San Diego Unified is worried that its hiring freeze, which is estimated to save $1.8 million on salaries this year, may not have actually been a freeze. The school board recently asked its top officials to study whether school district managers hired hourly workers to fill vacant jobs that were supposed to be left unfilled during the freeze.

This could pose a problem: While San Diego Unified had a strict process for deciding when schools and offices could fill positions and when they had to leave them empty to save money, there isn’t the same vetting process to hire an hourly worker. If lots of schools or district departments did that to avoid the freeze, it may have seriously undermined the savings that San Diego Unified got out of freezing its hiring.

“It’s a big deal,” said school board President Richard Barrera. He doesn’t think hiring hourly workers means the district overestimated its freeze savings, but it may have prevented it from saving more money in the first place.

Phil Stover, who oversees special projects in the school district, said he is studying how often it has happened. “There is no doubt that some hourly funding is being used to do some of the work of the vacant positions,” he wrote in an e-mail, noting he had no specific numbers at this time.

Stover said he hoped to finish his analysis by the end of next week.


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