MUSD Rescinds Remaining Teacher Pink Slips

April 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

MONTEBELLO– Montebello Unified School District officials announced last week they were rescinding layoffs for the remaining 100 teachers who received a reduction-in-force notice.

The announcement comes on the heels of the district rescinding 233 teacher RIF notices. Last month, 333 teachers and a number of administrators and classified staff received pink slips in an attempt to close a $17 million budget gap.

Layoff notices sent out to administrators and classified staff, have yet to be rescinded.

The district has been working with the Los Angeles County Office of Education to keep teachers employed.

“They need to know from the onset, this district was looking for ways to keep them on the job,” MUSD Board President Lani Cupchoy said in a statement.

Graduation Numbers Rise to ‘Record High’

April 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For the seventh straight year, California is making gains on the number of students who graduate from high school, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson reported Tuesday.

The number of seniors graduating in 2016 reached a record high for the state, Torlakson said in a written statement.

The highest gains were made among English learners and African American and Latino students, according to the data just released by the state Department of Education.

“This is great news for our students and families,” Torlakson said, crediting “increased investments in our schools that have helped reduce class sizes; bring back classes in music, theater, art, dance, and science; and expand career technical education programs that engage our students with hands-on, minds-on learning” for the progress made.

“The increasing rates show that the positive changes in California schools are taking us in the right direction.”

Statewide, the data, which tracks students who entered high school in 2012-13 and graduated in 2016, shows an increase of 0.9 percent from 2015, for a record high of 83.2 percent, which translates to 4,917 more students receiving their high school diploma in 2016 than in 2015.

In Los Angeles County, the graduation rate was 81.3 percent, compared to 78.7 percent for the class of 2015. The dropout rate for students who started high school in 2012-13 was 10.6 percent, down from 12.5 percent for the class of 2014-15.

(LAUSD)

(LAUSD)

The Los Angeles Unified School District saw similar trends, with the 2015-16 dropout rate at 13.7, down from 16.7 the previous year. The graduation rate was 77 percent, up from the previous year’s 72.2 percent.

“I am proud of the heroic efforts by our teachers, counselors, parents, administrators and classified staff who rally around our students every day,” LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King said. “We also thank our education leaders and partners who work with us to understand our challenges and
celebrate our gains year after year.

“This data shows we are closing opportunity gaps and preparing more L.A. Unified students for college and careers, but we still have work to do,” King said. “I expect these numbers to keep rising until we reach our goal of 100 percent graduation.”

In the Montebello Unified School District, which has one high school in Bell Gardens, the graduation rate rose to 87.7 percent, 0.07 percent higher than the previous year.

The report also showed a statewide lowering of the dropout rate. Of the students who started high school in 2012-13, 9.8 percent dropped out, down from 10.7 percent the previous year.

While there is room to be optimistic, Torlakson said there is still much work to be done that will require effort from everyone “—teachers, parents, administrators, and community members—to keep our momentum alive so we can keep improving.”

He singled out as critical the work of narrowing “the achievement gap between Asian and white students and Latino and African American students.”

“The latest statistics show the gap has narrowed. For African American students, the graduation rate reached a record high of 72.6 percent, up 1.8 percentage points from the year before and up 12.1 percentage points from 2010. For Hispanic or Latino students, the graduation rate climbed to a record high of 80 percent, up 1.5 percentage points from the year before and up 11.9 percentage points from 2010.”

For the second year in a row, the graduation rate among English learners went up, increasing 2.7 percent to 72.1 percent, 15.7 percentage points higher than the class of 2010, according to the data from the department of education.

Torlakson said changes in education funding and to curriculum, which he calls “the California Way,” are making a difference.

The California Way, he said, includes “teaching more rigorous and relevant academic standards, which provides more local control over spending and more resources to those with the greatest needs.”

MUSD Revokes Layoff Notices; Recall Moves Forward

April 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

MONTEBELLO  – Following months of protests from students, parents and teachers, the Montebello Unified School Board unanimously voted to rescind layoff notices for 233 of its employees.

The action was approved April 6, after board members determined the district was closer to closing a $17 million budget gap.

While over two-thirds of the 333 teachers, administrators and classified staff who received pink slips can now count on keeping their jobs for the 2017-2018 school year, 100 employees who received a second layoff notice late last month are still in danger of being cut.

Meanwhile, activists seeking to recall MUSD Board President Lani Cupchoy and Board Member Benjamin Cardenas last week received approval from the County Registrar Recorder/County Clerk’s Office to begin collecting signatures on recall petitions. They blame the board members for the school district’s financial problems.

With CBO Gone, Teachers Thinks Montebello Unified Budget Can Improve

April 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Now that the Montebello Unified School Board has fired its controversial chief business officer, employees are hopeful a clearer, more positive picture of district’s finances will soon emerge.

