Santa Barbara Unified School Board Implements Layoffs and Demotions to Save Nearly $2 Million

Natalie Ramirez, a local sixth grade teacher, spoke during Tuesday's Santa Barbara Unified School Board meeting saying teachers are often "overworked, undervalued, and discarded." (courtesy)

In a move that cast a shadow over National Teachers Day, the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board voted 5-0 on Tuesday to lay off 11 classified employees and the full-time equivalent of 12 teacher and counselor positions.

The decision, which aimed to save the district just over $1.9 million, was met with frustration and disappointment from educators and community members alike.

During the meeting, which saw a heated discussion and public comments, the school board members unanimously approved the elimination and demotion of the employees. Four teachers will be fired and the remaining eight teachers and counselors will receive demotions.

This move comes amidst an ongoing dispute between the district and the Santa Barbara Teachers Association (SBTA) over a new contract. With mediation efforts yielding no resolution on wages, a potential teachers strike looms if an agreement is not reached by the end of the school year. The next meeting between the district and SBTA is scheduled for June 12.

The layoffs carried out on Tuesday were distinct from the ongoing discussions with the SBTA as the affected employees belonged to a different union. Among the classified teacher positions to be cut are a program facilitator, a teacher specialized in supporting special-education instructions, a teacher assigned to special duties, a multi-tiered system teacher, along with counselors and teachers working in early childhood education. The classified layoffs included youth outreach workers, human resources specialist, campus safety personnel, crisis care specialists, and family engagement liaisons.

Art teacher Devon Espejo stated teachers, parents, and students have lost their faith in the district and trust in the school board.

“These are people who not only work incredibly hard for this district, but they do it for a subpar living wage in Santa Barbara,” said Espejo.

Amidst the public comments, attention was drawn to the wide disparity between staff and top administration salaries. Teachers have repeatedly called on the district to reduce costs in the superintendent’s cabinet, where a combined $3 million is allocated for salaries and benefits. Specifically a $221,000 chief operating officer position that was newly added by Superintendent Hilda Maldonado about two years ago.

During the meeting, John Becchio, assistant superintendent of human resources, explained the rationale behind the layoffs, citing factors such as the expiration of COVID-19 relief funds, ongoing labor negotiations involving anticipated new spending of $35 million over the next two years, declining enrollment, and the state budget’s projected $23 billion deficit. He assured the board that most of the 120 positions that received precautionary layoff notices in March have since been rescinded.

John Becchio, assistant superintendent of human resources, giving a presentation on the layoffs during Tuesday’s meeting (courtesy)

Regarding those affected by the layoffs and demotions, final notices will be issued before May 15, and individual discussions will take place to explore different options and offer assistance.

Additionally, laid-off and demoted employees will be placed on a 39-month reemployment list in case positions become available. The district will work closely with the California School Employees Association (CSEA) to address the impacts and placement of affected personnel.

In a separate motion earlier in the meeting, the board designated the third full week of May as Classified School Employee Week, recognizing the importance of the work carried out by classified staff within the district.

Board President Wendy Sims-Moten acknowledged the challenging times faced by the district and expressed the board’s commitment to navigating these difficulties.

“For those who are affected, I want to express my deepest gratitude for the work they have done and the commitment they have shown for supporting our students,” said Boardmember Gabe Escobedo.

The full school board meeting can be viewed here.

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Edhat Staff

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    • In the real world, people making the kind of money that those admin people get – they get raises of $3k-$5k per year, not a percentage to match.

      In fact, I’m not even sure the teacher’s union should be aiming for a %. They should make sure that the lowest paid people get a big dollar value raise, roughly equivalent to the higher paid teachers.

  1. This board is so out of touch. Seriously, listen to the video. One board member (Banning) actually argued in favor of more layoffs.

    The only remedy is for voters to chuck them out in November and elect folks who will actually represent the community. Three seats are up — that’s a majority. If they won’t solve these problems, maybe we can.

