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Montebello students protest 333 pink slips

Dozens of high school students got to Schurr High School in Montebello extra early Thursday morning, ready to defend their teachers. Armed with posters and chants, they marched before class to protest the school board's decision to give layoff notices to 333 district staff.

"Today is basically trying to show everyone in our community that what's happening in our school is not OK with us," said sophomore Andrea Adame.  “The students are hurt and ... they’ll do anything in their power to help any of our teachers."

At 7 a.m., she and about 100 other students chanted "Save our teachers" at the corner of Wilcox Avenue and Hay Street.

The district must send notices in March to anyone it could decide to lay off in the coming school year, but district officials say they expect far fewer than 333 people actually to lose their jobs come fall.

After years of watching Montebello school officials mishandle money and dip into reserves, the county office of education has said the state could take over the district if the school board doesn't cut millions from its budget.

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 0 10 20 30 40 $50 million 0 10 20 30 40 The decline of Montebello Unified's reserves Data: abcdefg hijkl mnop qrstu vwxyz 1234 56789 Sonali Kohli / @latimesgraphics Source: Montebello Unified School District

Past school board members “have not been really good at discipline and they’ve been overspending” despite county warnings for the last decade, said district spokesman Robert Alaniz. 

“Last year LACOE insisted that the district cut $7 million from its budget,” Alaniz said. “Rather than cutting that from our budget, they dipped into the budget reserves to fill in the gap.”

The problem is exacerbated by decreasing enrollment and anticipated cuts to school funding at the state level, he said.

’05 ’06 ’07 ’08 ’09 ’10 ’11 ’12 ’13 ’14 ’15 ’16 0 10,000 20,000 30,000 40,000 students 0 10,000 20,000 30,000 Montebello Unified school enrollment is decreasing Data: abcdefg hijkl mnop qrstu vwxyz 1234 56789 Sonali Kohli / @latimesgraphics Source: California Department of Education

Those getting pink slips include 235 teachers, 89 support staff such as teachers’ aides and janitors, and nine administrators, Alaniz said. 

A special committee made up of board members and union representatives will meet Thursday to try to find ways to lay off fewer employees, Alaniz said.  

“They’re looking at everything ... programs, they’re looking at expenditures, they’re looking at further furloughs. ... Everything’s open right now,” he said. “We anticipate it’ll be less. How much less, we don’t know yet.”

 (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Students at Schurr and other local schools also walked out of class Thursday and marched to the district's headquarters to voice their opposition to the layoffs, the Whittier Daily News reported.

Times staff writer Adam Elmahrek and photographer Mark Boster contributed to this report.

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