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Jobless teachers file at district HQ Carlos R. Davalos | Sat, Jun 09 2012 12:00 PM

Dozens of teachers gathered at the Sweetwater district administration building Monday.

It's something they've done many times before, only this time it was to file for unemployment compensation.

Approximately 191 Sweetwater Union High School District employees, including teachers, counselors and librarians, were given final layoff notices May 9. Coincidentally it was also national Day of the Teacher.

Their last school day was Friday.

Monday morning, Sweetwater Education Association President Alex Anguiano said the layoffs will cause overcrowding in already impacted classrooms.

“The main issue is losing that many teachers creates a master schedule disaster,” Anguiano said.
In the district’s memorandum of understanding with the SEA, staffing ratio and student contacts do not expire for two more school years.

In addition, district faculty members have said that principals don’t have a clear indication on staffing distribution.

While some are following the contractual 31 to 1, others plan to staff at 34 to 1 and still others report a ratio as high to 40 to 1.

“These master schedules are the worst I’ve seen in my 27 years,” Anguiano said. “Our students will suffer.”
Eighty positions were eliminated in science and math alone.

“The district insists on trying to force us to accept their worst case scenario,” district lead negotiator Roberto Rodriguez said last month.

An unemployment benefits seminar the Human Resources Department hosted May 17 at San Ysidro High School was at the least central location and held during “teachers’ duty day,” making it difficult for many to leave their classrooms.

SEA member and Palomar High School teacher Helen Farias said Monday that the unemployment seminar was hastily planned and showed “callous disrespect.”

“Only one-third of teachers were able to attend,” she said.

There’s been talk around the water cooler that the district planned it that way to prevent most people from attending — a tactic teachers believe was used at last month’s board meeting, when officials declined to change the venue to accommodate hundreds of teachers protesting the layoff notices.

Julia Polanco has taught biology and chemistry for 10 years.

“To receive a notice that said my services were no longer required — it was a slap in the face,” she said.
Polanco’s husband, a teacher, was also laid off. They have a 2-year-old son.

“I’m facing financial instability for my family,” she said. “I risk losing my house. My family has no health insurance.”

She said the consequences also affect her students who will face huge class sizes come July 25 when school resumes in the fall.

“How will students be anything other than just a number?” Polanco said. “Our board’s decision will make it easier for our students to fall through the cracks.”

Many parents and teachers referenced the district’s money mismanagement, citing $4.5 million wasted on iPads for students, $24,000 to use the Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre for high school graduation and other wastes of taxpayer money.

On Monday, Anguiano said teachers are dealing with the most corrupt school board in the nation.

“Some of the board members belong in jail but we need them to do the right thing before they leave,” he said.

“Despite our employer we do a great job. We could do better if we had a board that was honest and caring.”

The Sweetwater Education Association bargaining team had its first contract negotiations March 9 and had another scheduled Thursday.


“We’ve offered furlough days but it’s not good enough,” he said.

At a May 7 board meeting, board trustees voted 3-2 to approve the layoffs.

Erin Barron, 32, taught seventh grade life science at South West Middle School for two years.

“I’m stuck in between a rock and a hard place,” Barron said. “This year I would have made tenure and become a permanent teacher.”

Barron has a 5-month-old girl, Sadie. She said the layoffs have created uncertainty for her family, as she is the primary income provider for the family.

“My husband and I talk about saving money and cutting costs,” she said. “We’ll have to dig into our savings.”

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John Brickley Says:

Sat, Jun 09 2012 09:31 PM

In years past, when the SUHSD issued pink slips, all of them were recinded before the end of the school year. This year is different. Over 200 RIFs were issued with only a small handful being called back because of errors inside the HR department.

The cuts this year will have a ripple effect for years to come. To meet the needs of the District's lack of financial stability, about 10% of the work force of the Sweetwater District is being shown the door. The amount of work to be done is not going to be reduced by 10%, only the number of people to do it. Class sizes will go up by about 10%, repairs will take 10% longer to be finished, lawns will be mowed 10% less often, buses will transport 10% less students and increase the bussing distance by 10%.

These increases are not easily remedied, and for many students they will create harsh consequences for years to come. Because students will be even more crowded than they are now, more students will fall between the cracks, never to catch up. Sweetwater can not afford to lose any more students to the lack of teacher intervention that is already overburdened.

Yet, we have a School Board that is so out of touch with the financial realities facing our district and are destined to continue to repeat the follies of the past that have lead us to this most dire of situations.

At this month's School Board meeting, to be held on Monday, the agenda containes many items that will perpetuate the excessive spending that is the trademark of both our Superintendent and our out of control Board. Millions of dollars are to be spent on pure folly; a Charter School intended to house Pre-K thru who knows what... Death. A couple of million here, a couple of million there... who cares? A renewal of the Superintendent's corporation's contract to the tune of around $120,000, the CFO's private company to the tune of $75,000, the granting of authority to the Superintendent to authorize expenditures of up to $200,000 on contracts without so much of a "how do you do" to the Bond Oversight Committee.

Yes folks, the foxes are in charge of the henhouse, and the things that will be passed at this Monday's Board meeting will only set the stage for more layoffs next year.

I would like to think these matters were important to the parents and general citizenry of the South Bay, but so few of you show up at the Board meetings to protest this abuse of your children, I doubt anything will change in the forseeable future.

I plan to be there, fighting for what I believe in. So will the dedicated few, for whom the issues facing this community are of the highest importance. The real question is "will you?"

annie j Says:

Sat, Jun 09 2012 12:36 PM

this is indeed a sad article to read. so many excellent educators gone, in one banging of the gavel. district leadership is primarily to blame.

where was the fiduciary responsibility of arlie ricasa and jim cartmill when the district was rolling in money? oh, that is right they were out eating with 'the gandara' they were voting themselves memberships totaling close to $100,000.00.

each and everyone of these teachers should educate the community about what next years students will be faced with. how large will the class sizes be? what about the master schedules currently being planned - a disaster.

how many inept suits at the district were pink slipped in comparison?

WAKE UP SOUTH BAY - these are your tax dollars, these are your childrens teachers.

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