Tahoe/Truckee school board OKs teacher layoff plan; room for negotiation exists
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. andamp;#8212; The school district’s board of directors voted Wednesday night to adopt a plan eliminating 18.4 full-time equivalent teaching positions, a move administrators said translates to the reduction of 12 full- and part-time teachers and the partial layoff of 16 others.While Wednesday’s Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board meeting in Truckee was emotionally charged andamp;#8212; with impassioned public comments, a few minor eruptions from the crowd, pointed remarks by board members and even a small flow of tears andamp;#8212; the discourse remained relatively civil.Still, the board made clear its displeasure with the situation.andamp;#8220;It pisses me off that we are going to send out pink slips,andamp;#8221; said board member Kim Szczurek. andamp;#8220;Let’s figure out a relationship that will keep that from happening.andamp;#8221;Board member Randy Hill shared a similar view: andamp;#8220;The fact of the matter is there will be no winners here,andamp;#8221; he said. andamp;#8220;Any way you cut this, the way it’s going now, the kids are going to lose.andamp;#8221;
The task at hand is clear: The Tahoe Truckee Education Association (the local teachers union) and the district will continue negotiations in hopes of coming to a resolution that negates the need for andamp;#8212; or reduces the amount of andamp;#8212; layoffs.While such a resolution could include a change in district policy by further reducing its reserve fund, the district has held the belief using more than the already agreed-upon $3.2 million from the account would jeopardize the economic sustainability of the district.Thus, a compromise, if it comes, will most likely be in the form of teacher concessions.Opinions expressed during public comment periods on Wednesday varied. andamp;#8220;It’s time to get out of the Escalade and into the mini-van,andamp;#8221; teacher Stephanie Bacon told the board. andamp;#8220;Stop hiring consultants. Cut non-classroom personnel. Cut the funding of some educational models that haven’t been evaluated here.andamp;#8221;Long-time Tahoe City resident and business owner Wally Auerbach called for sacrifice from all.andamp;#8220;My industry has seen a monumental collapse. Those 99 percent of us know that retirement is much farther than we expected,andamp;#8221; he said. andamp;#8220;Those are the realities andamp;#8212; I paid myself and my employees less.andamp;#8221;Negotiations between the district and union are not scheduled to begin again until a March 9 meeting, a fact that tested the patience of board member Hill.andamp;#8220;Where’s the sense of urgency?andamp;#8221; he asked. andamp;#8220;Why are we waiting so long?andamp;#8221;
As the school board and teachers union negotiate, administrators will proceed with the layoff process.California Education Code requires the district serve notices of intent to layoff to individual teachers by March 15. The deadline gives teachers a chance to look for new jobs in the spring when schools begin the hiring process. In April, teachers will be able to contest their layoff in front of a judge, and some teachers may win their case. In those instances, another teacher will then be in line for a layoff. Final pink slips are given in May. Considering all teachers given final pink slips in May need to be legally notified of intent to layoff in March, the district must issue notices to anyone who might possibly be on the cutting block. As a result, administrators said they plan to send notices to more than 35 teachers, despite the need right now to cut only about 28.Exactly which teachers receive a pink slip is determined by a variety of prescribed factors, namely seniority, but also the grade level and the subject they teach.Further complicating things, some teachers may be retained because of a special skill set or certification they hold. Administrators have determined teachers who hold a Bilingual Cross-Cultural Language and Development Certification; teachers serving in Two-Way Immersion of English Language Development instruction; teachers now serving as a Professional Learning Community leader; or teachers who have served as an academic coach in the 2011-12 school year will be passed over for a layoff, or a given a andamp;#8220;skip.andamp;#8221;According to district documents, the largest cuts andamp;#8212; 11.2 full-time equivalent positions andamp;#8212; will be at the elementary level, where schools have been experiencing the greatest decline in enrollment.The middle school level will lose 2.8 positions, while the high schools will be reduced by 4.4 positions. These cuts were recommended by the principals and will be made according to school subject matter.