MUSD board members terminated Ruben Rojas last week following months of protests by employees and the public. They blamed Rojas for the district’s dire financial situation that led to 333 MUSD employees being laid off.

With 235 of 333 jobs in jeopardy belonging to teachers, the Montebello Teachers Association (MTA) has the most at stake. MTA and other district unions, and MUSD officials are now scrambling to find alternatives to job cuts for closing a $17 million budget gap, but they could be running out of time.

MTA President Lorraine Richards told EGP the school district must reduce spending in other areas before it lays off employees. She is especially critical of the millions of dollars spent on consultants, complaining that the expenditures have continued to increase over the years.

She’s not alone; it’s a sentiment repeatedly voiced by students, parents and classified employees.

“When you have a budget showing an increase for consultants of course you’ll see a red line at the bottom,” Richards said.

An MUSD employee discusses the impact cuts will have on students during a special meeting March 30. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

An MUSD employee discusses the impact cuts will have on students during a special meeting March 30. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles County Department of Education (LACOE) informed Montebello Unified officials the district is at risk of not meeting its financial obligations for the next two school years unless it takes decisive action to turn things around. To the dismay of the public, MUSD officials ultimately chose staffing cuts as the vehicle to financial solvency.

Under the latest fiscal stabilization plan, MUSD plans to shore up its finances by eliminating positions, implementing furlough days, freezing pay raises and not replacing retirees.

The biggest hit will be to teaching positions, with an estimated $12 million in layoffs.

Administrative positions will be trimmed by $2.9 million; an additional $1.9 million in revenues will be saved through cuts to non-classroom employees.

According to Richards, MTA has been studying the budget and their research has led them to other areas where revenue can be saved. In some cases, she argues, much of what is budgeted for is in fact not spent.

For example, according to the latest budget summary, the cost for books and supplies has decreased by $6 million since the first interim report, based on an analysis of expenditure patterns, was released. That excess funding, however, will be used for capital expenditures associated with the district’s technology initiative.

Richards hopes the district will consider offsetting general fund expenses with incoming bond revenue, to avoid personnel cuts.

She proposes dipping into the school district’s rainy day reserve fund as another possible way to close the budget gap.

Under state law, however, school districts are required to set aside at least 3 percent of yearly revenue in a reserve fund, and according to LACOE, it’s an obligation the district is already in danger of not meeting.

Richards and others don’t believe MUSD’s finances are as dire as reported by the now fired Rojas.

“A budget can be created to show what you want to show,” she says, skeptical of the financial crisis being painted.

If the situation is as bad as they say, she wants to know why district officials pushed last year for voters to approve a $300 million spending bond. Rojas cited a “sparkling [outside financial credit] report” to move the bond forward, she recalls.

Lloyd Garrison, president of CSEA Chapter 500, the union that represents non-classified employees like plumbers, office clerks and maintenance workers, echoes those sentiment, telling EGP the picture of a tenuous budget was not the one presented last year.

“If we were in such dire trouble why wasn’t that brought up during union negotiations,” he questions. “Why would the board approve raises?”

Last year, after drawn out negotiations, the district agreed to award teachers a two-year pay raise and a one-time bonus. At that time, CSEA members agreed to a one-time bonus.

Richards told EGP she believes the budget crisis was not brought up then because it did not exist.

With Rojas gone and a state audit on the way, but could take 6 months or longer to complete, Richards and Garrison said they expect a more accurate accounting of district finances is forthcoming: not one “covered with Ruben Rojas’ finger prints on it.”

In the meantime, the district’s Fiscal Stabilization Ad Hoc Committee, made up of Board Members Hector Chacon and Edgar Cisneros, representative of MTA, CSEA, the Association of Montebello School Administrators (AMSA), Interim Superintendent Dr. Anthony Martinez and Director of Administrative Services Dr. Angel Gallardo, are working on identifying other areas where money can be saved or reallocated.

MUSD Board President Lani Cupchoy said in a written statement that the committee is focusing on “minimizing the number of teachers and support staff impacted by the recent reduction in force.”

 

 

 

MTA Espera Mejor Presupuesto de MUSD, Con Despido de Oficial

April 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Después del despido del controvertido jefe de negocios de la Junta Escolar Unificada de Montebello, los empleados esperan que más transparencia emerja pronto en las finanzas del distrito.

Los miembros del directorio de MUSD despidieron a Rubén Rojas, la semana pasada, después de meses de protestas por empleados y el público, culpándolo por la situación financiera extrema del distrito que causó el despido de 333 empleados de MUSD.

