VISTA — In recent weeks turmoil has surrounded the Vista Unified School District from its negative operating budget to the removal of former Superintendent Dr. Linda Kimble.
During its Oct. 17 meeting, the Board of Education heard from the VUSD classified staff union leader, Bill Faust, president of the California State Employees Association Vista Chapter 389, calling for the district to remove the proposed eighth period at two high schools and cut $5.9 million from the budget.
The district is facing a $19 million deficit and brought on the Financial Crisis Management Team to assist with its budget. In addition, Faust also called out the district for its handling of the removal of Kimble, which required a $281,000 buyout of her contract.
The board will hold two public workshops regarding the budget on Nov. 4 and Nov. 6.
“Since this board took over in January 2019, you’ve had to continue to work with declining enrollment, budget constraints and community discontent,” Faust said. “Our students are not being allowed to succeed. Instead of focusing outward on students we are looking inward at ourselves.”
The board decided several months ago to look into an eight-period class day, but the budget constraints required hard decisions and cuts. In February, the board cut about $12 million from the budget and the $19 million deficit is for Fiscal Year 2020-21.
As the union leader, Faust, among several others, said the concern is for next potential round of job cuts.
“We need to take our district back and work together to find solutions,” he added.
Ami Shackleford, assistant superintendent of business services, said that without the eight-period day, the total deficit would total $13.3 million. The San Diego County Board of Education is expecting VUSD’s list of potential budget cuts and solutions in December.
She said the list of solutions began last September and has been ongoing for the past several months. Some of those cuts include the January professional development day, two instructional days, eight elementary music teachers and several others, which are estimated to save about $10 million.
Shackelford also said the district has come up with ideas to generate revenue, such as charging for transportation and increasing out-of-district students, among others.
“Nineteen million is going to hurt and it’s going to feel personal,” board President Rosemary Smithfield said. “We’re here for the kids and that’s how we’re going to look upon our cuts.”
The board also approved hiring a new superintendent during its meeting, tapping Dr. Matthew Doyle to the position in a 4-1 vote. The long-time district administrator was the interim superintendent in 2017-18 prior to Kimble’s arrival and assistant superintendent of innovation during Kimble’s tenure.
Regarding Kimble, Smithfield said the board accepted an agreement on a 4-1 vote, with trustee Rich Alderson against, to accept Kimble’s departure. The district will buy out 12 months of Kimble’s contract at $281,000 and allow her 12 months of district benefits. Additionally, the board called it a “no-fault termination” and Kimble can’t sue.
“We thank Dr. Kimble for her services and wish her well going forward,” Smithfield said. “We are thrilled to have Dr. Doyle’s proven leadership, loyalty and love for our district. He’s familiar with our school community.”
Doyle, a 29-year veteran of the district, said he was proud to assume the position and will continue to work for the students, parents and administration. His first direction, as a way to offset the cost of Kimble’s buyout, was to eliminate the assistant superintendent of innovation and fold those responsibilities into the superintendent’s position.
In addition, the director of communication was eliminated in September, also folding those responsibilities to the superintendent. However, in place of the director of communications, Doyle said an assistant principal was hired for the elementary schools.
“The elimination of these two positions reduces district-level administrative costs immediately by over $400,000,” Doyle said.