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Layoffs authorized for Placer Union High School District

Positions in limbo until next school year
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Many temporary teachers in the Placer Union High School District will soon be served layoff notices, according to district officials. “It is something that is done every year at this time,” said Dave Horsey, superintendent of the district. “We aren’t able to make any commitments to those positions until the master schedules for the next school year are mostly completed.” District officials say the shortfall in funding for public schools makes the layoffs necessary until at least the start of the next school year. Some temporary teachers say while they may be laid off, their students’ education remains their top priority. The layoffs were authorized at Tuesday night’s board of trustees meeting. Many of the employees in jeopardy were hired with funds from the American Jobs Act, introduced by President Obama in 2009. That funding will run out at the end of this school year, Horsey said. The good news for employees at risk of being served a pink slip is in past years 80 to 90 percent of personnel laid off were rehired the next school year. “Often they are rehired, but it’s based on funding. We have used some federal money over the last two years that was the jobs bill that came out of Washington, but that was one-time money that is very difficult to budget,” Horsey said. “There are some people on that list that this happens to them every single year and fortunately we have been able to bring them back every single year.” Even for the teachers who do get rehired though, Horsey said getting laid off is never easy. “It’s a hard way to run a business. I think it’s difficult on these people that they get a layoff notice even if they are rehired,” Horsey said. “It’s the position we find ourselves in because of funding for public schools. All of the students will be served with proper teachers and programs, but we have to wait and see how those numbers will play out.” Brett Belanger, a history and geography teacher at Placer High School, was hired in a temporary position at the start of the year. A Placer High graduate, he helps coach football, snowboarding and track. Belanger said while he may receive a layoff notice, he has to stay focused on teaching. “I focus on the things I can control and where I can make a difference,” Belanger said. “If I was always worried about it, it would take away from what I’m doing as a teacher.” He said he hopes to be hired back next year, but is focusing on the present. Placer High School Principal Peter Efstathiu said the reality is positions will need to be filled next year. The number of those positions depends on enrollment in the school and classes, though, he said. “There are going to be positions that need to be filled. The hard part of education is planning and forecasting,” Efstathiu said. “In my experience a good amount do (get rehired), but obviously it differs at different schools.” Ron Oates, a trustee for the district, said funds for public schools were tight this year and will probably be worse next year. Until Gov. Jerry Brown releases the budget in May, exact numbers remain unknown. “I think the whole funding of public education needs to be completely redone,” Oates said. “It just doesn’t make any sense for the school district to establish a budget based on what we think we are getting. Then, not only do they not give us that much, but say, ‘we are taking some that we did give you back.’” Transportation was one area this year that the state made cuts on midway through the school year. On top of the lack of funding for schools, the more strict enforcement of pay-to-play practices impacted other areas, including athletics and some programs offered in classrooms. Programs that were formerly funded mostly by families ran into major funding issues this year, he said. “It’s not a really fun time to be in public education as far as funding is concerned,” Oates said. “Then you have competition — other schools opening, other programs. You take 50 kids out of our school district that is a quarter of a million dollars.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.