AZUSA (CBSLA.com) —The Azusa Unified School District is set to enact layoffs due to what officials Saturday termed “unforeseen challenges” as a result of the governor’s budget proposal.
Dozens of students, teachers and parents addressed the district board during a public meeting Saturday. After listening to hours of testimony, the board said it will be handing out pink slips to 12 teachers and administrators on Monday. The Azusa Educators Association, the teachers’ union, is vowing to fight it.
“What we need to do is look at other decisions and choices that are being made, and cut those things instead of the people,” Azusa Educators Association President Meg Savella told CBS2. “Because let’s face it, we need to value the people. People first.”
District officials said that although they tried to make cuts away from the classroom and eliminate some vacant positions, some layoffs were still necessary.
“I’m here speaking today for future Aztecs,” Azusa High School student Sara Serrano told the board. “Because they deserve a future, they deserve great opportunities, they deserve great programs, they deserve great educators.”
Azusa isn’t the only district projecting budget shortfalls because of declining enrollment and decreases in state funding. The Santa Ana Unified School District is also being forced to eliminate teaching positions. However, it was the nature of the proposed cuts that had the school community unhappy. The district had been considering cutting two home economic teaching positions. However, after hearing passionate testimony Saturday, the board decided to save those positions.
“Cutting two home economic teachers is not just cutting two positions, it’s cutting a program,” teacher Angel Clenney told the board.
“Cutting home economics, cutting some of the music so that it has a trickle-down effect, is only harmful to the children, to the community, to the families,” Savella told CBS2.
Student Jennifer Beltran worries what eliminating a music teacher will do to the band program.
“I’m a senior, I’m graduating, but I want people to experience what I experienced,” Beltran told CBS2. “I want them to make friends the way I did, learn what I did.”
When the governor’s final budget is released, there is a possibility that the district will get more money than expected. That will allow it to rehire or refill some of these teaching positions.
In a statement Saturday afternoon, the district wrote:
“The governor’s budget proposal presented unforeseen challenges for Azusa Unified. However, our commitment to providing a quality education remains a top priority for this District. Before making decisions that directly affect our teachers and administrators, every effort was made to make cuts as far away from staff and students in the classroom as possible by eliminating vacant positions first. We are a family at Azusa Unified and our goal is to be mindful when making tough decisions related to personnel. As we press forward, our goal is to be good financial stewards for our students and keep our focus on their success.”