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.

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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 · Leave a 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 Floyd 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.

MUSD May Not Meet Financial Obligations, Analysis Finds

January 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

County education officials have notified the Montebello Unified School District that it might not meet its financial obligations for the next two school years unless the District implements budget cuts and takes action to stabilize its finances.

MUSD is facing tough fiscal realities and challenges, according to the Los Angeles County Office of Education, which advised school officials they must take steps to restore and maintain the minimum reserve for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years as required by law.

MUSD has agreed to move forward with an “aggressive” fiscal stabilization plan with “minimal disruption to the classroom” in response to the LACOE’s analysis, the District said in a written statement.

School Board President Dr. Lani Cupchoy called the MUSD’s fiscal woes “an inherited problem,” and placed blame on “a state that is unwilling to invest significant resources into public education and inaction by previous boards and executive administrations to address the difficult fiscal challenges facing the District,”

In the past, the district would avoid program cuts and employee layoffs by using its reserves and one-time monies, according to Board Member Benjamin Cardenas

“MUSD is facing the same kind of funding challenges that are currently impacting numerous districts across the state, including declining enrollment, increasing retirement pension costs, rising health benefit costs for current employees and retirees,” Cardenas said, adding that the expiration of one-time mandated block grant funding and underfunding of special education are also been a factor.

The District serves more than 64,000 students in grades K-12 and adult education programs in Bell Gardens, Montebello, Commerce, Monterey Park, East Los Angeles and Pico Rivera.

Declining enrollment due to lower birth rates in the area and families enrolling their children in neighboring districts has been an ongoing issue for the MUSD.

MUSD officials say the financial crisis has forced them to take a closer look at where they can cut costs, particularly in staffing, reassignments, employee benefits and worker’s compensation   to remain fiscally solvent. This includes the possibility of a work force reduction as a “last resort.”

MUSD plans to host informational sessions on the school board’s proposal next week where they will take questions from parents, employees and stakeholders.

Last month, board members approved a forensic audit of the district’s finances, which they said would help them better understand MUSD’s financial protocols, policies and procedures.

“What’s important to note is that this board is committed to looking at every budget restructuring scenario to ensure that we continue to provide a quality education for all our students,” assured Board Vice President Edgar Cisneros. “Maintaining local control and oversight is essential to ensuring that the priorities and needs of our students, parents and employees are addressed and met.”

MUSD Se Declara ‘Zona Segura’ para Inmigrantes

December 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

En un esfuerzo por proteger a los estudiantes indocumentados y a otras comunidades vulnerables de las amenazas de deportación, los funcionarios de Montebello Unified aprobaron convertirse en un “distrito de santuario” y en una “zona segura”.

“Nuestra decisión pondrá en marcha programas y procedimientos que protegerán a nuestros estudiantes de cualquier esfuerzo para determinar su estatus legal, orientación sexual y otras formas de información personal”, dijo Ben Cardenas, miembro de la Junta Directiva del MUSD.

MUSD sirve a las ciudades de Bell Gardens, Commerce, Montebello y porciones del Este de Los Ángeles, Monterey Park y Pico Rivera – todas hogares de grandes poblaciones de inmigrantes.

Con la inauguración del presidente electo, Donald Trump, muchos están preocupados de que él cumpla con su promesa de deportar a millones de inmigrantes indocumentados.

Esa amenaza de deportación y la posible separación de uno o ambos padres, u otros miembros de la familia “pueden tener un efecto escalofriante en un niño, crear estrés e impactar su concentración en el aula”, dijo Cardenas.

La declaración permitirá que el Distrito proteja los datos y las identidades de los estudiantes, miembros de sus familias o de los empleados de la escuela. La divulgación a agencias federales para propósitos no relacionados con la educación no serán permitidas.

Bajo el nuevo estado de santuario y la designación de zona segura, se le prohibirá al personal del Distrito cuestionar a los estudiantes sobre su estatus migratorio o el participar en cualquier otro esfuerzo de aplicación de la ley de inmigración. El distrito también creará un comité educativo de la igualdad.

Es imperativo que el Distrito aplique este tipo de procedimientos para minimizar el impacto en los estudiantes del Distrito, a sus familias y al personal de cualquier nueva política adoptada por una Administración Trump, dijo la Junta Directiva Joanna Flores.

“El distrito debe esforzarse siempre para combatir el racismo, el sexismo y otras formas de parcialidad y asumir la responsabilidad de proporcionar oportunidades educativas iguales a todos los estudiantes”, dijo la presidenta de la Junta Directiva MUSD, Lani Cupchoy, durante la reunión del 15 de diciembre.

