Hayward School Board Vote to Cut Staff From Adult Program Fails

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD | Hayward school board President William McGee claimed fellow board member Luis Reynoso was politically grandstanding by opposing cutting staff from the adult school program. The vote had failed with a 2-2 tie with the absence of board member John Taylor, who left prior to the vote being cast.

The adult school principal, Ryan Whetstone, and Executive Director of Classified Human Resources Kathryn Benson, proposed cutting four staff members, reducing the work time of six, and abolishing two vacant positions.

If the vote was approved a 60-day notice prior to the layoffs would have been sent out. “Basically this is a response to the school’s spending in response to the projected $600,000 deficit,” said Whetstone referring to the adult program’s spending. “Drastic measures had to be taken…It requires an aggressive response and this is one way to do it.” The cuts would have resulted in cutting summer school at the adult program this year as well. According to staff, the projected savings would be $211,000 for next year, but with addition of savings voted on earlier this year, the total amount would be $325,000.

Annette Walker, the board’s vice president, stated that she was firm in her decision to cut staff. “Very sad we are here making cutbacks on adult school,” said Walker, “but this could have been avoided. No one can point their fingers at the board and say, ‘but we just got here, not our fault.’ We didn’t have to get here and I don’t want to be here because I support the adult school.”

Walker was referencing Whetstone’s freshman status as a principal in Hayward school district. The principal only came to the district last year and inherited the program’s budget issues but despite that McGee grilled the principal two meetings ago over not acting fast enough to pull back on the program’s deficit.

The adult school program has been a hot button issue for the past few weeks as the board debated over cutting the program to help stave off further deficit spending. Last month the board voted to cut $375,000 that was allocated in the second interim budget to the adult program. McGee then held Whetstone accountable for not being prepared to make cuts to help keep the program afloat.

Reynoso left in frustration with the board prior to the vote that night but returned the next meeting to accuse board members of “attacking” the adult school’s principal rather than holding the entirety of staff accountable over deficit spending..

McGee has accused Reynoso of playing politics for the past three meetings. McGee says that Reynoso stood for cutting the adult program, even getting rid of it, when he first entered office in 2010. Reynoso hasn’t refuted McGee on this but says the board needs to pay attention to deficit spending at the district level rather than criticize one individual at the adult program.

“I really believe the changes we are to make are too abrupt,” said Reynoso, “I am recommending to scratch this, continue with the funding. We have Measure G, we have a lot of flexibility with Measure G. I think it is time to use what voters approved.We should show people what we are capable of.” Board member Lisa Brunner agreed with Reynoso thus stalemating the vote. With a 2-2 vote the funding to the adult school positions will continue.

“You are entitled to your vote. I think this is a tough one and there is a lot of political grand standing going on up here, I’m going to just call it like it is,” said McGee in response to Reynoso. “Let’s approve it and then come back to it.” McGee said the approval of the layoffs would help restructure and then give the board opportunity to look at restoration. McGee referenced Hayward’s common critic, public council attendee and character, Jim Drake, in defense of his decision, “In the words of Jim Drake,” said McGee, “We will be just kicking the can down the road.”

The only public comment to protest the cuts was Association of Educational Office Technical Employees President Jeff Bellaire. “There has been a lot of drama around this issue the last two meetings and the damage has already been done to the adult school. There is unlikely to be a summer school and services are going to be cut and they have been cut,” said Bellaire. “I understand your point about having to make a decision but this comes late in the game and comes drastic. The district is not broke and it has a big fat reserve, maybe it is time to use that reserve.” Bellaire also added that there is no distinct deadline and the board could return to this issue at any time in the year. Reynoso agree with Bellaire but both Walker and McGee were not swayed to change their votes.

Nevertheless, the measure failed the pass. Staff was directed to return with further information on the effects and budget impact on the proposed cuts.

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.