San Diego

Sweetwater Union Votes To Cut 82 Positions for Next School Year

The Sweetwater Union High School District, fighting to climb out of a $30 million hole, voted Tuesday night in favor of eliminating an additional 82 positions for next school year, NBC 7 learned Tuesday.

The eliminations could save the district more than $6 million. The list of positions includes an Assistant Superintendent, as well as bus drivers, custodians and people who help with Special Education.

District spokesperson Manny Rubio said no one is losing his or her job. The employees whose jobs are on the list took advantage of an early retirement incentive.

They are among the 340 people who retired early to save the District money. The other 260 jobs will not be eliminated, but the hope is the district can hire new people who will be paid less in salary and benefits.

There was a lot of confusion among people who follow what happens in the district. Some questioned whether the district was not being transparent and if it had already accounted for the savings.

Community activist Nick Marinovich said the district needs better messaging so people know what the district is doing to save money. No one from the district would talk to NBC 7 on camera to help answer those questions. Rubio did clarify later how the eliminations were part of the previous early retirement incentive and did not represent an additional $6 million in savings.

In March, school board members approved pink slips to 87 management employees.

Earlier in the school year, a buyout was offered and 94 teachers accepted the offer. At least another 50 this semester had also agreed to retire early.

The position cuts are necessary because of the financial troubles the district revealed early in the school year.

An accounting mistake led to a $4 million deficit at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

In September, the district was on track to be $30 million in debt by the end of the 2018-2019 school year. There are more than 2,000 teachers in the district.

In another effort to save money, the district announced last week it would eliminate nearly 30 bus stops that serve Eastlake High School, Olympian High School, Otay Ranch High School and San Ysidro High School. Those cuts will take effect next school year.

The savings of eliminating the stops is estimated to be more than $536,000, the district said.

Parents packed Tuesday's district board meeting to express their displeasure with the route cuts.

"I don't understand the arguement 'It's busses versus teachers," one parent said. "That's ridiculous. That does not need to be the case. There's plenty of other ways to go about it."

Some parents fear their children will be in harm's way as they walk busy streets on their way to school.

"I know 100 percent for a fact that it is dark at 6:30, 6:40 in the morning for our students when they would be leaving to walk that distance to school," another parent said.

The district serves an estimated 40,000 students in 28 schools including 11 middle schools, 13 high schools and four alternative education sites.

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