Bajo el veredicto de la Corte Suprema Plyler V. Doe, se le prohíbe a los gobiernos estatales y locales excluir a niños indocumentados de obtener una educación pública gratuita.

La “zona segura” también protegerá a las comunidades LGBTQ, a mujeres, y a las minorías políticas entre otros.

“Más allá de la educación, nuestros estudiantes y familias necesitan saber que el distrito también está luchando por sus derechos constitucionales y por su calidad de vida”, dijo Flores.

Montebello Unified Declares Immigrant ‘Safe Zone’

December 27, 2016 by · 2 Comments 

In an effort to protect undocumented students and other vulnerable communities from threats of deportation or other potential federal actions, Montebello Unified officials have voted to become a “sanctuary district” and “safe zone.”

“Our decision today will put in place programs and procedures that will shield our students from any efforts to determine their legal status, sexual orientation and other forms of personal information,” said MUSD Boardmember Ben Cardenas.

With President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration approaching, many are worried he will follow through with his promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. MUSD serves the cities of Bell Gardens, Commerce, Montebello and portions of East Los Angeles, Monterey Park and Pico Rivera – all home to large immigrant populations. The threat of deportation and potential separation from one or both parents, or other family members “can have a chilling effect on a child, create undue stress and impact a child’s ability to concentrate in the classroom,” Cardenas said.

The declaration will allow the District to protect data and the identities of students, family members or school employees from disclosure to federal agencies for purposes not related to education.

Under the newly adopted sanctuary, safe zone designation, District personnel will be prohibited from asking students about their immigration status or participating in any other immigration enforcement effort. The District will also create an educational equality advisory committee to to consider the impacts immigration issues and policies will have on the district.

It is imperative the District put these types of procedures in place to minimize the impact on District students, their families and staff of any new policies adopted by a Trump Administration, said Boardmember Joanna Flores

“The district must always strive to combat racism, sexism and other forms of bias and assume a responsibility to provide equal educational opportunity to all students,” said MUSD Board President Lani Cupchoy during the Dec.15 meeting when the action was taken.

Under the Plyler V. Doe Supreme Court ruling, state and local governments are prohibited from excluding undocumented children from obtaining a free public education.

The “safe zone” will also protect LGBTQ communities, women, political minorities and others.

“Beyond education, our students and families need to know that the district is also fighting for their constitutional rights and their quality of life,” Flores said.

 

Familias Necesitadas en Montebello Reciben Alegría Navideña

December 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Foto: Cortesía de MUSD

Docenas de familias sin hogar recibieron juguetes, libros, y latas de comida durante el evento inaugural, “Families in Transition Gift Giveaway” el 9 de diciembre en la Escuela Laguna Nueva parte del Distrito Unificado Escolar de Montebello.

Durante el evento, padres identificados sin hogar tuvieron la oportunidad de escoger regalos y entregárselos a sus hijos en estos tiempos festivos.

Los regalos fueron proveídos por el “Programa Familias en Transición” gracias a donaciones de la Supervisora del Condado de Los Ángeles, Hilda Solís, el Senador Estatal de California Tony Mendoza, del Departamento de Transportación Unificado de Montebello y de la Oficina del Distrito de Montebello.

El Programa de Familias en Transición tiene como misión el proveerle servicios de apoyo a los 972 estudiantes que se han identificado sin hogar en el MUSD juntamente con sus familias para promover el logro académico.

Culinary Students Build Gingerbread House Village

December 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

In what’s become an annual tradition, Bell Gardens High School Culinary students kicked off the holiday season by showing off their baking and cake decorating skills by building an entire village of gingerbread houses.

Over 80 students attending the Culinary Hospitality Opportunity Pathway (CHOP) participated in the 5th annual fundraiser held Dec. 9, where more than $1,000 was raised to buy chef jackets and uniforms for students in the program.

The fanciful creations filled an entire classroom, creating a towering neighborhood made out of gingerbread, cookies and colorful frosting.

Some of the creations were as tall as a wedding cake; others took over a month and a half to bake and build.

(MUSD)

(MUSD)

“These students are doing much more than just cooking,” said Elizabeth Kocharian, lead teacher for CHOP. “Our students use geometry and algebra skills to calculate the sizes of the gingerbread walls, engineering to keep them up and design skills to decorate the house.”

BGHS CHOP senior Cynthia Bernal said she really enjoyed making her house and knowing she could create something like this by herself.

“Our houses are all different because we put some of our own background and heritage into it,” Bernal said.

The top three gingerbread houses will be displayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Montebello. Winners include: Alexander Castillo’s “Peppa Pig Village” in first place; Jazmin Ramos’ “Farm Stand and Bakery” in second place, and in third place, Dominic Jimenez’ “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

 

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