Thursday, March 13, 2008

Local educators notified of layoffs


Fifty-one full-time teachers in the Santa Barbara School Districts have been notified that their jobs may not exist when the 2008-2009 school year begins.
The layoffs are part of an annual dance the district conducts with its employees, which sometimes ends with the majority of the teachers being hired back over the summer.

The district’s deputy superintendent for business, Eric Smith, said this year’s string of layoff notices are necessary in order to help allocate an estimated $4 million in budget cuts the district’s Board of Education is scheduled to make in April.
If the district did not notify these employees by March 15 that they could lose their jobs, he said the board could not cut these positions or any programs associated with them later.
“Everybody had to preserve their flexibility to do what they might need to do but nobody knows exactly what the need to do yet,” Smith said.
Fourteen of the 51 layoffs are the result of declining enrollment, which has haunted budgetary matters in the district for years and is projected to account for the loss of more than 300 students at the secondary level this year.
District Superintendent Brian Sarvis said most of the affected employees are within their first two years of employment with the district, which make them probationary.
According to a district agenda letter, the layoffs are heaviest in English, with 11 lost positions. Next in line is math with eight, five in science, six in special education, six in social science, three in foreign language, three in physical education, two in art, one in health, one in music and five psychologists.
An additional slew of pink slips were sent to 106 temporary district employees, who renew their contracts on a year-to-year basis.
Santa Barbara Teachers Association President Layne Wheeler said these 106 employees were expecting the letters and that during most years; the majority of them are hired back as well.
Last year the district notified more than 80 of its employees they would be laid off, but nearly all were hired back.
Sarvis said the ability of the district to rehire the employees is partly based on the resignations and retirements of others.
“I hope to do the same thing this year,” Sarvis said. “We really hope we can bring them all back.”
The $4 million in cuts the board is expected to make next month are the result of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed $4.8 billion cut to education throughout the state.
The fiscal forecast at the state level has sent shockwaves through education at every level, forcing even the smallest school district’s to make cuts. One example is a recent decision by the Board of Trustees of the Hope Elementary School District to cut 122 students from its schools who don’t live within the district boundaries.
Hope District officials said this cut was a preemptive strike to balance its books based on a projected $400,000 deficit, which is predicated on the state making its proposed cuts.
“Our whole state has been decimated by the governor’s budget proposal,” Wheeler said.

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