The Star-News

Teachers close to losing jobs

Sat, May 12 2012 12:00 PM Posted By: Allison K. Sampité

A large crowd of Sweetwater Union High School District employees gathered outside Monday night's regular board meeting to protest some 200 layoffs.

But it was to no avail.

The board voted 3-2 to issue pink slips to some 200 teachers, counselors and librarians.

Board members John McCann, Jim Cartmill and Arlie Ricasa supported the cuts, while Bertha Lopez and board President Pearl Quinones opposed them.

The district faces a deficit of $11.3 million and anticipates losing another $1.45 million in declining enrollment, $1.8 million in transportation and $12.5 million if voters do not approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s sales tax increase in November.

The $27 million deficit is a worse case scenario for the 2012-13 school year.

During public comment, Sweetwater Education Association President Alex Anguiano didn’t sugarcoat the effects of proposed layoffs.

“You can’t honor an agreement if you issue pink slips tonight…” he said. “Our students are going to suffer like they’ve never suffered before...”

The agreement is a memorandum of understanding between the district and the association, which does not expire for two more school years.

In the agreement, the staffing ratio is 31 to 1, although this doesn’t mean it’s a class average.

“(Trustees) are saying in order for us to honor the agreement we previously made, we have to give layoff notices,” Anguiano said.

Anguiano said the district is about to violate the agreement because officials are saying they need a minimum of 42 students per class or some 200 students per teacher.

“Right now, the district is building master schedules on other than what we agreed upon,” Anguiano said. “We also have an agreement on student contacts. For most teachers that is 182 student contacts per day.”

Anguiano added that the teachers have not asked for a raise in the last few years.
SEA vice president and lead negotiator Roberto Rodriguez said the layoffs are in every subject, including math, science and English, which include employees with tenure of eight years and up.

Layoff notices must have been issued by March 15 and can be rescinded through June 30.

“We will all need to roll up our sleeves to address this very large deficit,” Superintendent Dr. Ed Brand said in a February letter to employees. “I’m afraid that we will need to look at any and all possibilities — including furloughs and salary reductions — to meet this challenge...”

Rodriguez said for now, it’s a waiting game to see the revisions to the governor’s budget.

“Nobody in this room knows what the budget looks like,” he said. “If we end up seeing a real budget deficit we will deal with that in a variety of ways.”

Ben Cassel, who serves on the SEA bargaining team, said that student to teacher ratios have climbed significantly, from 30 students per teacher into the 40s.

The board discussed the proposed layoffs before voting.

“I know we can make it work,” Lopez said. “Our teachers make the greatest impact on our students.”

The SEA has held three bargaining sessions since March 9.

“We want to make sure we save as many positions as possible,” John McCann said. “It all comes down to the administration and the bargaining units.”

Rodriguez said another meeting will be held next week.

Layoff notices must be finalized by May 15.

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