MOU calls for elimination of 16 FTEs though attrition, layoffs possible

The equivalent of 16 full-time teaching positions, more than one-quarter of the the current faculty, will be eliminated at Taft Union High School when the 2018-19 school year starts in August.
Hours after the TUHS Teachers Association voted overwhelmingly to ratify a memorandum of understanding with the District, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the MOU to eliminate 16.5 FTEs (full time equivalents).
In two related moves, the Board also voted to approve incentives for some teachers to take early retirement and to establish tie breaking procedures.
The cuts come as the District faces significant drops in revenue due to implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and increasing costs, mainly for retirement benefits.
Board President John Kopp said the District has to cut $3 million annually, more than 10 percent of its yearly budget.
Board member Paul Linder said the District was forced to act quickly and take such drastic actions because it was given bad financial forecasts.
"This Board does not blame the teachers or the classified staff," Linder told Teachers Association President Wes Morris. "This District has repeatedly received inaccurate financial (information). I don't blame any employees. I blame bad information we received over the last 3 years and we're trying to rectify that."
The financial problems are taking a toll on everyone, from the board to the student body.
"I was grieved to learn about the financial situation we have here," Kopp said, adding that the Board has no good options.
"We were presented with bad option No. 1, bad option No. 2 and bad option No. 3.  None of them were attractive," he said.
Kopp spoke just as parents and water polo players implored the Board to keep the boys and girls water polo teams going.
A few minutes later TUHS Student Body President Jacob Gonzales spoke.
"Morale at the high school is extremely low," he told the board. "A lot of students are worrying about what's going on with the adults."
That's because many of their teachers could lose their jobs.
The teaching staff is going to shrink by more than 25 percent.
A few hours before Tuesday's board meeting the TUHSTA voted 55-4 to approve the MOU that will result in the incentive program to encourage teachers nearing retirement age to resign and take a benefit package and to increase the workload for the teachers that stay.
Under the MOU, teachers will now teach six periods each day instead of five and increase students they have direct contact with from 150 to 180.
Morris called it a compromise.
He said many of the TUHS teachers chose Taft because of the extra prep period it offered to teachers.
"It was tough," he said and asked the Board to make as many cuts as possible through attrition.
Kopp thanked the teachers for approving the MOU.
Superintendent Blanca Cavazos said it hasn't been determined how many teachers will leave either through retirement or layoffs. The District is also in negotiations with its classified employee bargaining unit, but cutbacks like those to the teaching staff aren't likely. Cavazos said several classified positions that became vacant have been left open.