Con 235 de los 333 puestos de trabajo en peligro, pertenecientes a maestros, la Asociación de Maestros de Montebello (MTA) tiene más bajo su vista. MTA y otros sindicatos del distrito, y los funcionarios de MUSD ahora están luchando para encontrar alternativas a los recortes de empleo para cerrar una brecha presupuestaria de $17 millones, pero podrían estar quedándose sin tiempo.

La presidenta de MTA, Lorraine Richards, le dijo a EGP que el distrito escolar debe reducir el gasto en otras áreas antes de despedir a los empleados.

Ella, especialmente criticó los millones de dólares gastados en consultores, quejándose de que los gastos han seguido aumentando a lo largo de los años. Ella no está sola; esto es un sentimiento repetidamente expresado por estudiantes, padres y empleados clasificados.

“Cuando tienes un presupuesto mostrando un aumento para los consultores, por supuesto, verás una línea roja subrayándolo”, dijo Richards.

A principios de este año, el Departamento de Educación del Condado de Los Ángeles (LACOE) le informó a los funcionarios de Montebello Unified que el distrito está en riesgo de no cumplir con sus obligaciones financieras durante los próximos dos años escolares, a menos de que tome medidas decisivas. Para desgracia del público, los funcionarios de MUSD escogieron en última instancia los recortes de personal como el vehículo principal para resolver el problema.

Bajo el último plan de estabilización fiscal, MUSD planea arreglar sus finanzas eliminando puestos, implementando días de permiso sin paga, congelando los aumentos salariales y no reemplazando a los jubilados.

Los puestos de enseñanza serán los mayormente afectados, con unos estimado $12 millones en despidos.

Los puestos administrativos acumularán $2.9 millones en recortes; $1.9 millones en ingresos se ahorrarán a través de los recortes a los empleados no clasificados.

Según Richards, MTA ha estado estudiando el presupuesto y su investigación los ha dirigido a otras áreas en dónde los ingresos pueden ser ahorrados. En algunos casos, ella sostiene, gran parte de lo presupuestado ni se gasta.

IMG_6098

Estudiantes y miembros de la comunidad de Montebello protestaron la semana pasada los despidos en MUSD. Foto de EGP por Nancy Martínez.

Por ejemplo, según el último resumen del presupuesto, el costo de libros y suministros ha disminuido por $6 millones desde que se publicó el primer informe provisional, basado en un análisis de los patrones de gastos. Sin embargo, ese exceso de financiamiento se usará para cubrir los gastos de capital asociados con la iniciativa de tecnología del distrito.

Richards espera que el distrito considere la posibilidad de compensar los gastos generales del fondo que se pueden pagar con los ingresos de bonos entrantes, para evitar más recortes de personal.

Ella propone usar el fondo de reserva de emergencia del distrito escolar como otra manera posible de llenar la brecha presupuestaria.

Bajo la ley estatal, sin embargo, los distritos escolares deben reservar al menos el tres por ciento de los ingresos anuales en un fondo de reserva, y según LACOE, esto es una obligación que el distrito está a punto de no cumplir.

Richards y otros no creen que las finanzas de MUSD sean tan nefastas como fueron reportadas por Rojas.

“Un presupuesto puede crearse para mostrar lo que quieres”, dijo, escéptica de la crisis financiera que está siendo demostrada.

Si la situación es tan mala como dicen, ella quiere saber por qué los funcionarios del distrito presionaron el año pasado para que los votantes aprobarán un bono por gastos de $300 millones. Rojas citó un “brillante informe[de crédito financiero externo]” para mover el bono hacia adelante, recordó.

Lloyd Garrison, presidente del Capítulo 500 de la CSEA, el sindicato que representa a los empleados no clasificados (plomeros, secretarias/os, trabajadores de mantenimiento, etc.) repitió el sentimiento, diciéndole a EGP que la imagen de un presupuesto débil no fue presentada el año pasado.

“Si estuviéramos en tantos apuros, ¿por qué no se planteó eso durante las negociaciones sindicales?”, pregunta. “¿Por qué aprobaría el consejo los incrementos salariales?”

El año pasado, después de prolongadas negociaciones, el distrito acordó otorgarle a los maestros un aumento de sueldo de dos años y un bono único. En ese momento, los miembros de CSEA acordaron una bonificación única.

Richards le dijo a EGP que cree que la crisis presupuestaria no se planteó entonces porque no existía.

Con Rojas desaparecido y una auditoría estatal en camino, que podría tardar seis meses o más en completarse, Richards y Garrison dijeron que esperan una contabilidad más precisa de las finanzas del distrito: no una “cubierta con las huellas dactilares de Rubén Rojas”.

