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Ojai Unified School District gives final approval for dozens of layoffs

Ojai Unified School District headquarters.
Ojai Unified School District headquarters.

Ojai Unified School District's school board gave final approval to a slate of cuts affecting about 40 jobs during its Wednesday night meeting.

The decisions, all approved 3-0, come two months after the district delivered dozens of layoff notices to staff as part of its attempt to dig out from financial trouble. Board members Rebecca Chandler and Shelly Griffen resigned in late March, leaving the board short handed.

The cuts include part-time positions and reductions in hours — altogether the equivalent of 22.2 full-time teaching positions and 11.83 support staff or nearly 40 jobs.

Workers with the potential to be laid off were notified in March, though the district was able to rescind some notices to teachers as budget numbers improved.

Wednesday's decision finalized cuts for the remainder, who were listed in agenda documents by identification number and will remain employed until the school year ends in June. The district plans to officially notify those workers of the cuts by Sunday. Some laid off staff could return for the 2023-24 year if others retire or resign.

Sherril Knox, named interim superintendent in April after the ouster of superintendent Tiffany Morse, told the board the cuts would save the district nearly $3.1 million.

"It feels bittersweet," Board President Atticus Reyes said. "It's sweet that we keep hearing positivity and confidence that we are rebuilding this district and finally getting it right. It's extremely bitter because that's not coming out of nowhere."

Reyes became board president in April after Chandler and Griffen left office.

The district still needs to cut about $600,000 to meet the $3 million goal set by the Ventura County Office of Education earlier this year, but Knox said staff had worked with the county office to identify budget adjustments that would account for the remainder.

"We've done the hard work, and this is the result," she said. "We are seeing that we are hitting the mark we need to hit."

New Ojai school board on its way

Trustees also spent just over 2 ½ hours Wednesday interviewing eight applicants for the two vacant board seats.

Daniel Mora, Blair Braney, Erik Solecki, Lynne Goldfarb and Darris Lange applied for Chandler's former Area 2 seat. Margaret Rogers, Kathy Smith and Claire Azzam are up for the Area 4 seat previously occupied by Griffen.

The three-person board will appoint new trustees to the vacancies during a special board meeting May 17.

Isaiah Murtaugh covers education for the Ventura County Star in partnership with Report for America. Reach him at isaiah.murtaugh@vcstar.com or 805-437-0236 and follow him on Twitter @isaiahmurtaugh and @vcsschools. You can support this work with a tax-deductible donation to Report for America.

This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Ojai school district approves cuts to about 40 jobs