Los Alamitos Unified School District lays off 292 employees

Affected employees stage protest after board eliminates jobs

0
629
Protesters express their displeasure at Los Al Unified layoffs at the system’s main office. Photo by Andrew Ficke

Despite an empathetic plea from a fellow classified employee to save the jobs, the Los Alamitos Unified School Board, unanimously agreed to layoff nearly 300 classified employees.

Following a profoundly somber discussion, the board voted unanimously on a motion that will provide the affected employees 60 days severance, and other benefits.

Knowing the layoff resolution would be considered later in the meeting, Kerry McDaid, a classified employee unaffected by the layoffs, asked to speak up on behalf of her colleagues.

“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 an office coordinator at McGaugh Elementary.

“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,” said McDaid.

“Our staffing needs with distance learning greatly differ from our staffing we need with students on campus,” Dr. Joe Fraser, Assistant Supt. of Human Resources told the board.

The 290 affected employees, said Fraser, were to be sent a certified letter informing them they will be employed until the 2nd week of October, after which they will no longer be employed by Los Al Unified.

“These reductions actually, in no way, a reflection of the employees’ performance,” said Fraser. “The 60-day notice will provide us time to reassess our needs and potentially rescind and return employees to work fully or partially,” he said.

Pulver told the board that the laid off employees will have a 39-month priority to reclaim their jobs if they reopen.

Board member Diana Hill wanted to know how best to mitigate benefits for the laid off employees.

Board member Maryls Davidson, a former teacher, said looking over the list, “we see faces and people that we’ve known for years and years who have given their hearts and their dedication so I want to say we’re sorry,” she said.

“To say I’m sorry seems so weak and empty,” sshe said,”but I just want us will do everything we can to restore those positions.”

Davidson also asked the community to do their part to bring the numbers down

Only after an awkward pause did Board member Karen Russell “with a heavy heart” made the motion. “It’s not a good time to be a board member,” she said, and “if we don’t have the funds, we can’t run the district.”

Her motion, which passed unanimously, authorized attorneys to send certified letters to officially notify the affected employees.

Board officials said the move had been under discussion since June as the pandemic has realigned their overall staffing needs.   

State law prevents school districts from making any cuts in transportation, custodial or food services employees, but not classified employees, board officials said. The had approximately 600 classified employees.

Three days after the vote, affected employees staged their own protest, outside the office of Dr. Pulver and the LAUSD administrative team at the central office suite.

A large group of affected employees, their families and some Los Al teachers gathered to show support for the classified employees.

They carried signs protesting pay raises for other employees, including Dr. Pulver, and questioned the system’s theme of “Better Together?”

Spokeswoman Lisa Francis, a classified employee who was laid off, said “I would like to thank the Los Alamitos Teachers who are supporting us here, and at home,” she said.

Francis is one of the classified employees losing her job.

She said since the budget is already set for this coming school year, “the money is there to pay us. During this global pandemic, rather than making everyone so stressed out on top of what’s going on already. So now almost 300 people’s positions have been “abolished” according to the district’s statement. It’s not very friendly. Some of us have been here 20 years, I’ve been here 17 years. We love our students, we love our jobs,” she said.

“Every teacher in the district has benefited from our amazing support staff. To our students, we love you and we miss you, and we hope to see you soon. “

“A lot can change between now and then (60 days),” said Pulver. “It pains us,” said Pulver, adding that board delayed the layoff in June, hoping conditions would change, and he said they still have an additional two months to “see if conditions change.”

Editor’s Note: Andrew Ficke contributed to this story.