State

24 school workers hit with layoffs in Modesto

Modesto City Schools employees were warned in March that layoffs were coming. The district's board made it official Monday, voting unanimously to eliminate 85 nonteaching positions and to reduce workdays for 50 others.

Those cuts are expected to save about $3 million during the 2010-11 school year.

The staff reductions will affect jobs such as instructional paraprofessionals for after-school, child care, bilingual and special education programs, as well as library and nutrition services assistants, secretaries, record clerks, typists, translators and skilled trade helpers.

About 20 of the jobs being eliminated are vacant, so about 65 employees will be affected. Most of them have "bumping rights" that will enable them to transfer into other district jobs.

That leaves 24 employees who will be laid off, according to Chris Flesuras, the deputy superintendent who oversees human resources. Flesuras said the district will do its best to hire those workers for other jobs as they open.

The cuts are part of Modesto City Schools' effort to shrink its budget by $25 million, which is about 10 percent. By eliminating those positions and reducing workdays for 50 employees, the district will save $1.53 million in general funds and $1.45 million in restricted funds.

But that won't be enough to balance its budget.

That's why the district is negotiating with employees over pay cuts and furlough days.

A tentative agreement has been reached with the California School Employees Association, which represents nearly 1,300 teacher aides, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, secretaries, maintenance and custodial workers, and campus security staff members. Union members will vote on that contract May 18.

Board members discussed the deal behind closed doors Monday, but they did not mention it during the public session.

Union President Aaron Castro, however, told The Bee the union tentatively has agreed to a 1 percent pay cut, along with as many as seven fewer workdays per year.

Some of those work-year reductions will correspond with the shorter school year the district plans to adopt. Rather than offering 180 days of education to students, Modesto City Schools plans to provide 175 days during the 2010-11 school year.

Because employees will work fewer days, they will be paid less money.

Negotiations with the teachers union continue. It also is expected to agree to pay cuts and fewer workdays.

In other action Monday, board members postponed adopting a "whistle-blower protection" policy.

Board members and union representatives asked that the proposed policy be changed to allow employees to go over their supervisors' heads to report suspected wrongdoing.

At the urging of the Stanislaus County civil grand jury, the district drafted a policy to protect employees who report improper government activity that violates the law, is economically wasteful, or involves gross misconduct, incompetency or inefficiency.

The original draft required employees first to talk to their direct supervisor, but board members noted that employees needed another option in case they were blowing the whistle on their supervisors.

The proposed policy is supposed to protect whistle- blowers from being intimidated, threatened or coerced.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or 578-2196.

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