At the bargaining table June 8, administrators of the Aromas-San Juan Unified School District proposed layoffs, demotions, and reduced hours for a third of the 68 members of the Federation of Classified Employees. Most of the member negotiators would feel the cuts personally.

Two visitors saved the day: A sympathetic member of the school board joined the district team, and the CFT budget analyst joined the classified team.

The board member was moved by eloquent testimony of school secretary Thelma Buckley on how the proposed cuts would impact students and parents. Buckley, a union site representative, described the many tasks performed by elementary secretaries every day, from checking children’s heads for lice to contacting parents.

After reviewing district finances, the CFT analyst learned the administration had underestimated state funding available for transportation, a big-ticket item in rural San Benito County.

When negotiations resumed a week later, the district took most cuts off the table, and the parties agreed to reduce just one job.

“We’re thrilled,” said Aromas-San Juan Federation President Tonya Large. “We have cut and cut and cut for the past five years. We’re so thin that, when they told me we were going to have to cut again, I asked ‘Where?’ We’re so excited to avoid that.”