario de $15 millones el próximo año y el personal del distrito propuso el despido de 319 administradores certificados y empleados para ahorrar dinero.

La propuesta viene después de la notificación por parte de la Oficina de Educación del Condado de Los Ángeles (LACOE). Un análisis de las finanzas de MUSD concluyó que el distrito escolar está en peligro de no cumplir con sus obligaciones financieras para los próximos dos años escolares. El distrito tiene hasta el 17 de febrero para presentar un plan detallado de estabilización fiscal o arriesgará el envío de un supervisor del condado.

Marisol Rivera pide apoyo a cientos de empleados de la Asociación de Escuelas de California (Foto de EGP por Nancy Martinez)

Marisol Rivera pide apoyo a cientos de empleados de la Asociación de Escuelas de California (Foto de EGP por Nancy Martinez)

MUSD debe identificar $15 millones en recortes para el año escolar 2017-18 y $16.4 millones adicionales para el 2018-19, sin tocar un centavo de su cuenta de reserva que ha caído justo por debajo del requisito mínimo de tres por ciento requerido por el estado.

Las noticias de los recortes potenciales no quedaron bien con los aproximadamente 100 empleados, padres y algunos alumnos en la protesta antes de la reunión de la semana pasada donde los despidos estaban en la agenda.

“Estoy aquí para ponerle un rostro a un nombre en esa lista”, le dijo Rene Infusino, coordinadora de asistencia y de datos de alumnos de 54 años, a los miembros del consejo.

El esposo de Infusino, Marcello, de 57 años, ha trabajado para el distrito por casi 40 años y actualmente es el coordinador de operaciones de la imprenta. Irónicamente, él imprimió la misma agenda que llamaba a eliminar su posición.

“Están acabando con toda una familia”, dijo, suplicándole a los miembros de la junta que salvaran su trabajo.

El perder ambos empleos sería una gran dificultad, le dijo Marcello a EGP, explicando que tiene una hipoteca y préstamos estudiantiles pendientes de sus dos hijos en la universidad.

Durante el año escolar 2010-2011, MUSD tenía $44 millones en reservas. El fondo ha disminuido desde entonces a menos de $10 millones.

“¿Dónde está todo el dinero?”, preguntó Jerry Pérez, un conductor de autobús del distrito.

“¿Por qué es que aquellos con altos cargos no reciben recortes?”, dijo, exponiendo el punto de vista de muchos en la reunión.

Pérez, quien aún llevaba su uniforme, le dijo a EGP que culpaba a la junta directiva y al jefe de negocios Rubén Rojas por el lío financiero del distrito.

El sindicato de trabajadores, CSEA, ha aprobado un “voto de censura” hacia Rojas y lo acusó de contratar a conocidos personales, bajar la moral del distrito y de forzar contratos costosos y cuestionables de trabajo y de falsificar documentos en su solicitud de empleo.

“¿Cómo es que todavía trabaja mientras nuestra gente está siendo despedida?”, dijo Rivera con incredulidad.

Hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees protest proposed cuts Jan. 19. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Cientos de empleados del Distrito Unificado Escolar de Montebello protestan recortes propuestos el 19 de enero. (Foto de EGP por Nancy Martinez)

Rivera dice que recortar el número de trabajadores clasificados dañará a los estudiantes.

“Somos los trabajadores de mantenimiento que nos aseguramos de que el aire acondicionado funcione, los conductores de autobús que los llevan a la escuela, los trabajadores de oficina que tratan con los padres y los asistentes de salud que atienden a los niños enfermos”, dijo.

El representante de Relaciones Laborales del CSEA Simon Rea disputa las reclamaciones del distrito de tener menos dinero debido a la disminución de matrículas, agregando que los ingresos han aumentado en los últimos años.

Él sugirió que MUSD examine más de cerca sus servicios de consultoría profesional y otras posiciones mejor con altos pagos en lugar del personal clasificado, que según él está mal pagado y sobrecargado. El comparó al personal clasificado al aceite que impide que las partes de un automóvil se descompongan.

El director financiero de LACOE, Scott Price, le recordó a la junta que MUSD ha estado viviendo más allá de sus posibilidades durante años, rechazando hacer recortes a pesar de las advertencias del condado sobre su déficit estructural.

“Si siguen en la misma dirección, van a alcanzar el cero por ciento [de reservas] a finales del próximo año”, advirtió Price.

El consejero Ben Cardenas le preguntó a Price si es posible que el distrito encuentre una solución fiscal que no requiera despidos.

“No veo cómo puede hacerse eso sin recortar el personal”, respondió Price.

Héctor Chacón, miembro veterano de la Junta, calificó a los despidos propuestos una “escapatoria perezosa”.

“Los recortes siempre han sido el último recurso, no el primero”, dijo Chacon antes de pedirle a sus colegas que continuaran el tema hasta la reunión del 16 de febrero para darle tiempo a la junta de considerar todas las demás opciones.

Él sugirió que el distrito considere un préstamo para evitar los despidos, echarle un vistazo a los contratos propuestos de Rojas, congelar las promociones, pedirle a los sindicatos que consideren un recorte salarial del dos por ciento e incluso que MUSD venda su sede del distrito y traslade sus oficinas a la Escuela Laguna Nueva. Otros sugirieron días de descanso sin paga.

Mientras que muchos de los asistentes se alegraron de que Chacón dijera que no apoyaría los recortes, también se sintieron frustrados de que Chacón, quien está a punto de ser reelegido, no actuó previamente para evitar las consecuencias fiscales actuales del distrito.

“Deberían haberlo hecho hace años”, dijo alguien de la audiencia.

“Es solo palabras”, dijo otro.