Entre tanto, la Comisión Ad Hoc de Estabilización Fiscal del Distrito, formado por los miembros de la Junta, Héctor Chacón y Edgar Cisneros, representante de MTA, la CSEA, la Asociación de Administradores de las Escuelas de Montebello (AMSA), el Superintendente Interino, Dr. Anthony Martínez y el Director de Servicios Administrativos, Dr. Ángel Gallardo, están trabajando para identificar otras áreas donde se pueda ahorrar o reasignar el dinero.

La presidenta del Consejo de MUSD, Lani Cupchoy, dijo en una declaración escrita que el comité se está enfocando en “minimizar el número de maestros y el personal de apoyo impactado por la reciente reducción en la fuerza”.

Para leer más sobre el despido del CBO, Rubén Rojas, visite www.EGPNews.com

Montebello Unified Fires Chief Business Exec

March 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It had been a while since cheers of praise were heard during a Montebello Unified School District board meeting, but on Thursday, teachers, parents and students were on their feet celebrating  news that a controversial top administrator had been fired.

Getting the axe is Chief Business Officer Ruben Rojas who at one point was on administrative leave over questions regarding the truthfulness of information in his resume and job application, which have since proven to be full of false statements and made-up references.

The firing comes months after unions representing MUSD employees and the public began calling for an investigation into Rojas’ hiring.

Rojas’ detractors also blamed him for MUSD’s tenuous budget situation, saying he had presented a false rosy picture of the school District’s financial outlook, and alleged he had improperly awarded District contracts.

Board members had come under fire for their failure to act swiftly and openly on the matter. They were criticized for not fully vetting Rojas before he was hired.

Board members Hector Chacon and Edgar Cisneros presented the motion to terminate Rojas during a closed session meeting Thursday: the vote was 5-0 to approve.

“The composition and direction of the Board member has been continuously evolving over the past year and with that evolution, comes a set of new priorities,” said Board Member Ben Cardenas in a statement explaining the Board’s decision.

“Given the vision of the board and challenges facing our district, it’s evident that we need to go in a different direction with respect to our business office…”

The news was announced during the special board meeting later that evening, prompting loud applause from a stunned, but pleasantly surprised audience.

“You have finally listened to us,” Lu Cruz told the board during public comment. “You have finally seen reason, thank you.”

While many MUSD employees and parents called the firing of the Rojas a “good first step,” others felt it’s too little, too late.

Over the last two months, chants of “no mas Rojas” (no more Rojas) could be heard during protests outside district headquarters, where teachers, staff, students and others loudly expressed anger over the board’s failure to fire Rojas while hundreds of employees were losing their jobs due to MUSD’s deep budget hole.

It was less than a year ago that the public seemed to have little reason not to trust Rojas, who at the time pushed for approval of Measure GS, a $300 million bond for infrastructure improvements. Voters overwhelmingly approved the bond in June 2016, but by September 2016, the feelings of goodwill were gone and Rojas was put on paid administrative leave over a personnel issue related to discrepancies in his resume, only to be reinstated one month later.

 

 

Former MUSD Chief Business Officer Ruben Rojas presents a budget update to the board during a meeting earlier this year. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Former MUSD Chief Business Officer Ruben Rojas presents a budget update to the board during a meeting earlier this year. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The California School Employees Association (CSEA) Montebello Chapter 505 passed a “vote of no confidence” in Rojas the following month, accusing him of hiring acquaintances, lowering morale district-wide and pushing costly contracts.

The lack of action by the board to fire Rojas and impending layoffs prompted a recall effort against Cardenas and Board President Lani Cupchoy.

Ultimately, 333 MUSD employees received layoff notices as part of the district’s plan to address a $17 million budget deficit. Two-thirds of those cuts were to teachers.

“If the pink slips are rescinded there will be a sigh of relief, but some of the damage will not be undone,” said Shaun Kury, band director at Montebello High School. He is among those who have has received a layoff notice.

The board voted Thursday to give MUSD Superintendent Dr. Anthony Martinez the authority to rescind layoff notices as the budget allows, signaling their willingness to reconsider some of the job cuts in their budget stabilizing plan.

“If we don’t start rescinding [soon], another district is going to steal our talent,” said Chacon, emphasizing the need for urgency.

CSEA Lloyd Garrison told EGP he was very happy with the board’s recent decisions.

“The board wants to move forward,” he said. “By Ruben leaving the district [MUSD] will have a new beginning.”

 

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.

C7ETSRBVwAAtttT

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”.

C7E-JLsV0AAhtiC

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.

IMG_5362

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.

_MG_9777

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.

_MG_9785

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.

Montebello students walkout protest MPD Courtesy

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.”

Next Page »

Copyright © 2017 Eastern Group Publications/EGPNews, Inc. ·