School districts issue layoff notices, leaves staff in limbo
March 18, 2014
The deadline for school districts statewide to notify staff members of precautionary layoffs is Saturday.
But those notified will not be officially laid off until district budgets have been finalized in May, leaving school employees around the county in limbo, waiting to see whether they will be kept on staff or let go.
"In some ways, it disrupts people's lives for no good reason; it stresses them out," Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Louise Johnson said. "But on the other hand, when reductions actually have to come to pass, it's there to give people a good notice to be ready if it does."
A district's budget and student enrollment are factors that decide whether it will lose or add staff. In January of every year, a budget is proposed by the governor that school districts use to gauge their staff funding, but that same budget is revised in May.
“I think it’s very hard for the teachers and the schools all around because you’re told you have to make this decision before you really know what your enrollment is going to be in August.”
Pleasant Valley and Ready Springs School District Superintendent
District staff that were laid off could be rehired, depending on that revision.
"For efficiency, it'd be nice if it were run like a business, where you can fire people and hire people as need be," Twin Ridges School District Superintendent James Berardi said.
"But we're talking about teacher's unions and we're talking about their rights. So there's a long history to getting to the point where we are now, and like a lot of things in government and bureaucracies, they're not the most efficient method."
Berardi added, "But it's the system we have, so we play the game, we go along with it. We just try to be as clear as we can to the people it impacts, and let them know what our true direction is."
At least 24 precautionary layoff notices will be issued this year, between Pleasant Ridge Union, Grass Valley, Twin Ridges, Pleasant Valley, Ready Springs and Nevada Joint Union School districts, respectively.
Those employees include all types, from teachers to counselors and administrative staff.
The number might be slightly higher for Nevada County, since Nevada City School District officials could not be reached for comment.
While more than half of the school districts county- wide are issuing at least one layoff notice, there are schools that say they have benefited from the state's new Local Control Funding Formula.
Clear Creek School District Superintendent Scott Lay said that his one school district hasn't given a layoff notice in more than five years.
"This year, with the increase in funding for schools, once again, we won't be issuing anything," he said.
"That's with the new local control funding formula that the states are doing. It's a change in the way we're paid," Lay said.
"Next year, our funding will go up differently for every single school district, but we're going up to a little over $529 a student for next year, and it's going to go up each year for eight years as we reach the target that the state of California has set."
Susan Barry, superintendent at Union Hill School District, said that this year, her district will not give out any precautionary layoffs for the first time in four years.
"It was really great that this was our status this year," Barry said.
"We've had increased enrollment, so that's been a great contributor to our increasing funding, which obviously has a direct correlation with the number of teachers that we need."
Barry added that declining enrollment had been the reason, in the past, for layoffs.
According to this year's new state funding formula, school districts are given grants based on a school's student attendance.
Pleasant Ridge Union District Superintendent Rusty Clark said that in order for school districts to budget their funds for the next school year, they must project what their student enrollment will be.
"Unfortunately, the state funds students by who comes to class, not by the projection but by who actually shows up. So what happens is we have to do our best projection from all the data we collect," Clark said.
"Our hope is we start to see enrollment packets come in. If we see enrollment packets come in, and we see a need for a teacher to come back, then we ask them to come back."
Clark added, "But 65 percent of our population in Nevada County are at the retirement age. That doesn't give us very much of the families that have children."
Debra Sandoval, Pleasant Valley and Ready Springs School District superintendent, told The Union that she will give one layoff notice to a fourth-grade teacher this year.
"I think it's very hard for the teachers and the schools all around because you're told you have to make this decision before you really know what your enrollment is going to be in August. So we have sometimes great changes between the first of March and the end of August," Sandoval said.
Grass Valley School District Superintendent Eric Fredrickson said that his district will be notifying one temporary teacher, whose contract was already ending.
"Your relationships with your employees can be pretty tenuous at times," he said. "Many teachers have dreaded for years the March 15 date, especially because you give a notice in March and then in May you change your mind, based upon more information. It's not good for morale. But you legally have to follow that timeline."
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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