Si la junta escolar llegará a finalmente aprobar los despidos, el distrito deberá entregarle las “hojas rosas” a los empleados afectados antes del 15 de marzo para cumplir con los términos de la negociación.

“¿Es posible que presentemos múltiples posibilidades? Sí, es posible que las encontremos en el tiempo prescrito, eso está abierto a la interpretación”, dijo Cárdenas.

Si el distrito falla en adoptar un plan para estabilizar sus finanzas, es probable que el condado envíe un asesor fiscal para asegurar que las medidas sean tomadas para apuntalar el presupuesto de MUSD.

La perspectiva de una supervisión del condado – particularmente sobre el gasto – apeló a muchos en la audiencia que se habían quejado de Rojas.

En respuesta a esas quejas, Chacón le pidió al personal que incluya en la próxima reunión del consejo un debate sobre si Rojas debería ser puesto en un descanso administrativo pagado mientras se investigan las reclamaciones contra él.

El distrito comenzó a organizar reuniones informativas sobre su plan de estabilización fiscal el miércoles y tendrá otras tres reuniones durante las próximas dos semanas.

Una versión anterior de esta historia fue publicada aquí.

MUSD Postpones Decision on Layoffs

January 20, 2017 by · 3 Comments 

Over 300 Montebello Unified School District jobs on the chopping block were saved at least for now as district officials try to come up with a plan to make up a $16 million budget deficit.

“Jobs were temporarily saved tonight but we’re not holding our breath,” Marisol Rivera, a school secretary and regional representative for the California School Employees Association (CSEA) Chapter 505, told EGP following the vote during Thursday’s MUSD school board meeting.

Sporting union shirts and gripping signs that read, “Recall the MUSD Board” and “NO CUTS!,” hundreds of CSEA members, from custodians and bus drivers to attendance technicians and cafeteria workers, protested outside district headquarters before the meeting to demand board members vote down a cost-cutting plan that would have laid off 316 district employees.

Marisol Rivera rallies hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees during a rally Jan. 19. (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

Marisol Rivera rallies hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees during a rally Jan. 19. (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

The proposed layoffs follow a notice from the Los Angels County Office of Education (LACOE) informing the district that it might not meet its financial obligations for the next two school years according to their analysis of the district’s finances.

The district must now identify $15 million in cuts for the 2017-18 school year and an additional $16.4 million for 2018-19, without touching a penny from its reserve account that has fallen just shy of meeting the state-mandated 3 percent minimum saving requirement.

“Without full implementation of the proposed cost reductions, the district’s ability to maintain the minimum reserve requirements and its fiscal solvency may be severely impacted beginning with 2017-18,” LACOE’s Chief Financial Officer Scott Price advised the district in his letter.

Hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees protest proposed cuts Jan. 19. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees protest proposed cuts Jan. 19. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Citing a lack of funds, district staff proposed laying off 316 certificated administrators and classified – or non-teaching positions –saving the district millions of dollars.

Marcel Infusino, 57, and his wife Rene, 54, are two of the employees who could lose their job if those cuts are made.

Infusino has worked for the district for nearly 40 years and currently works as the district’s print shop operations coordinator, where for the last 12 years he has been in charge of printing school board meeting agendas and other district-wide tasks. Ironically, he says he had to print the agenda that called for his positions to be eliminated.

“You’re wiping out an entire family,” he pleaded with the board Thursday.

He still has a mortgage and student loans to pay and two children in college, Infusino told EGP, explaining the hardship that would result from he and his wife both losing their jobs

“We’re just not ready to retire,” his wife lamented.

Longtime Board Member Hector Chacon was visibly upset with the proposal to layoff workers, calling it the “lazy way out.”

“Cuts have always been the last resort, not the first resort,” Chacon said before asking his colleagues to continue the item until the board exhausts all other options.

Many in the audience, including district alumni who turned out to the meeting, were pleased to see Chacon would not support cuts, but some also expressed frustration that the longest sitting member of the board member had failed to act on past opportunities to take action to prevent the fiscal fallout facing the district today.

Now, working under a time crunch, the board only has until Feb. 17 to submit a detailed fiscal stabilization plan to LACOE, just one day after its next board meeting. If they ultimately approve layoffs, the district agreements must deliver pink slips to impacted employees by March 15 in order to comply with the terms of its agreements with bargaining units.

Price reminded MUSD board members and staff Thursday that the county has been warning the district for years that they were operating on a structural deficit.

“If you keep going in the same direction you are going to reach zero percent [of reserves] by the end of next year,” Price warned.

“You have to live within your means.”

If the district fails to adopt a plan to stabilize its finances, the county is likely to send in a fiscal advisor who would be tasked with ensuring the district takes the steps needed to shore up its budget. The prospect of county oversight – particularly over spending – appealed to many in the audience who had complained about the performance of MUSD’s Chief Business Officer, Ruben Rojas.

MUSD Chief Business Officer Ruben Rojas provides a budget update to the board of education during the Jan. 19 meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

MUSD Chief Business Officer Ruben Rojas provides a budget update to the board of education during the Jan. 19 meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

CSEA earlier this year passed a “vote of no confidence” in Rojas, accusing him of hiring personal acquaintances, lowering district morale and not adhering to project labor agreements among other issues. Union members and others recently accused Rojas of falsifying documents on his job application, growing increasingly angry that there’s been no action by board members on their charges, allowing Rojas to keep his job while union members are on the verge of losing their livelihood.

Chacon responded to their complaints by asking staff to include on the board’s next meeting agenda discussion of whether Rojas should be placed on paid administrative leave while claims against him are investigated.

The district will host informational meetings on their fiscal stabilization plan for the next two weeks beginning on Wednesday.

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