Nevada County school districts issue preliminary layoff notices | TheUnion.com
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Nevada County school districts issue preliminary layoff notices

Nevada County school districts took the first step toward cutting credentialed staff positions for the 2015-2016 school year, issuing pink slips last week ahead of a state-mandated deadline that requires districts to inform teachers by March 15 that their jobs could be eliminated.

Up to 27.34 positions might be cut between four of the county’s nine school districts. The bulk of eliminated positions comes from the Nevada Joint Union High School District; on March 11, the school district’s board of trustees approved cutting up to 12.57 positions for next school year.

Up to 14.77 positions will be eliminated between the Pleasant Ridge Union, Penn Valley Union Elementary and Twin Ridges Elementary school districts. Five school districts — Nevada City, Grass Valley, Union Hill, Clear Creek and Chicago Park — issued no notices to credentialed staff.



In districts that are eliminating positions, declining enrollment — an issue that schools county-wide have been grappling with for the past decade — continues to drive staffing decisions. Under the state’s Local Control Funding Formula, funding is allocated to districts partially based on the number of students enrolled.

Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Louise Johnson previously said that the eliminated positions were directly tied to declining enrollment in the district; the district’s student body is projected to drop from 2,899 students to 2,778 students next year.




Rusty Clark, superintendent of the Pleasant Ridge School District, called enrollment numbers a “moving target.” He said the district has spent time looking at the average enrollment over the past 10 years and factoring in student attrition to reach its enrollment projections, which dictate how many credentialed staff the district will employ.

He said the district issued around nine pink slips last year compared to four this year, and has been working to fine-tune enrollment projections to minimize the number of notices it has to give out.

“As we’re doing a better job in projecting what the enrollment is, we’re noticing the precautionary layoffs for those folks that need to be noticed, and not more than that,” Clark said.

Many districts in the county are experiencing more positive enrollment trends, eliminating the need to cut teaching positions.

Susie Berry, the superintendent of the Union Hill School District, has issued layoff notices in the past, but said enrollment numbers have stabilized since the district converted to partial-charter district three years ago.

This is the second straight year the district did not notice any staff members with pink slips.

“It’s just a tremendous relief to not have to put anybody in that position where they have to worry about their livelihood,” Berry said.

Scott Lay, superintendent of the Clear Creek School District, also said his district’s steady enrollment for the past several years has helped keep its staff intact.

According to the California Department of Education, enrollment in the district increased each year from the 2005-2006 school year to the 2013-2014 school year.

“We were able to offset budget cuts with increased enrollment, so we haven’t had to issue a layoff notice in quite some time,” Lay said.

The cuts in districts that have issued layoff notices may not be as severe as indicated. The pink slips given by March 15 are precautionary; districts don’t have to issue final layoff notices until May 15, when they’ll have a better idea of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget, which allocates funding to the state’s school districts, as well as enrollment numbers and program needs.

Twin Ridges Elementary School District Superintendent James Berardi said the two pink slips he issued this year were based on a number of “unknowns,” including the possibility that the school district will reconfigure the way it organizes its grade levels.

He hopes that as that process becomes clearer over the next couple of months, he will be able to rescind both notices.

“The intent is to bring both of them back,” Berardi said.

And both Johnson and Teena Corker, the co-interim superintendent for Penn Valley Union Elementary, said the number of eliminated positions in their districts won’t directly equate to the number of staff members who will lose their jobs.

Johnson said some of the eliminated positions in the high school district are currently vacant or filled by staff members who are retiring.

Corker said some of the staff members who hold the positions that were approved for elimination by the district’s board of trustees will be reassigned to other open teaching positions in the district.

Still, Corker said it’s always difficult to issue those precautionary layoff notices, which under state law go to the staff members with the least seniority in the district.

“It’s never easy to tell a teacher, ‘You may not have a job,’” Corker said. “Never, ever.”

She remembered how devastating it was when she received layoff notices as a teacher earlier in her career — even after a superintendent assured her that the notice would likely be rescinded.

“You thank them, and then you go away and you cry,” Corker remembered.

However, Clark said the districts really have no choice but to monitor funding and enrollment, and adjust staffing levels accordingly.

“It’s not a perfect fit,” Clark said. “But what we need to do as school districts is do what’s best for our kids, while at the same time being fiscally responsible.”

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.


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