    • Which board seats are up? …That this is now district elections, a really awful system for a small city as we see on the city council and, probably, the school board, it’s important to know ahead of time who’s up for re-election. A much more fair pay system would be to figure out the per hour wages of teachers and then use the same per hour for ALL employees, with consideration given for seniority, extra study and extra hours put in to help students.

      • Wendy Sims-Moten – expires Dec 2024 (elected)
        William Banning – expires Dec 2024 (appointed)
        Dr Sunita Beall (replaced Virginia Alvarez, who retired) – expires Dec 2024

        Trustee areas 2, 3, and 5 are up for reelection. Trustee area 2 is roughly north of State and east of 154, through Montecito, but not including downtown.
        Trustee area 3 is Mesa, part of the Westside, Hope Ranch, More Mesa. (My district!)
        Trustee area 5 is northern Goleta (ish)

  2. Why can’t the district institute a pay freeze for district admin making over $200K to save money? Why can’t the district eliminate the COO position created during COVID? Why can’t the district sell the largely useless armory property that it bought for $12 million in 2018? Is it true that district administrators who live out of town receive housing and travel stipends from district funds? Why does the district need to spend $15,000 on a consultant to put together a binder of information for the fact finding panel, and why can’t district staff do that work instead? Why does the district need to spend $75,000 on a lawyer to represent them on the fact finding panel? Can’t they get someone less expensive?

    These are all questions that the school board needs to be publicly grilling the superintendent and staff on, but they have all been silent.

    We need school board members who are prepared to push back on administrators, exercise oversight, and represent the public. Unfortunately, we have board members who act like they work for the superintendent, and who unanimously rubber stamp every single thing she asks for. I can’t wait to vote against this cadre of cowardly, complicit clowns.

    • Good questions! The school board is not the only city board that forgets, if the members ever knew once their election was over, that they work for the people of Santa Barbara — and the City of SB, as a whole, has a distinct interest in having all of its youth educated to high standards, with fairly paid staff.

  3. Superintendent is useless, anytime any parents have any concerns or questions useless Maldonado is nowhere to be found and never returns phone calls or emails, for the last 2 years we’ve tried to get a hold of her and not a single call or email back from her!

  4. The COO was a new position under Maldonado and actually work that she should be doing . He makes 274K not 221K. Why are cuts off limits for Maldonado, her COO and cabinet. Her bloated contract includes extras like 650.00 a month for incidentals, moving allowance not to exceed 15,000., car allowance of 650.00 monthly and mileage on top of salary which was 338K in 2022. It seems like Maldonado is running the show and no one pushes back. Why does the system protect the Superintendent and her side kicks over struggling students, over half of whom have low test scores and lack basic foundational skills like math and reading on top of going through a pandemic with learning loss. To Maldonado a cut means going without designer accessories and superficial things but for teachers, classified it’s about paying rent and putting food on the table, and surviving. Vulnerable students will be the ones to pay the price by being even more ill equipped to succeed.

  5. Citizen: So agree with your comments. The Armory actually cost the district 26.5 million .. And Peabody stadium went way over budget and cost 40 million. All school campuses used to allow the public to play basketball, walk dogs etc. Under Maldonado it took a huge push from Oscar Guiterrez to get them to open up a couple campuses on Westside. Another big cost is how the district does special ed. The model is pathetic frankly. Well to do families sue the district for lack of services and those that have no means count on the district. Lawyers make a ton working these cases for well to do families. If we actually helped all students early we wouldn’t have so many in special ed or english learners who also are way way behind. And don’t forget how much is wasted because the lack of tranparency. Just last year sexual abuse lawsuit against SBUSD and former teacher settles for $950,000. So we have plenty of money to help ALL students generously and pay teachers, paras, classified competitively. So much damage to our students ; many who don’t have means won’t fully recover. Heartbreaking and so very wrong.

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