Trustees have given the Oakland Unified School District a tall order: save $10 million by the end of the school year in June.
Teachers and parents are up in arms over the decision and are planning to give the school board a piece of their minds at a meeting on April 12.
The Oakland Education Association believes the cuts should be made from the top to balance the district's budget. Union members, who are slated to rally outside the next school board meeting, say 36 administrators have receive pink slip notices with more to come.
In January, former Superintendent Antwan Wilson announced that the district was facing a $30 million shortfall due to declining enrollment and special education costs. He instituted a hiring freeze on all open jobs, except teaching positions.
Wilson left Oakland in February to lead a school district in Washington, D.C. And interim Superintendent Devin Dillon has clamped down on spending.
School Board Director Shanthi Gonzales wrote in an opinion piece in the Oakland Post that the board should have independent budget analysts advise them on budgetary matters.
"It is NOT okay that school budgets have been frozen in the middle of the year because of financial mismanagement on the part of the Superintendent, the Senior Business Officer and our State Trustee, and that schools in my district don’t have basic supplies like paper and pencils in March because their budgets are frozen," Gonzales wrote.
She also said she doesn't have confidence in the superintendent's financial staff, blamed Wilson for hiring too many overpaid administrators from outside Oakland, and accused those administrators of not flagging the overspending that led to the budget crisis.
Dillon, who is applying for the permanent superintendent's job, said the financial moratorium is necessary because the district didn't institute Wilson's spending cuts quickly enough, which allowed schools to set aside funding for future expenses.
Many district watchers have asked the hiring committee to choose a local candidate who might feel more beholden to the community and will stick around through ups and downs.