RIM OF THE WORLD UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Temporary classified position eliminated
By Mary-Justine Lanyon
After considerable discussion, a temporary classified position at Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate School was eliminated.
During public comment at the Feb. 16 meeting of the board of trustees, MPH teacher Sheila Palmer in essence begged the board to not eliminate the position of the assistant principal’s secretary, which was established as a temporary position two years ago.
“MPH is a unique culture with unique needs,” Palmer said. “This secretary facilitates announcements, does teacher and staff updates, handles work orders and use of facility requests.”
In her report for the California School Employees Association (CSEA), Suzanne Grow said she appreciated the comments from MPH about the abolishment of the job. “We don’t like to see that. The things that desk does are crucial. Where is that workload going to go?
“The size of the student body doesn’t matter,” Grow said. “It doesn’t change the workload. May I suggest we possibly look at retitling that position? Someone had to be doing that work before.”
When the item came up on the action calendar, Trustee Jordana Ridland said, “I have concerns about putting further stress on MPH.” She added she was in favor of keeping the position in place. “I don’t feel like it’s a good idea to remove this position right now.”
Trustee Cindy Gardner noted the district had used ESSER funds to keep the position for the past two years. “We would have to decide where to cut the budget if we keep the position,” she said.
“Is there money to keep this position?” Trustee Bill Mellinger, president of the board, asked.
If this position isn’t cut, Chief Business Official Jenny Haberlin replied, “it will be something else. I don’t feel confident that four to five years down the line the number of positions we have on the books are sustainable.”
“We need to start identifying cuts and stick with them,” Gardner said. “We can’t keep deciding on cuts, then get feedback that’s not positive and rescind our position. I urge caution – if a decision is made to cut a position or program, we have to stick with it. We have to be fiscally responsible.”
“Maybe there’s some other avenue,” said Trustee Jordan Zarate. “Once we get the classification study, we will get a better picture of what their responsibilities are. It’s dangerous not to follow through on decisions. Cindy brings a wise word of caution.”
Gardner clarified her statement: “I’m not opposed to keeping the position but there has to be an offset. There will be another hard decision people aren’t happy with.”
Dr. Kimberly Fricker, superintendent of schools, noted that, if there is an assistant principal secretary at one school, there has to be one at the other schools to keep it equal under the labor law. “We have to carry out a decision made before we were here.”
MPH Principal Jennifer Whiteside addressed the board, telling them the AP secretary “sorts through behavioral reports. Our student population is lower but there have been more social and emotional issues since COVID. Many students don’t have the skills to advocate for themselves.”
She added that, if the district keeps the position, they would have to change the funding source. Assistant Superintendent Shannon Hansen added they would have to “refly” the position.
“This was originally flown as a temporary position,” Dr. Fricker said. “Some people may not have applied because it was temporary. We would have to refly it as a permanent position with a new job description so everyone has an equal opportunity to apply.
“We knew it was temporary,” Whiteside said, “but from the original proposal we thought it was permanently funded.”
Mellinger’s answer was that the permanent position had been cut and then added for two years as a temporary position. “It could be requested as a permanent position in the future and reflown.”
The board voted 3-1 to eliminate the position with Ridland voting no; Trustee Scott Craft had had to leave the meeting, which lasted nearly six hours.