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Layoffs Possible Trustees Approve Sending Notices
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Pink slips are in the mail for some local school employees following a March 3 board meeting on layoffs. But how many employees are affected and exactly who will lose their jobs won't be known until mid-May.

In a move to slash $1.2 million from budget expenses, Riverbank Unified School District trustees voted 3-2 to give notice to more than 40 teachers, bus drivers, custodians, office workers and others who may be laid off at the close of the school year.

But the final decision will not be made until May 15 when the trustees must pass another resolution on a revised list depending on possible changes in the budget, enrollment and other factors, said Assistant Superintendent for Business Ron Costa.

Trustees acted under the legal requirement they inform certificated staff of possible layoffs by March 15 (or they must keep them for the following school year). Classified staff, however, can be dismissed with only 45 days notice.

Emotions ran high as employees pleaded for their jobs, citizens sought cuts among administrators rather than custodians, and union representatives asked for a delay to get more information.

"I urge the board to get creative," said Riverbank High football coach and physical education teacher Paul Smith. "I don't have multiple credentials. I'm highly specialized. I have nowhere else to go ... I know people willing to take cuts if you ask. Don't forget the kids, your kids and my kids."

Frank McHugh, a vocal advocate for the schools, called for making cuts at the administrative level before laying off classroom teachers and their support staff.

"You should put the kids first and keep the teachers and coaches. We don't need more administrators. We need more Indians not chiefs," he said.

Costa said later the district has tried to spread the burden equally throughout four staff areas, noting the cuts covered 9 percent in management staff, 9.6 percent in confidential, 5.9 percent in classified and 3.8 percent in certificated.

The original agendized list included 43 positions ranging from director of business services and transportation manager to several bus drivers, food service technicians, a health clerk, a library clerk, secretaries and 12 teachers.

But the Director of Human Resources resigned before the meeting began, the Director of Business Services position was taken off the targeted list during the meeting, several positions are vacant and all employees have "bumping rights" dependent on seniority.

In addition, Costa explained to the board, 10 of the targeted posts involve only reductions from 12 month to 10 month positions, not layoffs, to accommodate a shift of staff from a year-round schedule at Rio Altura School to a traditional schedule at the new Mesa Verde School due to open in August.

Shortly before the 3-2 vote to initiate layoffs, trustee Patricia Blount commiserated with the crowd on the difficulty of the board's task in a small, tight-knit community.

"We see all your faces. We know who you are. It's very hard for us (to take this action). But we have to keep the district running and live within our means," she said.

Chairman Egidio "Jeep" Oliveira also commented.

"We have to stay legal. Hopefully the different parties can come together to make sacrifices to save everybody's position. This is not the end. This is more of an insurance policy."

Oliveira and John Mitchell Jr. voted against the motion saying there must be an alternative to layoffs.

Both the Riverbank Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association are still negotiating pay and benefits with the school district, their representatives reminded the board.