VUSD cuts vacant positions to free up $500,000 in the budget

Three employees are laid off due to a lack of work and six other positions are expanded to provide more support for special education students

VISALIA – Visalia Unified eliminated 15 mostly vacant positions from its budget last week to free up more than $500,000 to expand some of those same positions and invest in others.

The Visalia Unified School District board approved changes on a 6-0 vote at its May 10 board meeting. Trustee Joy Naylor was absent. Of the 15 positions eliminated, four were full time and 11 were part time and totaled just under 10 full-time equivalency positions. Six of the positions were paraprofessionals in special education, three dealt with Migrant Education, five were aides or assistants and two were job developers.

The board initially took up the issue of eliminating the positions at its Feb. 22 meeting and originally included 16 positions. One of the full-time positions was removed from the list and retained for the 2022-23 school year.

The eliminations were a result of “lack of work or lack of funds,” according to the Feb. 22 agenda. District spokesperson Kim Batty explained all of the positions were eliminated due to a lack of work. 

Twelve of the positions were vacant but three existing employees were laid off due to a reduction in the workforce, including a preschool instructor for migrant education, an administrative assistant and a job developer, a human resources position used to recruit and onboard teachers and staff.

The district notified the three employees on Feb. 25 their positions would not be continued into the 2022-23 year and the employees were issued “pink slips” of the layoff by the March 15 deadline for non-renewals of certificated staff. One employee submitted a notice of participation with the district to request a hearing on the layoff but withdrew their request on April 21. Final layoff notices were provided to employees prior to the annual deadline for non-renewals of classified staff on May 15. 

Prior to voting in favor of the elimination, Trustee Randy Villegas said he had talked with Dedi Somavia, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources, who explained many of the positions are being reclassified.

“We are in fact going to be expanding hours for some of these positions and not completely eliminating them, per se,” Villegas said.

In an email after the meeting, Batty said the four special education positions were vacant because they did not have enough hours in their job description to do the work each day. The positions were capped at 3.5 hours per day, which did not give them enough time at any site to provide meaningful services. Batty said the district had to eliminate the positions, reclassify them at 5.75 hours per day and then reopen them for hire. The positions were part of an effort to create 34 new special education positions with expanded hours.

The added hours are better for staff and provide more support to students,” Batty said. 

The three migrant education positions were initially hired through a grant with the Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE). Batty said Visalia Unified did not renew the grant, so the work will be transferred back to TCOE employees. 

“The district is working with the employees to place them in other positions within the district,” Batty said.

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