The Coast News Group

Continuation school to cut staff levels as part of budget ‘right size’

VISTA — Alta Vista High School, a nontraditional school within the Vista Unified School District, recently survived a proposal to shutter the school for good as part of the budget negotiations process.

But when the bell rings for the 2019-2020 school year, many familiar faces from its staff may no longer raise their hands as “present.”

According to an Alta Vista teacher who requested anonymity from The Coast News, only six of its 10 teachers will still work at the school in the fall.

Though she did not verify the exact number, Vista Unified School District spokeswoman Lisa Contreras confirmed that a shuffling of teaching staff will take place under the rubric of Superintendent Linda Kimble’s plan to “right size” schools’ budgets to match with student enrollment numbers.

“No staff at Alta Vista are being let go or laid off,” explained Contreras, director of communications for the Vista Unified School District. “As we right size our district and school site staffing allocations, some staff are being moved to alternate school site locations.”

Contreras did not specify how many teachers would move from Alta Vista to other schools, nor what positions have received an ouster, though she did say that a 20:1 student-to-teacher ratio hits the sweet spot of the school district’s attempt to “right size.”

And Contreras also clarified that the school district has “until June 3 to notify employees of a change in work location for the next school year.”

When asked for documentation which unpacks the rationale behind why these particular positions may be cut from Alta Vista employee rolls, Contreras said it did not yet exist.

“No decisions have been made, so no documentation exists,” Contreras said. “Keep in mind that you are asking for personnel documents and many of those are confidential. That being said, I will share everything I can once decisions are made.”

The anonymous teacher told The Coast News that one art teacher will retire after the school year at Alta Vista, with no one hired to replace him, alongside three other teachers.

“The staffing decisions were made based on enrollment as of the beginning of March after months of confusion as to whether Alta was even accepting new students and then supposedly closing down,” explained the source. “If enrollment goes up again next year, as it usually does in October, it is not guaranteed that teachers who were cut would have priority to return.”

The source decried the state of play at Alta Vista, stating a belief that teachers at the school not “only change lives — we literally save lives.”

“This seems very unfair to the teachers losing their positions. While we are happy that Alta will still exist, we would hope that the district would make some exceptions regarding staffing due to the unusual circumstances this year,” the source surmised. “Basically, teachers who love these kids are paying the price professionally for the lack of planning at the district level. One thing that remains unclear is what will happen if positions open up again. We doubt that the teachers who are being cut, who want to work at a school like ours and are passionate about it, will have priority to come back.”

The Vista Unified School District’s Board of Education has already agreed to over $12 million in cuts, with $2.3 million more planned and in the works. In its documents published for its March 5 meeting, the Board of Education stated that for the 2020-2021 school year, it plans to “cut an additional $10.9 million to reduce the budget deficit,” as well.

The Board of Education will convene again on April 11 at the Morris Vance Community Room in Vista’s Civic Center.