The overriding message from most of the speakers at the Sunnyside Unified School District budget override forum was simple.
If district voters don’t pass the override on Nov. 5, the students will suffer the most harm, they told the audience of 100-plus on Tuesday night.
Most of the 16 speakers, nearly all of whom were district employees, supported the override, although there were a few override opponents who used the forum to criticize Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo and other district leaders.
The forum began with district officials talking about likely cuts if the override fails, such as information technology, the district’s health department, Ocotillo Early Learning Center and career and college readiness, which includes counselors.
They painted a woeful picture if the override doesn’t pass, saying the district would lose about $8.9 million from its budget for the 2014-15 year, which would result in the loss of many staff positions and programs — cuts ranging from teachers and librarians to prevention specialists and off-duty police officers.
The district could close the Ocotillo Early Learning Center’s regular education programs and stop providing all-day kindergarten, they said.
Sunnyside has lost $5.3 million in spending capacity in the past two years after overrides failed in the 2011 and 2012 elections.
If the upcoming override passes, it would give the district about $9.2 million in added spending authority in its first year, according to district officials.
Sunnyside’s Governing Board voted in June to hold the override election, despite reservations from some board members who were concerned about the community’s reaction to Isquierdo’s contract extension.
Most of Tuesday night’s speakers were teachers, athletic coaches and district employeess. Some of the employees also were parents of Sunnyside students.
Bob Miranda, principal of Billy Lane Lauffer Middle School, said the override is important to ensure the success of schools, students and community. Everyone needs to “take notice in the community of what our needs are,” Miranda said.
Glenn Posey, a coach and physical education teacher, said he wouldn’t have made the right choices in his life if it wasn’t for the coaches and teachers who mentored him in Sunnyside, where he was also a student.
“Help us out because we need this,” he said, referring to the override.
Other spoke in support of everything from nurses and librarians to art classes.
Marcos Castro, leader of a recall effort against board members Daniel Hernandez Jr. and Buck Crouch, and one of the few non-employees to speak, asked why people from outside the district are urging Sunnyside residents to vote against the override.
He was referring to people who have criticized the district’s leadership, including Isquierdo and some of the Governing Board members.
Override critics cited concerns about the district’s current leadership.
Former Sunnyside board member Al Arellano wondered about the district’s expenses, such as having more than one athletic director, while questioning the board’s decision making.
“Can this board be trusted?” Arellano said.
Richard Hernandez, who is leading an opposing recall petition against board President Louie Gonzales and board member Bobby Garcia, questioned why there were no cuts slated for the district’s central administration.
“Look at the potential cuts. Not one red cent on administrative costs,” Hernandez said.