Alum Rock school district to lay off more than 50, including every librarian
Students gather for the "Read Across America" event at Arbuckle Elementary. Photo courtesy of ARUSD.

    The Alum Rock Union School District Board of Trustees voted to cut more than 50 district positions by this summer, including all librarians.

    The board voted 4-1 to eliminate dozens of districtwide jobs including 14 positions from the district libraries and learning centers, four custodians, 24 “community liaison” positions and more.

    The cuts mean the school district will have laid off all its current library staff come summer.

    “These layoffs and some of the difficulty of these decisions are really symptomatic of bigger issues,” ARUSD board vice president Ernesto Bejarano told San José Spotlight. “And that issue is the declining enrollment in our district. That’s really the impetus that’s forcing our hand in this decision.”

    The board also accepted six resignations — which included the director of child nutrition services and five other school positions — on a third agenda item. Bejarano said a lack of funding for public education and the rise of charter schools could be to blame.

    “We’re not sure the impact that charter schools have had on our public schools and our enrollment, but there are some parallels,” Bejarano said.

    A resolution approved by the board last week said that “given the current state of the District’s budget and due to a lack of work and/or a lack of funds, the District is forced to consider the elimination of certain services now being provided by classified employees.”

    Trustee Andres Quintero said Tuesday that the district needed to make about $14 million in cuts to balance its budget. “And we have to balance that with being able to retain good quality teachers that are leaving every day,” he added.

    Quintero also blamed pricey charter schools for the cuts at the East Side school district. “There’s a variety of factors, but the biggest one of them all happens to be charter schools,” he said. “They are siphoning off children, taking them from our public schools and with them goes the resources that we need to be able to educate our children.”

    Dolores Marquez, the board clerk and an Alum Rock resident for more than five decades, cast the the lone dissenting vote against the layoffs. She said her children and grandchildren went to Alum Rock schools — until their parents decided to move away because it was too expensive.

    “We should not keep cutting and cutting and cutting to the barebone when we can save those positions and save those low-paid salaries,” she said. “No one was ready for how hard this was going to be for everybody. And I know several administrators who did not even know that they were going to be losing in their department or their area.”

    Marquez added that the administration was not forthcoming in its plan to make cuts, and advised few people of the impacts of such widespread layoffs.

    “There was no inclusiveness,” she said, “there was no plan to get this out to the people before it was done, before everything went to the chopping block. And that’s no way to run a district.”

    The Alum Rock Union Elementary School District, which serves roughly 10,000 students across 24 schools, has been embroiled in chaos and conflict in recent years.

    A 2017-2018 grand jury report called for the resignation of three of its members — Marquez, Esau Herrera and Khanh Tran. The grand jury called out those trustees for potential fraud involving the construction company Del Terra. The infighting and dysfunction led to Superintendent Hilaria Bauer filing a restraining order against Tran.

    The board recently selected a new trustee, Corina Herrera-Loera. She declined comment on the situation.

    Tanya Freudenberger, a former Alum Rock School District trustee, told San José Spotlight that when it comes to funding the embattled school district, libraries are “unfortunately” one of the lowest priorities.

    Freudenberger said she’s worried for students who will go to school without librarians.

    “To have a living library is something we should fight for,” she said. “Without those libraries, they might not have access to reading materials outside of what their teacher tells them.”

    Quintero said the decision to lay off employees was “very personal” and one he did not take lightly.

    “What I think is very important is that we all need to understand we don’t print money and we have to balance our budget,” Quintero said. “We need to provide a balanced budget if we’re going to be able to stay afloat and still be a district.”

    Contact Kyle Martin at [email protected] or follow him @Kyle_Martin35 on Twitter.

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