Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Teacher layoffs in Chula Vista stir debate over value of public input

Shame on CVESD for not evaluating teachers effectively, and laying off the incompetent teachers.

Teacher layoffs in Chula Vista stir debate over value of public input
San Diego Union-Tribune
By Ashly McGlone
March 22, 2011

Following a wave of teacher pink slips in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, members of the district’s budget advisory committee wonder if their input was lost in the debate over spending.

The Board of Education authorized layoff notices for about 350 teachers, or nearly 30 percent, of its 1,200-teacher workforce Feb. 15; the advisory committee favored other cuts and recommended only 60 teacher notices based on proposed class size increases in the earlier grades.

The 53-person committee, which met four times since January to analyze and prioritize cuts, comprises 44 school site representatives, three administrators, three teachers union representatives and three representatives from the union representing nonteaching employees.

Zaneta Encarnacion, a committee representative for Wolf Canyon Elementary School, was surprised to find out the district approved the notices weeks before the budget committee finalized its recommendations on March 2.

“The biggest concern is as a parent who cares about the school budget, and is willing to take time away from my work and my family to look at the school budget, when the effort you put into it appears to be in vain if nobody is going to be looking at it,” she said. “As far as the whole public process, it leaves little to be desired.”

Committee members were tasked with identifying $8 million in potential budget cuts in next year’s $193 million budget.

The district estimates that it would face a $14 million shortfall if a measure seeking a proposed tax extension is not placed on the ballot and approved by voters in June. Under a best-case scenario, the district will face a $6 million shortfall, a deficit it could cover with its $32.5 million reserve account.

The committee identified $6.5 million in cuts, and suggested the school board kick in more money from the reserve to fill the remaining gap. It also suggested the district look for additional federal dollars and cuts in areas that were not offered for consideration.

In an item on the school board’s March 8 agenda, the district said it was collaborating with the budget advisory committee and offered four basic areas of cuts totaling $8 million. Those included up to $3 million in maintenance and technology; the committee recommended $1 million in cuts “due to school maintenance requirements and technology licensing requirements.”

The district said an additional $2 million could be cut from money it gives to individual schools to use as they desire; the committee suggested only $1 million and ranked the item the lowest among their eight priority cuts.

Increasing class size in the earlier grades by two students could save $1 million annually, while an increase of four students could save $2 million, according to the district. The committee recommended the former option, which would raise classes from 20 to 22 students in kindergarten through third grade.

Both parties suggested the elimination of five vice principals, saving $450,000, and $1 million in cuts from the Educational Services and Support Center.

The committee also recommended eliminating school resource officers, saving $350,000; the after-school program at 24 schools, saving $650,000; and reduced clerical, custodial, and library staff hours, for $1 million in savings.

Jason Holleron, a committee member representing Juarez-Lincoln Elementary School, recognized that the district’s hand was forced by state deadlines, but said, “I think the plan was in place regardless of what the advisory committee may have suggested. They had an idea of what they were already going to do.”

He doesn’t believe the district will actually lay off 350 teachers. Some 310 notices were sent to teachers, psychologists, vice principals.

Pat Miller, vice president of the union representing nonteaching employees, has been a member of the committee for several years and says that the district’s action was expected. She said there is no reason for concern.

“People have to remember the committee is an advisory committee,” she said. “They have to look at the worst-case scenario. They (issue notices) to cover themselves by law.”

District officials stand by the timeline and the move to notice hundreds of employees. State law requires layoff notices be sent by March 15...

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