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Faculty union president voices concern on potential cuts

An item on the agenda for Thursday night’s school board meeting drew significant concern from Dave Chamberlain, president of the Claremont Faculty Association.

The board was presented with a recommendation to approve a resolution for “the reduction or elimination of certain certificated services.” According to the recommendation, drafted by Kevin Ward, assistant superintendent of human resources, the potential movement of a Claremont Unified School District administrator to a position as a classroom teacher could result in “overstaffing.”

As a result, the resolution also entailed the potential elimination of 10 class sections in the areas of math, technology and accounting, the equivalent of two full-time teachers.

During the public comment period, Mr. Chamberlain took to the podium to protest the resolution, which he feels poses a significant threat to the employment status and peace of mind of CUSD teachers.

“Make no mistake, members of the board, this resolution is setting in motion the potential Reduction in Force, more commonly know as RIFs, of classroom teachers,” Mr. Chamberlain said. “These are real people with real lives, facing the very real prospect of losing their livelihood.”

Mr. Chamberlain questioned wording in the resolution, which attributed the potential cuts to “financial constraints resulting from revenue being insufficient to maintain the current level of programs.” 

“I would point out that in this particular circumstance, what is really behind this proposed Reduction in Force is that the district is looking to remove an administrator whom it finds no longer viable or effective,” the union head said. “It breaks my heart that in an effort to remove an administrator, the cold reality is that the impact will fall on good, hard-working teachers in the classroom.”

With this in mind, Mr. Chamberlain advised the board to “take a cautious second look” at the resolution, and “proceed with the greatest care and diligence.”

Despite the fact that a card saying “Time” was held up as a prompt for Mr. Chamberlain to conclude his statements, his address extended at least half a minute longer. School Board Vice President Hilary LaConte chastised the faculty union president for soldiering on past the three minutes allotted for public comment.

“Mr. Chamberlain, I am disappointed that you continue to violate board policy [regarding the time limit.] I find it unprofessional,” she said.

Before they went on to approve the resolution, Ms. LaConte and the board ensured Mr. Chamberlain they will take every possible step to ensure that no CUSD teacher loses their employment. Any RIFs issued will be due to an abundance of caution, board members asserted.

“According to the education code, the district is bound by rules about how it can reduce our staff when services are reduced,” board president Steven Llanusa said in a subsequent interview. “One of the rules is that notifications that there might be a reduction must be given by March 15.”

“Although we are going to be reducing some of our services,” Mr. Llanusa continued, “we expect that the usual annual number of retirements and resignations will result in no one losing their employment.”

Nonetheless, two classroom teachers will be receiving notice next week that they may not be employed next year. They will understandably be made nervous by the news, Mr. Chamberlain said.

He also voiced his displeasure with the board vice president’s response to his speech.

“I’m disappointed that [Ms. LaConte] chose to publicly shame me for going 30 seconds over the stated time limit, when the content of my address was about real teachers potentially being terminated and losing their income,” he said.

In a separate but related action, the district also voted to potentially eliminate three child development positions: child development program coordinator; child development program lead teacher and child development program assistant II.

The meeting also included good news in the form of a presentation on the success of the AVID college preparatory program, which is now being offered to elementary school students at both Vista and Oakmont schools. More on this promising development will be included in a future edition of the COURIER.

The next meeting of the CUSD Board of Education will be held on Thursday, March 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Richard S. Kirkendall Education Center (170 W. San Jose Ave., Claremont).

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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