Redlands School District Giving Golden Parachutes To 149 Employees

The Redlands Unified School District is shedding 149 employees this calendar year, all of whom are leaving voluntarily, based upon the district offering, and their accepting, supplementary retirement plans, otherwise known as “golden handshakes” or “golden parachutes.”
The action comes as school districts throughout California are contracting in the face of diminishing revenues and enrollments, and as other districts are engaging in layoffs of their personnel.
Between 2020 and well into the 2022-23 school year, school districts were being artificially protected from harsh economic circumstance by special augmentation money provided to them by state and federal government in the form of federal COVID relief aid passed to them through the state government along with state money directed to them for that purpose. That funding however has been drawing to a close. A year ago, many of the state’s school districts were beginning to wean themselves from that temporary funding, as was reflected in the layoffs of 316 certificated employees. With all of the COVID funding drawing to an end at the close of the 2023-24 school year, the state’s school districts are getting much more serious about reducing their expenses, meaning primarily payroll. Throughout California as of the end of February, 1,400 teaching positions had been eliminated with indications that number would triple. Under California rules intended to protect teachers and other school workers, school districts are required to submit their plans for layoffs and position eliminations to the state superintendent of schools office by March 15 and finalized those lists by May 15 to give teachers an opportunity to seek teaching positions elsewhere. It is believed that statewide by the middle of May, something like 4,200 of the state’s 307,400 teachers will be laid off. In addition to teachers, who are among the school systems certificated workers, schools employ so-called classified workers, ones who do not have teaching certificates or educational credentials, but who perform necessary tasks such as clerical work, maintenance, running cafeteria, bus driving and the like. Schools are eliminating substantial numbers of those employees as well.
The discontinuation of COVID funding is not the only financial challenge schools in general are facing. Because of declining birthrates in the last two generations, school enrollment has been in eclipse. Since the 2016-17 school year, as of September public school enrollment in San Bernardino County was down 2.2 percent.
The Redlands Unified School District had received $48,658,172 in COVID relief aid, equal to $2,336.41.
Like many districts, Redlands Unified used some of that money to provide make-up instruction and assistance to students who had fallen behind as a consequence of the COVID-19 school closures that began in the spring of 2020 and continued throughout most or all of the 2020-2021 school year.
To the extent that the district was in a position to hire or get into contractual relationships with certificated employees, meaning teachers, counselors, librarians, media specialists, psychologists and process coordinators, those employees were brought in with the understanding that their posts most like were temporary.
Moreover, earlier, in preparing to meet, fiscal demands, the Redlands Unified School District Board signaled the district was going to eliminate 15 classified positions in its preschool program. Further indications were further that to streamline operations, those teachers with the least seniority would, if necessary, be laid off under the traditional “last hired, first fired” policy.
It now seems that in Redlands Unified there will be no need for involuntary layoffs, as a voluntary mass exodus of employees is to take place.
Over the last several months, with little fanfare, the district’s human resources division has worked with Public Agency Retirement Services to design a supplementary retirement plan for the district’s certificated non-management, certificated management, classified non-management and classified management employees, which was initially approved by the board on December 12, 2023. The supplemental retirement plan was designed as a retirement incentive program that encouraged eligible employees to retire early. The goal of the program was to generate savings, or at a minimum, create no cost to the district by increasing the number of retirements in the 2023-2024 school year.
Public Agency Retirement Services is not a governmental entity, but rather an organization providing retirement services specifically designed for public agencies. District documents do not show how much money the district paid to Public Agency Retirement Services to engage in that effort, which was completed by early this month, after Public Agency Retirement Services and the human resources division were able to convince 149 of the district’s employees to either resign from the district short of retirement or to take earlier retirement than they had previously considered.
On March 12, the school board, consisting of Alex Vara, Michell Rendler, Jim O’Neill, Melissa Ayala-Quintero and Patty Holohan, adopted the supplemental retirement plan as had been worked out through Public Agency Retirement Services, further arranging for the plan to be implemented and administered by Public Agency Retirement Services, simultaneously accepting the resignation of the 149 employees who enrolled in the plan.
Under the plan, three management employees, are departing this school year, one within the transportation division as of June and two others, at Kingsbury Elementary School and Franklin Elementary School as of this month, March. Their departures will have finalized prior to the end of the 2023-24 school year.
Another 11 managerial employees will depart in July, during what is to be technically the 2024-25 school year. One of those is employed at Cope Middle School, another at Bryn Mawr Elementary School and a third at Moore Middle School. Another six managerial employees leaving in July will depart from educational services, one from the service center, one from the enrollment center and one from technology services.
A total of 65 certificated employees, composed of 63 teachers, one employee in the human resources division one in special services are leaving the district in 2023-24. Sixty of them are leaving in June. Three left in February and two are leaving this month.
Another ten certificated personnel, consisting of eight teachers, one employee in special services and one in education services, are leaving in July. Thus, they will be departing during the 2024-25 school year.
In addition, 56 classified employees will depart this year, consisting of six instructional paraprofessionals, one library paraprofessional, one curriculum technician, one California state pre-kindergarten instructor, seven school office managers, five secretaries, three attendance clerks, two school clerks, two account clerks, three data control clerks, two Healthy Start clerks, one counseling clerk, three child nutrition supervisors, three child nutrition assistants, one help desk technician, one plumber/maintenance foreman, three custodians, two maintenance workers, one warehouse foreman, one warehouse worker, one locksmith, one reprographics service technician, three bus drives, one safety officer and one campus monitor.
The district accepted the resignations of two substitute teachers this month and last month.
Last month the board accepted the resignations of ten classified employees, including a board-certified behavior analyst intern, three substitute campus monitors, a music assistant, two substitute instructional paraprofessionals, a substitute child nutrition services provider and two substitute clerical workers.
In the Chino Valley Unified School District, the school board pared the district of all of its temporary certificated employees and jettisoned three classified positions.
In the Fontana Unified School District, the school board tentatively laid off two teachers and two counselors.
In the Morongo Unified School District laid off 13 teaching and non-teaching employees and did away with 29 currently unfilled posts.
In the Rialto Unified School District, the board laid off 29 probationary certificated employees and 10 classified employees.
The San Bernardino City Unified School District declined to extend the contracts of five certificated employees and reassigned two others on March 5. It terminated 11 classified employees, got rid of a part-time employee and reduced the working hours of a dozen others.

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