HAYWARD — Nobody in the crowd that filled the council chamber and two overflow rooms at City Hall left Wednesday night's Hayward school board meeting smiling.
Opponents of eliminating elementary school class-size reduction programs — which were placed on the chopping block at the board's Jan. 28 budget meeting — found no reprieve, despite a rally beforehand and a host of speakers urging the board to re-evaluate the idea. The board voted to eliminate the programs to save $2.7 million, according to district figures. About 130 teachers will lose their jobs.
"I thought they might reconsider if they heard teachers talk about the impacts," said Adrianna Gonzalez, a kindergarten teacher at Cherryland Elementary School who said she's been able to get disadvantaged kids up to speed through intensive one-on-one work. "But they had no desire to reconsider. Their minds were made up."
The board also voted 3-2 to shift its high schools back from the popular "block" schedule to the previously used system, meaning another 25 to 30 teaching positions can be cut, according to the 1,300-member Hayward Education Association. The move will save the district $1 million annually, the board said.
Michael Benjamin, a senior at Mt. Eden High School, echoed the sentiments of many of his peers who had been attending meetings for months in support of the block schedule.
"They said they were going to look over and study (the block schedule)," he said, "but no one actually did. They couldn't have in two weeks."
Hayward High math teacher Mary Walsh accused the board of giving people false hope.
"When is a vote not a vote?" she asked. "Apparently when the (Hayward) board takes one. You're losing the faith of the staff, losing the faith of the community, and you certainly lost the faith of the students."
District officials said that trustee Paul Frumkin's Jan. 28 motion to table the block schedule didn't include provisions such as a timetable or informational requirements.
"There was no direction for any of that," district spokeswoman Val Joyner said. "The motion was to remove the item for further study, to give board members the opportunity to get more information."
While Frumkin said he didn't receive any additional material to review, Joyner said all board members were "given the opportunity to ask more questions and talk to the executive leadership team."
She said Frumkin didn't have any further questions, but trustees Maribel Heredia and Sheila Sims — who voted with Frumkin to table the matter — each requested information.
Sims said she'd received enough data to make a decision, and cast the deciding vote to drop the block schedule.
"I kept asking to hear from a cross-section of students (about the block)," she said. "We did not get a cross-section. They were all from Mt. Eden. I was not getting other information that supported the idea that everyone supported the block."
Sims said that in particular, she was looking for evidence that the block schedule is beneficial for English language learners and African-American students. On a block schedule, students take four 90-minute classes per day each semester. Previously, students took six 55-minute courses per day for the whole year.
Before voting, Sims acknowledged that the board had to "make decisions that some are not going to like."
"I know we said we would keep cuts away from students, but if you think about it, our business is students, so all cuts are going to affect students," she said.
Superintendent Dale Vigil said the cuts are necessary because the district — like many others throughout the state — is facing insolvency because of fewer dollars coming from the state. He said the latest figures show the district needs to cut $18 million to $20 million from next year's $120 million budget.
"Every decision is not in the best interest of students, but if we don't make these decisions, the Board of Education will no longer have the responsibility to lead the district," he said.
If a school district cannot demonstrate it has a plan to keep its finances balanced, the county Board of Education will appoint a fiscal adviser, who will have final say to approve or rescind decisions made by the Hayward board.
And if the district is far from making payroll, the state will take over the district, "like a neighboring large district to the north," Vigil said, referring to Oakland.
Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Reach him at email@example.com or 510-293-2473.