School district delivers 95 layoff notices
TRUCKEE ” Teachers within the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District strongly opposed the administration’s decision this week to hand out almost 95 notices of layoff.
Superintendent Steve Jennings said the layoff notices ” which are being sent in response to a 2009-10 budget deficit estimated between $4.2 and $4.7 million ” are a conservative response to the current economic situation.
“We hope this is not the number of teachers we’ll need to lay off,” Jennings said. “This resolution is being very, very conservative. We don’t know what the final budget will look like, which is one of the big issues, the state could determine in May they need more cuts.”
Jennings stressed the point the layoff notices were not final. Rather, they were a bi-product of timing set by the district’s contract with the Tahoe Truckee Education Association, which represents the school district’s roughly 270 teachers.
The contract states that all layoff notices must be delivered to teachers by March 15, which is Sunday. After that, teachers may challenge their layoff notices until March 20. Administrators then have until May 15 to return final notices of layoff.
The teachers union registered their displeasure with the layoff notices, and President Mike Merriman called them “staggering.”
“The district is transferred some of their priorities,” Merriman said. “They have traditionally made student a priority. They went through all the meetings with public, and the one thing the public told them was that they wanted to keep cuts as far away from class as possible.”
Merriman said the district didn’t keep to their word of keeping cuts away from the classroom; instead, he added, they are harming students and faculty by getting rid of teachers and increasing class sizes.
Jennings said the timing of the announcement is unfortunate, as the district continues to analyze a number of options to reduce the budget, but said, to be safe, the district had to give notice to those teachers this week.
“We’re sort of putting the cart before the horse before we’ve had a chance to look at everything. But in order to comply with the law we had to have those notices out,” Jennings said.
Board of Trustees member Bev Ducey said in a statement released this week she also lamented the timeline but understood the board must act in the best fiscal interests of the district.
“We can either be divisive or (we can) work together. We are looking at all options; it’s very unfortunate that we have a deadline,” Ducey said at last week’s meeting. “We need to roll up our sleeves and find the money elsewhere to minimize the number of layoffs we will need to ultimately do. But we as a board need to be fiscally responsible so that no matter what happens at the state level we have acted responsibly.”
Merriman said he sees the layoffs as a delayed response by the district.
“We told these guys we were overstaffed a few years ago,” Merriman said. “As long as we had money they didn’t think anything about it, but now that they’re in a bind, they want to get rid of as many teachers as they can.”
Merriman didn’t offer other alternatives for the district to reduce the budget. He did, however, say the union would meet with every teacher who received a layoff notice Friday to make sure they filed their paperwork for a hearing each is entitled to before March 20.
He said the only thing the Association could do at this point is make sure the process is properly handled.
“The only thing we can do is make sure they’re doing that correctly,” Merriman said. “In a couple of cases they are trying to forego seniority rights … we’ll make sure that doesn’t happen.”
He said he was sorry to see some of the good young talent employed by the district go.
“We’re going to lose a lot of good young teachers,” Merriman said. “Nobody who lives in Truckee or (by) the lake who can afford to stay here without a job, we’re going to lose every one of these kids. They’re the ones who are going to pay a huge price.”
The next Tahoe Truckee School Board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday night at the Sierra Mountain Community Center in Truckee. The board has a public comment section, which the teacher’s association is encouraging community members to attend.
According to the district’s resolution, approximately 45 elementary teachers will receive notices, 21 high school teachers, 14 middle school teachers, six school administrators, four special education instructors and four counselors.
To download the entire resolution, click on the attachment on top of this article.