In the thick of the Great Recession, school district leaders were faced with tough decisions about how to make ends meet. As California’s budget continued to plummet, some school districts turned to drastic measures like closing adult education and summer schools, cutting performing arts and elementary athletic programs, and blanketing their employees in layoff notices. In March of 2009 alone, California’s State Superintendent announced that 26,000 teachers in California had been handed layoff notices, and by the next school year, 60% of those teachers had lost their jobs.
If asked about their thought process, it’s likely those educational leaders would have thrown up their hands and declared, “It is the only way!” as they pulled resources and people away from students.
Not so in Clovis Unified. Putting students at the center of every budget decision made during hard years, decision-makers in Clovis Unified drew a bright line in the sand. “Cuts can’t directly hit students and we can’t lay anyone off,” was the mantra of district and employee leaders were charged with near impossible work to find over $50 million in cuts. Coming up short, late in the effort, employee leaders voted to take voluntary pay cuts and unpaid furlough days rather than see colleagues laid off or students lose out on important learning opportunities. While ultimately the pay cut and furlough days were reversed as the economy improved, the value of keeping kids at the center of decision-making provided a rock-solid foundation no matter how turbulent the times.