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June 27, 2022

School Board moves forward with layoffs

Split trustees approve laying off 26 positions

Special to the Free Lance

The Hollister School Board of Trustees voted to lay off an additional 26 employees on March 10. 

Although the board met on March 3 and made the decision to lay off 33 staff members, Superintendent Erika Sanchez showed in her budget report during the special meeting that the district is in about a $3.3 million fiscal deficit and the prior layoff of 33 employees only covered about $2.1 million in spending. 

Sanchez said for the current school year, the district added 49 positions but the board never addressed the topic of how the salaries would be funded. Many salaries were pulled from “one-time funding.” 

“Because of Covid we did add staff,” Sanchez said. “Some of them were to mitigate the spread of Covid, some of them were to help support the staff in the yard. We did, as a district, do something that was very highly successful in helping our students in regards to social and emotional support. We added school counselors, school social workers and mental health therapists. That program, as great as it is, is an investment of $1.4 million. We did not remove anything from the budget to bring that on. How are we going to fund that if it’s funded out of one-time funds, when those one-time funds expire?” 

With many concrete numbers remaining unknown, Sanchez said the board will not know any definitive numbers until the second interim budget report which was to be completed later in the month.

“I don’t feel comfortable making a decision that is going to impact people’s lives right now based on the information I just heard about an hour or two ago,” Trustee Carla Torres-DeLuna said. “I can’t do it.”

The additional layoffs consist of:

• Five physical education teachers

• Five school counselors

• Four mental health therapists

• Three custodians

• Three secretary support services

• Two school social workers

• Two groundskeepers

• One technology support specialist

• One special education coordinator

One migrant coordinator will also have funding pulled to support a full-time employee’s costs.

While the board came to a 3-2 vote in favor of the layoffs, Trustees DeLuna and Jan Grist continued to oppose due to lack of numbers and also the inability to fully process the new information so quickly. 

Sanchez said that if cuts were not made now, more cuts would be made for the 2022-2023 year, and for the following year, the numbers would be much higher.

She added that the possible growth of the fiscal deficit could lead to a county takeover of the district’s finances.

A majority of the board admit to being at fault for the current situation and expressed their apologies.

“I’m upset with the situation that we landed in,” DeLuna said. “It is our responsibility, it is our fault for not asking questions or asking the right questions, for trusting, not verifying. ‘I’m sorry’ is not enough, and we’ve got to do something about this.” 

The board also passed five unpaid furlough days for Sanchez.

Many members of the community convened at the meeting with signs in protest for the board to get more creative in budget cutbacks. However, Sanchez said there is urgency in moving forward so the process can begin.

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