Twin Rivers school board lays off top human resources managers

Published: Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013 - 9:04 am

Twin Rivers Unified School District trustees Tuesday night voted to lay off the top three managers in the district's Human Resources Department.

School board members voted 6-0, with trustee Linda Fowler absent, for the dismissals.

School board members later said they wanted leadership in that department to hold state administrative services credentials, something not required before.

District officials did not reveal the names of the people who were laid off, but earlier Tuesday they approved new job descriptions for the associate superintendent of human resources, as well as for a director of certificated employees and director of classified employees.

The job duties are being performed by Patty Smart, Michelle Abrams and Liane Lee, respectively, according to the district website.

Abrams was at Tuesday night's meeting. She was home Monday when Superintendent Steven Martinez called to tell her the board could vote to lay her off Tuesday.

"I don't know why (they did it)," said Abrams, who said she was told her last day at work would be Sept. 30.

The agenda for the meeting was posted less than 30 hours before the meeting.

The 53-year-old Abrams said she has been a director in the district since it was formed in 2008 and has worked in school districts for 27 years. She plans to take Twin Rivers Unified to court.

Her ex-boss, Dennis Tillette, former superintendent of the North Sacramento School District, urged the school board not to make "great changes very suddenly." He told the board not to "let others influence you."

Tillette told The Bee that the school board is being influenced by the district's unions. The former superintendent said he had worked with both Abrams and Smart and found them to be "excellent employees who should have never come to this board for action."

Board members said the action wasn't personal. Board member John Dexter said that the job descriptions were not in line with the state's Education Code.

The district issued a statement saying the move "is in no way punitive," adding that the credentials and, "where appropriate," more supervisory and management experience are now required.

Job descriptions throughout the district have been updated as part of a reorganization, Dexter said. Human resources was the last department to be reviewed.

Parent and community activist Francisco Garcia said he has asked the board to make this change for a long time.

Smart was among a list of administrators that the county grand jury suggested replacing in its 2012 report. All other administrators on the list, including former Superintendent Frank Porter, have left the district.

"This is a new start," Garcia said. "There is a new superintendent and a new board president. They are acting on what the community wants. This is a new day for parents, students and the community."

Twin Rivers Unified recently hired Martinez as superintendent and Harvey Woo as police chief.

Call The Bee's Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert. Read her Report Card blog at

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