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Support that runs pink

Local teachers, students wear same color to protest lay offs
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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A little pink paper is causing some big worries for local teachers. Throughout the state, more than 20,000 teachers are scheduled to receive preliminary notices that they may lose their jobs in May if funds are not available. For Sierra Hills teacher Sara Liebert, the fact that she and her husband, David, both have pink slips in hand means wondering what’s going to happen to the new house they just bought in Auburn. There’s also their 19-month-old daughter Hannah Jean to take care of. Plus, the couple doesn’t want to leave the scenic, family-oriented lifestyle they were dreaming about while in the Bay Area and finally made a reality three years ago when they moved into the foothills. “I think it’s really scary when you start thinking about it now that we have a family and we own a house,” Sara Liebert said. “You just start thinking about how you are going to pay your mortgage and health care and your other bills.” According to David Sanchez, the California Teacher’s Association president, this year public schools are facing more than $11 billion in cuts and the number of layoff notices has doubled. The association asked everyone to wear pink on Friday to show their support for educators and to protest the budget cuts. Locally, district officials say it’s a tense waiting game to see what happens in terms of the state budget, how much, if any, federal funding schools will receive from a stimulus package and future plans their boards will approve. “Pink Friday is just one way of communicating the message to everybody that lives in California that whether we like it or not, the state budget crises is having a direct impact on the quality of public education in every single school district in this state,” said Fred Adam, Placer Hills Union School District superintendent. Adam has had to issue 19 preliminary lay off notices to staff. By law, administrators were required to notify employees of a possible layoff by Friday. That decision will be finalized by May 15. Michele Schuetz, Auburn Union Elementary School District superintendent, said officials will not receive some of their funding answers until after that date. As a result, some teachers may have to wait until closer to the start of the next school year to be rehired, if that option is available. In total, Schuetz said the district had to release nine temporary employees and send notices to 15 teachers. Schuetz said the district is also holding out for any teachers retiring this year. “We value our employees and we are doing everything we can to keep as many people employed as we can and keep the district solvent,” Schuetz said. In the meantime, district officials, principals, teachers, parents and students are doing their best to support their educators. On Friday, Weimar Hills School grounds were speckled in pink as students and staff wore pink sweaters, dresses and shoes to show they were behind their teachers. “I feel strongly about it,” said teacher Julie Paul. “Theses are my colleagues I’ve known for so long and it’s just rocking the teacher world.” Fifth grade student Sierra Sullivan said her teacher, David Liebert, told the class about Pink Day and how some teachers might lose their jobs. Sierra, 10, said she wore a pink sweater, bandana and socks to support her teacher. “He’s the best teacher ever,” Sierra said. “I don’t want anything to happen to him.” Principal Steve Schaumleffel said not only is losing teachers difficult on a personal level, but it also adds a strain on staff’s already overburdened workload. He said teachers are being asked to take on more students, more after-school activities and more programs to accommodate for the loss of staff but still provide the best possible education for students. “There comes a point for all of us where we can’t do anymore,” Schaumleffel said. “That’s where I think we are as a school district and probably state. We’re all on overload.” David Liebert is one of those teachers who have assumed an extra role beyond his fifth grade teaching position. He also coaches the Weimar Hills wrestling team and helps another teacher with the school’s mountain bike club. David Liebert said he and his wife have faced the possibility of losing their jobs since they were hired in the district three years ago. He said the first year they “panicked.” He’s hoping things will work out this year the way they have the past two years. “We’re watching our money,” David Liebert said. “As far as seeking employment somewhere else, I haven’t gotten to that part.” Sara Liebert said she had a discouraging search when she logged on to a popular teacher job Web site. “The county’s not hiring, the state credentialing office isn’t hiring, none of the school districts are hiring,” Sara Liebert said. “It’s kind of hard to put job applications out when nobody is hiring.” The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.