As the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Directors met on Tuesday night to vote on laying off 300 classified employees, McDaid, an office coordinator at McGaugh Elementary School in Seal Beach, told the board about the importance of the school positions that were up for elimination.
“After years of doing more for less, working more hours, taking on more responsibilities from security to learning new programs, new software, dealing with all types of positions, filling in where there are voids…. We are now basically rewarded with being completely eliminated or abolished,” said McDaid, who is also a member of the California School Employees Association (CSEA) union, during the board meeting. CSEA is the union that oversees more than 230,000 classified public employees in the state.
“They are so critical to our teachers and so critical to our kids,” she said. “To think that they are not needed even in a remote situation, I think is misguided.”
But McDaid’s plea to save her colleagues’ jobs to the board did not work.
Facing a new educational paradigm shift, the Los Alamitos Unified School District unanimously voted to send layoff notices to 300 classified employees including campus nurses, special education assistants, and daycare workers due to the lack of on-campus work and the mandatory school shutdown by health officials to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Workers will receive the notices this week and will come into effect sometime in October.
“Unfortunately, the different learning models that we will have either distance [learning], hybrid or fully, do have different staffing needs,” Los Alamitos Unified School District Superintendent Andrew Pulver said.
The school board’s decision comes as schools across Orange County and the state grapple with how to safely reopen brick and mortar school campuses and adapt to new remote learning modules for the upcoming school year as part of an effort to curb the number of COVID-19 cases. The school district in Los Alamitos oversees more than 10,000 students at nine schools and 1,700 employees.
Classified school employees, defined as workers that are not teachers or administrators, have been the most impacted by the coronavirus. This list includes custodians, campus supervision, maintenance, daycare, health clerks, media center, special education assistants, and nurses.
In June, facing a $35 million budget shortfall and restructuring, the Capistrano Unified School District voted to lay off 88 classified employees. Some of the employees let go worked in the school behavioral and mental health services. The Cypress Unified School District slashed 170 classified employees from its payroll, but some were reassigned, according to a CSEA union official. The cuts would save the Cypress school district somewhere between $800,000 to $1 million, according to a June board of trustees meeting.
The Los Alamitos Unified School District is not facing a budget shortfall. On Tuesday, the school showed $12 million in revenue to its budget, but Superintendent Pulver said that was a “false budget.”
The district also received $4.7M from the government CARES Act, but it cannot be used on people or staff. It is a one-time expenditure, board officials said.
The majority of part-time and full-time cuts in the school district are in special education. At least 140 special education instructional assistants will be let go, according to the board. Other roles to be eliminated or abolished as the board phrased it, include more than 50 extended daycare center assistants, 50 student supervision assistants, 18 campus supervisors, and seven nurses.
Pulver said there is a chance that some of these employees will come back, and if the school reopening situation gets better, the board could rescind the layoff notices.
“It’s not a very good time to be a board member and I absolutely detest the fact that we have to do this but we also have to protect our funds,” board member Karen Russell said. “If we don’t have the funds we can’t run the school district. Hopefully, everything will turn back to normal and we can bring everybody back.”
Spectrum News 1’s emails to the Los Alamitos School District and to Pulver for more information about the layoffs were not returned as of press time.
CSEA Labor Relations Representative Erica Williams said the union was blindsided by the “massive” number of people being laid off.
“This is the largest layoff in all of my years as part of the CSEA,” said Williams, who oversees five school districts in Orange County. “They are laying off more than half of our membership at that district.”
Williams said the Los Alamitos school district only notified the union at the end of the day on Friday in a four-minute call.
“Instead of repurposing the jobs or negotiating the effects of their decision with us, they just went ahead and did it,” Williams said. “You have people literally in tears, trying to figure out what to do with their families, their kids. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.”
Williams said the teachers and the students would be the most impacted by the board’s decision. The union plans to meet with its membership this week and decide what is next.
“We’re going to fight back,” Williams said.