SPESD reconsiders more employee cuts

September 12, 2003
Santa Paula News

Classified employees of the Santa Paula Elementary School District were angry over more proposed cuts in hours and employees and took their protest to the streets this week.

By Brian D. WilsonSanta Paula TimesClassified employees of the Santa Paula Elementary School District were angry over more proposed cuts in hours and employees and took their protest to the streets this week.The school board was to act on eight more cuts or reduction in hours at Tuesday’s meeting. Classified workers picketed outside and a number of them voiced their concerns to the board during the meeting. District employees carried signs that said “Layoffs Unfair” and chanted “No more layoffs.” When it was all over, several board members expressed their own concerns over more cuts and tabled the matter until more information could be provided.The district had earlier this year reduced hours or eliminated the jobs of some 100 classified (non-teaching) workers. That’s almost 60 percent of the 240 members of the California School Employees Association in the Santa Paula Elementary District.The public comment part of the board meeting started off on an angry note when Rey Frutos got into a confrontation with Board President Ofelia De La Torre. Frutos had earlier had his hours reduced as an outreach consultant. Because of his seniority in the district, he was able to regain his hours by transferring back to his previous position as a lead custodian. Frutos started off by trying to remind the board that he had asked De La Torre to resign two years ago to the day. With that statement barely out of his mouth De La Torre stopped him, asked him to step down and leave the room. “I’ve gone through this many times and I’m not going to sit here and argue with you or listen to you,” she told Frutos. With that, De La Torre adjourned the meeting. District Superintendent Dr. Luis Villegas tried to make peace asking Frutos if he would direct his comments to the entire board. Frutos said he was, but De La Torre said she would not listen to him asking her to resign. She said the people had elected her. “I’ve asked you to leave, you can leave,” she added.
Frutos commented that he had a right to address the board as a citizen of Santa Paula. Trustee George Morgan told Frutos he should take his message to the voters who put them in office. Frutos responded, “That’s it, you’re not working for the citizens of Santa Paula.” Morgan asked him what he hoped to accomplish. “Board members are being unfair, not just with the classified staff, you’re being unfair with the children of Santa Paula,” Frutos added. “You are hurting our children. You are hurting parents who live here in town. How much clearer do you want me to get?” With that Frutos sat down and De La Torre restarted the official meeting.Some of the board echoed the concerns expressed by those addressing the board. De La Torre said she was concerned over the recent resignations of nine classified employees because their hours were cut back. “I know that it seems to all of you here that we’re just ready to cut, cut, cut because it has happened,” she said. “I am concerned and I think it’s got to stop.”Santa Paula CSEA Chapter President Sue Carpenter also had serious concerns over the layoffs. “This is outrageous,” Carpenter told the board. “If you vote yes on the eight positions to be cut or reduced we will be affecting 117 employees.” She noted that other nearby districts have had none or very few layoffs or reduction in hours.Trustee Dan Robles said he had not been given enough information to vote on the cuts. He said the CSEA had not been given time to come up with possible solutions. “They should be afforded the opportunity,” Robles said. Board member Tony Perez agreed with Robles. “We need to find ways in trying not to impact any more employees in our district then we already have,” Perez said.Trustees acted to table the matter for further study of alternatives.

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